Oct. 28, 2019 – Reasons to visit San Francisco during November and December are as numerous as ornaments on the massive holiday trees at Union Square, PIER 39, Ghirardelli Square or the many others throughout the city.
Festivities are as diverse as the city itself, from classical entertainment like “A Christmas Carol” and Handel’s “Messiah” to unique pleasures like “Drag Queens on Ice,” “Dance Along Nutcracker” and “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy.” Expect music, dance, comedy, cabaret, ice skating, and an abundance of beautiful lights.
San Francisco winters are cozy but mild. A sweater during the day and a jacket in the evening will suffice. There may be sunshine, fog or rain but snow and ice are not part of the forecast.
San Francisco hotels have their best availability and rates during the holiday season. San Francisco Travel can help travelers find the perfect getaway headquarters at www.sftravel.com.
San Francisco Travel offers a comprehensive Winter Guide, with details on a wide variety of topics:
- Where to enjoy the holidays
- Where to shop for the holidays
- Sweet treats around the city
- Light art destinations to brighten winter nights
- Places we love
- Things we’re excited about
- On stage and screen
- Where to ring in 2020
- Where to celebrate Chinese New Year
…and more. Restaurant reservations and attraction tickets can also be obtained through the site.
Here are some events and activities to make the season bright:
Illuminate SF Festival of Light
Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day
The Seventh Annual “Illuminate SF Festival of Light” brings winter nights to life with light art. Located in 17 different neighborhoods, the works are accessible by public transport and most are free for all to view. Art lovers are invited to embrace the power of light and tour San Francisco’s art installations by a diverse range of 32 local and world-renowned light artists. The works come to life at dusk throughout the city with a luminescence that will turn any evening into an illuminating adventure, especially when combined with exploring San Francisco’s world-class museums performing arts and restaurants. New this year is the Illuminate SF Light Art Trail, a self-guided route leading to 12 different installations. www.sftravel.com/article/12-installations-see-illuminate-sf-light-art-trail.
“Harry Potter and The Cursed Child”
Oct. 23, 2019-June 20, 2020. (No performances Nov. 28 or Dec. 25)
The Curran Theater, 445 Geary St.
The eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter play, this two-part marathon show delivers over five hours of Harry, Ron, and Hermione to fans who can’t get enough. But it's not just for Potterheads; the show won the Tony Award for Best Play and five other Tonys in 2018. Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne (the playwright) and John Tiffany (the play’s director). In this new story, Harry is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and the father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places. sfcurran.com
Nov. 5, 6, 7, 9 and 19, 2019
American Conservatory Theater’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St.
“STOMP” is the international percussion sensation where the performers make a rhythm out of anything they can get their hands on that makes a sound. Synchronized stiff-bristle brooms become a sweeping orchestra, eight Zippo lighters flip open and closed to create a fiery fugue; wooden poles thump and clack in a rhythmic explosion. “STOMP” uses everything but conventional percussion instruments—dustbins, tea chests, radiator hoses, boots, hub caps to create a unique combination of percussion, movement, and wordless visual comedy. With permanent residences in London and New York, “STOMP”arrives in San Francisco to make some noise. www.stomponline.com
“Amaluna” by Cirque Du Soleil
Nov. 3, 2019–Jan. 12, 2019
Under the Big Top at Oracle Park, 74 Mission Rock St.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” Cirque du Soleil’s 33rd production is a celebration of love and a tribute to the work and voice of women, featuring a cast that comprises mostly women with an all-female band. “Amaluna” invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. A queen named Prospera invokes a storm, strangers land on the island and the princess falls for a foreigner in this tale of renewal, rebirth, faith, and harmony. Through it all, the action includes daring, stunning physical feats. Aerial artists fly out over the audience in a spectacular demonstration of four-dimensional flight. cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna
Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center and Building Lighting Ceremony & Carnival
Nov. 6, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020, Ice Rink Open
Nov. 22, 2018, 4-7 p.m., Building Lighting Ceremony & Carnival
Embarcadero Plaza, adjacent to Four Embarcadero Center and across from the historic Ferry Building.
Embarcadero Center is brightening the holidays this year with the 33rd Annual Building Lighting Ceremony & Carnival. The festivities begin at 4 p.m. with family fun that includes train rides, carnival games, arts and crafts, musical performances, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and more. The Building Lighting Ceremony kicks off at 6 p.m. at the Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center presented by Hawaiian Airlines with live performances by Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Peanuts gang. The countdown to the official lighting leads up to the illumination of One, Two, Three and Four Embarcadero Center featuring 17,000 lights - followed by a grand fireworks display. Parking is free for skaters. www.embarcaderocenter.com
The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square presented by Alaska Airlines
Nov. 6, 2019-Jan. 20, 2020, Union Square, 333 Post St.
The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square returns for another festive season of unique events, holiday festivities, and outdoor skating in the bustling and festive locale that is quintessential San Francisco. Featuring new events and holiday festivities, the anniversary season kicks off on Nov. 7, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. with the Icebreaker Opening Ceremony with local celebrities and festivities. Additionally, The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink’s roster of highly anticipated events, including Drag Queens on Ice, Silent Skate, Flashback Fridays, Learn to Skate mornings and the Polar Bear Skate will return this year. open daily from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. unionsquareicerink.com
“The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told”
Nov.8-Dec. 14, 2019. EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy St,
Left Coast Theatre Co presents this hilarious, touching, and irreverent show from playwright and humorist Paul Rudnick. The comedy follows the first two couples—Adam and Steve and Jane and Mabel—through the centuries: from the creation of appetizers to Noah’s Ark to a Christmas party in a Manhattan loft. Along the way, they meet a slew of fabulous characters, including a sexy rhino, a flamboyant Pharaoh, a go-go boy, and a lesbian paraplegic rabbi. The whole time they continue to ask: “Can two gay couples find God?” theexit.org
Dare to Love: GLIDE’s Annual Holiday Jam
Nov. 14 at The Masonic, 1111 California St.
Glide’s annual event is a joyful evening of music, celebration, and community that raises much-needed funds for GLIDE’s programs. The evening will feature special performances by 12-time Grammy Award-nominated vocal powerhouse Ledisi, Grammy Award-winning singer Lisa Fischer, the world-renowned GLIDE Ensemble and The Change Band, and more. Renel Brooks-Moon returns as the evening’s emcee. Some of the Bay Area’s favorite restaurants will be providing specialty tastings of their signature items. Honorary co-chairs include Senator Dianne Feinstein and Richard C. Blum, Felicia and Ben Horowitz, Chip Conley, Maja Kristin and Kelly and Craig D. Ramsey. Each year, the GLIDE Annual Holiday Jam raises funds for GLIDE’s comprehensive services, including the Daily Free Meals program, or “Mo’s Kitchen,” which serves 750,000 free meals annually to San Francisco’s most in-need individuals and families. www.glide.org/events/glide-annual-holiday-jam
Steve Silver’s “Beach Blanket Babylon Holiday Extravaganza”
Nov. 15–Dec. 31, 2019, Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd. (formerly Green St.)
After 45 years, the campy musical revue known for the performers’ impossibly large and outrageous hats, will be tipping its hat adieu and closing shop for good - but not before their last Holiday Extravaganza and final New Year’s Eve bash. The iconic San Francisco show traditionally heralds the season with Christmas King Louis, Mr. Peanut Santa, and a chorus line of tap-dancing Christmas trees. Parodies of traditional Christmas carols, pop culture and political spoofs and a legendary gigantic yuletide hat are part of the tradition too. Their New Year’s Eve party will be filled with surprises, special guests, and an evening never to be forgotten. Guests at each show will receive champagne and truffles. The second show—ending at the stroke of midnight—will feature post-show dancing until 1:30 a.m beachblanketbabylon.com
San Francisco Opera presents “Hansel And Gretel”
Nov. 15-Dec. 7, 2019. War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave.
With music by Engelbert Humperdinck, this new co-production with London’s Royal Opera takes audiences into a magical forest where the trees are older than time, fairies lurk in the shadows, and a house of candy sits alone amidst the trees. This cherished musical fairy is sung in English with English subtitles and is perfect for children ages 8 and up. sfopera.com/2019-20-season/hansel-gretel/
Creativity Explored Holiday Art Shop
Nov. 15-Dec. 31, 2019. 3245 16th St.
Opening Celebration: Friday, Nov. 15 from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Creativity Explored’s beloved Holiday Art Shop returns for the gift-giving pleasure of all. The salon-style pop-up shop will offer giftable and affordable works of art made by the community’s artists with developmental disabilities. From ceramics and sculpture to paintings and digital prints. CE’s unique holiday gifts feature a selection of original and limited-edition gift products, including trendy enamel pins, artistic apparel, wrapping paper, and notecards. Fifty percent of the proceeds from any art sale go directly to the artists. The Nov. 15 opening celebration allows the public to party with the community of artists and supporters and enjoy music, drinks, nibbles, and art-making. www.creativityexplored.org/
“Curious Contraptions: Flights of Fancy”
Nov. 21, 2019-Jan. 26, 2020, at The Exploratorium, Pier 15, Embarcadero and Green St.
“Curious Contraptions” explores small, surreal worlds through the charming, often hilarious mechanical sculptures known as automata. These whimsical machines are brought to life by intricate arrangements of handmade cams, cranks, and other simple mechanisms. Each sculpture performs an absurd miniature drama—sometimes a myth or fairy tale—while also reflecting its maker's worldview and sense of humor. Exposed inner workings and low-tech mechanisms invite the viewer to understand how each automata comes to life. www.exploratorium.edu
Macy's And San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows
Nov. 22, 2019 at 5 p.m. Corner of Stockton and O’Farrell St.
Macy’s again unveils their holiday windows chock full of adorable, adoptable cats and dogs who need loving homes. Macy's unveil the holiday windows starring animals from the San Francisco SPCA and San Francisco Animal Care & Control. The celebration kicks off on Nov. 22 with a special performance by the De Marillac Academy Choir and special guests open the curtains together. After you've seen the wonder of the windows, voted one of the “10 Best Places to Press Your Nose" by USA Today, stop in and visit the adoption experts at the SF SPCA adoption station on Level 1 and find out how you can give an animal a forever home, just in time for the holidays. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. www.macys.com/events
“Night Bloom” at the Conservatory of Flowers
Nov. 22, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020, Golden Gate Park, 100 John F. Kennedy Dr.
“Night Bloom” is a five-week light and sound exhibition in which the Conservatory of Flowers is illuminated with vibrant and luminous displays. Light and sound transform the iconic San Francisco landmark into a glowing landscape of interactive experiences this holiday season. This year, more lights, additional installations, and light art will dazzle and amaze. Also being introduced is the Bloom Lounge, where guests 21 and up will enjoy food and drink in an illuminated inflatable dome. www.conservatoryofflowers.org/nightbloom
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party
Nov. 23-Dec. 22, 2019, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave., Daly City
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party ~ the only event of its kind in the world ~ returns for its 20th season at the historic Cow Palace with over 800 performers in a 360-degree adventure into Charles Dickens’ London, where it is always Christmas Eve and the holiday party is in full swing. Hundreds of costumed players perform and interact with patrons in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops. It's a twilight evening in Charles Dickens' London Town - a city of winding lanes filled with colorful characters from both literature and history. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air. Cries of street vendors hawking their wares ring out above the bustling crowd. Dozens of lamplit shops are filled to overflowing with Christmas gifts. The Dickens Christmas Fair is a treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970 and a splendid way to celebrate the holidays. dickensfair.com
PIER 39 Lights Up the Season with a Nightly Tree Lighting Show
Nov. 26, 2019 through Jan. 5, 2020, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Pier 39, Beach St. at The Embarcadero
PIER 39 will unwrap a nightly tree lighting show on its 60 foot live Christmas tree each half-hour. Synchronized to holiday music, the tree will become a kaleidoscope of swirling colors adorned with thousands of specialty lights and ornaments. These dazzling tree lighting moments will take center stage all season long. www.PIER39.com
Sugar Castles, Sweet Boutique and More at Westin St. Francis
Nov. 27, 2019-Jan. 2, 2020, 335 Powell St.
Guests and visitors will delight in a variety of happenings this holiday season at San Francisco’s legendary Westin St. Francis. This year’s highly anticipated castle display will feature the legendary 12-feet tall Medieval Sugar Castle plus the spectacular St. Francis Enchanted Castle (Nov. 27-Jan.2). The popular Sweet Boutique will be filled with tasty treats, and gorgeous holiday décor will adorn both lobbies (Nov. 30-Dec. 22). All of this, combined with traditional holiday tea service, delicious meals, and fun hotel packages create the perfect seasonal getaway in San Francisco.
Lucky Tuk Tuk Holiday Lights and Sites Tour
Nov. 29-Dec. 30, 2019 beginning in Fisherman’s Wharf
These little six-passenger electric vehicles pack big fun on a tour of beautifully adorned trees, parks, bridges, and buildings throughout the city. The experienced, entertaining Tuk Tuk driver guides navigate this excursion through a city lit up to celebrate the season. Each Tuk Tuk (rickshaw) has heated seats and even warm blankets if it gets chilly. This two-hour tour includes hot cocoa, candy canes, fuzzy Santa hats and plenty of sing-along holiday karaoke tunes on board. www.lucky-tuk-tuk.com/tours/holiday-lights-san-francisco
Macy's Great Tree Lighting at Macy's Union Square
Nov. 29, 2019 at 6 p.m. at Union Square
Celebrate the 30th Annual Great Tree Lighting with live performances by San Francisco Opera, the Grammy award-winning San Francisco Boys Chorus, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, the cast of San Francisco Playhouse's 'Groundhog Day the Musical', NBC's The Voice winner, Maelyn Jarmon plus a visit from the one and only Santa. www.macys.com/events
“Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries”
Nov. 22, 2019. Sydney Goldstein Theater, 275 Hayes St.
Broadway’s master song man, Mandy Patinkin—accompanied by Adam Ben-David on piano—will bring his newest theatre concert, “Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries,” to San Francisco’s Sydney Goldstein Theater (formerly the Nourse Theater) for one performance only. The show presents the acclaimed actor/singer/storyteller in his most electrifying role: concert performer. “Diaries” is a marriage of many of Patinkin’s favorite Broadway and classic American tunes, along with selections from his newest recordings on Nonesuch Records, “Mandy Patinkin Diary January 2018” and “Mandy Patinkin Diary April/May 2018.” From Randy Newman and Stephen Sondheim to Harry Chapin and Rufus Wainwright, Mandy Patinkin takes audiences on a dazzling musical journey.. www.feinsteinssf.com
Classic Cable Car Holiday Nights & Sights City Tour
Nov. 22-Dec. 30, 2019, Tours begin at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Passengers meet their guide at 2766 Taylor St.
Put on your complimentary Santa hat and hop aboard a Classic Cable Car for a 90-minute tour through Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, Financial District, The Embarcadero and PIER 39. Enjoy breathtaking views of the city at night, a holiday sing-along and a holiday-themed interactive tour by a professional guide. www.classiccablecar.com/tour/holiday-nights-and-sights/
San Francisco Love Tours Holiday Lights Tour
Nov. 25–Dec. 30, 2019, Tour times start at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Pick–up location: 2899 Hyde St.
Experience the magic of San Francisco on a two–hour Holiday Lights Tour by San Francisco Love Tours. Enjoy best holiday lights views and Christmas displays, sing along to holiday-themed songs on an evening ride through the city from the Bay Lights to Union Square, Lombard Street to Polk Street to Castro Street and from the Palace of Fine Arts to Fisherman’s Wharf to Tom and Jerry’s House – the best residential Christmas display in the city. The unique VW Hippie buses become even more decorated with holiday cheer for this tour which offers two photo stops, a Santa hat and a candy cane included. sanfranciscolovetours.com
Ben Folds with the San Francisco Symphony
Nov. 26, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.
Widely regarded as one of the major music influencers of his generation, pianist and singer-songwriter Ben Folds joins the San Francisco Symphony for a concert of hits spanning his decades-long career as a solo artist and front man of the alternative rock trio, Ben Folds Five. Spend an evening with this multi-talented musician who created hits like “Brick,” “Annie Waits,” and “The Luckiest.” www.sfsymphony.org
“Champions of Magic”
Nov. 27-Dec. 1, 2019. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.
Five world-class illusionists deliver an action-packed show featuring incredible interactive magic, an impossible escape from Houdini’s water torture cell, mind-blowing predictions that have to be seen to be believed and a finale beyond explanation. The tour features original magic that can’t be seen anywhere else, in an explosive show that will delight audiences of all ages. The San Francisco show follows multiple sold-out shows, rave reviews and a successful run in London’s West End. championsofmagic.co.uk
ODC/Dance Presents “The Velveteen Rabbit”
Nov. 29 – Dec. 8, 2019, The Blue Shield of California Theater at YBCA, 700 Howard at Third St.
Now in its 33rd year, this full-scale production of “The Velveteen Rabbit” has played to nearly 250,000 people around the country. The poignant tale of a toy rabbit that becomes real through the love of a child features energetic dancing by the ODC dancers who are known for their athleticism and passion. Told from the perspective of the rabbit that yearns to become real, the story explores the deep bond that the boy and rabbit develop over time in spite of the rabbit's increasing shabbiness. Told through music, dance and recorded narration by Geoff Hoyle, this beloved Bay Area holiday tradition captivates both children and adults. Intended to encourage children to engage, create and imagine, the show is suitable for children ages 3 and up, and the child in every adult.
New this year, ODC/Dance is hosting two special “Velveteen Rabbit” precursor events. On Nov.16, join the Velveteen Rabbit and friends for a heartfelt reading of the children's book at Bloomingdale's. Following the book reading, children dancers from the show will tease a mini-performance on the first-floor entrance to Bloomingdales. On Nov. 23 from 12-4 p.m., ODC is also hosting an afternoon of ice skating with select characters from “The Velveteen Rabbit” at the Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center. In addition to the costumed characters, there will be live bunnies to pet and play with from SaveABunny Bay Area, a non-profit that shelters and treats neglected rabbits. Attendees will receive a special discount code for tickets to the show. www.odc.dance/velveteenrabbit
Fairmont San Francisco Presents its Largest-Ever Giant Gingerbread House
Nov. 30, 2019, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 950 Mason St.
Fairmont San Francisco invites guests to celebrate holiday festivities at the iconic hotel, which has delighted guests with dazzling festivities for more than a century. This year, Fairmont San Francisco’s world-famous, life-sized gingerbread house will stand 25 feet high and 35 feet wide and include more than 6,000 house-made bricks of gingerbread adorned with over a ton of icing and candy. On Nov. 30 the hotel lobby will transform into one of the world’s most beloved holiday destinations for its annual Holiday Open House. Fairmont San Francisco will welcome the public to take photos with Santa that day at 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Visitors can also enjoy the lobby’s 23–foot Christmas tree and a nearby Moet & Chandon Champagne Bar as well as a Gift and Hot Cocoa Pop–Up Shop. The enormous Gingerbread House now features private dining. This new space seats up to 10 and is ideal for a Gingerbread Holiday Tea, any meal or a special occasion. www.fairmont.com/san–Francisco
The Winter Park at Civic Center
Nov. 30, 2019-Jan. 6, 2020. Civic Center Plaza, 355 McAllister St.
Opening celebration Nov. 22, 2019, 11 a.m.–12 p.m.
Modeled after the internationally-famed Wiener-project—an ice-skating rink located in the City Hall Square of Vienna, Austria—The Winter Park debuted in San Francisco last year as the first attraction of its kind in the United States. For its sophomore holiday season, in addition to the 60’ x 100’ sq. ft. rink, the skating track that weaves through the lighted tree forest will also be extended. This is part of the planned expansion of The Winter Park, which will continue to evolve as an adventure park on ice with new interactive elements for the whole family added each year. The winter park is a vital part of a new enterprise to revitalize the Civic Center and make it a family-friendly holiday destination for locals and visitors alike. Weekly events include iHeart Radio’s themed dance party on the ice, Learn to Curl sessions and First Responders Appreciation Days. https://winterparkicerinksf.com/
“Construction Site on Christmas Night”
Nov. 30-Dec. 29, 2019 Children's Creativity Museum, 221 Fourth St.
Based on the popular book from the author of “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,” this is a new Christmas tale for kids ages three and up. Down in the big construction site, Bulldozer, Excavator, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck and Crane Truck are giving their all to build a big new home for the fire trucks before Christmas. Will they make it? www.bactheatre.org
Castro Merchants Holiday Tree Lighting
Dec. 2, 2019, 6-7 p.m., at the corner of 18th St. and Castro St. (501 Castro St.)
Emceed by First Lady of the Castro, Donna Sachet, the event includes a holiday sing-along with the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Chorus, San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, Golden Gate Chorus plus brief remarks by local officials. Then Santa and his Elf will arrive "Code 3" (red lights and siren, thanks to SFPD's Mission Station) for a countdown to light the tree. Castro/Upper Market merchants, bars and restaurants will be open late, offering holiday specials. And all holiday season, giant, bright red and silver bows will be wrapped on the palm trees on Market Street in The Castro.
The Walt Disney Family Museum Double Feature
Dec. 2-30, 2019, 104 Montgomery St. in The Presidio, San Francisco,
In 2009’s “Christmas with Walt Disney,” directed by Don Hahn and produced exclusively for the museum, Diane Disney Miller shares stories of how Walt spent the holidays, both at work and at home with his family. This sentimental behind-the-scenes peek includes family home videos alongside seasonal clips from Walt’s television series. The holiday classic, “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” from 1983, is a reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale “A Christmas Carol,” retold in true Disney fashion with the help of some familiar faces, including Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Scrooge McDuck in his namesake role as the irascible Ebenezer Scrooge. www.waltdisney.org
“It’s A Wonderful Life” – Feature Film with the San Francisco Symphony
Dec. 3 and 6, 2019, at 7:30 p.m.
Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave,
The San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) acclaimed Film Series presents their annual holiday films with the orchestra performing the live accompaniment to classic films projected on a large screen above the stage. One of the most beloved holiday films is Frank Capra’s 1946 classic starring screen legend James Stewart as a man in despair who receives a heartwarming intervention from his guardian angel, Clarence. The San Francisco Symphony and The Symphony Chorus perform Dimitri Tiomkin’s score with Justin Freer conducting. www.sfsymphony.org/holiday
“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”
Dec. 3-29, 2019. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St.
From gospel choir to dance floor diva, Donna Summer risked it all to break through barriers, becoming the icon of an era and the inspiration for every music diva who followed. With a score featuring more than 20 of Summer’s classic hits including “Love to Love You Baby,” “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff,” this electric experience is a moving tribute to the voice of a generation. www.thedonnasummermusical.com
“A John Waters Christmas”
Dec. 4, 2019 8-11 p.m.
Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell St.
The Pope of Trash, John Waters - legendary filmmaker (“Female Trouble”, “Hairspray”, “Serial Mom”), raconteur and author - delivers Yuletide profanity and perverted piety with his critically acclaimed one-man show. This rapid-fire “trigger warning” for holiday traditionalists asks the questions, “Is Prancer the only gay reindeer?” “Is it wrong to steal purses from cars in graveyard parking lots on Christmas Eve while mourners leave flowers?”, “Has Santa ever been nude?” and, most importantly, “Should you disrupt living crèche celebrations this year in the name of political action?” https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-john-waters-christmas-tickets-58452991471
After Dark: Glow
Dec. 5, 2019, 6-10 p.m. at The Exploratorium, Pier 15, Embarcadero and Green St.
Keep the early dark of this winter’s night at bay with light, color, and warmth during this annual festival of ebullient lights and subtle glows that celebrates the close of the year. There are 650 interactive exhibits exploring perception, art, and science at this adults-only After Dark. Grab your friends and a drink and get immersed in mind-bending experiences and unique, thought-provoking programs. www.exploratorium.edu
San Francisco Choral Society performs Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio”
Dec. 6 and 7, 2019, 8 p.m. St. Ignatius Church, 650 Parker Ave.
Celebrate the holiday season with J.S. Bach's “Christmas Oratorio,” “Cantatas 4-6” and “Magnificat in D,” in a dazzling concert presented by the San Francisco Choral Society, with the Jubilate Orchestra, under the direction of Artistic Director Robert Geary, as it completes its 30th anniversary concert season.
Holiday Gaiety with the San Francisco Symphony
Dec. 7, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.
Co-emceed by conductor Edwin Outwater and drag sensation Peaches Christ, this holiday variety show features festive hits played by the San Francisco Symphony, iconic guest stars, delectable vocalists, and drag queens galore. www.sfsymphony.org
WILD 94.9 Presents Jingle Ball 2019
Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at The Masonic, 1111 California St.
Part of the national iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour, WILD94.9 all-star lineup includes multiple Grammy nominated singer/songwriter/producer Charlie Puth, Lil Nas X and Quinn XCII. www.iheart.com/jingle-ball/
Deck the Halls with San Francisco Symphony
Dec. 8, 2019, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave,
Enjoy a concert of festive favorites and sing-alongs with members of the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Ballet Training Program and the Young Women’s Choral Project and special guests from Teatro ZinZanni—the perfect way to make your family’s holiday season merry and bright! Tickets include post-concert entertainment, crafts, and refreshments. www.sfsymphony.org
A Merry-Achi Christmas
Dec. 8, 2019, Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.
Led by the incomparable José Hernández, Mariachi Sol de Mexico returns to Davies Symphony Hall to perform a vibrant and festive musical tribute to Mexico’s Christmas traditions. www.sfsymphony.org
Holiday Soul with Brian McKnight and The San Francisco Symphony
Dec. 10 and 11, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.
The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir's powerhouse harmonies have garnered praise from audiences around the world. This holiday season, they join forces with legendary singer, songwriter, and 16-time Grammy nominee Brian McKnight - best known for his multi-platinum album Back at One - along with the San Francisco Symphony for an exuberant performance of soul, jazz, and Christmas classics. Don't miss your chance to experience their vocal fireworks and foot-stomping energy in a holiday concert that's sure to lift your spirits. www.sfsymphony.org
San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker”
Dec. 11-29, 2019 at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave.
On Christmas Eve in 1944, San Francisco Ballet presented America’s first full-length “Nutcracker” at the War Memorial Opera House, introducing “Nutcracker fever” to San Francisco long before the ballet became an annual American sensation. Now celebrating its 75th season, “Nutcracker” returns to San Francisco Ballet with performances of the holiday classic, special anniversary events, giveaways, and a commemorative memento. Set in 1915 San Francisco—and a magical world with mouse armies and dancing snowflakes — Clara journeys to the Land of Snow propelled by Tchaikovsky’s classic score and accompanied by more than 150 costumed characters. Claras and other San Francisco Ballet School Nutcracker alumni from the past 75 years will fill the War Memorial Opera House for opening night, alongside the public. www.sfballet.org
Handel’s “Messiah” with Ragnar Bohlin
Dec. 13 and 14, 2019, at 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.
Experience Handel’s “Messiah” performed by the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and world-class soloists. Featuring the famous “Hallelujah” Chorus, the magnificent power of 100 voices in harmony makes this masterpiece an unmissable holiday favorite and one of the best-loved musical works of all time. www.sfsymphony.org
“Peter and The Wolf “with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra
Dec. 15, 2019, at 2 p.m. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.
Prokofiev’s timeless tale of a boy and his animal friends’ bravery is brought to life. Presented by special guest narrator Dulcé Sloan, correspondent on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah". www.sfsymphony.org
Annual Hanukkah Menorah Lighting in The Castro
Dec. 18, 2019, 6-8, 8 p.m. at Jane Warner Plaza (Castro at Market to 17th Streets).
Sponsored by Congregation Sha'ar Zahav with Castro Merchants and the Castro Community Benefit District, the menorah lighting ceremony includes music, dancing, an offering of Intentions, lighting of the giant Menorah candle for that night and traditional sufganyot (jelly donuts). Bring your own Menorah from home and light it for the evening. https://shaarzahav.org, http://castrocbd.org/
“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Live with the San Francisco Symphony
Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco
Dec. 21 and 22, 2019 at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23 at 2 p.m.
The television classic comes to life with live actors, dancers, an animated backdrop, and Vince Guaraldi’s timeless music performed live by the SF Symphony. Arrive early for a festive reception in the lobby.
Pop-Up Glowing Hanukkah Party at Ghirardelli Square
Dec. 22, 3-6 p.m. Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point St.
Celebrate the first night of Hanukkah by dressing up in your favorite light-up, glittery and glowing clothes. Over eight days, the candlelight glows more and more each night; come together on the first night to make that light even brighter as we head into the darkest days of the year. Light candles, enjoy live music, make crafts, play games and eat tasty treats. A free event sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. https://www.jccsf.org/events/arts-ideas/
“A Christmas Carol”
Nov. 29–Dec. 24 2019, A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St.
Featuring a lively cast of dozens, delightful music, gorgeous costumes, and those deliciously spooky ghosts, the Bay Area’s favorite holiday tradition returns as American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) presents its celebrated production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol.” Now in the theater’s 43rd year of presenting the holiday classic, this version of “A Christmas Carol”—adapted by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff—stays true to the heart of Dickens’s timeless story of redemption and brings a playful sensibility to his rich language.” www.act-sf.org
“I Touch My Elf”
Dec. 2, 2019, at 8 p.m. Feinstein’s at the Nikko, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St.
The award-winning, undie-rock, comedy-pop duo The Skivvies—featuring Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley—return to Feinstein’s at the Nikko with their holiday show, “I Touch My Elf.” In this outrageous evening, Molina and Cearley perform stripped-down, mashed-up versions of holiday favorites and more. Not only is the music stripped-down—cello, ukulele, glockenspiel, melodica, and a surprising array of other zany instruments—but The Skivvies strip down to their underwear to perform. The Skivvies will be joined by special guest Broadway’s Nick Adams (“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert;” “La Cage Aux Folles;” “Wicked;” “A Chorus Line”). Feinteinsatthenikko.com theskivviesnyc.com
Drag Queens on Ice
Dec. 5 and 6, 2019, The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square presented by Alaska Airlines
Celebrating their 10th year, Drag Queens on Ice is the most fabulous skating spectacle of the holiday season. This year’s anniversary event will feature new acts, audience surprises, and of course, San Francisco’s fiercest drag queens. Skate with or just watch as some of San Francisco’s most notable Bay Area drag queens lip-sync and skate the night away. unionsquareicerink.com
“Kaleidoscope” at the Exploratorium
Dec. 6, 2019 - Jan. 20, 2020 at The Exploratorium, Pier 15, Embarcadero and Green St.
Experience a landscape of astonishing visual effects in the interactive installation, Kaleidoscope. Constructed as an 8-foot-square light table, artist Karina Smigla-Bobinski’s Kaleidoscope invites you to manipulate layers of inks that are comprised entirely of the primary colors - red, green and blue. However, as the surface of the work is pushed, pressed, and manipulated an infinite pallet of vibrant colors and forms are revealed. Mixing inks transform into cyan, magenta and yellow - colors that are completely created by our brain -- or, as Smigla-Bobinski describes them, virtual colors. Each touch of the surface generates hyperdynamic new images that visualize the motion energy the interaction into engaging, chaotic patterns. www.exploratorium.edu/visit/calendar/kaleidoscope
“Michael Feinstein - Home for The Holidays”
Dec. 5–8, 2019. Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 222 Mason St.
Fire up the yule log and start the figgy pudding as Michael Feinstein returns to his New York home, Feinstein’s/54 Below, once again this holiday season. Join Michael and his band as they come “Home for the Holidays” to Feinstein’s/54 Below stage. “Home for the Holidays” will feature Holiday classics like, “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit. Expect to hear classics by Gershwin, Cole Porter, as well as other holiday surprises performed as only Michael can. www.feinsteinssf.com
Old First Holiday Concerts
Dec. 7-23, 2019, Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento St.
The holiday concert series offers a multiplicity of musical styles from classical solo piano to Celtic to Eastern European. On Dec. 7, Lawrence Ferrara and Shiqi Li perform festive and romantic music for guitar and cello in the classic style. On Dec. 9, The Ragazzi Boys Chorus' present "For the Beauty of the Earth," a holiday concert that honors composers through the ages who have contemplated natural surroundings, giving thanks through music for nature's gifts. On Dec. 14, Golden Bough performs rare versions of Celtic songs of winter, as well as their unique take on better known Christmas carols. Performing traditional folk music as well as original compositions, their vocal harmonies are accompanied by Celtic harp, penny-whistle, violin, mandolin and other acoustic instruments, on Dec. 21, Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble brings back “Wintersongs,” their critically-acclaimed winter holiday program showcasing seasonal music from a wide variety of Eastern European ethnic and spiritual traditions. And on Dec. 23 Steinway Artist Sandra Wright Shen presents a special Christmas-themed concert with music ranging from Bach's G major Partita to a movement from Messiaen's Vingt Regards Sur L'Enfant-Jésus, with Romantic works by Liszt and Chopin, and more. www.oldfirstconcerts.org
Holiday Lights: The Presidio’s Annual Tree-Lighting Ceremony
Dec. 6, 2019, 5- p.m, Main Post, across from Presidio Community Y (corner of Lincoln and Funston)
Light the tree and sing holiday classics along with the Golden Gate Carolers and others. After the tree lighting, don’t miss the lantern-lit evening forest walk starting every 15 minutes from 5:30 p.m. through 6:45 p.m. Free lantern-making activity for the kids. Partners include the Presidio Y, National Park Service, US Park Police, San Francisco Fire Department, Presidio Residences and Art Seed. Stop by the Presidio Visitor Center before Holiday Lights for 25% off retail items. “www.presidio.gov/events/holiday-lights-the-presidios-traditional-tree-lighting-ceremony
Holidays Are Here: Ring Them Bells
Dec. 6-7, 2019 Sydney Goldstein Theater, 275 Hayes Street
The world-renowned San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (featuring a 300-voice chorus) presents their signature performance of holiday favorites new and old. With unexpected surprises and unique interpretations, this year’s concert will run the gamut from Liza Minnelli’s outrageous “Ring Them Bells” to a new arrangement of SFGMC’s beloved tradition of “Silent Night.” And this year Velocity, the SF handbell ensemble will join in as well. www.sfgmc.org.
Dec. 7, 2019, Starting in Union Square
Now celebrating its 25th year, this boisterous gathering is a mosh pit of Santas, Mrs. Clauses, Elves, Reindeer, Grinches—and even a Dreidel or two. The annual event includes Christmas carols, a Best Dressed Contest and more. Last year, upwards of 12,000 people participated, 12,000 attendees this year. Last year we got 764 toys, this year over 1,500 toys were collected for the Fire Department’s drive and no arrests were made. SantaCon event is free to attend and welcomes those ages 21 and over. www.santacon.info/San_Francisco-CA/
2019 Dance-Along Nutcracker: Nutcrackers in Space
Dec 7-8, 2019 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, 701 Mission St.
The Dance-Along Nutcracker is a holiday experience unlike anything else. Each year, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band blends Tchaikovsky’s classic “Nutcracker Suite” with an entertaining theme. The result: a fun-filled musical production brimming with wit, artistry, and ingenuity. The talented cast sings and dances their way through a parody version of “The Nutcracker.” And when the “Dance-Along” sign flashes, the audience is invited to tug on their tutus and sashay along with the cast. Even audience members who don’t want to dance have a blast. This year, join Clara and Fritz as they launch into intergalactic mischief aboard the Sugar Plum Falcon. You’ll waltz through the solar system, visit an alien-filled cantina on the outskirts of space, sneak aboard an evil ship, and help save the galaxy by recovering the legendary Dilithium Nutcracker. https://ybca.org/event/dance-along-nutcracker-nutcrackers-in-space-2019/
Christmas at Grace Cathedral
Dec. 14-23, 2019. 1100 California St.
Since 1947, Christmas concerts at Grace Cathedral have been a beloved San Francisco tradition. The magnificent music, majestic setting, and astonishing acoustics make an ideal way to ring in the season. Experience the deep connection between spirit and art at Grace Cathedral. The performances this season feature everything from classic Christmas carols with Grace Cathedral’s Choir of Men and Boys, the nostalgic brass and organ sounds of Bay Brass, the American Bach Soloists’ performance of Handel’s timeless “Messiah,” to the festive, family-friendly sing-along Christmas show “Sing You a Merry Christmas.” On Dec. 20, there is a special Snowflake Tea with a private pre-show reception with members of the cast and holiday refreshments. gracecathedral.org
Light the Menorah at Ghirardelli Square
Dec. 9, 2019, 4 p.m., Ghirardelli Square 900 North Point St.
Light the Menorah at Ghirardelli Square with free children’s activities, music, and lighting of the menorah. www.ghirardellisq.com
“Love Actually” Feature Film with the San Francisco Symphony
Dec. 17 and 18, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave
The Christmastime classic “Love Actually,” plays at Davies Symphony Hall with the full, live orchestra performing Craig Armstrong’s evocative score. The 2003 rom-com stars Hugh Grant and an ensemble cast with interweaving love stories that culminate on Christmas Eve. www.sfsymphony.org/holiday
Smuin Contemporary Ballet presents The Christmas Ballet
Dec. 12–23, 2019. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: The Blue Shield of California Theater at YBCA, 700 Howard St,
With snow-white classical selections set to cherished carols alongside red-hot contemporary numbers set to pop favorites, this yuletide spectacular is a beloved Bay Area tradition. Celebrate the holidays with a dazzling collection of ballet, tap, and jazz that will have you dancing out of the theater full of festive cheer. https://ybca.org/event/the-christmas-ballet/
Storm Large – “Holiday Ordeal”
Dec. 12-13, 2019. Feinstein’s at the Nikko, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St.
Storm will love you, leave you, delight you, and abuse you with wicked charm and stunning vocals that will have you begging for more. “Holiday Ordeal” is a night of music, gags, gifts, and songs ranging from “Hallelujah” to “Sock it to Me, Santa,” as well as the greatest holiday song never written for the holidays, “Somebody to Love.” This show is recommended for adults with a wicked sense of humor and tolerance for strong language; it may best be described as “not your mom’s idea of a holiday show.” www.feinteinsatthenikko.com
Holiday Brass at The San Francsico Symphony
Dec. 15, 2019. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco
Feel the power and precision of the San Francisco Symphony brass, percussion, and timpani sections as they fill the Hall with a festive mix of classical and popular holiday favorites. www.sfsymphony.org/holiday
Kim Nalley— “A December to Remember” and “Gospel Christmas 2019”
Dec. 14-15, 2019 Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 222 Mason St.
“A December to Remember” is acclaimed vocalist Kim Nalley’s first of two Christmas concerts. With special guests Denise Perrier and Connie Champagne, She performs all the favorite secular holiday songs accompanied by the incomparable pianist Tammy Hall with Kevin Goldberg (acoustic bass) and Kent Bryson (drums). On Dec. 15, Nalley performs “Gospel Christmas 2019,” an annual tradition featuring Kim Nalley performing the Christmas carols that she grew up dining with her family. She’s joined by Tammy Hall, whose background in classical, jazz and gospel music makes her soulful piano/organ playing a major star of the show as well. Expect special guests and a few sing-a-longs at this rollicking joyous family-friendly concert. www.feinteinsatthenikko.com
Dec. 14, 2019, 8 p.m. St. Ignatius Church, 650 Parker St.
The joy of Christmas comes once again to Chanticleer, as they celebrate this age-old narrative with what fresh eyes and ears, hearts and voices. Gregorian chant and Biebl are never far away, as well as carols in half-a-dozen different languages, American hymns, Spanish villancicos that ask us to dance. The musical “Christmas crèche” features the music of Hassler and Praetorius, Victoria and Morales. Founded in San Francisco in 1978, Chanticleer is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices” for the seamless blend of its twelve male voices ranging from countertenor to bass and its original interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz, and from gospel to venturesome new music. www.chanticleer.org/a-chanticleer-christmas
The 27th Anniversary of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
Dec. 24-26, 2019, 5 p.m. Dinner Show, 8:30 p.m. Cocktail Show, New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave.
Answering the age-old question, “What’s a Jew to do on Christmas?” this comedy show delivers Jewish comedy in a Chinese restaurant. This Chinatown show is San Francisco’s longest-running comedy show, and no doubt, the world’s only comedy show that serves fortune cookies with Yiddish proverbs. This year's headliner is Jackie Hoffman, most known for her Emmy-nominated and much-acclaimed role of “Mamacita” in FX’s “Feud: Betty and Joan.” Currently, she is the acclaimed Yiddish production of "Fiddler on the Roof" Off-Broadway. Also performing: Mark Maier (one of London's premiere Jewish comedians) *Nathan Habib (Palo Alto native now based in NYC; began doing comedy at 14) *Lisa Geduldig (Kung Pao founder/producer/MC) KosherComedy.com
Katya Smirnoff-Skyy – “Katya! A Holiday Spectacular”
Dec. 19–21, 2019. Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 222 Mason St.
The Countess Katya Smirnoff-Skyy has enthralled Bay area audiences for years with her unique blend of opera pop and booze. Join the Countess for her award-winning show, “Katya! A Holiday Spectacular!” Now in its 13th tinsel-covered year, this night of song, story, and strong cocktails is sure to make your Yuletide gay. Hailed as “Best Drag Act” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and winner of “Best Cabaret Performer” from the Bay Area Reporter, Katya will delight you with a fun-filled evening of belting, banter, and ball gowns to bolster your holiday spirit(s)! With songs ranging from classic holiday fair, to Popera, and disco, there is something for everyone in this heartwarming and brilliantly funny journey through Katya’s holiday misadventures. www.feinsteinsatthenikko.com
San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Presents “Holigays Are Here”
Dec. 24, 2019, The Castro Theater, 429 Castro St, San Francisco
This concert is the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ signature romp through holiday favorites new and old, along with unexpected surprises and unique interpretations. Featuring the quintessential songs of the season, the holiday extravaganza will run the gamut from Liza Minnelli’s outrageous “Ring Them Bells” to a new arrangement of SFGMC’s beloved tradition of “Silent Night.” www.sfgmc.org
The Contemporary Jewish Museum's Annual Community Day
Dec. 25, 2019, | 11 a.m.–4 p.m., 736 Mission St., San Francisco,
The Contemporary Jewish Museum's annual Community Day is a free, fun-for-all extravaganza held yearly on Christmas Day to offer alternative fun. Explore the galleries, partake in scavenger hunts, create denim embroidery, and play with puppets in an immersive landscape. In the art studio, get creative with thread and denim and create colorful embroidery. Or explore the museum and galleries with family-friendly scavenger hunts and enjoy a delicious menu from the Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. www.thecjm.org/programs/617
13th Kwanzaa Celebration, Umoja (Unity)
Dec. 26, 2019-Jan. 1, 2020, 16 free events in eight different neighborhoods.
The Village Project will present its 13h annual Kwanzaa celebrations throughout San Francisco, with seven days of community events. Striving to heal, unite and strengthen the family, community, and nation, the community celebrates each of the seven principles of Kwanzaa (the Nguzo Saba). http://thevillageprojectsf.org/vp/?page_id=97
A New Year’s Eve Event With Seth Macfarlane and the San Francisco Symphony
Dec 31, 2019, at 8:00 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall
Celebrate in style with Grammy Award-nominated singer, actor, and director Seth MacFarlane, who brings a winning combination of rich crooning and cool pizazz that would do Frank and Dino proud. Watch him light up the stage with the “big band” San Francisco Symphony in a performance of jazz standards and holiday favorites conducted by Edwin Outwater. Go all out for New Year’s Eve experience with a sumptuous, gourmet pre-performance dinner in the Wattis Room, with champagne at intermission and premium concert seating. www.sfsymphony.org
John Oliver live on New Year’s Eve
Dec, 31, 2019-Jan. 2, 2020 at The Masonic, San Francisco, California
“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver returns to stand-up with three shows this winter. The Daily Show alum-turned six-time Emmy winner hosts TV’s most in-depth political comedy show that helps folks make sense of the past week. On Dec. 31, Oliver will help folks usher in the new year. www.livenation.com/events/1184259-dec-31-2019-john-oliver
The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sftravel.com or call 415-391-2000.
San Francisco Travel’s main Visitor Information Center is now located at 749 Howard St., adjacent to the Moscone Convention Center. San Francisco Travel also operates Visitor Information Centers at Macy’s Union Square and in Chinatown at 625 Kearny St. San Francisco Travel is also a partner at the California Welcome Center at PIER 39.
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