Best Things to Do in San Francisco This December

With the holiday season in full swing, December is full of exciting and festive events — from making turns on the ice rink to peeking inside a sugar castle to taking in holiday dance and theater performances.

We’ve done the deep research for you on the best things to do in San Francisco including museums, cultural events and food tours and more. Speaking of food, we also have an extensive list of our best restaurants in San Francisco, and if you’re planning a weekend, the best places to stay. Feeling like a high tea? We also know the city’s best holiday afternoon teas. Take a peek below and join in on all the fun!

Featured photo by Miika Skaffari/Getty Images, courtesy of San Francisco Standard.
Dickens Fair
Photo: Courtesy of The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Through December 17

Visit London at the historic Cow Palace Exhibition Halls! Enter the winding lanes of Victorian London and immerse yourself in a world of music halls, theatres, pubs, dance parties, and charming shops overflowing with hand-made holiday treasures. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air. Discover holiday revelry through the works of Charles Dickens any weekend this month (including Fridays) through December 17.

More info: dickensfair.com

Photo: Courtesy of BroadwaySF

BroadwaySF Presents The Lion King

November 22–December 30

Disney’s The Lion King returns to the Orpheum Theatre this December. With stunning sets, inventive costumes and emotional performances, The Lion King does justice to the classic story and its iconic songs. 

More info: broadwaysf.com

sf_dec23_Westin Sugar Castle - courtesy of Westin St. Francis
Photo: Courtesy of Westin St. Francis

Augmented Reality Sugar Castle at the Westin St. Francis

Now through January 2

The past meets the present at this enchanting, 12-foot holiday castle situated in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco’s Union Square. While the exterior of the castle itself resembles a medieval French chateau with circular towers and illuminated windows, here’s the twist: visitors can now go beyond the sugar-coated exterior by using augmented reality (AR) to “explore” the inside of the castle’s many rooms and delicate features. The Westin’s executive pastry chef Jean-Francois Houdré and his team skillfully constructed the castle, which weighs 1,200 pounds and is surrounded by a charming village and a running train. 

More info: westinstfrancis.com

ice skating
Photo: Courtesy of Union Square Ice Rink

Holiday Ice Rink at Union Square

Now through January 15

Looking for a cute and romantic December date idea? How about ice skating together in Union Square’s annual Holiday Ice Rink? Lace up a pair of skates and glide across the fresh ice with your date. This year, the rink hosts several special skate events, like 80s nights, a drag queen performance on ice, a polar bear skate where skaters don swimsuits and more! Afterwards, you two can warm up with some hot cocoa at Union Square Coffee, then explore the rest of the downtown area. 

More info: unionsquareicerink.com

Cast of A Christmas Carol-BroadwaySF-San Francisco-credit Joan Marcus-800x450
Photo: Courtesy of The American Conservatory Theatre

A Christmas Carol

December 6–24

The American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) annual production of Charles Dickens’s classic tale, A Christmas Carol, is a well-loved and celebrated tradition for San Franciscans. The musical features a lively cast, festive music, decked-out costumes, and spooky ghosts. It’s a great holiday addition for those looking to lift their spirits! All performances will be held at the Toni Rembe Theater — formerly the Geary Theater.

More info: act-sf.org

sf_dec23_Glowing Hanukah - courtesy of Jewish Community Center of SF
Photo: Courtesy of JCCSF

Glowing Hanukkah Pop-Up

December 10

This annual tradition returns to Ghirardelli Square with candle lightings, a live glowing piano performance, Hanukkah crafts with local artists, dreidel games, freshly fried donuts and more. Light up the night by dressing up in your favorite light-up, glittery, glow-in-the-dark outfits.

More info: jccsf.org

nutcracker performance
Photo: Courtesy of SF Ballet

SF Ballet Presents Nutcracker

December 13–30

The SF Ballet puts on one of the most revered versions of Tchaikovsky’s treasured holiday productions. Step into the reverie of little Clara in this unforgettable holiday tale with a magical wonderland of toy soldiers, a blizzard of snowflakes, and a kaleidoscope of more than 150 dancers. Battle the King of Mice and of course, dance through the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

More info: sfballet.org

sf_dec23_Winter Walk 2023 - courtesy of Union Square Foundation
Photo: Courtesy of Union Square Foundation

Winter Walk 2023

December 14–24

This holiday season, don’t miss the highly anticipated return of Winter Walk on Stockton Street — a festive pop-up holiday extravaganza that stretches from Post to Geary Street and Geary to O’Farrell Street. The lively pedestrian plaza will be adorned with green turf, a tempting array of food trucks and captivating live performances. 

More info: unionsquarefoundation.org/winterwalk

Looking for more things to do in the area?

Visit our What to Do in Northern California page!

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