Davies Symphony Hall (credit: Steve Jennings/Getty Images)
Are you planning on staying home in San Francisco for the holidays and looking for things to do? In a great city like the City by the Bay, it shouldn’t be a problem with holiday events scheduled virtually every day throughout the city all through December. But with hundreds of special events to choose from, such as the amazing gingerbread house at the Fairmont Hotel and Lighted Boat Parade at Fisherman’s Wharf, what else is happening over the holidays in the City by the Bay? Here are five of the best things to do during your holiday staycation in San Francisco.
(credit: Randy Yagi)
Holidays with the San Francisco Symphony
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
The San Francisco Symphony and music director Michael Tilson Thomas will present a number of holiday performances including a rare evening with legendary composer Burt Bacharach and Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” with Rita Moreno. Along with the San Francisco Symphony, Bacharach is expected to perform several of his most memorable songs that earned him six Grammy Awards and three Academy Awards on December 10-11, including “Alfie”, “What the World Needs Now is Love” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” One of just a few individuals to win all four major American entertainment awards, including an Oscar for the 1961 film “West Side Story,” Rita Moreno will narrate “Peter and the Wolf” accompanied by the San Francisco Youth Symphony Orchestra and led by resident conductor Donato Cabrera on December 14. Other notable events held over the holidays are the “Colors of Christmas” featuring Peabo Byson, Taylor Dayne, Jennifer Holliday and “American Idol” star Reuben Studdard from December 15-17, Handel’s “Messiah” featuring renowned British-born conductor Jane Glover from December 18-20 and “A Charlie Brown Christmas – Live!” led by conductor Randall Craig Fleischer from December 19-24.
Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Cow Palace Exhibition Hall
2600 Geneva Ave.
Daly City, CA 94014
Date: Nov. 22 – Dec. 21, 2014
The largest and perhaps the most popular holiday-themed event in the Bay Area is the annual Dickens Fair at the historic Cow Palace. Open on weekends through December 21, the enormous event is described as a “one-of-a-kind adventure into Victorian London” inspired by the works of Charles Dickens. Visitors can enjoy traditional holiday, shopping, live entertainment and a chance to meet fictional characters from Charles Dickens novels such as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Ebenezer Scrooge and Father Christmas, in addition to Charles Dickens himself. Located just outside of the San Francisco city limits, the Dickens Fair is open on weekends through December 21. Parking is available on site, as well as public transportation options, including a free shuttle service from the Glen Park BART Station.
Ice Skating at Union Square Holiday Ice Rink
333 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
Date: Nov. 5, 2014 – Jan. 15, 2015
It’s not nearly as famous as the ice rink at New York City’s Rockefeller Center but the Union Square Ice Rink is already attracting crowds for affordable holiday entertainment. Located in the heart of San Francisco’s finest shopping district, the rink is open 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., except on New Year’s Eve, and general admission for a 90-minute skating session is $11 and $7 for children under eight. Visitors will also enjoy the Bill Graham Menorah during the Chanukah Festival of Lights and the beautiful Macy’s Christmas Tree located adjacent to Dewey Monument in Union Square. Private parties can be arranged on Mondays and Tuesdays before December 10 and after January 5 during the 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. sessions.
War Memorial Opera House (credit: Randy Yagi)
“The Nutcracker” – San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Date: Dec. 12-29, 2014
First performed in America by the San Francisco Ballet on Christmas Eve 1944, “The Nutcracker” has become a national holiday tradition. Led by artistic director and principal choreographer Helgi Tomasson and music director and principal conductor Martin West, the San Francisco Ballet will delight audiences through the two-act performance, considered one of the world’s most popular ballets. Among the most memorable compositions include “Russian Dance” with principal dancer Davit Karapetyan expected to appear as the Nutcracker Prince and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” with principal dancer Sarah Van Patten, also expected to appear. The San Francisco Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is best enjoyed by children who are at least five years old. Tickets to matinee and evening performances are available online via the San Francisco Ballet.
Union Street Fantasy of Lights
2040 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
Date: Dec. 7, 2014
Union Street Fantasy of Lights kicks off with a grand celebration on December 6 for a month-long celebration of holiday events along Union Street. Well known for its stately Victorian homes, the historic neighborhood will be decorated with holiday lights along an eight-block stretch of Union Street between Van Ness Avenue and Steiner Street. Special appearances by the Snow Queen and Santa Claus are expected to greet the children for the kick-off event. Other special events will be held through December and may include a caroling stroll, an ugly sweater contest and live entertainment. Local stores, restaurants and bars along Union Street are also expected to host holiday events.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.