JJ Team Editor

December’s holidays always make it the busiest month of the year.  We are all running around shopping, to gatherings and parties and of course waiting for Santa Claus to visit.  We put together a bucket list of Christmas and holiday-themed activities in the San Francisco Bay Area from the city and down on the Peninsula and Silicon Valley.  Take a look and if you have holiday activities you know we’d love, please add it to the comments or on our social media.  Happy Holidays!

Before we get started, here are some Elf on the Shelf ideas, including some good ones from our Pinterest page. Please feel free to post more in the comments as well. Some nights we just don’t have the energy to find a BRAND NEW SPOT!

Visit the Reindeers at the California Academy of Sciences Dec. 5

A 2023 bucket list of holiday and Christmas activities in the San Francisco Bay Area from the city and down on the Peninsula. Look for Santa Claus at the musuem too.

However you celebrate the holidays, a visit to the California Academy of Sciences should be at the top of your activity list. Get your tickets NOW for one night only! Tues. Dec. 5 at 6:30 PM come visit Holly and Noel, the two visiting reindeer.  You’ll be able to pet them and learn about their natural habitats. If you miss this event, science lovers of all ages can still revel in a festive array of winter-themed activities, can’t-miss events, jolly live shows, falling snow, and icy science experiments.  And of course, nearly 40,000 animals are eager to offer you their season’s greetings as they love Christmas in San Francisco too.

California Academy of Sciences Holiday activities Bay Area. Will you find Santa Claus too?

For the adults, check out Nightlife on Thurs., Dec. 7. It gives you a chance to visit the nocturnal side of the Cal Academy with a holiday twist. Purchase tickets in advance to ensure availability. There is a second Nightlife event on Dec. 14 at the Cal Academy as well.

17th Annual Hometown Holidays in Redwood City on December 2nd

Get in the holiday spirit and join the festivities as Redwood City’s Downtown Business Group hosts the 17th annual Hometown Holidays on Dec 2nd.  Rain or shine, participants can enjoy:

  • photos with Santa Claus from 10 am -3 pm
  • Christmas in Toyland parade from 4:30 – 5:30 pm
  • live entertainment at the Courtyard Square all day
  • Wine, Beer and Vendors on Courtyard Square
  • carnival rides

Even better, it’s a free and family-friendly event on Courthouse Square. There will be food tents and trucks on Hamilton as well.

Hanukkah Pop-Up Party at Ghirardelli Square Dec. 18

Ghirardelli Square Hanukkah party in San Francisco.

JCCSF’s sixth annual Glowing Hanukkah Party returns to Ghirardelli Square on Sun., Dec. 10. This free, family-friendly event showcases the lighting of candles, live (glowing!) music, Hanukkah crafts, games and sweet treats from the merchants at Ghirardelli Square. At 4:30 pm there will be a special Hanukkah candle lighting, blessings and sing-along.

Holiday Ice Rink In Union Square

Nothing is more iconic to Christmas in San Francisco than skating at the Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square. The city’s top outdoor rink is open now and features daily ice skating for all ages through January 15th. General admission, including skate rental, is $20, and children under 8 are $15.  You can also rent a locker. Go online to purchase tickets in advance

Check the website for their special holiday events too. You won’t want to miss the Simba Saturdays feturing music from the Lion King, Silent Skate Party (Dec. 14), Flashback Fridays (Dec. 3 and Jan. 12), the Polor Bear Skate (Jan. 1) and much more!

Macy’s Santaland in San Francisco

If you are in the city, Macy’s Santaland, located on the 7th floor alongside festive Holiday Lane, is one of the most popular spots for Christmas in San Francisco to see Santa Claus. Your kids can drop off their letter to Santa Claus into the red letterbox to help raise a million dollars for Make-A-Wish.  You can make reservations up to five days in advance.  Hot Tip 1: Reservations are open at 6:30 am each day – remember to include every member of your party in the reservation. Hot Tip 2: If you don’t already have a reservation at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, walk-ups on Christmas Eve are all that’s available.

Christmas Lane in San Carlos on Eucalyptus Ave.

Every house goes crazy with lights, inflatables, and Christmas lights on the 1900 block of Eucalyptus Ave. in San Carlos every evening from Dec. 5th-Dec. 25th. This is the spot to see Christmas lights in the Bay Area! This area of San Carlos is serious about the holidays. A few examples:  

  • During the month of December, traffic flows one way. 
  • If you buy a home in this area, you will most likely sign a disclosure stating you will decorate.  
  • Be on the lookout for Santa Claus at times 
  • And even some “snowfalls” on some evenings!

Night of Holiday Lights: San Carlos on Dec. 1st

Join the crowd in downtown San Carlos from 5-8:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1st. Festivities will take place on Laurel Street, from San Carlos Avenue to Cherry Street, with the main stage located on Cherry Street. Visit the Parks & Recreation booth on the 700 block of Laurel Street to pick up a coupon book filled with special offers from participating local businesses! This free event includes:

  • Family Fun and Kids’ Activities
  • Carolers and Musical Performances
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Beer and Wine sales
  • Hot Chocolate and Holiday Goodies
  • Holiday Show, Festive Lights, and Snow

Winter Lodge Ice Skating in Palo Alto

If you are looking to ice skate in Palo Alto, the Winter Lodge is a true favorite. You can purchase tickets for the public skating sessions and make group event reservations too.  It’s the coolest place to hang out with friends and family. Because it’s open through April 7, 2024 – if you don’t make it before the holidays, add it to your list of fun things to do after the New Year. USA Today ranked the Winter Lodge as the No. 1 skating rink in the US according to Yelp reviews.

Ice Skating in Central Park … in San Mateo

The holiday ice skating rink in San Mateo at Central Park hosts three days of free skating in the next month. The free sessions at San Mateo on Ice include skates. The sessions are hosted on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 from 2-5 pm and 6-9 pm. You can purchase tickets in advance for San Mateo on Ice. It is open through Jan. 7, 2024.

Santa Days and Nights at the Filoli in Woodwise

The Filoli in Woodside features really unique events for the holidays.  It is decorated for the holidays through January 7th. The events include tablescapes from a number of different holiday traditions including:

  • Kwanzaa
  • Oshogatsu
  • Yalda Night
  • Lunar New Year
  • Hanukkah
  • Las Posadas
  • Christmas

In addition, Santa flies to Filoli for Santa Days in December. For the kiddos, get their pictures with Santa on his festive golden throne.  And then enjoy a warm drink and holiday treats on the Woodland Court.

For the adults, relax with friends at your own private fire pit under the magically lit oak.  Imagine bringing up to 15 guests, huddled around the fire pit, drinking mulled wine or hot whiskey cider; sounds magical right? Make your reservations today!

Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade: Watch the Replay

We’re a little late to the party for the infamous Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade on Nov. 26 in Los Altos, but mark your calendars for Nov. 25, 2024. You can watch the parade in full after Dec 1 here.

Thank you for reading J+J Team Homes Blog on Holiday Activities in the Bay Area

If you have any questions or a topic you’d be interested in learning more about – leave us a comment below or on our social media. Or reach out to us directly. Even if you aren’t in the market, we’d love it if you’d pass along our information to those on the lookout.