Looking for something to do or someplace to go in the City on Christmas Day? You’ll find most San Francisco venues and merchants closed for the holiday. Don’t worry! Here’s my updated list of fun San Francisco venues that are actually open on December 25.
I know how difficult planning Christmas Day out in the City can be. Before I moved back to the Bay Area again, I tried to plan a family reunion here during the holidays. Yikes. So to save you all the time and trouble researching dead ends like I did, here’s my list of savvy suggestions for things to do (updated annually) including venues that are actually open in San Francisco on Christmas.
Please double check with the venues for changes before you head out. (And if you find something fun to do in SF on Dec. 25 this year that belongs here, let me know and I’ll add it.)
12 Things to Do in San Francisco on Christmas Day
1. Cruise the Bay all day. Red and White Fleet’s Golden Gate Bay Cruise will squire you under the Golden Gate Bridge and around the Bay from a civilized 10am in the morning to 3:45pm in the afternoon. You can often get tickets online for around half off. Starts at the Fisherman’s Wharf area, Pier 43 1/2, at Taylor Street & The Embarcadero. (Other dates available, too.)
2. Visit hotel lobby Christmas displays. Check out the iconic Snow Village at the San Francisco Hyatt Regency (5 Embarcadero Center). Or see the Westin St. Francis (335 Powell Street) decked out in more than $40,000 worth of spectacular holiday decorations, including San Francisco’s largest Sugar Castle created by Joe Vincent Designs. Both are free to view.
3. Take a self-guided Christmas lights tour. San Francisco hosts eco-friendly light art installations by local and world renowned light artists that are free to view from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day — called Illuminate SF Festival of Light. You’ll find a map and guides on their website. Although some are indoors, many are outdoors and viewable by public transportation.
4. Take a tall Christmas tree tour. Visit the giant San Francisco Christmas trees at Macy’s, Union Square, the Presidio, Ghirardelli Square, and Pier 39.
5. Go ice skating in San Francisco. You can skate under the stars near the waterfront throughout the holiday season, including Christmas Day, at The Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center (located at Justin Herman Plaza, adjacent to Four Embarcadero Center and across from the Ferry Building). Or, try the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square. And the indoor Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center is also open for public skating on December 25 during afternoon and evening hours. Or, head to the SF South Bay where you can skate at San Jose Downtown Ice, the South Bay’s largest seasonal outdoor skating rink.
6. Go to Grace Cathedral. This gorgeous French Gothic cathedral in the in Nob Hill neighborhood is open to the public from 7am to 6pm. They don’t want visitors wandering around during their service, so check the schedule board out front before going inside. You’ll find plenty to look out outside this iconic building, including the ornate doors of solid bronze covered with gold sculptured art panels. FYI, this is the third largest Episcopalian Church in the United States.
7. Wander around the San Francisco Zoo. The SF Zoo is open 365 days a year, including Christmas (10am – 4pm). Savvy tip: During the Zoo’s usual feeding hours, you will mostly likely catch the zookeepers feeding special holiday treats to the penguins (10:30am and 3:30pm), grizzly bears (11:30am), pelicans (3pm), and giraffes (4:30pm). Last year’s treat sitings included zoocicles, snowmen, ice towers, and holiday wrapped goodie boxes with bows.
8. Go to the Gardens. The Botanical Garden at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park will have the gates open on Dec. 25. And although the admission is always free for locals, admission is free for everyone on Christmas day.
9. Listen to the Jazz & Blues. Enjoy down-home Southern cuisine at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco. You can also snag discount tickets for this venue (but they sell out fast for Christmas Day). Voted America’s No. 1 blues nightclub by The Blues Foundation and the Bay Area Blues Society, it’s also known for serving up some of the best fried chicken in the entire region, not to mention California wines, microbrews and specialty cocktails.
10. Dine out. You’ll find dozens of San Francisco Bay Area restaurants serving special Christmas Day dinners, according to OpenTable. They have a special listing of restaurants open Christmas Day in San Francisco. The website lets you sort by price, district, time of day, type of cuisine, and can make reservations right there online.
11. Go to a show. On December 24 & 25, you can see the holiday show Mittens & MistleToe: A Vinter Circus Cabaret for half price (while the offer lasts). The show blends circus, comedy and music, appropriate for all ages. Or check the movie schedules to see what’s playing on December 25. Skip the box office lines and buy movie tickets in advance online before you head out.
12. Go Kosher. Check out the annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show for hilarious Jewish comedy in a Chinese Restaurant on Christmas (December 24-26). This show takes place at the New Asia Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown (772 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA).
12. Go Jewish. On December 25, admission to Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) is free — for everyone (you don’t have to be Jewish). All galleries will be open. The Museum Cafe will also be open. Located at 736 Mission Street (between Third and Fourth streets) in San Francisco. Hours are 11am to 4pm.