December always brings to mind iconic holiday images of windows framing snow-laden landscapes, children building snowmen, and happy families gathering around their wood-burning fireplace. Not so in sunny California, where Spare the Air days have made fireplaces all but obsolete.
Yet, just because it feels like spring year-round doesn’t mean San Franciscans downplay the holidays. Come December, the City That Knows How kicks into high gear with holiday events for every age, interest, and admirable cause.
Have any doubts? Mark your calendar, don your reindeer cap, and prepare to celebrate the holidays in true San Francisco style.
25th Annual Union Street Fantasy of Lights Celebration
Saturday, Dec. 5, 3–7 p.m.
2040 Union Street
Revel in cupcake making, face painting, balloon artistry, horse-drawn carriages, “rein-deer,” live entertainment, and more, in the glow of thousands of lights setting off Union Street’s Victorian buildings. At 5:30 p.m. have your photo taken with The Man himself, Santa. Bring toys to donate for needy children — collection barrels will be on site. 800-310-6563, sresproductions.com
29th Annual Macy’s/S.F. SPCA Holiday Windows
Daily through Jan. 3, 2016
Macy’s Union Square
Nothing captures the holiday spirit better than the San Francisco SPCA and Macy’s annual Holiday Windows featuring heart-tugging dogs and cats in search of loving homes. Last year, 267 animals found homes and $90,000 was raised to provide year-round support for the SPCA’s lifesaving programs. Over the last 28 years, Holiday Windows has helped more than 8,500 animals find loving forever homes. Each window is equipped with a camera that streams video so you can watch (or select!) available puppies and kittens right from your computer. 415-554-3000, sfspca.org
Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center
Daily through Jan. 3, 10 a.m.
Justin Herman Plaza (adjacent to 4 Embarcadero Center)
Channel your inner Kristi Yamaguchi or Brian Boitano at the largest outdoor rink in the city with sessions starting every 90 minutes. 415-837-1931, embarcadero center.com
Friends of Larkin Street Annual Holiday Ice Skating Party
Wednesday, Dec. 9,
Justin Herman Plaza
(adjacent to 4 Embarcadero Center)
Last year, more than 320 people of all ages took part in this popular event for Larkin Street Youth Services, which provides support for homeless and at-risk youth and young adults. 415-673-0911, larkinstreetyouth.org
Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square
Daily through Jan. 18, 10 a.m.
Take a spin at the base of the 83-foot tree with 33,000 twinkling lights. Also with 90-minute sessions, a portion of proceeds benefit the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. 415-781-2688, unionsquareicerink.com
MUSIC & DANCE
San Francisco Symphony’s 2015 Holiday Concert Season
Various dates through December
Davies Symphony Hall (201 Van Ness Ave.)
The family-friendly lineup includes classic traditions and new twists on old holiday favorites with Bugs Bunny and Charlie Brown, in addition to Holiday Brass, a Classic Christmas, Handel’s Messiah, and more. 415-864-6000, sfsymphony.org
Smuin Ballet Holiday Dance Program: The Christmas Ballet
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission St.)
This annual yuletide treat offers something for the naughty and nice. Enjoy ballet, tap, and swing to a wealth of other genres drawn from holiday traditions from around the world. 415-912-1899, smuinballet.org
DO A MITZVAH (GOOD DEED)
Glide Annual Holiday Jam
Thursday, Dec. 3, 7–10 p.m.
(982 Market St.)
This spirited evening of spoken word, storytelling, and live music will feature inspiring performances by Valerie Simpson, Justin Vivian Bond, Youth Speaks, Glide Ensemble & Change Band, and many others. Bay Area radio host and San Francisco Giants announcer Dr. Renel Brooks-Moon will emcee. Proceeds help raise funds for Glide’s programs and Mo’s Kitchen, which serves three meals daily to San Francisco’s most in-need individuals and families. 888-929-7849, glide.org
Jingle & Mingle
Thursday, Dec. 3, 6:30 p.m.
Golden Gate Club (135 Fisher Loop, the Presidio)
The Children of Shelters designer wreath and art auction features wreaths from some of the West Coast’s top designers and fine arts from talented local artists in a festive holiday setting. Proceeds benefit homeless children. 925-935-9938, childrenofshelters.org
Run Wild San(ta) Francisco 5K Run/Walk
Sunday, Dec. 6, 9 a.m.
San Francisco Firefighters are calling all Dashers, Dancers, and Prancers to participate in the Santa Hat run that supports their annual toy drive. Participants will receive that quintessential holiday fashion statement, the Santa hat, finisher medal, and commemorative t-shirt. 415-759-2690, rhodyco.com
Monday, Dec. 7, 5:45–8:30 p.m.
The club level of the ballpark is transformed into a holiday wonderland for almost 700 children and their families to raise funds and awareness for Bay Area at-risk children.
The interactive family-friendly event includes a gourmet buffet, silent auction, activities for kids, as well as a behind-the-scene glimpse of the ballpark and photo opportunities with the Giants’ World Series trophies. Holiday Heroes connects at-risk children with professional athletes to provide encouragement, hope, and direction. 650-321-4142, holidayheroes.org
Help Is on the Way for the Holidays Gala
Monday, Dec. 7, 6–10 p.m.
Marines’ Memorial Theater (609 Sutter St.)
The Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation (REAF) presents a star-studded holiday concert and gala with an impressive lineup of celebrity performers guaranteed to knock your holiday socks off. Ticket sales benefit Larkin Street Youth, which supports at-risk youth and young adults ages 12–24, and Aguilas, which creates a supportive environment for gay/bisexual Latinos. 415-931-0317, reaf-sf.org
Guardsmen Christmas Tree Lot Party
Saturday, Dec. 20, 9 p.m.–1:30 a.m.
Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center
Party on, Garth. Enjoy a hosted bar, music, dancing, and a lively crowd at this indoor winter wonderland. All proceeds benefit at-risk Bay Area youth. 415-856-0939, guardsmen.org
Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party
Sat.–Sun. through Dec. 20,
10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Traverse the lamp-lit lanes of Victorian London and mingle with costumed characters from the times of Charles Dickens, while shopping, dining, and more. dickensfair.com
Mercato di Natale (Italian Christmas Market)
Sat.–Sun., Dec. 5, 10 a.m.
Building C, Fort Mason Center
Inspired by the famous Christmas markets in Northern Italy, find the perfect gift from selections such as artisanal Italian food, handmade jewelry, Italian fashion and accessories, art objects, and other unique craft items all made by Italian artisans. 415-673-2200, museoitaloamericano.org
Warp Speed: a Holiday Trek
Saturday, Dec. 26, 8 p.m.
Building B, Fort Mason Center
Beam up unconventional holiday cheer with the Bats Improv salute to the classic sci-fi TV series featuring Kirk, Scotty, and what’s-his-name. Audience suggestions will inspire an all-new crew of characters on the Star Trek Enterprise to boldly go where none have gone before. 415-474-6776, improv.org