San Francisco Tree Lighting & Holiday Events 2018

Festivals and Celebrations All Around the SF Bay Area

Kick off your 2018 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

Union Square

This year's Union Square Tree Lighting Ceremony (Macy's 29th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony) is on Friday, November 23, 2018. 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.

>> Information on this year's tree lighting ceremony

>> 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 Wednesday, November 21. They will lite the tree for the first time at 5pm. For the rest of the season the tree will be lit once an hour with a kalidoscope of colors. The tree lights up nightly once an hour from 5pm to 10pm throughout the holiday season, ending on January 1.

>> More things to do at Pier 39

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 3. Events will kick off at 6:30pm with a performance by the Lesbian Gay Chorus of San Francisco and Lauren Meyer. Additional performances start at 7pm.

The tree lighting is at 7:45pm. The party will follow starting at 8pm. Admission is free. The tree will continue to be on display throughout the holiday season.

>> Tips to visit Grace Cathedral

The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco kicks off the holiday season on Thursday, November 29 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.

Presidio

Head over to the Presidio for their annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, December 7. Activities start at 5pm 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 6pm. All activities are free. Meet at the Main Post (just past the Presidio Y) to join in on the fun. The event runs until 6:45pm.

>> Additional things to do in the Presidio

Tree Lighting at Westfield Mall

This year's holiday tree lighting at Westfield Mall is scheduled for Friday, December 7. From 6pm to 9pm, enjoy live music, hosted holiday treats and beverages, and the unveiling of a new holiday decor. Make sure to stop by and say hello to Santa too.

It's free and open to the public.

More Tree Lighting Events Around San Francisco

Tree Lighting at McCoppin Square Park (12/7): This local park in the Sunset District will be hosting their annual tree lighting ceremony on Friday 12/7. It starts at 5pm and they invite the public to help them decorate the tree, sing carols, and enjoy some hot chocolate. Activities will last through 7pm.

Civic Center Tree Lighting Ceremony (12/5): Head over to the Civic Center for this year's tree lighting event. Activities run from 5pm to 7pm and include performances by The Tap Dancing Christmas Trees, a visit from Santa, and free candy canes & popcorn for the kids. The SF Girls Chorus and characterrs from the Boxcar Theatre (Grinch, Santa, etc.) will also be performing. They will have Irish Coffee and hot chocolate as well as a few other items for sale. Make sure to also stop by the new ice skating rink in the Civic Center district this year.

Holiday Tree Lighting at McLaren Lodge (12/6): This event runs from 4pm to 8pm 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.

Bill Graham Menorah Project

Stop by Union Square on Sunday, December 2 at 4:30pm for the 1st lighting ceremony. You can then stop by daily at 5pm for the daily lighting ceremony. The final lighting is on Sunday, December 9.

Each night, the music and celebration begins at 5pm with the candle lighting at around 5:30pm.

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.

Event Calendars
January February March
April May June
July August September
October November December

Other Holiday Festivals in SF

Great Dickens Christmas Fair

The annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair starts on November 17. Every weekend through December 23 (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 16, 2018 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 show by Disney on Ice.

Union Street Fantasy of Lights

Swing by Union Street in the Marina on Saturday, December 1 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.

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!

Zoo Lights at the SF Zoo

Stop by the San Francisco Zoo from December 14 - 30 for Zoo Lights (no lights on December 17, 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!

>> Details to visit the Zoo

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 November 23 and stay open until January 1.

>> More about the Fairmont on Nob Hill

2018 Holiday Events Around the Bay Area

San Rafael Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland

On Friday, November 23 and Saturday, November 24, 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 on Friday.

Monterey Cannery Row Tree Lighting

The beautiful waterfront town of Monterey will celebrate the holidays on Friday, November 23. 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.

Half Moon Bay Night of Lights

The 2018 Night of Lights in Half Moon Bay is on Friday, December 7. 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, November 30, Oakland's Jack London Square will light up for the holidays. Join them for this annual celebration from 5pm to 8pm 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.

Tiburon Holiday Festival

Tiburon's Holiday Festival is on Saturday, December 1. This all day event (2pm to 6pm) features professional photos with Santa, holiday activities, arts & crafts from local artists, 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!

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

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Hi there! I'm Jill and I love writing about San Francisco travel as much as I love exploring my amazing city. Thanks for stopping by and please contact me if you have any questions before your trip.

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