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15 Things to Do in San Francisco on Christmas Day

Things to Do in San Francisco on Christmas Day

We know the feeling. Here you are on vacation with your family during a major holiday and there’s nothing open. If you have kids, they are impatient because they’re itching to do something or go somewhere. Well, here’s a list of 15 Things to Do in San Francisco on Christmas Day whether or not you have kids. That’s the day to be a kid so enjoy yourself.

#1 – Take a Hop On Hop Off Tour

Tours are operating on December 25th so you don’t have to miss out on seeing what this great city has to offer. Our office will be closed but you can buy your tickets online and redeem them on the bus or with one of our agents at Union Square.

Buy Tickets Online


#2 – Ice Skating

California Academy of Sciences – From November 16th 2018 until January 6th 2019 you can ice skate at the California Academy of Sciences. Christmas Day opening times are 10am-5pm

Skating at Yerba Buena Gardens – Where else can you feel as if you are back East or Midwest? Skating is one of the sports where you fortunately do not need Mother Nature. Here in San Francisco, we have three man made ice skating rinks (one permanent and the other two just during the Christmas Holiday season).

Skating at Embarcadero – Skating at the Embarcadero is unbelievably peaceful and you can see the giant clock on the Ferry Building across the street while taking in the “F” line streetcars on its way back and forth to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Skating at Union Square – Where else can you skate and see the giant Christmas tree decorated with lights at Union Square?

#3 – Bowling

Bowling at Yerba Buena Gardens – 750 Folsom Street, between 3rd & 4th streets in San Francisco. The Ice and Bowling Centers are located at the Rooftop at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Presidio Bowl – Located in The Presidio National Park and featuring a Bar and Grill this bowling alley is a great choice if you find yourself around the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.


#4 – Go to the Movies

There are three great multiplex theaters in the San Francisco Downtown Area

Metreon theater, 101 4th Street at Mission. On Christmas Day, there are bound to be premieres for the family. Check online to see what’s playing. Show Times

Located at the Westfield shopping mall. Although the mall will be closed, the entrance will be open to the escalators leading up to the theater. In the middle of the top floor is a beautiful glass dome. Show Times

AMC Van Ness located at 1000 Van Ness Ave features 14 movie screens including Real3D and IMAX screens. Show Times


#5 – Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf

Although the shops at Pier 39 will be closed, you can still take a ride down to Pier 39 for lunch and then take pictures at the giant Christmas tree. Go to the rear of the Pier on the 1st level and say “hi” to the sea lions who are not going anywhere for the holidays. After that, why not take a  walk along the Wharf to get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz from afar.

#6 – Macy’s Holiday Windows

This is a nice place to take the kids. Look into the Macy’s holiday windows. For 26 years, the SPCA has helped animals find homes. Be careful because your kids will want to adopt a pet. When done, cross the street to Union Square Park and view the giant Christmas tree.  Adjacent to the tree is the skating rink. If you feel energetic, try ice skating right on the Square.

#7 – The Palace Hotel

If you can book early, it is nice to have Christmas Day Brunch or Holiday Afternoon Tea at the Palace Hotel. You will see the beautiful Christmas tree and decorations.

#8 – Fairmont Hotel’s Famous Gingerbread House

Take the Cable Car to California and Powell, walk to the Fairmont Hotel at California and Mason and see the wondrous Gingerbread House, 23-foot Christmas tree in the main lobby, Molinari Nutcracker collection and holiday decorations.

#9 – Outdoors- Golden Gate Bridge, Land’s End Trail, Muir Woods

Even though the Pavilion will be closed, the Bridge will still be opened and you can take public transportation to the viewing area of the Bridge and walk across Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll need to take two buses there, the #30 (direction towards Broderick or Jefferson Loop) and change at Chestnut and Laguna and take the #28 bus to the Bridge. (Fares are exact change, $2.00 adults, $.75 seniors 65+ and children 5-17.)

Otherwise, try to go to the Land’s End Coastal Trail. Even though the Visitor’s Center will be closed, you can still hike a bit of the trail and stop for something to drink at the Café which will be open.

Muir Woods is open 365 days a year. Admission is $10.00 adults, free for children 15 and under. There is no public transportation to Muir Woods and shuttle service only runs during the summers. However, you can rent a car (best to do this before the holiday and have the car during the holiday) or even schedule a private car with driver. Depending on the number of people in your party, it might be a nice way just to get out of the city.

#10 – Hyatt Regency, Embarcadero

What nice way to put you in the festive mood, with falling snow?? The 30-foot tree with cascading lights in the lobby will amaze you especially when snow falls several times a day. And if you like, just go outside to the skating rink and you’ll feel as if you are in a Currier and Ives picture.

Snow times

November 23rd – December 31st
Daily – 3pm, 5pm and 7pm

December 1st – 23rd
Saturday & Sunday only – 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm

#11 – Cable Car Ride

Ride the famous Cable Car (Powell, Mason or California line). You will see many of the cable cars decorated with holiday lights or trim and what a festive way to take a photo! Bear in mind that lines are sometimes long but purchase a hot cocoa while you are waiting in line and people watch. (Drinks aren’t allowed on the cable cars but by the time you get on, you’ll have finished your drink!)

#12 – Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

Walk through the beautiful gardens and enjoy a tranquil moment walking the arched bridge, stone paths and admiring the koi ponds and zen garden. There is also a Japanese tea house where you can sip green tea and savor Japanese delicacies of tea sandwiches and sweets.

#13 – San Francisco Botanical Gardens

The San Francisco Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park is open year round and on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, admission is free. There are daily docent tours at 1:30pm. departing from the main gate. There are over 55 acres of landscape and over 8,000 types of plants from all over the world. Check out the website,

#14 – Contemporary Jewish Museum

The museum has its Community Day on Christmas Day and is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm. In celebration of The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, special art workshops and music performances will take place. This is a fun place to take the family.

#15 – San Francisco Zoo

The zoo is open 365 days a year. Check out all the animals and the Chinese fire-bellied Newt in the amphibian section as well as the Australian walkabout, featuring plants and animals native to Australia. The zoo is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm. For more info and tickets

Have a wonderful time in San Francisco on Christmas Day whatever you do!

By Kathryn D.