San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker (credit by SF Ballet)
Visitors to San Francisco during the holidays are in store for a variety of delightful events. In fact, some of the world’s most popular holiday traditions were first held in the City by the Bay. While many of San Francisco’s most popular neighborhoods will have a holiday celebration of their own, the following are five of the best events around the city to enjoy for food, culture and entertainment.
San Francisco Ballet – “The Nutcracker”
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Date: Dec. 12-29, 2014
Enjoy a traditional holiday favorite with a performance from the San Francisco Ballet of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” The American premiere of the timeless classic was performed by the San Francisco Ballet on December 24, 1944 and helped make it a holiday tradition across the country. The first performance of the latest production will be held on December 12 and runs through December 29. Tickets to all performances may be purchased online and by phone on performances days. The War Memorial Opera House is located in Civic Center, across the street from City Hall.
Chanukah Festival of Lights
San Francisco, CA 94108
Date: Dec. 16-23, 2014
First held in 1975, the Chanukah Festival of Lights in Union Square was the first big public menorah and celebration outside of Israel. Since that initial large public celebration sponsored by legendary rock promoter Bill Graham, there are now thousands of public menorah lightings all over the world. The eight-day festival of light begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev and the first lighting of the beautiful 25-foot-tall mahogany menorah will be led by Rabbi Yosef Langer of Chabad of San Francisco. Public lighting ceremonies will continue each night for seven more days, with a special festival on Bill Graham Menorah Day, Sunday, December 21.
Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Cow Palace Exhibition Halls
2600 Geneva Ave.
Daly City, CA 94014
Date: Nov. 22 to Dec. 21, 2014
Now in its 36th year, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair celebrates the life of Charles Dickens in an enormous holiday setting within San Francisco’s historic Cow Palace. A very popular Bay Area tradition, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is held over three acres of exhibition halls in a delightful recreation of Victorian London, during the time Charles Dickens wrote many of his most famous novels, including the timeless classic “A Christmas Carol,” first published in 1843. Visitors will be treated to live performances, on seven stages featuring performers dressed in Victorian costumes, a dance part and a visit with Father Christmas. Traditional Victorian-era holiday food will be available, such as Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips and hot roasted chestnuts, in addition to refreshments, including craft beer and fine wines.
Lighted Boat Parade
San Francisco, CA 94133
Date: Dec.12, 2014
The largest and oldest holiday boat parade on the San Francisco Bay, sponsored by the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District and the St. Francis Yacht Club, returns to entertain what is expected to be thousands of spectators. More than 60 boats decorated with a colorful array of holiday lights will be featured in the parade that begins at 5:30 p.m. at PIER 39, continues past Fisherman’s Wharf and turns around at Crissy Field. Recommended places to watch this special holiday regatta include PIER 39, Aquatic Park, the Marina Green and Crissy Field. Visitors will also enjoy viewing the 60-foot Christmas tree at PIER 39, holiday meals at nearby restaurants and the Fisherman’s Wharf Fishing Fleet will be lit with holiday lights throughout the holidays.
Union Square Ice Rink
333 Post St.
Date: Now through Jan. 19, 2015
The Union Square Holiday Ice Rink has returned to entertain thousands of people in the heart of San Francisco’s premiere shopping district. The rink is open daily through from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. except on December 31, when it closes at 9:30 p.m. Upcoming special events include the popular Macy’s Tree Lighting Ceremony on November 28 and a Polar Bear Skate on New Year’s Day. General admission is $11, children eight and under are $7 and skate rentals are $6. Group rates are also available Monday through Thursday through December 5, 2014 and from January 5 to 15, 2015.
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.