With some of our favorite Bay Area traditions back on offer this year—plus a few new treats—we're already checking a few wishes off of our holiday list.
If you're feeling fancy, don your holiday finest and round up your family for a holiday tea in a posh hotel. Looking for something more casual? Grab drinks at an over-the-top Christmas-themed bar, go ogle some holiday lights and, of course, revisit the Fairmont hotel's iconic gingerbread house.
Magical Lights + Displays in the Bay Area
(Courtesy of @__filoli)
Holidays at Filoli
Picturesque Filoli's 16-acre gardens are made a little more magical with all sorts of bells and whistles. Meander through during the day, or bundle up to see the garden illuminated with holiday lights after dark. Dress up for a special gift on Monday theme nights like Hanukkah Lights and Festive Face Masks, or stop by for pics with Santa on weekends in December.
// 10am to 8pm daily through January 2 with Santa appearances from 1-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays December 4-19; tickets ($28-$38 /adults, $15-$20/kids) are available for advance purchase online; Filoli Historic House & Garden, 86 Cañada Rd. (Woodside), filoli.org
Tom & Jerry House
For decades, Tom Taylor and Jerry Goldstein have decked out their 21st and Church Street digs with what just might be the city's most impressive Christmas display. Last year, following the death of Tom, a longtime LGBTQ rights activist, at the age 77, the display still went up—complete with a towering tree, larger than life stockings, and all sorts of baubles that you need to see for yourself. Stay tuned for details on this year's display. // 3650 21st St. (Castro)
Entwined in GGP
Golden Gate Park's pandemic-born lights display "Entwined" is returning this year with towering trees and bushes illuminated with twinkly LEDs. Bundle up for an evening stroll through Charles Gadeken's sculptures. // Until 9:30pm nightly, December 2 through February 1; Peacock Meadow, 240 John F. Kennedy Way (Golden Gate Park), sanfranciscoparksalliance.org
Christmas Cocktail Bars in SF
(Courtesy of @miracleatpch)
UPDATE: As of December 22nd, Miracle at P.C.H. and Sippin' Santa at Kona's Street Market have ended service for the season citing the surge in Covid-19.
Miracle Pop-Up Bar
All things are merry at Miracle, the beloved Christmas-themed cocktail bar that's returning to the Bay once again for festive cocktails like boozy (non-dairy) eggnog, beers snuggled in holiday sweater cozies, and maybe even some fake snow. Opt to visit Pacific Cocktail Haven in SF, The Double Standard in Oakland, Paper Plane in San Jose, or Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma to get in on the fun.
// Various locations with openings starting November 22, miraclepopup.com
If tropical Santa is more your jam, PCH's sister bar Kona's Street Market underwent a transformation into a sandy winter wonderland for Sippin' Santa. Round up a group, don your Santa hat—and perhaps a Hawaiian shirt—and imbibe with a tiki cocktail or two.
// Open 5pm to midnight, Tuesdays through Saturdays starting November 26; 32 3rd St. (SoMa), konastreetmarket.com
Deck the Halls
'Tis the season for getting tipsy off of 'nog. Head to Deck the Halls pop-up bar where the elves have been hard at work decorating the interior to look like something out of your North Pole dreams (or nightmares). Speciality drinks include Yellow Snow (a tequila and lemon slushie), a Snow Globe (vodka, bubble rose water, aperitif wine, citrus), a Krampus shot (stout, egg, sherry, rum, and fire), and more. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to the SF Firefighters Toy Program and you'll get a free sparkling or hot cider. // Open daily through Christmas Day; 546 Broadway (North Beach), deckthehallsbar.com
Holiday Teas in San Francisco
(Courtesy of @ritzcarltonsf)
Children's Magical Tea at Top of the Mark
Festive tea and treats are served with epic San Francisco views at Top of the Mark. The kid-focused fun includes a ballon artist, face painting, a gingerbread decorating station, and visits with Santa in the lobby (between 1pm and 4pm). Come hungry for a decadent buffet of smoked salmon, cucumber tea sandwiches, DIY sliders, and a drool-worthy desert bar. If unlimited bubbly's more your thing, don't miss Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas Day dinner or brunch instead.
// Noon to 3pm Saturdays and Sundays, December 4-19; reservations ($90/person or $85 with a toy donation for the Firefighters Toy Drive) can be made by calling 415.616.6940. Top of the Mark, 99 California St. (Nob Hill), holidaysatthemark.com
Nutcracker Holiday Tea at the Proper Hotel
Wear something chic to enjoy a complimentary glass of Champagne or hot chocolate inside the stylish lobby of the Kelly Wearstler–designed Proper Hotel where the Nutcracker Holiday Tea offers festive bites and sips for kids and adults alike. Every ticket grants attendees a raffle ticket. Be sure to bring a new toy to donate to the San Francisco Fire Fighters' drive.
// Noon to 4pm, December 4-5 and 11; reservations ($55/adults, $35/kids) may be made online. SF Proper, 1100 Market St. (Civic Center), properhotel.com
Teddy Bear Tea at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
Kids will be delighted by The Ritz-Carlton's annual holiday tea service, complete with sweet goodies, hot cocoa, and sandwiches plus a playful holiday show featuring an elf, a gingerbread fairy, and a teddy bear, of course. Each kid will receive a holiday card–worthy pic with a giant teddy bear and a stuffed teddy to take home. Two dollars from every ticket will benefit Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area. (Ahem, parents, Champagne will be available for purchase.)
Dollie + Me Holiday Tea at the Westin St. Francis
Start a new family tradition at the Westin's Dollie + Me Holiday Tea. Kids will have a blast bringing their dolls for crafts, sweets, and tea sandwiches. Plus, the Westin's fancy, festive decor is worth a gander alone.
Holiday Gingerbread Houses in San Francisco
(Courtesy of @waterbarsf)
Victorian Gingerbread House at the Fairmont San Francisco
It wouldn't be a true San Francisco Christmas without a visit to the Fairmont's larger-than-life gingerbread house—it stands 22 feet tall and 23 feet wide. Housed inside the hotel's lobby, this twinkly house has all the candy embellishments and layers of frosting you'd expect, but really pulls out all the stops with a splurge-y private dining experience. Or, you could just make a res for holiday tea in the Laurel Court.
// Ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11am, Saturday November 27; tea ($149/adults, $19/children) at 1pm and 3:30pm Thursdays through Sundays, through January 2; Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St. (Nob Hill), fairmont-san-francisco.com
Halloweentown at Waterbar
Every year, Waterbar goes all out with a not-so-average gingerbread house created by pastry chef Erica Land. Past years' sugary takes on the Painted Ladies and Sutro Baths have blown us away, so we can't wait for the reveal of her Tim Burton–inspired Halloweentown rendition. Plus, get a behind-the-scenes look at the multi-day process which involves not only gingerbread, but also plenty of Rice Krispies via Instagram.
// Waterbar, 399 The Embarcadero (Embarcadero), waterbarsf.com
Holiday Ice Rinks in the Bay Area
(Courtesy of @unionsquarerink)
Union Square Ice Rink, San Francisco
What better way to soak up the commercialism of Christmas than with a turn on the Union Square ice rink, sandwiched by some of San Francisco's toniest retail stores on Union Square. Too Grinchy? Well, we do love the looming holiday tree, plus annual special events like Wizarding World Wednesdays, Flashback Fridays, Drag Queens on Ice (Dec. 2), and the Polar Bear Skate (Jan. 1).
// Open 10am to 11pm daily through January 17; tickets ($19 includes skate rental) are available for advance purchase at unionsquareicerink.com.
Merry Meritage, at Vista Collina Resort in Napa
Snow in Wine Country? You betcha. The Merry Meritage winter village is your one-stop holiday wonderland with an ice skating rink and Rink Bar, Santa's Tavern, tea time, Veuve Clicquot igloos, fire pits and even, really, snow on lawn every day at 6pm. The holiday tree lighting is Friday, November 26th with carolers, an artisan market, and a visit from Santa.
// Open through January 2 at Vista Collina Resort, meritagecollection.com