(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
According to the Golden Gate Weather Service, San Francisco hasn’t seen a white Christmas since 1856…but you never know! Even without snowfall, sugar plum fairies and ice skating rinks are among the special Christmas activities for those spending the holidays in the Bay Area. The 50th annual Ghirardelli Square tree is all lit up, too. Plan to enjoy more activities and events with friends and family around the holidays in 2014.
Union Square Ice Rink
San Francisco, CA 94108
Dates: Dec. 5, 2014 – Jan. 15, 2015
Grab your skates and hit Union Square for the city’s ground zero of holiday cheer. Some bring their own skates to dazzle spectators with a perfect toe loop, and others rent skates to gingerly step onto the ice, hanging onto the rail with somebody’s hand to steady their skating legs. All dressed up for the holidays, the 25-foot-tall menorah, 80-foot-high Christmas tree covered with baubles, ice skating rink and red-ribboned Macy’s windows make up San Francisco’s answer to Rockefeller Center. A second, bigger ice skating rink is at Justin Herman Plaza located at Four Embarcadero, through January 4, 2015.
“The Nutcracker” – San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dates: Dec. 12-29, 2014
It may be no surprise to see the San Francisco Ballet’s annual production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” at the top of this list. It has been a tradition since the American premier on Christmas Eve 1944, they must be doing something right. Five special family performances are planned for opportunities to meet and pose with members of the cast in costume. Children ages five and up will appreciate the production best and those aged 6 to 10 might want to try the new San Francisco Ballet interactive app to learn more about the story and the ballet.
Related: Best Places To Give Back This Holiday Season In The Bay Area
Napa Valley Wine Train – Santa Express Trains
1275 McKinstry St.
Napa, CA 94559
Dates: Dec. 1-18, 2014
In December, the famous Napa Valley Train takes a holiday departure from its normal schedule. Billed as a “magical way to meet Santa,” the ever-popular journey attracts families for a photo opportunity with the guest of honor before everyone clambers aboard a historic train for the ride from Napa to Yountville and back again with a costumed and jolly Saint Nick. Choose the 90-minute adventure in either the morning or the afternoon, with or without food and drink from the onboard menu.
Zoo Lights at Oakland Zoo
9777 Golf Links Road
Oakland, CA 94605
Dates: Dec. 5, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015
It’s a month-long celebration with hundreds of thousands of LED lights strung up in shapes mixing animals with Christmas, from dinosaurs to giant toy soldiers. It’s a treat for the younger set to run around in the semi-darkness, down illuminated candy cane land and to hop onboard the Outback Express Train ride, too. While the display does not have enough pizzazz to thoroughly impress teens, the atmosphere is perfect for toddlers.
San Francisco Bowl
4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Date: Dec. 30, 2014
On the day before New Year’s Eve, cheer for your team in the spirit of holiday cheer! The huge sports event, previously known as Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, moves to the new 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium, site of the 2016 Super Bowl. The 12th annual bowl, a much-loved seasonal tradition, means a match-up of the fourth selection from the Pac-12 against a top tier team from the Big Ten.
Related: Best Unique Holiday Experiences For Kids In The North Bay
Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on Examiner.com.