The warm glow of holiday lights is here! The Christmas season is the time of year to deck out the trees, parks, and structures with hundreds and thousands of Christmas lights. And San Francisco is always festive during the holidays. The Golden City shines bright with strings of multicolored lights and plenty of holiday spirit to go around. These light shows are the perfect way to kick-off the holiday season and indulge in some sparkling Christmas cheer. Discover places where you can visit and see dazzling holiday lights displays in San Francisco for an unforgettable family Christmas getaway!
San Francisco lights up this holiday season with colorful decorations and festive events that add to the city’s already stunning and magical atmosphere. The City by the Bay sparkles more than it already does during the holidays. From more conventional Christmas light shows to more unique holiday lights displays, you’ll find a range of places to visit, including a Christmas lights drive-thru or walk-thru, forests of lit-up trees, and even a holiday cruise!
But, do you know where to find the best places to see holiday and Christmas lights display in San Francisco? Fortunately, we have compiled a list of the best holiday lights and fun Christmas events to explore in the Bay Area this year. Get ready to stroll through brightly-decorated parks, visit dazzling business districts featuring glistening attractions and festivals, and hop in for a magical ride of spectacular drive-thru events your whole family will enjoy.
Find below the best places to see the most whimsical holiday and Christmas lights while taking in the most famous sights of San Francisco!
Union Square Park
333 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone Number: (415) 781-7880
November 1, 2021 – February 28, 2022
Daily | 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
One of the best places to see holiday lights and many of the most classic Christmas events in San Francisco happens around Union Square. This elegant outdoor plaza is rimmed by upscale stores where Christmas wishes come true. Every year, the Union Square Alliance installs holiday lighting in and around Union Square for the holidays.
Festive lighting decorates palm trees in the park, trees and festival lighting on Maiden Lane, and trees at the Powell Street Cable Car turnaround. Lights turn on November 1 and run through February. Once the square’s massive Christmas tree is officially lit, the area transforms into a holiday wonderland. For more information, please visit their website.
The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133
Phone Number: (415) 981-7437
November 23, 2021 – January 9, 2022
Daily | 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
PIER 39 is spreading Holiday cheer on San Francisco’s Waterfront! Enjoy the holidays all season long with The PIER’s nightly tree lighting musical moments on their Christmas tree, which will come to life every half hour. This year’s live tree is a 60 ft. tall white fir harvested in Siskiyou County in Northern California by Carlton Christmas Trees. Visitors can listen to synchronized holiday music. The tree transforms into a kaleidoscope of swirling colors, adorned with many specialty lights and ornaments.
These dazzling tree lighting musical moments take center stage all season long. So, get into the spirit of the season at Pier 39 while shopping, dining, and strolling The PIER. Visitors will also enjoy local community holiday performances, writing letters to Santa, holiday craft making, and more! Make sure to take advantage of the special parking discounts in the PIER 39 Garage if you are driving to The PIER. For more information, please visit their website.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone Number: (415) 824-0386
November 25, 2021 – January 31, 2022
The City by the Bay always dazzles, especially during the holiday season when it is aglow with the annual Illuminate SF™ Festival of Light. This urban lights festival offers 41 permanent and 14 temporary works by more than 30 local and international light artists that are all accessible by public transportation within San Francisco’s 49 square miles.
Pick from 17 neighborhoods to explore and take the free guided tour to learn more about the artists that have brought these installations to life. These glowing works of art can also be found in well-known museums such as the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Salesforce Transit Center, and even the San Francisco International Airport.
The bustling art scene in San Francisco means there’s creativity in every corner of the city. For more information, please visit their website.
Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason St., San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone Number: (415) 772-5000
November 27, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Daily | All Day
Stop by the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill to check out their winter wonderland lobby and completely edible two-story gingerbread house. One of the best places to see Christmas lights displays, the hotel transforms into one of the world’s most beloved holiday destinations. Fairmont San Francisco’s talented culinary and engineering teams have joined forces to meticulously plan the construction of this year’s enormous Gingerbread House, which will be even larger than last year’s stunning, two-story-high Victorian.
The gingerbread house is so big that adults can walk through it. Its railroad track also delights guests of all ages, who happily gaze upon this favorite feature. Kids will especially enjoy the working miniature trains that encircle the creation. The property’s 23-foot tall Christmas tree in the main lobby is also impressive in its own right.
In the spirit of the season, there will be an entrance fee of $10.00 for non-hotel guests adult and those who do not hold dining/holiday tea reservations, who wish to admire the festive décor and Gingerbread House. Net proceeds from entrance fees will be donated to Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area. For more information, please visit their website.
Civic Center Plaza
335 McAllister St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone Number: (415) 658-7979
December 1, 2021
Wednesday | 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
The Civic Center Plaza Holiday Tree Lighting — a free, family-friendly event — returns this year! This festive event features holiday entertainment, “snow” flurries, festive bites and drinks, free holiday crafts from community organizations, and a toy giveaway for 400+ children. The night of lively entertainment includes performances by the Tap Dancing Christmas Trees, Christmas VIPs, the Grinch, elves, and the man-of-the-hour: Santa! Boxcar Theatre’s Artistic Director Nick A. Olivero led the entire night’s lineup.
Festive bites will be available for purchase from Taqueria Angelica’s of Off the Grid and Annie’s Hot Dog Cart, along with a full bar offering seasonal favorites like Irish coffee and mulled wine. There will also be free holiday-themed DIY activities and candy canes curated by SF Etsy in the Makers Village, and a book giveaway from the San Francisco Public Library. For more information, please visit their website.
Westfield San Francisco Centre
865 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone Number: (415) 512-6776
December 1-31, 2021
Daily | 12:00 AM – 12:00 AM
The famous Inverted Christmas Tree is back for Level 4 Under The Dome holidays, and it is the perfect picture opportunity in the shopping center while you shop. The 50-foot, chandelier-like spruce, covered in crystals, rises the second week of November. Meanwhile, Westfield and San Francisco magazine present its annual Holiday Tree Lighting Event on the first day of December.
The event features cocktails, spirit tastings, bites from the city’s best chefs, live entertainment, and more. Find your way up to Level 4 via escalators from Market Street or the elevators at Bloomingdales on Mission. For more information, please visit their website.
Golden Gate Park
501 Stanyan St., San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone Number: (415) 831-2700
December 1, 2021 – February 1, 2022
Daily | 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Explore Golden Gate Park each night to discover an illuminated and enchanting journey that the whole family can enjoy. Visitors can witness an immersive wonderland of light, nature, and art as illuminated paths, interactive exhibits, and live performances brighten nearly a mile of car-free JFK Drive and the park’s Music Concourse.
There are several places to see and enjoy holiday and Christmas Lights in San Francisco by making your way from ‘Uncle John’s Tree’ at McLaren Lodge to Entwined in Peacock Meadow. Continue your journey from the glowing Conservatory of Flowers to illuminations at the 8th Avenue gateway to the Music Concourse.
As you move towards the SkyStar Wheel, you’ll swiftly enter The Alterverse, a celebration of poetry and light where you can catch free performances at the Golden Gate Bandshell throughout the holiday season. For more information, please visit their website.
345 Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone Number: (415) 829-3878
One Bush Plaza
One Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94104
Pacific Stock Exchange
301 Pine St., San Francisco, CA 94104
5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94111
December 3-12, 2021
Daily | 5:30 PM – 10:00 AM
If you happened to wander through the Financial District of Downtown San Francisco after dark this Christmas season, you’re in to see four places for quite a holiday lights show. Polar bears wandered across the top of the Pacific Stock Exchange building, the Hyatt Regency transformed into a Christmas-themed rocket ship, and there was a wrestling match between two polygon characters on the windows of 345 Montgomery.
Enjoy a festive evening in the city while touring the four breathtaking buildings brought to life through the stunning animations created by cutting-edge digital artists and produced by A3 Visual. Each towering building will feature show-stopping projections that light up the night.
As the largest holiday projection mapping event in the US, this stunning journey of light will feature the works of local and international artists while celebrating the festive winter season in the heart of San Francisco. For more information, please visit their website.
Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre
4705 Third St., San Francisco, CA 94124
Phone Number: (415) 824-0386
December 16, 2021
Thursday | 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Bring your kids to the historic Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Memorial Theatre for Winter Wonderland! They are lighting the property, building decorations, and planning with enthusiasm to create an experience that allows you to bring a safe, inclusive, festive, and fun event to Bayview Hunters Point.
Snow Land is coming back and ice skating too. Visit with Santa and his merry elves to receive free stocking. Winter Wonderland is presented by Bayview Opera House, SF Rec & Park, En2Action and Ojamaa Kitchen, the Museum of Craft and Design, and the SF Links. To get free tickets, click the link HERE!
1 Warriors Way, San Francisco, CA 94158
December 18, 2021
Saturday | 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Head to Thrive City’s Winter Wonderland outside San Francisco’s Chase Center for a day of free, family-friendly fun presented by Chase. Enjoy a fully immersive holiday event complete with live music, a market full of local vendors, live reindeer feedings, family and pet photos with Santa, and more. Indulge in season treats, snap the perfect holiday photo and create memories that’ll last a lifetime.
Chase cardholders will receive various exclusive perks during Thrive City Winter Wonderland events, including an express lane to enter the events and access to an exclusive lounge area with complimentary food, beverages, and holiday giveaways. RSVP while supplies last.
As the Bay Area grows colder and the nights grow longer, taking your family to a brilliant display of lights during the holiday season seems like the perfect way to bring the Christmas spirit to everyone. Experience the beauty of San Francisco at Christmastime with the best holiday lights views and Christmas displays and sing along to holiday-themed songs cuddled up with family and your little ones.
Although they are located all over the city, it’s easy to visit these spots independently. Spread the Christmas spirit by visiting as many of these holiday festivals of lights as you can!
San Francisco offers so many opportunities for kids to enjoy and have fun all year round! Check out our list of resources, or browse through our things to do in San Francisco with kids. Still looking for more activities for kids in San Francisco? No problem! Check out our comprehensive listing of places to go in the region and our highly recommended seasonal blog posts.
Best Places to See Holiday and Christmas Lights in Sacramento
Best Places to See Holiday and Christmas Lights in San Jose
Best Places to See Santa in San Francisco
Best Places to See Santa in the Sacramento Area
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