14 Holiday Events Guaranteed to Put You in a Festive Mood


'Tis the season! It's the time of year when we enjoy all that the holidays have to offer and celebrate in the company of family and friends. But if you're not quite feeling the festive spirit yet, these local events are sure to get you in the mood.

1. Cable Car Caroling: December 3

There's no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by spreading joy to others, especially if it's for a good cause. Join more than 500 friends and neighbors for the 32nd Annual Cable Car Caroling Fundraiser to benefit the Institute on Aging (IOA). Mix and mingle over hot chocolate, then board motorized cable cars to roam the city, singing along the way and stopping to serenade seniors at group homes, nursing facilities, and private residences. Certified therapy dogs are welcome aboard to cuddle with seniors. Afterwards, participants will reconvene to enjoy festivities and dinner from local food trucks. All proceeds benefit the Institute on Aging's Friendship Line. // Saturday, Dec. 3, 12:30pm-5:30pm; Roosevelt Middle School, 460 Arguello Boulevard (Richmond), bit.ly/cablecarcaroling

2. Dogpatch Holiday Sale: December 3

Why not kick off the holidays with a shopping spree? The Dogpatch Business Association is holding its Holiday Sale this Saturday, with more than 20 pop-up vendors and neighborhood stores, restaurants, and bars offering everything from jewelry and clothing to pet products and, of course, a cornucopia of delicious holiday food and beverages. // Saturday, Dec. 3, 10am-6pm (Dogpatch), dogpatchholidaysale.com

3. San Francisco Firefighter’s Holiday Brunch & Toy Drive: December 4

Red Dog Restaurant is hosting the San Francisco Firefighter's Holiday Brunch & Toy Drive this year. Santa will be coming to town greet the little ones, and he's bringing along a bouncy house. Enjoy the holiday brunch buffet (with or without bottomless mimosas) and get a kids meal for a buck. Red Dog will hold a silent auction with prizes that include a 10-person fire-boat experience on the Bay or an exclusive firehouse dinner with the world's hottest firefighters. // Sunday, Dec. 4, 11am-5pm, 303 2nd Street (SoMa), bit.ly/FirefightersToyDriveBrunch

4. Holiday Floral & Cocktails Workshop: December 10

Campari America and Kiana Underwood of Tulipina have teamed up to host a fun holiday cocktail and floral workshop at the Archery. Enjoy light bites from Work of Art catering and get an aura reading from Yosh Han before learning how to build a beautiful floral arrangement. Watch a live demonstration by Underwood, then create your own arrangement in the Build Your Own Bouquet Bar. Next, follow along with Ashley Rose Conway of Craft and Cocktails to learn how to mix the perfect eggnog. Participants have a chance to win a PUBLIC bike, Heath Ceramics bud vase set, or a 30-minute aura reading. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the SF/Marin Food Bank. // Saturday, Dec. 10, 11am-2pm; 470 Alabama Street (Mission), bit.ly/CampariFloralCocktail

5. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair: Through December 18

A cherished Bay Area holiday tradition, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is back at the historic Cow Palace. Enter the world of Charles Dickens' Victorian London on a magical Christmas Eve. Dance, mingle with more than 750 performers, and revel in hearty food and drink. There are more than three acres of vintage exhibition halls to explore, marvelously transformed into lamplit streets complete with boisterous pubs, theaters, music halls, dance parties, tearooms, and shops offering one-of-a-kind treasures. // Saturdays and Sundays until December 18, 10am-7pm; 2600 Geneva Avenue (Daly City), dickensfair.com

6. Holiday Toy Drive at Roka Bar: December 18

Who wouldn't want to embrace the seasonal spirit by helping kids in need? At Roka Bar's Holiday Toy Drive, you can help make the holidays special for some lucky children while enjoying cocktails and live holiday tunes by musicians from the San Francisco Symphony. Bring a new, unwrapped toy or an article of clothing and get a drink ticket to enjoy a handcrafted cocktail for each item you donate (up to three). Compass Family Services will give your donations to infants, toddlers, kids, tweens and teens. // Saturday, Dec. 18, 7pm-9pm; 801 Montgomery St. Suite 100 (Financial District), rokaakor.com/san-francisco/rokabarsf

7. Holiday Tea at Top of the Mark: Through December 29

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to enjoy afternoon high tea (and breathtaking skyline views) at Top of the Mark at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins. The Top of the Mark's annual Holiday High Tea features a choice of fine teas and a delightful three-tier presentation of finger sandwiches, scones, and mini pastries and sweets. And if you want to bring the kids, there's the Top of the Mark Children's Magical Tea, a family-friendly holiday event open to kids and adults of all ages, featuring Raul the master balloon artist, and face painting by Fire Pixie. There's a cookie-decorating station and of course a bounty of delicious sandwiches, favorite treats and finger foods suitable for both adults and younger tea-goers, plus a dessert buffet. In the spirit of the season, Top of the Mark invites guests to bring a new toy to donate to the Toys for Tots drive. // Various dates through December 29, 999 California Street (Nob Hill), holidaysatthemark.com

8. Off the Grid at Embarcadero Holiday Ice Rink: Through January 8

Off the Grid is back for its fifth year at Off the Grid: Justin Herman Plaza. The seasonal pop-up has already become a new holiday tradition in the city, by fueling shoppers and skaters with delicious street food. In conjunction with the Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center, five food trucks will set up shop for ice skaters and Sunday strollers in the area. Among this year's vendors (on a rotating schedule) are Happy Dumplings, 808 Poke Shack, Lobsta Truck, WoKitchen, Judie's Tacos Locos, Kokio Republic, Drums & Crumbs, Me So Hungry Too, Don Pablo, DUM Truck, and KoJa Kitchen. // Sundays through January 8, 12pm-4pm; Justin Herman Plaza (Embarcadero), bit.ly/JustinHermanOffTheGrid

9. ‘Tis the Season for Science: Through January 8

If you're looking for a different perspective on the holidays, find out how reindeer see things—and explore the science behind the holiday season—at the 'Tis the Season for Science exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. Interactive displays allow you to peer through the eyes of a reindeer using UV vision to find food underneath a blanket of snow. Then meet a pair of live reindeer in the Academy's East Garden, experience indoor snow flurries, step inside a giant "Snowman Theater," and enjoy a host of holiday-themed programs, including quiz shows and live music performances. The Academy is open every day this holiday season including Christmas Day. // Daily through January 8, 55 Music Concourse Drive (Golden Gate Park), calacademy.org/exhibits/'tis-the-season-for-science

10. River Otter Snow Days at Aquarium of the Bay: Through December 30

The holiday season isn't just for humans! Every year at this time, Aquarium of the Bay adds 1,000 pounds of snow to their river-otter habitat. The snow is added as a form of enrichment for the three resident otters Shasta, Baxter, and Ryer, and gives them a special chance to romp and roll in the winter white stuff. // Wednesdays in December, 2 Beach Street (Embarcadero), aquariumofthebay.org/tis-the-season

11. Home for the Holidays at Walt Disney Family Museum: December 5 to January 9

In celebration of Walt Disney's birthday, the Walt Disney Family Museum will open its doors to the public free of charge on Monday, December 5th. It will also mark the museum's first daily lighting ceremony in which one lucky family will illuminate holiday decorations on its newest immersive installation, Home for the Holidays at Carolwood. The exhibit celebrates Walt's family and love of trains, most notably featuring an elaborate three-dimensional model of the Disney Family home on Carolwood Drive in Los Angeles. // Daily through January 9, except December 25 and January 1, 10am-6pm; 104 Montgomery Street (Presidio), waltdisney.org

12. Oakland Christmas Revels: December 9 to 18

Now in its 31st year, Oakland's beloved Christmas Revels travels to 1920's Wales and the childhood village of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas this holiday season with A Revels Christmas In Wales. There is much about Welsh culture and customs that will feel familiar and comforting to Revelers, as the performers venture from the warmth of the parlor into the chill winter night, following mummers and carolers from house to house through the village. As always, the children of the village take center stage with their games, songs and dances, and it wouldn't be a trip to Wales without energetic clogging, graceful couples dances, and a fierce dose of Border Morris. And since this is Wales, there will be – dragons! // December 9-11 and 16-18, Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive (Oakland), californiarevels.org

13. 31st Annual Dance-Along Nutcracker: December 10 and 11

Join Clara and her brother Fritz on a wild and crazy dance-along adventure into the world of villains and superheroes. The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band presents its 31st Annual Dance-Along Nutcracker at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Nutcracker is a zany audience-participation show perfect for the whole family. // December 10, 3pm & 7pm; December 11, 11am & 3pm, 701 Mission Street (SoMa), bit.ly/DanceAlongNutcracker

14. 24th Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy Show: December 23 to 25

A wacky and wonderful antidote to gingerbread overload, the 24th annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy Show is described as "Jewish comedy on Christmas Day in a Chinese restaurant." Dinner and cocktail shows are scheduled for the New Asia Restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, and this year's featured comedians include Elayne Boosler, Eddie Sarfaty, Alex Edelman and Lisa Geduldig. // December 23-25, 5pm dinner show, 8:30pm cocktail show; 772 Pacific Avenue (FiDi), koshercomedy.com