Inside SF - The San Francisco Scoop
10 Best Things To Do In SF In December
Christmas is officially coming, the goose is getting fat and the tree has been put up. Once you’ve done all the food and gift-shopping, you’re probably going to want to go out and have a little festive fun. But what, exactly, are you going to do? Well, wonder no longer because we have this list of the best things to do in SF in December. From enjoying the Holiday lights, to seeing big-name stand-up comedians, to going on the best true-crime and ghosty tour in San Francisco (okay, we’re a bit biased on that one), we’ve got the essential scoop on the Bay Area’s activities for you right here.
Events & Activities in San Francisco This Month
1. VISIT ONE OF OUR AMAZING MUSEUMS (DATES THROUGH DECEMBER)
For several days of the month (and for some special people on every day of the month) many SF museums are free. We have great museums (partly because of all the rich people that have lived here) – you should make the most of these opportunities.
Exploratorium: free admission for EBT cardholders and San Francisco Medi-Cal or CalFresh recipients. Also free for California public school teachers.
SF Botanical Gardens: free admission second Tuesday of every month.
Japanese Tea Gardens: free Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9-10 am.
De Young Museum: free first Tuesday of every month, also free every Saturday for Bay Area residents.
SFMOMA: free first Thursday of the month for Bay Area residents.
Legion of Honor: free Saturday’s for Bay Area residents and free Tuesday’s for all.
Cable Car Museum: free every day, and one of the most interesting museums in all of San Francisco.
2. GO TO THE BALLET (DECEMBER 13-30)
The San Francisco Ballet are presenting Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House in the Civic Center, a really beautiful setting for the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky. The ballet, set at a childrens party on Christmas Eve is perfect for the season and a great way to appreciate this special art form.
Sometimes, a gift isn’t just a gift. It’s a key to a new world. A young heroine. A Nutcracker-turned-prince. The small but mighty army of mice. The beautiful conclusion of a sugar plum celebration.San Francisco Ballet
More information here.
3. NOTORIOUS SF: GHOST & CRIME TOUR (EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT)
When better than Christmas to learn about all the horrible, criminal activity that’s taken place in SF?
Our Notorious SF: Ghost & Crime tour starts by taking you back in time a hundred years, to the first Hollywood sex scandal, known as the Fatty Arbuckle Affair. A fascinating case that is still influential and debated to this day. What really happened? From there we go back to the nineteenth century as we take you through the old red light district to the site of opium dens and gambling hell-holes, which used to populate Chinatown.
From there the we go back to the earliest days of San Francisco, when the Gold Rush brought some of the most dangerous people in the world to the city, desperate to make their fortune. During the evening we’ll regale you with a few ghost stories from those dark days, as well as stopping in one or two historic bars that date from that era.
Every Saturday night, at 6pm. More information here.
4. VISIT A GINGERBREAD HOUSE (ALL MONTH)
The Fairmont Hotel looks down on SF from the top of its lofty perch on Nob Hill. It’s one of the oldest and most illustrious establishments in the city (which is why we love to visit on the SF in a Day and Half Day SF City Highlights tours.
Every Christmas they build a 2-story gingerbread house in the lobby.
Our annual life-sized Gingerbread House is on display from Thanksgiving, through the New Year. With hundreds of bricks of real gingerbread baked by our pastry team and pounds of See’s Candies, our Gingerbread House display brings out the kid in everyone.Fairmont Hotel
More information here.
5. ENJOY THE SAN FRANCISCO FERRY BUILDING (ALL MONTH)
The Ferry Building is one of the city’s most iconic buildings, serving as a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. It’s home to numerous events, pop-ups, a farmers’ market, and a battery of independent businesses that sell their wares on the main concourse inside. During December there are a ton of events going on, including craft-making for kids, gingerbread house construction and, of course, visits by Santa.
Information available here.
6. GO TO A GAME (DATES THROUGH DECEMBER)
It might not seem that going to a sports match might not have much connection to the Festive Season, but maybe you want a break from the usual festive season stuff. The Golden State Warriors are one of the most successful teams in recent NBA history (they’ve reached the final in six of the last eight years 😉 and Stephen Curry is still turning out for them. It’s the perfect time to go to a game! Definitely one of the best things to do in SF in December. Tickets available here.
The San Francisco Forty-Niners are playing football at Levi’s Stadium on December 10 AND Christmas Day. More information here.
7. EXPERIENCE THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS (ALL MONTH)
What better activity can there be – in the whole year – than walking around a major city’s shopping district, looking at the Christmas displays and basking in the festive lights. The neighborhood around Union Square is the perfect place to indulge in that happy pastime.
The annual Illuminate SF is also in place around the city, with a series of light art installations in the downtown area bringing illumination and the festive feeling to San Francisco. There are eleven installations at different points along Market Street, stretching from the Embarcadero to Castro, and more than forty in total. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in SF in December. This is always one of the best things to do in SF in December. More information here.
Another illumination is Let’s Glow SF.
Let’s Glow SF, the country’s largest holiday projection event, will return to downtown San Francisco this holiday season.
The displays will be up in the Financial District, and can easily viewed from 5-10 pm on a self-guided tour, December 1-10. More information here.
8. GO TO A STAND-UP COMEDY SHOW (DATES THROUGH DECEMBER)
A very distinguished shortlist of successful stand-up comedians are appearing in the Bay Area in December – and really the Holiday Season is the perfect time to sit back and have good laugh. Trevor Noah and Ali Wong both have shows in San Francisco this month.
Cobb’s Comedy Club, a legendary stand-up venue in North Beach, is also a popular venue with up-and-coming comedians. More Information here.
9. SEE THE INSIDE OF A PAINTED LADY (ALL MONTH)
Most visitors to San Francisco are aware of the Painted Ladies, beautiful Victorian homes built in the 1890’s on Alamo Square. Even if they don’t know the name, they’ve probably seen a photo of them. If you Google ‘San Francisco’ one of the first images will be of the houses with the city in the background.
You can just stand on the street in front and take a photo, however, an even better idea is to go inside one (and get even more impressive shot for Instagram, of course). Longtime resident George Horsfall owns the blue house and offers daily tours at 4 pm. It’s well worth the $20 ticket price and I can’t recommend the tour enough.
More information here (and don’t forget to tell George we sent you :-).
10. GO ICE-SKATING (ALL MONTH)
San Francisco normally has a bunch of pop-up ice-skating rinks over the festive season and it’s a great way to have fun AND get some exercise. However this year the locations at the Embarcadero and Civic Center aren’t operating. Nevertheless the Union Square Ice Rink is open and it’s one of the loveliest spots in San Francisco to enjoy it.
More information here.
If you have any feedback on the 10 Best Things to Do in SF in December please email us or reach out on social media, we’d love to hear from you.
– By Damien Blackshaw (Twitter)