It's the most wonderful time of the year—when we can ice skate with drag queens and drink ciders in ugly sweater cozies.
If you're feeling fancy, don your finest for holiday tea and Champagne at of San Francisco's posh hotels.
Magical Holiday Lights 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. Make advance reservations for private parties of up to eight guests by the fire pits (mulled wine and hot whiskey ciders included), or stop by for pics with Santa. // 10am to 9pm daily through January 7 with Santa appearances on select days in December from 10am to 3:30pm; tickets ($33-$42/adults, $23-$28/kids over 5) are available for advance purchase online; Filoli Historic House & Garden, 86 Cañada Rd. (Woodside), filoli.org
Let’s Glow SF
A relative newcomer to San Francisco's festive season calendar, the country's largest holiday projection event lights up six iconic downtown buildings with larger-than-life art projections. The 10-day installation kicks off with the Countdown to Glow (6pm, Dec. 1) at the Ferry Building, featuring complimentary ube hot chocolate, s’mores, gluten-free cupcakes, stilt walkers, and more. Then, see it nightly from 5pm to 10pm through December 10th. // For a map and info, visit downtownsf.org.
Entwined in GGP
Golden Gate Park's pandemic-born lights display "Entwined" is returning this year with a new iteration: Elder Mother is a 30-foot sculpted metal tree with a canopy of illuminated lanterns. The holiday tree lighting at MacLaren Lodge kicks off the bright installation on December 7th. Check the website for updates on upcoming events. // 5pm to 10pm nightly, December 7, 2023 through April 28, 2024; Peacock Meadow, 240 John F. Kennedy Way (Golden Gate Park), sanfranciscoparksalliance.org
Christmas Cocktail Bars in SF
(Courtesy of @konasstreetmarketbar)
Miracle Pop-Up Bar
The Miracle has proliferated around the world since it first launched just a few years back. In Northern California, you can glug egg nogs and beers snuggled in holiday sweaters at Christmas-themed cocktail spots from Pacific Cocktail Haven in SF to the Double Standard in Oakland, Napa Yard at Oxbow, Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma...and more. // For a full list of locations, times, and dates, visit miraclepopup.com.
If tropical Santa is more your jam, make plans to visit Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Santa pop-ups where Hawaiian shirts and tiki drinks are all we want for Christmas. Hang ten at the bars at Kona's Street Market in SF (through Dec. 31) and the Lazeaway at Santa Rosa's Flamingo Resort (through Jan. 8). // For a full list of locations, visit sippinsantapopup.com.
Deck the Halls
Get festive AF at 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). Sip on a Jolly Old Fashioned and even plan a private event. // Open 4pm to midnight through Christmas Day; 1787 Union St. (Cow Hollow), deckthehallsbar.com
Holiday Festivities at SF's Fancy Hotels
(Courtesy of @westinstfr)
Holidays at the Mark
You'll have to be on your mark if you expect to score a reservation at this Nob Hill hotel's popular holiday tea (it sells out early each year), but there's a bright side to procrastination: You might rather have an alpine picnic ($75/person)—think fondue, charcuterie, cheese, and Champagne—in a bubble tent at Nob Hill Club's Winter Chalet. Multiple seatings are available daily through December 30th (reservations at OpenTable). The InterContinental Mark Hopkins also hosts Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day dinner and brunch. // Top of the Mark, 99 California St. (Nob Hill), holidaysatthemark.com
Champagne + Gingerbread at the Fairmont
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; take it in with a glass or two in the lobby Champagne bar or book a splurge-y private dining experience. Looking for something different this year? Enjoy a stylish tipple in the holiday cocktail bar at Cirque. // Opens November 24; Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St. (Nob Hill), fairmont-san-francisco.com
The Pop Lounge + Sugar Castle at the Westin St. Francis
Celebrate your gift purchases by popping some bottles with a view of the Union Square ice rink at this hotel's annual Champagne lounge, just off the Landmark Lobby (open Fridays through Sundays through New Year's Eve). Princes and princesses will also gasp when they see pastry chef Jean-Francois Houdré's royal Sugar Castle on display through January 2nd. // Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell St. (Union Square), marriott.com
Nutcracker Holiday Tea at the Proper HotelPatrons of the arts will appreciate this glamorous downtown hotel’s Nutcracker Tea ($65/adults, $35/kids 12 and under). The repast includes sweet and savory bites and raffle tickets for the SF Ballet and SF Broadway. Bring a toy for donation and receive a free glass of Champagne or hot chocolate. // 2pm to 5pm Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 5pm Sundays through December 30 at Villon, 1100 Market St. (Civic Center); reservations required, 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. Bring wrapped toys for donation to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals. Plus, a portion of proceeds will benefit Children’s Miracle Network and Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area. (Ahem, parents, Champagne will be available for purchase.) // 10am and 1pm on select days through December 23; tickets ($192 per guest) are available on sevenrooms.com. Ritz-Carlton, 600 Stockton St. (Nob Hill), ritzcarlton.com
Holiday Ice Rinks in the Bay Area
(Courtesy of @unionsquarerink)
Union Square Ice Rink, San Francisco
Haven't spent much time in Union Square lately? What better way to revisit this local landmark than with a turn around its holiday ice rink, sandwiched between some of the city's toniest retail stores. Lace up for beloved special events like Flashback Fridays, Simba Saturdays, Drag Queens on Ice (Dec. 7), and the Polar Bear Skate (Jan. 1). // Open daily till 11pm, Nov. 1 through Jan. 15; tickets ($20 includes skate rental) are available for advance purchase at unionsquareicerink.com.
Merry Meritage Holiday Rink + Winter Village
Snow in Wine Country? You betcha. This annual Napa outpost is your one-stop holiday wonderland for ice skating rink, Santa visits and story time, holiday tea, VIP igloos serving bottles of bubbly, s'mores by the fire pits and even, really, snow. // Nov. 17 through Jan. 7 at The Meritage Resort & Spa, 875 Bordeaux Way (Napa); for a full schedule of events, go to meritagecollection.com.