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San Francisco Tree Lighting & Holiday Events 2016

Festivals and Celebrations All Around the SF Bay Area

Kick off your 2016 holiday celebrations at one of these colorful events in San Francisco. This year's activities include tree lighting ceremonies as well as holiday winter wonderland festivals. You can also participate in one of several Menorah Lighting celebrations.

The list includes events both in San Francisco and other popular festivals throughout the Bay Area.

pier 39 tree

Pier 39's tree at night

Tree Lighting Ceremonies

Union Square

This year's Union Square Tree Lighting Ceremony (Macy's 25th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony) is on Friday, November 25, 2016. Festivities begin at 6pm with the tree lighting scheduled for 6:40pm. Get to Union Square early for the best spot. The tree illuminates every night throughout the holidays.

Pier 39

Pier 39's annual tree lighting ceremony is on Saturday, November 19. This one-day celebration starts at noon and features live entertainment. It ends with the tree lighting ceremony at 6pm. The tree lights up nightly at 6pm throughout the holiday season.

555 California in Downtown SF

The 555 California building in downtown SF invites the public to their 9th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Tuesday, November 29 starting at 5pm. It will feature live performances throughout the celebration. The tree lighting is set for approximately 6:30pm in the plaza of 555 California.


Head over to the Presidio for their annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, December 2. Activities start at 5:30pm and include free holiday craft activities for kids as well as caroling from the Golden Gate Carolers. Light refreshments will be available. The ceremony will be followed by a guided lantern walk through the forests (don't forget your flashlight!) at 6:15pm. All activities are free. Meet at the Main Post (by the Presidio Y) to join in on the fun.

Rainbow World Tree of Hope Lighting at City Hall

This year's Rainbow World Tree of Hope moves back to City Hall. The lighting of this tree will take place on Wednesday, December 7. Events will kick off at 5:30pm with a concert by the Grammy Award winning SF Boys Choir. The tree lighting is at 7pm. This year's emcees are Cheryl Jennings and Donna Sachet. The party will last until 8pm. Admission is free. The tree will continue to be on display throughout the holiday season.

Ritz Carlton in Nob Hill

The Ritz Carlton kicks off the holiday season on Thursday, December 31 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm with their tree lighting ceremony. Join others in their lobby to see them light their 40-foot tree. Santa and his helpers will illuminate the tree. The ceremony begins with Dickens-era costumed carolers and ends with kids getting their picture taken with Santa. They will also offer cider, hot chocolate, and cookies.

Ghirardelli Square (2015 Details)

The 50th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Ghirardelli Square is on Friday, November 27. The event starts at 4pm with music and other activities. The tree lighting is at 5:30pm with music and other fun until 7:30pm.

Hotel Deals: Are you planning on spending the holidays in San Francisco? If so, then check out the holiday hotel specials on TripAdvisor. They offer dozens of hotel deals so you can save on your room or get something free, such as parking, during your stay. Click here to check out their holiday specials and to save on your stay today!

Menorah Lighting Celebrations

Ghirardelli Square (2015 Details)

This year's Light the Menorah at Ghirardelli Square is on Sunday, December 6. The event starts at 5pm with live music. At 6pm, Rabbi Peretz Mochkin will light the Menorah and invite everyone to dance.

Bill Graham Menorah Project (2015 Info)

Stop by Union Square on Sunday, December 6 at 5pm for the 1st lighting. The final lighting is on Monday, December 14 at 6pm. More details to follow soon.

Other Holiday Festivals in SF

Union Street Fantasy of Lights

Swing by Union Street in the Marina on Saturday, December 3 for their annual Fantasy of Lights Holiday celebration. This year, thousands of lights will illuminate the Victorians in this district transforming it into a magical wonderland for the holidays. The event lasts from 3pm to 7pm with cupcake decorating from 3pm to 5pm and a visit from Santa from 5:30pm to 7pm.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair

The annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair starts on November 19. Every weekend through December 18 (plus the day after Thanksgiving), head over to the festival for a journey back in time. The event is set in Dicken's London where you can shop, eat, and enjoy live entertainment.

Embarcadero Center Winter Carnival and Building Lighting

The Embarcadero Center invites you to join them on Friday, November 18 from 4pm to 7pm for their Building Lighting Ceremony and Carnival. As the sun sets, all four Embarcadero Center buildings will be lit, followed by a grand fireworks display. The carnival also includes children's activities, a visit from Santa Claus, and a special appearance by Mickey Mouse.

Zoo Lights at the SF Zoo

Stop by the San Francisco Zoo from December 16 - 30 for Zoo Lights (no lights on December 24 or 25). Each day, you will get the chance to see this beautiful place lit up with holiday lights. Stop by Elinor Friend Playground for playtime under the stars, then pay a visit to Santa's reindeer at Playfield Lawn. It will also be snowing!

Market Street Annual Snowflake Lighting

Head to cable car turnaround at Powell and Market on Tuesday, November 22 for the Market Street Annual Snowflake Lighting Ceremony. It starts at 6:30pm. Local officials will count down to the illumination. You can also enjoy live music.

Westin St. Francis Enchanted Castle

For the second year, the Westin St. Francis will feature a their "St. Francis Enchanted Castle" in their Landmark Lobby. Instead of just one, this year they will showcase two castles. These large castle will have more than 1,000 pieces of candy made from sugar. The it opens to the public on November 23 at 11am. It will then be on display through January 2, 2017.

Nutcracker Under the Dome (2015)

Enjoy free light spectaculars starting on November 19 under the dome in the Westfield Mall. Each night, the dome will come to life with a 3-D light show inspired by the SF Ballet's Nutcracker. The light display happens every half hour starting at 5pm. This event kicks off with a special celebration on November 19 from 3:30pm to 6pm where you will be able to take pictures with the SF Ballet performers, enjoy a visit from Santa, and check out special arts and crafts. The first 3-D show will start at 5pm that night. The 3-D performances will last through Thursday, December 31.

st francis sugar tree
The St. Francis Enchanted Castle

Savings Tip: Another tip to save on events in San Francisco is by taking advantage of the great deals on Goldstar. This retailer offers tickets to up to 200 events in SF and around the Bay Area. They range from theater tickets to admission to some of SF's largest annual events. Click here to check out their current selection today!

2016 Holiday Events Around the Bay Area

San Rafael Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland

On Friday, November 25 and Saturday, November 26, Fourth Street in San Rafael will fill with holiday cheer. Starting at noon both days, the Market Place opens for holiday shopping and stays open until 8pm. On Friday, the kids can enjoy snowsleding between Noon and 4:30pm and from 6pm to 8pm. On Saturday, the kids activities last from 9am to Noon. This year's parade starts at 5:30pm both days.

Half Moon Bay Night of Lights

The 2016 Night of Lights in Half Moon Bay is on Friday, December 2. From 6pm to 9pm, enjoy the parade of lights down Main Street, live music, roasted chestnuts and activities for the kids. Many of the stores will stay open late, so you can also get in a little holiday shopping during your visit.

Jack London Square in Oakland

On Friday, December 2, Oakland's Jack London Square will light up for the holidays. Join them for this annual celebration from 5pm to 7pm at the foot of Broadway. In addition to the tree lighting ceremony, you can also see musical performances, live reindeer, holiday surprises, and more. The tree lighting is at 7:15pm. Come early for a special visit from Santa starting at 5:15pm.

Monterey Cannery Row Tree Lighting

The beautiful waterfront town of Monterey will celebrate the holidays on Friday, November 25. This free event features live reindeer from 5pm to 8:30pm, a tree lighting ceremony at 5:45pm, and a visit from Santa Claus from 6pm to 9pm. All events will be in Steinbeck Plaza and the area in front of Bubba Gumps. Click here for additional holiday events around Monterey.

Tiburon Holiday Festival (2015)

Tiburon's Holiday Festival is on Saturday, December 5. This all day event features professional photos with Santa, holiday activities, and Merrie Olde Christmas Carolers. The tree lighting is at 6pm at the Fountain Plaza in downtown Tiburon.

Add Your Event

Do you have a tree lighting ceremony or other holiday event you would like to add? Click this link for details on how you can add your ceremony to this list! It's easy and the best part is that it's free!

On a Search for Santa?

In addition to the places mentioned above, Santa will make dozens of additional stops all around San Francisco. He will be taking pictures at the Japantown Center Malls, Stonestown Galleria, and the Westfield Shopping Center. He will also stop by to celebrate the season at the Hyatt Regency and the SF Zoo.

Learn More: Full List of Places to See Santa

More Pages You Will Enjoy

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