If the whole gang is coming to the City by the Bay, there is plenty you can do together. Here are our picks for top family fun this season.

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December 4, 2019

8 Family Fun Activities in San Francisco This Holiday Season

The brisk winds and pretty lights that adorn the Bay Area come wintertime—not to mention the great hotel room rates—make for a perfect family getaway. If you are heading to San Francisco with your family, here are some essentials that epitomize a lovely winter holiday in the City by the Bay.

1. Winter Park at Civic Center

Now in its second year, the Civic Center Plaza is converted into a pop-up winter park to celebrate the holiday season. From Nov. 30 to Jan. 5, you can skate the night away, participate in Learn to Curl sessions, or snap a family photo for keepsakes.

2. Ice Skating

Winter in San Francisco also means pop-up ice skating rinks. The most popular one is at Union Square, under Macy's giant Christmas tree. It lasts until Jan. 20, 2020. Given its popularity, you would do well to book your tickets in advance. Also check for scheduled events at the rink, such as Drag Queens on Ice on Dec. 5, 2019, and the Polar Bear Skate on Jan.1, 2020.

If you can't find a spot at Union Square, you don't need to be bummed out. Embarcadero Center has the biggest pop-up rink in the city, with gorgeous views of the waterfront.

3. "Curious Contraptions: Flights of Fancy"

If being outdoors isn't your idea of holiday fun, head to the Exploratorium at Pier 15. This exhibition will display whimsical mechanical sculptures, also known as automata. Brought to life by simple mechanisms and handmade pieces, each automata performs an entertaining drama. Understand the inner workings of these automata in "Curious Contraptions" from Nov. 21, 2019 to Jan. 26, 2020.


4. Classic Cable Car Holiday Nights & Sights City Tour

Ring in the holiday season aboard a cable car, Nov. 22, 2019 through Dec. 30, 2019 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Classic Cable Car Holiday Nights & Sights City Tour begins at Taylor St. and tours through Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, Financial District, The Embarcadero and PIER 39. Along the way, you'll see San Francisco's festive holiday trees, trimmings, and twinkling lights decorating the city for the winter season. Enjoy jovial jingles along with a complimentary Santa hat.

5. Run Wild San(ta) Francisco

Run Wild San(ta) Francisco is an annual event at East Beach (Crissy Field) that sees hundreds of people run a 5K race dressed in Santa hats and running gear. The event also features a kids' dash, with prizes for winners. There is a Christmas festival after the race, too, which has food trucks and musical performances. It's a darn good way to get the entire family into the Christmas spirit. The event is scheduled for Nov. 30, 2019.

6. Dance-Along Nutcracker

The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the Official Band of San Francisco, proudly produces Dance-Along Nutcracker®. Started in 1985 as a fundraiser for the LGBTQ+ community, Dance-Along Nutcracker has evolved into the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s signature annual event. Dance-Along Nutcracker blends Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker with contemporary music in a new show each year, encouraging the audience to become part of the show whenever the “Dance-Along!” sign illuminates. This interactive audience participation makes Dance-Along Nutcracker a zany, uniquely San Francisco holiday experience! Accessible to families of any configuration, Dance-Along Nutcracker fulfills the Band’s mission of connecting diverse communities through public musical performances. The annual production of this San Francisco tradition takes place on Dec. 7 and 8 at the Yerba Buena Gardens Center for the Arts. Learn more at DanceAlongNutcracker.org.

Dance-Along Nutcracker® is a registered trademark and production of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the Official Band of San Francisco.

7. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

A treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970, The Great Dickens Fair is a splendid way to celebrate the holidays with the family. On Nov. 23 - Dec. 22, 2019 at the Cow Palace, celebrate the Fair's 20th season with over 800 performers in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, dance floors, and Christmas shops. Holiday treats and gifts overflow at every corner you turn!


8. Lucky Tuk Tuk Holiday Lights and Sights Tour

This might just be the most holiday fun you can have on wheels. Lucky Tuk Tuk’s vibrant vehicles are eco-friendly and colorfully decorated with holiday lights to tour you through the city with holiday cheer. Lucky Tuk Tuk can fit up to six riders, perfect for a family outing. While on board, you can enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, candy canes and even sing-along karaoke.

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