10 Ways to Give Thanks + Spark Joy in SF This Holiday Season
Help to give vulnerable San Franciscans a great Thanksgiving by volunteering with Project Open Hand. (Courtesy of @projectopenhand)

10 Ways to Give Thanks + Spark Joy in SF This Holiday Season


The holiday season is officially here, along with all the gratitude and joy it brings.

This year, give what you can—your time, your money, your attention and support—but don’t forget to celebrate the wonder of the season, too.

From volunteering at a food pantry to cashing in on Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, here are 10 ways to give thanks and spark joy in San Francisco this holiday season.

A Sunrise Ceremony at Alcatraz.(Courtesy of @santacruztown831)

Honor Indigenous Americans at the Alcatraz Sunrise Ceremony.

Thanksgiving is a time of gathering and gratitude, but to the Ohlone and other Native American communities, it is also a time of somber remembrance for the millions of Indigenous North Americans who were massacred, removed from their land, and forced to endure one injustice after another following European colonization. Start your Thanksgiving holiday off by honoring those who suffered for the creation of the United States at the annual Sunrise Gathering Ceremony on Alcatraz Island. Ferries depart from Pier 33 every 15 minutes between 4:15am and 6am on Thursday. If you can’t make the early boat, make a donation to a local tribal initiative like the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe’s Culture & Language Revitalization Program, The Association of Ramaytush Yunakin Land Tax Program, and the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust // Alcatraz Landing, Pier 33 (Embarcadero); details at cityexperiences.com

Learn a new holiday-themed skill at an adorable ski chalet.

This season, Terrene, the sustainably minded restaurant at the Embarcadero’s 1 Hotel San Francisco, transforms into an enchanting après-ski chalet complete with mountain furnishings, warming cocktails, and cozy winter bites like fondue. Events to give back and learn new holiday skills will run throughout December, including a holiday happy hour to support Muttville Senior Dog Rescue on December 4th and a candle-making workshop on December 10th. The chalet will run from December 2nd through January 19th. // 8 Mission St. (Embarcadero), 1hotels.com

Let the wine on your table do some good.

Frank Family Vineyards makes giving back effortless this holiday season with their Frank for a Cause program. This year, 20 percent of the proceeds from the winery’s 2021 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and their Frank Family gift packages will go straight to K9s for Warriors, an organization training shelter dogs to serve as life-saving companions for veterans suffering from service-related trauma. For other wineries giving back this season, check out 7x7’s list. // Frank Family Vineyards, 1091 Larkmead Ln. (Calistoga), frankfamilyvineyards.com

Help disrupt the doom loop narrative by volunteering with the Civic Joy Corps.(Courtesy of @civicjoycorps)

Disrupt the doom loop.

Help change the narrative by volunteering with the Civic Joy Fund. The program, which aims to bring more art, music, energy, and enthusiasm to the streets of SF, includes the Civic Joy Corps and Clean Up the City, two projects in search of volunteers. Civic Joy Corps events are held from 10am to 1pm the first Saturday of each month (the next one will be on December 2nd), and Clean Up the City hosts weekly neighborhood trash pickups (followed by a communal meal) in Bayview, Fillmore, the Mission, and seven other areas.

Celebrate the season with Champagne and caviar.

Get into the spirit of the season at The Westin St. Francis’ Pop! Lounge, a pop-up bubbly and caviar bar next door to the hotel’s iconic Sugar Castle. The elegant hotel will pair Moët & Chandon Champagne with sustainably minded, locally owned California Caviar, serving it up with blinis and a view of the holiday happenings in Union Square. The Pop! Lounge is open Friday through Sunday from November 24th through December 31st, no reservations needed. // 335 Powell St. (Union Square), marriot.com

Support Black-owned businesses (and find some loot they'll love).

Celebrate Black-owned businesses at the Ferry Plaza’s Black Holiday Market. Find gifts for everyone on your list at locally owned shops like Belle Noire, Ice Body Skincare, That’s My Jam, and Evolution Hot Sauce. The marketplace is open December 9th from 9am and 2pm. // Ferry Plaza, Embarcadero & Market Sts. (Embarcadero), foodwise.org

Help trim the World Tree of Hope at Grace Cathedral.(Courtesy of @gracecathedral)

Trim the World Tree of Hope.

Spread cheer by helping to decorate the World Tree of Hope at Grace Cathedral. The largest origami holiday tree on Earth will be covered in more than 17,000 paper cranes, each inscribed with a wish or dream for the future of the world from people of all ages and faiths. Register to participate in the trimming on November 24th, 25th, or 26th, or send Grace Cathedral a wish to be hung with care. The tree will be lit in a ceremony held December 4th from 6:30pm to 8pm, and will inspire hope through January 5th. // 1100 California St. (Pac Heights), gracecathedral.org

Help give vulnerable San Franciscan's a great holiday meal.

No one should go hungry on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any day in between. Help to feed vulnerable San Franciscans the holiday meal(s) they deserve by volunteering to sort and fill or distribute food boxes, or home-deliver groceries with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, Project Open Hand, Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, or the Salvation Army. Sign-up to serve hot holiday meals instead at Glide Memorial Church and San Francisco City Impact.

See the holiday lights sparkle from above.

See the city sparkle from a rooftop holiday pop-up. On November 28th, Kaiyo Rooftop’s Nikkei Navidad lights up with tropical-themed cheer, seasonal drinks, and a mailbox for Santa. Meanwhile, over in Mission Bay, rooftop bar and lounge Cavaña’s Nochebuena will already be in full swing. The “Latin winter wonderland,” which opens November 27th, will delight with holiday-themed cocktails and dishes hailing from different regions of Latin America. Both rooftops will keep the yuletide fire burning through December. // Kaiyo Rooftop, 701 3rd St., 12th fl. (South Beach), kaiyosf.com/kaiyorooftop; Cavaña, 100 Channel St., 17th Fl. (Mission Bay), cavanasf.com

Dress vulnerable women for success.

Donate clothing to support women who are entering or returning to the workplace, and help set them and their families up for a happy holiday season. SF’s Dress for Success is always in need of clean, professional-looking clothing in good condition. Their next donation drive is December 15th from 10:30am to 3:30pm. Sign up for a drop-off time slot. // 500 Sutter St., Ste. 218 (Union Square), sfdress.org

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