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What to Do in San Francisco in December

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This post covers the best things to do in San Francisco in December, including free, nighttime, and family-friendly activities, all updated for 2023. 

For tips on the best activities in San Francisco, check out our other popular pages: 

Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.


TOP 15+ EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN DECEMBER

This list includes concerts, sporting events, Christmas-themed activities, things to do with kids, and tours, among other fun entertainment! 


1. Attend a Concert

The Bay Area has some of the most popular venues in the world and attracts many talented musicians.

There are a number of musical artists coming to the area in November.

Rock/Pop Concerts

Music Festivals

Opera Concerts

San Francisco Symphony Holiday Concerts

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas | December 1st
  • Deck the Halls | December 3rd
  • Cirque Nutcracker | December 5
  • Handel's Messian | December 8th, 9th
  • The Colors of Christmas | December 13th-14th
  • Holiday Gaiety | December 15th
  • Love Actually | December 16th
  • Charlie Brown Christmas | December 20th
  • Home Alone | December 22nd

You can find tickets for any of these concerts here.

You can find even more all the San Francisco Bay area here


2. Take a Tour

San Francisco is full of interesting neighborhoods, diverse cultures, and years of history to discover.

Our pay-what-you-like tours have something for everyone. Tour the downtown district and learn more about the devastating 1906 earthquake or cover the whole city in just one day!

Here are all of the different tours we provide:

There will be fewer crowds in December, making it the perfect time to take a tour.


3. Attend a Sporting Event

There are a lot of great sports teams in the Bay Area, and many of them will be performing throughout the month of December.

Basketball

Hockey

Football

Even though baseball season is over, you can still take tours of Oracle Park, where the San Francisco Giants play. 

You can find other sporting events in the Bay Area here.


4. See a Holiday Show

No matter when you come to San Francisco, chances are there will be at least one notable musical or theatrical event to see in the area.

Musicals

Family Friendly

You can find other theatrical productions in the Bay Area here.

Be sure to read our post on things to do at night in San Francisco for more nighttime activity ideas.


5. Enjoy the Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Over five weekends in November and December, immerse yourself in Victorian London.

Hundreds of costumed players come together to interact with guests and put on performances.

You'll find food, art, and crafts for sale as well.

Events take place December: 2nd-3rd, 9th-10th, 16th-17th.

Over 140,000 square feet of space are turned into music halls, dance floors, pubs, and festival shops at the Cow Palace in Daly City.

Visit the Great Dickens Christmas Fair website for more information.


6. See a Comedy Show

The San Francisco area attracts many stand-up comedians, and there are a few performances you won't want to miss.

Comedy Shows

Comedy Clubs

Click this list of stand-up comedy shows for even more comedy shows this December.


7. Celebrate New Year’s Eve 

Ring in 2024 with a number of events or activities in the City by the Bay!

Look out for restaurant drink and meal specials, as many will offer special menus for the evening.

For those wanting to hit the town before the clock counts down, there are a variety of events to choose from (most are 21+).

You can find parties and themed galas on land, as well as cruises in the bay.


8. Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

There are several tourist attraction discount passes available in San Francisco which will give you the opportunity to save a lot of money on some of the more popular activities in the Bay Area.

While all-inclusive passes offer admission to dozens of attractions over the course of a specific number of days, there are also services which allow you to pay one flat price for only the attractions you want.

Here are a few of the most notable services included with these passes:

Depending on which service you choose, you can expect to get anywhere from a 20% – 50% discount.

Most passes also provide skip-the-line entry at some popular attractions.

For more details, make sure to read our post covering San Francisco tourist passes.


9. Have Fun at the German Holiday Market

The German International School of Silicon Valley brings a holiday market to Mountain View City Hall Plaza.

They have created a market much like the holiday winter markets one finds in Europe, with stalls that sell food and crafts.

There are handcrafted gifts from artists in Germany and the San Francisco area.

There's also food such as Stollen, Lebkuchen (gingerbread), chocolate, German sausages, and pretzels. And don't forget to try the Glühwein.

Guests enjoy live music performances as well as arts and crafts activities.

The event takes place on December 9th, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Visit the German Market's website for more information.


10. Attend a Craft Fair

If you're looking for holiday gifts or something to take home with you, a San Francisco area craft fair might be worth visiting.

You can expect to find a variety of interesting and unique Christmas gifts, decorations, jewelry, ceramics, and other great examples of local artwork.

Girl Gang Holiday Craft Fair | Oakland Scottish Rite Center | December 2nd

Feminist apparel and accessories

GIFTY 2023 Holiday Craft Fair | The Crucible | December 2nd-3rd

One-of-a kind sculptures, pottery, soap, and more

Mill Valley Holiday Craft Fair | Mill Valley Community Center | December 2nd

Jewelry, ceramics, glassworks, and more, all handmade

Open Air Artisan Faire | Makers Market Mill Valley Lumber Yard | December 2nd, 9th, 16th

Plants, apparel, jewelry, music, and food

Procrastinator's Pop Up Shop Artisan Market | Richmond, CA | December 17th

Home decor, foods, body care, candles, and more

For more fun Christmas-themed activities, check out our guide to Christmas in San Francisco .


11. Glofari at the Oakland Zoo

Starting in November and running through December, the Oakland Zoo will be hosting Glowfari.

This festival has which has larger-than-life glowing animal lanterns placed throughout the zoo.

There will also be a chance to meet Santa on select dates, and the opportunity to ride in a gondola and on a train

Once the website is updated with their holiday schedule, tickets can be purchased here.

Find more family-friendly activities on our full post

If you’re looking for more Christmas activities, take a look at our post about the holidays in San Francisco.


12. Attend WinterFest at California’s Great America

If you’re planning to visit an amusement park, Great America will be hosting a special WinterFest event beginning in late November.

Visitors can expect an ice rink, falling snow, holiday lights, decorations, live shows, and even holiday-themed rides. All activities will be included with admission to the park.

California's Great America is in Santa Clara, just about 50 minutes from San Francisco.

Visit California's Great America Winterfest websites for more information.

TIP: Don’t forget that admission to California’s Great America is included with at least one major San Francisco tourist pass. This is a great way to save money on tickets!


13. Discover a Life-Sized Gingerbread House

In addition to the display at the Westin St. Francis, there will also be an incredible holiday attraction at the Fairmont.

Every year, they put up a life-sized gingerbread house made using actual gingerbread bricks.

This display is two stories high and it includes a lot of amazing holiday decorations, as well as a private dining area for up to 10 guests.

Overnight guests are guaranteed access to the gingerbread house, but public hours will be limited at the discretion of the hotel.

Visit the website to read more about the Fairmont Hotel Gingerbread House.


14. See the Holiday Castles of Westin St. Francis

Every holiday season, the Westin St. Francis puts up an incredible display for Christmas.

This display typically includes a castle and additional festive decorations made out of cake, cookies, and other pastries.

This display usually goes up in November, just in time for Thanksgiving.

There’s no need to purchase anything in order to walk into the lobby and see this attraction.

The Westin St. Francis is right next to Union Square, so you might want to make a stop at the Christmas Tree while you’re in the area!


15. Experience Illuminate San Francisco

Starting in November, the city comes alive through illumination!

Covering 17 neighborhoods and featuring 62 light art installations, Illuminate SF offers a unique way to explore the city. 

This event will feature the work of more than 30 artists, and it’s entirely free to come and enjoy all of the great light displays. Additionally, there are free self-guided and guided tours available.

Dates haven't been released yet, so visit the Illuminate website for more details.

Also, make sure to check this list of Installations to find an Illuminate SF display near you.

Visit this post to find out more about the Light Art Trail.


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About The Author

Britt

Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.
Updated: August 26th, 2023
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