San Francisco Events in December 2021: Festivals, Lighting Ceremonies, & Christmas Activities

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: September 27, 2021

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San Francisco events in December 2021 include several tree lighting ceremonies, Christmas activities, and other fun things to do. You can head to the theater to see A Christmas Carol, catch one of the SF Ballet's popular Nutcracker performances, or visit Santa Claus at one of several locations around town.

San Francisco City Hall all decked out in Christmas colors.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Most Popular San Francisco Events in December 2021

Click the links below to jump to the section with more information on these top December events.

SF Broadway Theater in December: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Dates: 11/26 - 12/26

Location: Golden Gate Theater

Tickets: Find tickets to all performances

This year, you will find this classic show on stage at the Golden Gate Theater. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.

He's a cranky old man that doesn't want anything to do with helping others or the spirit of Christmas. When his late business partner returns to tell him he will be visited by three ghosts, Scrooge sits up and takes notice.

They tell him about the past, present and future. It changes his life forever and the lives of those around him. It's on stage from Thanksgiving Weekend through the day after Christmas.

It's one of the best San Francisco events in December.

>> Click here for a full calendar of theater productions in SF in December

>> Learn more about SF's theater district

Cruises Around the SF Bay

Cruises around the SF Bay

One of the best San Francisco events in December is a cruise around the SF Bay. You will find about two dozens cruise each day of the year.

Top options offer you the chance to spend an hour or two on the SF Bay as you soak in the sights along the shoreline. Almost all of them cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge - twice! You will also cruise near Alcatraz. Many of them leave from the piers in or near Fisherman's Wharf.

Some offer a few drinks, others offer some light appetizers, and all of them will give you time to relax and unwind. They are all an experience you will never forget!

Golden State Warriors Basketball

Golden State Warriors

Dates: 12/3, 12/4, 12/6, 12/8, 12/20, 12/23 & 12/28

Tickets: Available for all games

Don't miss your chance to see the 2021/2022 Golden State Warriors on the court this month.

It's one of the hottest San Francisco events in December. This month, they play more than a half dozen games at home at the Chase Center in SF

Top opponents this month include teams such as the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, and the Portland Trail Blazers.

>> Find additional information on seeing a game

Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Dates: Saturdays & Sundays from Thanksgiving Weekend to Christmas

This year, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair will look quite a bit different than in normal years. They will be offering most of their shopping and events in a virtual setting.

However, they will also be offering up a drive through option, so you can sample some of their tasty treats. Tickets go on sale on November 1. 

They plan to have their full in person event again in 2022.

>> Visit their site for details and tickets

SF Ballet: The Nutcracker


Dates: 12/10 - 12/30

The SF Ballet will perform The Nutcracker again this December at the War Memorial Opera House. 

It was performed in San Francisco for the first time in the US on Christmas Eve, 1944. 

Although it's now performed all around the county, this one is a popular ticket so make sure to get yours early.

It's one of the best family-friendly San Francisco events in December. Shows run from December 10 - 30.

>> Find out more about these shows

SF Opera

It's a Wonderful Life

Dates: 12/1 & 12/3

Location: War Memorial Opera House 

Don't miss this month's SF Opera performance of Cosi fan tutte.

This classic performance by Mozart follows the story of three men. The first is a philosopher. He tries to convince his two friends that women are never to be trusted.

Both friends disagree, so they do everything they can to prove that their fiancés are both trustworthy. They set up a plan to try to trap them. Will they fall for the trap or will the women stay faithful to their loved ones?

All shows are at the War Memorial Opera House in the Civic Center district

>> See the full Opera calendar

Free Museum Days

Free Museum Days in SF

Dates: Several in December

Whether your interest is art, history, technology, or gardening, you are sure to be delighted by SF's variety of world-class museums, including the Asian Art Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, de Young Fine Arts, Legion of Honor, and more.

Even better, you don't have to break the bank to visit them!

Many of them offer you the chance to take a look at their permanent collection. Some of them also allow you to view their temporary collections and others require separate tickets.

>> Click the link below to find out which museums offer free admission on which days in December

>> Additional free things to do this month

Live Music & Concerts in SF

December Concerts

Dates: Several

Lucky for live music fans, San Francisco is a city with lots of great concert venues. They range from large auditoriums to more intimate spaces, and they welcome big and small names from all different genres. 

This month, catch top performances at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the Nob Hill Masonic Center or The Fillmore. You will also find several top shows around the SF Bay Area.

Here are some of the top San Francisco events in December on stage at our local venues.

>> See a full list of the top upcoming shows as well as ticketing information

Top Places to Stay

If you plan to check out some of these great San Francisco events in December, then I recommend staying a few nights as well. The best places to stay are in SF's Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf. Both offer great access to the rest of the city. You might also want to try one of our lovely boutique hotels or splurge on a five star gem.

Check out recent guest reviews and great deals today! 

TripAdvisorWhat's the #1 hotel in San Francisco? Read reviews & find hotel deals on TripAdvisor!

Booking: Find great deals all around San Francisco for your upcoming stay

Tree Lighting Celebrations & Other Holiday Festivals

Tree Lighting

Dates: Several in December

The whole city is getting into the holiday spirit. 

Tree and Menorah lighting ceremonies continue to illuminate San Francisco this month as the holidays draw near, and it doesn't stop there! 

Union Street's beautiful Victorian homes, the Embarcadero, and even the SF Zoo will all come to life with lights, and you can be a part of it!

>> Check out the full schedule of ceremonies and holiday festivals

Ice Skating in SF

Ice Skating

Dates: Throughout the month

Without a white Christmas, San Francisco still manages to bring the wintry magic of the holidays right to the heart of downtown. 

While you're out shopping, eating, and taking in the urban holiday decor of Union Square or the Embarcadero, take a break to catch a nice breeze on one of the outdoor skating rinks that only appear during this season. 90-minute sessions are affordable and skate rentals are available.

>> Get more details about session times and rentals at Union Square

>> Find out more about the Bay Area's largest outdoor rink at the Embarcadero

>> top outdoor rinks in the SF Bay Area this season

Nightlife at the California Academy of Sciences

Cal Academy

One of the hottest San Francisco events in December at our local museums is Nightlife. This 21+ event is at the California Academy of Sciences.

Every Thursday night in December, they throw a huge party. Each one evolves around a theme. Previous themes include Animal Behavior, Beyond Human, and Fermented. All activities for the evening will have something to do with that night's theme.

You can explore the museum, grab a drink in their cocktail area, and meet other nature and science lovers. The event starts at 6pm and runs until 9:30pm.

>> Find tickets to this month's Nightlife events


Jill at Santacon

Date: TBD

SantaCon is huge annual event held in large cities all over the country and world, in which thousands of everyday people dress up as Santa and walk through the streets together spreading holiday cheer. 

Either put on your jolly red suit to join in, or head towards downtown to take in the unique sight.

The event starts with a gathering in Union Square. All santas will then head to one of several designated districts around SF for drink specials and other holiday merriment. 

>> Find out more about this funky Santa event

Parol Lantern Festival & Parade

Paro Lantern

Date: TBD

Don't miss the 18th Annual Parol Lantern Festival and Parade, a Filipino-American tradition in San Francisco showcasing the beautiful colors of their culture. 

This year's theme is "Let Tradition Be Our Light." Festivities start at 5pm and the parade of star-shaped lanterns and dozens of local organizations takes off from Yerba Buena Gardens at 6:15pm. 

Leading up to the event, you can make your own parol lantern at the Bayanihan Community Center.

>> Get the details for this year's festival

Santa Skivvies Run

Santa Skivvies Run

Date: 12/12

This is not your average run to raise awareness and fight HIV/AIDS. 

This is a festive and fun tradition in San Francisco's Castro district, where you get to jog approximately one mile through this neighborhood among hundreds of other Santas in their underwear!

You can wear your skivvies, underwear, bras, speedos or other red undergarments. You can also wear a fun holiday costume. The entire run is in the Castro district and a fun way to raise awareness and money to fight HIV/AIDS.

Click the link below to register today!

>> Visit their site to register

SF City Pass

City Pass December

Want to save big this holiday season? Check out the San Francisco City Pass discount card.

This pass includes admission into the California Academy of Sciences, the Aquarium of the Bay and either the Exploratorium or the SF Museum of Modern Art. 

It also includes one ride on a Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise plus other discounts around SF.

It's a great way to save during your visit and enjoy some of SF's top museums.

>> Visit the City Pass site for more details

Santa Claus in SF

Santa in SF

Dates: Several in December

Another one of the top San Francisco events in December is when Santa Claus starts to make his rounds.

You can find him and take pictures with him at the Westfield, Japantown and Stonestown malls, as well as at the SF Zoo, the Fairmont's life-sized gingerbread house, the Ritz Carlton, Ghirardelli Square, and more!

>> Click here for details on how to track down the man in the big red suit

Lighted Boat Parade

Lighted Boat Parade

Date: TBD

The Lighted Boat Parade has been a holiday tradition and one of the popular San Francisco events in December since 1994. 

It is a unique event that brings the holiday spirit out onto the bay and invites everyone to enjoy San Francisco's waterfront. 

Watch the decorated boats parade past Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Mason, and Crissy Field. It runs from 6pm to 8pm.

SF 49ers at Home

Football on the grass

Date: 12/19

The SF 49ers have one home games this month at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. 

They play host to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, December 19. The game starts at 1:05 pm.

Head down early for pre-game tailgating and to check out their new stadium.

>> Find the 49ers full schedule + details on attending a game at Levi's Stadium

Christmas Eve & Day

Christmas in SF

Dates: 12/24 & 12/25

If you're planning to be in town for Christmas Eve and/or Day, don't worry; you'll find plenty of things to do and see. Christmas Eve is full of fun shows and performances. Many of our top attractions and museums are open, but close early.

On Christmas Day, you will find several museums and attractions open. You will also find that many tours offer several options all day long.

Check out the list of attractions, tours, and restaurants that remain open on this holiday and even offer special menus and services. In addition, you may want to catch a holiday performance of The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. 

>> Discover the full list of what to do on Christmas Eve and Day

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve Celebrations

Date: 12/31

Whether you prefer getting dressed up for a fancy dinner, having a night out dancing, watching fireworks, or attending a special performance of the SF Symphony, you will love New Years Eve in San Francisco.

You will find many attractions are open on NYE, but close a little early. You will also find several tours and activities running regular schedules that day.

In addition, I've included a few ideas and fun things to do on New Year's Day. 

Ring in your 2020 in the City by the Bay! 

>> Get the details on this year's parties, which SF attractions are open, how to take public transit, and more

What to Pack for December

Are you looking for ideas on what to pack for your visit? My weather guide for December will give you information on the average temperatures, what to expect during your stay and some ideas on what to bring along. It's a great way to help you prepare for your visit.

>> Tips to prepare for your visit in December

December Events Around the SF Bay Area

Christmas in the Park in San Jose

Dates: TBD

Hours: 9 am - 12 am (midnight) 

Starting in the early 1950s, Christmas in the Park has been a holiday tradition in San Jose. This wonderful event runs for two weeks and includes a traditional tree lighting, a dog day in the park, breakfast with Santa, and more. This event is free and there is food and drink available for all to enjoy. Santa has a special booth in the park so you and your family can make sure to visit him and get a photo or two.

Winterfest at Great America in Santa Clara

Dates: Select dates 11/26 - 1/2 

Winterfest is another one of the top SF Bay Area events in December. This family-friendly activity includes live shows, the chance to bake cookies with Mrs. Claus, and enjoy the snowfall in Hometown Square. 

Make sure to spend some time admiring one of the largest SF Bay Area Christmas trees and checking out the great rides here.

Snow Day in the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto

Date: TBD

Hours: 10 am - 3 pm

Located in the Gourmet Ghetto district of North Berkeley, you and yours can enjoy FRESH SNOW while you check out this cute area of the city. 

You can also meet the Snow Queen (don't worry, she's a friendly Snow Queen), make crafts and even ride ponies! There will be vendors selling their best, live music and lots of great food to eat. 

There is also a bunch of "ice" around the area, and if you open up your ice you just might find a REAL diamond in it!

Craneway Crafts Fair

Date: 12/27 & 12/28

Head over to Richmond for one of the Bay Area's largest holiday craft fairs. The Craneway Crafts Fair features more than 180 artists from the Bay Area and beyond. It's the perfect place to shop for holiday goodies including jewelry, ceramics, woodwork, photography, gourmet goodies, and so much more.

The event benefits KPFA public radio. Craneway Pavilion (1414 Harbour Way South in Richmond, CA) is where you will find this event.

San Jose Sharks

Dates: 12/7, 12/9, 12/11, 12/14, 12/16, 12/21, 12/23, 12/28, & 12/30

The San Jose Sharks are another one of the top SF Bay Area events in December 2021. This month, they take on teams such as the Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, and the Dallas Stars. All games are at the SAP Center in San Jose.

>> More on attending a game this month

First Night Monterey 

Date: 12/31

Hours: 3 pm - 12 am (midnight)

Even though it is titled, "First Night Monterey", it is actually held on New Year's Eve, the last day of the year, in the historic downtown of Monterey. Starting at 3 pm with the Kids' Night Event and the always joyous twilight parade, kids of all ages will have a blast. 

First Night continues with The Main Event which includes music and over 65 different dance performances located all around the area. These range from latin, to ballet, to modern and to other world dances. The Finale Performance includes live music as the countdown to the first day of 2022 arrives at 12:00 am.

>> More things to do this month in Monterey

Sonoma Events in December

This December, spend some time in Sonoma and sample their amazing wines. This month, you will find plenty of craft fairs, wine tasting events, and the annual Lighting of the Snowmen.

>> Discover a full calendar of events in Sonoma this month

Napa Events in December

Other top SF Bay Area event in December are in Napa. This month, you will find plenty to do including the Calistoga Christmas Faire, Winter in the Wineries, and the Holidays in Yountville. You will also find several wineries with open houses and other holiday events.

>> Find more events this December in Napa

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