San Francisco Tree Lighting & Holiday Events 2023

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: November 27, 2023

Kick off your 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.

The Pier 39 holiday treePier 39's tree at night

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

Union Square

It looks like there won't be an official tree lighting event again in 2023. However, the tree will be in place for all of us to enjoy it this holiday season.  

They will light it for the first time on November 9 and it will be stay lit through January 1. Even though there isn't an official kick off event or ceremony, you can visit the tree any night between these days to enjoy it's beauty! 

>> Find additional fun things to do in Union Square

Pier 39

Pier 39's annual tree will be lit for the first time of the season on Tuesday, November 21. They will not host a large ceremony, but instead light the tree for all to see for the first time on this night.

They will light the tree for the first time at 5 pm. It will then offer a light show every half hour from 5 pm to 10 pm nightly.

For the rest of the season the tree light up for all to enjoy with the last night of the season on January 7, 2024.

>> More things to do at Pier 39

Civic Center Tree Lighting Ceremony

Head over to the Civic Center for this year's tree lighting event on December 6. Activities run from 4 pm to 7 pm and include performances, and a visit from Santa.

This year, you can enjoy a few "snow" flurries and a toy giveaway for the kids. 

The official tree lighting is at 5:30 pm by Mayor London Breed. 

Stay warm with some some tasty seasonal drinks or check out their full bar. All of these drinks are available for purchase. Other festive bites will also be for sale throughout the event.

>> Find out more on their official site

Popular Holiday Events for 2023

  • 12/6 - 12/24: A Christmas Carol at the Toni Rembe Theatre
  • 12/13 - 12/30: San Francisco Ballet, The Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House
  • 12/13 & 12/14: SF Symphony, Esa-Pekka Salonen - The Colors of Christmas at Davies Symphony Hall
  • 12/15 - 12/17: Million Dollar Quartet Christmas at the Curran Theatre
  • 12/15: SF Symphony, Edwin Outwater - Holiday Gaiety at Davies Symphony Hall
  • 12/19: Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet at the Golden Gate Theatre (2 shows
  • 12/20 - 12/23: SF Symphony, Lawrence Loh - A Charlie Brown Christmas at Davies Symphony Hall
  • 12/21: SF Symphony, Edwin Outwater - Holiday Brass at Davies Symphony Hall

'Tis the Season for Science' at the California Academy of Sciences

It might not snow in San Francisco, but the city's popular science museum in Golden Gate Park makes sure that guests get to experience a polar wonderland during the holiday season.

From November 17 to January 7, you can learn about ice and the animals that live in cold climates, enjoy indoor snow flurries, and observe snowflakes under microscopes, among other scientific explorations.

There are also special nighttime events, including the Welcome Winter Night for all ages on Tuesday, December 5 at 6:30 pm, offering cookie decorating, winter crafts, and much more. A few programs that will run several times throughout these dates include the Children's Puppet Theatre: P is for Penguin and Piazza Performances.

>> Visit their site to learn more

Rainbow World Tree of Hope Lighting at Grace Cathedral

This year's Rainbow World Tree of Hope will once again be at Grace Cathedral. The lighting of this tree will take place on Monday, December 4.

Events will kick off at 6:30 pm with performances by the San Francisco Boys Chorus, Leberta Loral, and others.

The tree lighting is around 7:15 pm. All activities will wrap up at 8 pm.

Admission is free. The tree will continue to be on display throughout the holiday season. 

>> Visit their official site for more details and to register for this free event

Dollie + Me Tea Event at the Westin St. Francis Hotels

The Westin St. Francis Hotel and kit & sisTM are partnering to host a Dollie + Me Tea event on December 16 & 17. It's a great time for children, families, mother/daughter duos, and other loved ones to celebrate the holiday season.

The kids will enjoy hot chocolate, Dollie + Me sweet treats, and assorted tea sandwiches while they create fun holiday crafts with kit & sis. Champagne will be served for the adults too! 

>> Visit Eventbrite to learn more and to book your spot

Holiday Crafts Day at the Randall Museum

The Randall Museum is one of San Francisco's hidden gems for families with children, as its hands-on activities promote creativity and curiosity about science, nature, and art, with no entry fee.

The annual Holiday Crafts Day is no exception: this is a free event for children of all ages to get into the holiday spirit, crafting one-of-a-kind gifts and decorations for the season. This includes building toy trains, rolling beeswax candles, soap-making, candy house creation, and much more.

The event will take place on December 2, from 10 am to 2 pm.

>> Visit their website for more details


Head over to the Presidio for their Holiday Tree Lighting on Friday, December 1. This year is a little different as there is no celebration, they will just light their 55-foot-tall Norfolk Island Pine this night for the first time for the holidays.

This is always the first Friday in December. 

They will light the tree every night through the month of December.

>> Additional things to do in the Presidio

Fun SF Tours & Activities

More Holiday Lighting Events Around San Francisco

Nob Hill Tree Lighting (11/27): The annual lighting of the tree at Huntington Park in Nob Hill starts at 5:30 pm and runs until 7:30 pm. This two-hour event will include the tree lighting, light snacks, and live music. 

Holiday Tree Lighting at McLaren Lodge (12/7): This event runs from 4 pm to 8 pm at John McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park. Will include kids activities such as carnival rides, arts & crafts, cookie factory, a visit from Santa and more.

National AIDS Memorial Lighting Ceremony (11/30): This is the first time the National AIDS Memorial Grove will be lit up for the holidays. The ceremony is on World AIDS Day and the event runs from 4:30 pm to 9 pm.

Bill Graham Menorah Project

Stop by Union Square on Thursday, December 7 at 5 pm for the 1st lighting. The live ceremony runs from 3:30 pm to 6 pm. 

Here are additional dates and times for this annual lighting ceremony:

  • Friday, December 8th: Second lighting at 2:30 pm
  • Saturday, December 9th: Third lighting at 8:30 pm
  • Sunday, December 10th (Bill Graham Minorah Day): Celebration runs from 2 pm to 6 pm with the Fourth Lighting at 4:45 pm
  • December 11 - December 13: Gather at 4:30 pm for music and lighting is at 5 pm
  • Thursday, December 14th: Gather at 4 pm, for live music, lighting and ceremony is at 5 pm

>> Visit their site to learn more

Additional Events Around SF this Season

  • The Lion King at the Orpheum Theatre (11/22 - 12/30)
  • Mamma Mia! at the Golden Gate Theatre (12/5 - 12/10)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird at the Golden Gate Theatre (12/13 - 12/17)
  • Guys and Dolls at the SF Playhouse (11/16 - 1/13)
  • SF Opera - The Elixir of Love (certain dates from 11/19 - 12/9)
  • Henry Winkler at the Curran Theatre (11/27)
  • Pink Martini at the SFJAZZ Center (certain dates from 11/28 - 12/3)
  • Trevor Noah at The Masonic (several dates from 11/30 - 12/14)
  • Golden State Warriors NBA Games at the Chase Center

Upcoming Events by Month

Are you looking for additional fun things to do in San Francisco? Click the links below to visit the calendar of events for that month.













Other Holiday Festivals in SF

Great Dickens Christmas Fair

The annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair will look a little different this year. This year's event will feature a drive through version of this popular activity.

Ride through as you enjoy delicious foods, entertainment, handmade crafts and more.

There will also be a variety of at home options such as entertainment and shopping! 

It will run for five weekends starting the weekend of Thanksgiving.

Embarcadero Center Building Lightings

This year, the Embarcadero Center did not hold its annual lighting ceremony and festival, but the lights are lit for the holidays.

Each night through the holidays, you can see more than 17,000 lights on display at the Embarcadero Center.

Hotel Deals: Are you planning on spending the holidays in San Francisco? If so, then check out the holiday hotel specials and find the best prices for your stay here. You'll find 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!

Gingerbread House at the Fairmont Nob Hill

Admire one of the best Gingerbread House displays in the entire Bay Area at the Fairmont in Nob Hill. This 2-story, 25 foot tall adobe house features more than 1,500 pounds of candy! It's an amazing site to see.

The display will open on Thanksgiving and stay open through the end of the year.  

>> More about the Fairmont on Nob Hill

2023 Holiday Events Around the Bay Area

Monterey Cannery Row Tree Lighting

The beautiful waterfront town of Monterey will celebrate the holidays on Friday, November 24.

This year's event runs from 3:30 pm to 9 pm with the tree lighting set for 5:45 pm.

This year, Santa will be on hand for pictures at his house from 6 pm to 9 pm (you can bring your own camera to take a free photo). You can enjoy the carolers from 3:30 pm to 5:45 pm. 

Other fun things to do include checking out the holiday lights, checking out the local shops, and grabbing a bite to eat. 

All events will be in Steinbeck Plaza and the area in front of Bubba Gumps.

Click here for additional holiday events around Monterey.

Half Moon Bay Nights of Lights

The Nights of Lights is Fridays starting on November 24 and running through December 15.

The 2023 Night of Lights Christmas Tree Lighting in Half Moon Bay is on Friday, November 24.

Their annual Lighted Parade down Main Street is on December 1. From 6 pm to 8 pm, 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.

>> Learn more here

Jack London Square in Oakland

On Saturday December 2, Oakland's Jack London Square will light up for the holidays.

Join them for this annual celebration from 5:45 pm to 8 pm on the plaza near Plank.

In addition to the tree lighting ceremony, you can also see musical performances, holiday surprises, and more. Santa will also make an appearance.

>> Learn more here

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

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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San Francisco Holiday Events Pin

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