These San Francisco destinations are wonderful year-round; but in the winter, they're really something special.

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October 23, 2019

San Francisco Places We Love In the Winter

Winter is a season of celebration in San Francisco. Cozy getaways, magical museum exhibits and plenty of places to warm up make our list of top spots. Prepare your next itinerary with these wintertime favorites.

Union Square

Union Square is fun to explore throughout the year, but the retail hub is decked out with an extra layer of sparkle during the holidays. Stroll through department stores and boutiques for all your holiday shopping needs and be sure to check out Macy’s iconic window displays for a nostalgic throwback. Make spirits bright at the Union Square Christmas Tree lighting in November and the annual Menorah Lighting in December.

Museum Celebrations

San Francisco’s world-class museums get in on the holiday excitement, too. Make the season even more magical at The Walt Disney Family Museum. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, the museum is hosting special events, programs and even a podcast honoring its decade as an institution. Explore the Museum of Ice Cream’s immersive exhibits with a holiday twist in December. For the curious, there’s lots of hands-on fun at the Exploratorium. Then, keep the spirit going at the California Academy of Sciences' winter exhibit, “‘Tis the Season for Science: Life on Ice.”


Skating Rinks

If you're ready to show off your skating skills, San Francisco has four pop-up rinks where you can take to the ice: Yerba Buena, the Embarcadero, Civic Center, and Union Square. The Union Square rink is the most popular and arguably the most festive, with its prime location right next to Macy's giant Christmas tree. It also hosts fun scheduled events, such as Drag Queens on Ice on Dec. 5, 2019 and the Polar Bear Skate (where skaters are invited to don their best beach attire) on New Year's Day.

San Francisco Zoo & Gardens Reindeer Romp

Santa couldn’t fly without his trusted reindeer. Learn about these winter-loving creatures at the San Francisco Zoo & Garden. The special exhibit “Reindeer Romp” gives an up-close look at reindeer and explores the importance of this majestic animal. Discover how reindeer are equipped for the cold and able to walk on ice and snow.


The year 2020 is a special landmark for PIER 39. It’s the 30th anniversary of PIER 39’s most famous residents: sea lions. Snap a picture with the sea lions and then explore Aquarium of the Bay’s special initiative, “Sea Lions in San Francisco.” Thirty local artists paint individual sea lion statues with their unique styles. Find all 30 statues in the Bay Area starting Jan. 15, 2020.

Napa Valley Cabernet Season

Grab a glass (or two) and settle in for a cozy getaway. Starting mid-fall and lasting through spring, Cabernet Season is the time of year when the red wine grapes are harvested and Napa Valley slows down to enjoy mild weather and delicious wine. It’s the perfect time to plan a getaway complete with fall foliage, smaller crowds, vintner tastings and that classic Napa Valley charm.


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