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10 Best Things To Do In SF In January

#5 of the best things to do in SF in January

There are a lot of great events coming to San Francisco this month, Christmas and the New Year don’t slow down the city by the bay! There are cultural celebrations, art exhibitions, comedy shows, film festivals and there’s even a long-distance run (followed by hot chocolate, natch, it’s probably going to be cold). Writing this list can be hard, but it’s what I do. Deep breath – these are the 10 best things to do in SF in January. Enjoy! 

Events & Activities in San Francisco This Month

1. VISIT A MUSEUM FOR FREE (DATES THROUGH JANUARY)

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. NOTORIOUS SF: GHOST & CRIME TOUR (EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT)

When better than the dark winter nights, with the fog rolling in off the bay, to hear some scary ghost stories and learn about some of San Francisco’s fascinating true crime history?

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.

Then we venture 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.

Notorious SF: Ghost & Crime Tour video

3. HOT CHOCOLATE RUN: 15K / 10K / 5K (JANUARY 7)

This annual race, America’s sweetest in fact, starts and ends in Golden Gate Park. Bizarrely the more you pay the longer you have to run! Shouldn’t it be the other way around ;-)? Nevertheless, a chocolate lovers’ oasis awaits at the post-run party, with more – much more – than just hot chocolate. It’s the perfect way to bring in the New Year and definitely one of the best things to do in SF in January.

More information here.

4. GO TO A SPORTS GAME (DATES THROUGH JANUARY)

The Golden State Warriors start the year off with a bang, playing the Atlanta Hawks January 2, and they have seven games at the Chase Center this month. They’re 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 a great time to catch a game!

Tickets available here.

5. VISIT THE TOP OF THE MARK AND THE TONGA ROOM (ALL MONTH)

At the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill is a bar. For years it’s been on the list of many, locals and visitors to go to the Top of the Mark and take in the views of the city. If you go on a fine day you can see the whole Bay Area, if it’s foggy it’s incredibly atmospheric.

Right opposite, in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel is the Tonga Room. Once upon a time an indoor swimming pool, many years ago it was turned into the coolest, most fun – and biggest – Tiki Bar you’ve ever seen. You could visit both these spots easily on the same night.

See the Tonga Room in this video

6. EXPLORE THE PRESIDIO (ALL MONTH)

The Presidio is the National Park on the southern side of the Golden Gate (assuming you’re not from SF :-). The park obviously has some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it has a lot of other hidden spots to explore. More information here.

We have a great free self-guided tour, from the Embarcadero to Crissy Field in the Presidio.

You could also walk down to Lands End if you’re feeling energetic.

7. GO TO A COMEDY SHOW (VARIOUS DATES)

Who couldn’t do with a good laugh? SF has a thriving comedy scene, as you might expect, and shows often feature lineups of established and up-and-coming stand-ups at comedy nights all over the Bay Area.

Cobb’s, the legendary North Beach comedy club, has a series of shows throughout the month. Did I mention they’re free (although there is a two drink minimum)? More information here.

Also In January: Jordan Klepper, of the Daily Show, is performing at Cobb’s. More information here.

Comedy legends Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are appearing at the Masonic too. More information here.

Another interesting option is the Secret Improv Society, with shows every Friday and Saturday. More information here.

8. SEE THE LIGHTS (ALL MONTH)

The 11th annual Illuminate SF will be in place until January 31, with a series of light art installations in and around the downtown area bringing illumination 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 January. More information here.

The Exploratorium has brought back its light exhibition,GLOW: Discover the Art of Light. See brand new and expanded installations created by six artists, until January 28, at the Exploratorium on Pier 15. More information here.

9. GO TO A CLASSICAL MUSIC CONCERT (VARIOUS DATES)

The San Francisco Symphony is one of the most highly regarded in the U.S. and the orchestra has a great program of Beethoven concerts in January. On January 21 Itzhak Perlman is performing at the Davies Symphony Hall.

More information here

10. GO TO A NOIR FILM FESTIVAL (JANUARY 19-28)

Who hasn’t imagined themselves to be in a Noir movie at some point – with a femme fatale trying to convince you to do something really bad, and your client or boss trying to kill you. Or maybe that’s just my imagination. Nevertheless, one thing these genre films have in common with is that all of them are always entertaining. There’s a mystery, there’s a beautiful girl, there’s a dangerous villain and there’s a tough and handsome good-ish guy. What’s not to love?

Noir City Festival has been going for twenty years and is well-established, with a fantastic line-up of feature films and talks at the historic Grand Lake Theatre, in Oakland.

More information here.

Best things to do in SF in January
Japanese Tea Gardens, #1 of the best things to do in SF in January

If you have any feedback on the 10 Best Things to Do in SF in January please email us or reach out on social media, we’d love to hear from you.

– By Damien Blackshaw (Twitter)

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