Though we don’t get to see any snow here, San Franciscans embrace the fun of the holiday season with joy. Our favorite gifts may be shiny new iPhones rather than shiny new sleds, but we know how and where to find some traditional Christmas spirit.
Union Square: The epicenter of the San Francisco Christmas season, Union Square draws revelers by the thousands. The giant Christmas tree was lit the day after Thanksgiving. Kids love to play and dream in the giant Disney store, while their parents may prefer the more grown-up toys in the Tiffany’s, Macy’s, Saks, and dozens of other shops ringing in the Square and surrounding blocks. Zillions of hotels ring Union Square—if you’re trying to save up for shopping, get a room at the Hotel Rex or the Handlery Hotel.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair: Whether you swirl into a waltz at Fezziwig’s warehouse or take high tea at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe, let the Victorian costumes and sweet scenes of Charles Dickens’ merry olde England sweep you into a fantasy holiday world. Held annually in the Cow Palace, the Dickens Fair captures the historic spirit of the holidays — thankfully without the coal smoke or biting cold of the real 19th century London.
Embarcadero Center Ice Rink: Giving San Franciscans a taste of winter in a different climate, the annual outdoor ice rink at Embarcadero Center livens up the usually staid Financial District. Families with kids flock to the ice during the days, while teenagers and romantic couples prefer to skate under the stars—especially Monday through Thursday when skating after 6 p.m. is free. You won’t save enough on evening skating to pay for a room at Le Meridien, but if you’re already splurging on the luxury hotel in the EC, be sure to hit the rink.