Updated: Mar 14
photo: Dllu via wikicommons
If you’re like me, the holidays are fun but it’s also a bit overwhelming. With so many activity options in the Bay Area, it can help to get a few plans in the calendar to make sure you fully enjoy what the holidays are all about: spending time with friends and family (and not planning activities!) As a Bay Area native, I’m happy to present here some of my favorite local activities from past years, as well as some ideas that we’ll try out for the first time in 2018. In the spirit of the holidays, look for the “gift wrapped” icon which means no planning work required, or the “some assembly required” icon for activities that require a little bit of planning, for those of you who just can’t help yourselves.
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1. For the quintessential big-city holiday experience that’s signed, sealed, and delivered: make your way to Union Square. As the perfect starting point, head to the Westfield San Francisco Centre. “Meet back at the Westfield in a few hours” has been a standard phrase in my family. Its central location to transportation makes it the perfect home base: take BART, Lyft, or park at several parking garages nearby (Fifth & Mission Parking is my favorite). From here, you can experience myriad holiday festivities within a 5-10 minute walk. The choice is yours:
Get your hot chocolate and take in the sights of the holidays. Union Square has one of the largest concentrations of shops and high-end boutiques in the country.
After shopping around a little bit, head to the Westin St. Francis lobby to see the iconic Sugar Castle, basically a gingerbread house on a grand scale.
2. If your legs are up for it, take a walk up to Nob Hill and check out the elaborately and festively decorated Fairmont Hotel Gingerbread House. This year, the edible abode will stand over 25 feet tall!
flickr: Stephen Rees
3. You can book a special 1.5 hour Holiday Lights double decker bus tour of San Francisco. Starting December 8th, you’ll see Christmas trees, trimmings, and twinkling lights decorating the City for the holiday season. Go by Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, North Beach as well as other festive neighborhoods. The tour crosses the illuminated Bay Bridge and makes a stop at Treasure Island to take in the views of the sparkling city lights. Heading back into the city, the tour continues along the Embarcadero to view the glittering lights on the Port of San Francisco. Be sure to wear warm clothes, hats, and scarves and take a thermos of hot chocolate!
flickr: Jeremy Marshall
4. Check out The Buena Vista (no reservation required), and try the world-famous Irish Coffee perfected by Jack Koeppler in 1952 to drink a little bit of SF history. For eats, try the Dungeness Crab omelet (breakfast is served all day) or a steaming bread bowl of clam chowder as cable cars whiz by. Yum! Afterward, walk to nearby Ghirardelli Square, or if you’re in the mood, Fisherman’s Wharf.