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The Best Holiday Events in the Bay Area for Families

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

bay area holiday events activities families kids san francisco

My favorite time of year is here... which also means a lot of fun Holiday events and activities in the Bay Area for families - and when I say a lot, I mean a lot! 

The list is endless so we are here to help, and share with you our favorite TO DO’s with our family during the Holiday season in the Bay Area. 

Skip ahead to a specific part of the Bay Area here:


Ice Skating on the Holiday Rink at Union Square, near the well-known Union Square Christmas tree - a true holiday tradition.

When: November 1 - January 15

Where: Holiday Ice Rink, 333 Post Street, San Francisco

Price: Adults (9+) is $20 | Age 8 years and under $15. Prices includes skate rental

Watch your favorite Christmas movie with live orchestra

When: The Nightmare Before Christmas plays on November 30 at 7:30pm and on December 1 at 7:30pm, Love Actually plays on December 16 at 7:30pm, Home Alone plays on December 22 at 3pm and on December 23 at 7:30pm

Where: San Francisco Symphony, 201 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco

Price: Prices range from $32.50 - $250 (depends on the day and movie) 

Watch the true Christmas classic “Elf” with themed games, props and singing loud for all to hear

When: December 6 at 6:30pm | December 16 at 11am | December 17 at 11am | December 23 at 11am

Where: Alamo Draft House, 2550 Mission Street, San Francisco

Price: $24 per person

A life-sized gingerbread house - a Christmas must visit

When: November 24 - December 31

Where: Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason Street, San Francisco

Price: FREE

Come check out this famous Sugar Castle 

When: November 22 (reveal at 11am) - January 2

Where: Westin St. Francis Hotel, 335 Powell Street, San Francisco

Price: FREE

Lots of Christmas lights and music and the famous Pier39

When: November 21 - January 7

Where: Pier39, San Francisco

Price: FREE

Experience the famous Nutcracker at the SF Ballet - please note that kids under 3 are not allowed to join

When: December 3 - December 30

Where: SF Ballet, 455 Franklin Street, San Francisco

Price: Prices range from $25 - $550 (depends on the day and time). 

Christmas festivities & market at the Ferry Building

When: Santa Visit on December 3 from 11am-2pm | Holiday Open House on December 6 from 5-7pm | And many more Christmas activities

Where: 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco

Price: FREE but RSVP required

Several Holidays events at Chocolate heaven square

When: Kick off on November 24 from 4:30pm - 8pm with Santa Lights the Square

Where: Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point Street, San Francisco

Price: FREE

Experience Victorian London during Christmas

When: November 25 and 26 from 10am - 6pm

Where: Cow Palace, San Francisco

Price: Adult $45 & $2 fee | Youth (5-12) $25 & $2 fee - NOTE: Tickets are ONLY sold online

Christmas Sensory Play Fun 

When: December 17 from 10:30am - 1:30pm

Where: Spark Social, 601 Mission Bay Boulevard North, San Francisco

Price: Prices range from $30 to $49

Largest Holiday Projection event

When: December 1 - December 10 from 5pm-10pm

Where: Downtown SF

Price: FREE


Mini chalets, holiday ice rink, smores and hot cocoa!

When: November 17 - January 28

Where: Four Seasons, 2050 University Ave, East Palo Alto

Price: FREE but the Ice Rink requires tickets - $30 per person

Enjoy public ice skating sessions, book a private tent or private session.

When: November 10 - January 7

Where: 50 E 5th Ave, San Mateo

Price: FREE on 11/28, 12/5, and 12/12 from 2p-5p and 6p-9p. All other days prices starting at $18+ (kids must be ages 4y+)


Santa’s Magic Timepiece is a full sensory adventure

When: November 24 - December 31

Where: Paypal Park, San Jose

Price: Adult $33 | Youth (3-17) $28.50 | Kids (0-2) are free 

A two-acre park that is transformed into a holiday fantasy with over 40 musical and animated exhibits, glittering lights and the 50-foot Community Giving Tree

When: November 24 - January 1

Where: Plaza de Cesar Chávez, San Jose

Price: FREE except rides. The Drive Thru Light Show requires tickets - $30 per car

Gilroy Gardens turns into a wintry wonderland of the North Pole

When: November 24 - December 31

Where: Gilroy Gardens, 3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy

Price: $50 per person | Kids under 3 years old are free 

Experience the beautiful winter gardens full of lights

When: November 18 - November 22 | November 24 - November 30 | December 1 - December 23 | December 26 - January 7 from 4pm - 9pm

Where: Filoli Gardens,  86 Cañada Road, Woodside 

Price: Adult $45 | Kids (5-17) $35 | Kids under 5 are free 

Christmas Wonderland at this famous amusement park is a great Bay Area holiday event for families

When: November 24 - December 31 

Where: Great America, 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara

Price: Adult $37.99 | Junior/Senior $19.99


A family favorite: animal lanterns all through the Zoo

When: November 16- 22  | November 24 - 26 | November 29 and 30 | December 1 - 23 | December 26 - 31 | January 1 - 7 | January 10 -14 | January 17 - 21 | January 24 - 28 from 5pm - 9pm

Where: Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland

Price: Adult $26 | Kids (2-14)/Seniors (65-75): $22 | Under 2 and 76 and over: Free

Fairyland has been changed in a magical winterland

When: December 15 - 17 | December 20 - 23 | December 26 - 30 from 12pm - 7pm

Where: Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland

Price: $16 per person

Check out this street in Alameda that is turned into a true Christmas lane

When: December 3 - December 31

Where: 3200 Block of Thompson Avenue, Alameda

Price: FREE


Walk in Christmas town and meet Santa and the best of all: train ride in the Redwood Forest Steam Train up to Bear Mountain

When: November 24 - November 26 | December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17

Where: Roaring Camp, 5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton 

Price: Adult (13 and up) $44.95 | Kids (2-12) $22.95 | Kids under 2 are free 

Get on this train full of lights, with Santa and his elves on board, while you sip on hot cider and sing Christmas songs. 

When: November 24 - November 25 | December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23

Where: Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz

Price: Standard: Adult (13 and up) $44.95 | Kids (2-12) $32.95 | Kids under 2 are free 


Shop, eat, music, and meet Santa at the Holiday market

When: December 7 - December 10

Where: Mill Valley Lumber Yard, 129 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley

Price: FREE

Go ice skating at Meritage Resort and enjoy hot chocolate in outdoor igloos. 

When: November 17- January 7

Where: The Meritage Resort & Spa 875 Bordeaux Way, Napa

Price: VIP Igloo experience starting from $250, ice skating $25 (see special discounts for certain weekdays)

Enjoy different trips on the Napa Valley Wine Train such as Santa’s Cookie Car, Gourmet Express, Jingle on the Rails and Very Merry Vista Dome

When: Specific dates from November 30 to December 23 

Where: 1275 McKinstry Street, Napa

Price: starting at Adult $100+ | Kids $80+

Napa Regional Dance Company in collaboration with Festival Napa Valley present The Nutcracker with live orchestra 

When: December 15- December 17 

Where: Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center- 2277 Napa Vallejo Highway, Napa

Price: starting from $65+

A dazzling self-guided tour  that will incorporate new sculptures by local artists and exciting new lighting designs to lead you through tunnels of twinkle lights and to whimsical stops along the paths.

When: November 17 to January 16

Where: Sculpture Garden at the LBC, 50 Mark West Springs Road, in Santa Rosa.

Price: Free and open to the public - open every evening from dusk to 9:30 pm

An all ages immersive light experience with beautiful light displays, fair rides, fake snow made of bubbles, sledding areas where the kids can play in real snow.

When: November 17 to January 7 

Where: Cal-Expo 1600 Exposition Blvd, Sacramento

Price: Tickets start at $23+

Featuring musical shows, twinkling lights, holiday treats, Santa, and much more.

Where: November 24- January 7

When: 1001 Fairgrounds Dr, Vallejo

Price: Day Pass starts at $45+

Which holiday events are you planning to check out this season? 

A big thank you to Marjolein from Tiny Travelers San Francisco for contributing this blog post.

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