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Joy to the World

And Sugar Plum Fairies Danced . . .

Marvelous Nutcracker performances throughout the Bay Area

It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker   |  December 14 –16 & 21– 23

It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker blends the magic and wonder of a traditional Nutcracker with the heartwarming message from the 1940’s film, It’s a Wonderful Life, and brings two of the world’s most heralded holiday classics together on one stage. This work from Menlowe Ballet’s Artistic Director Michael Lowe is one of the hottest new Bay Area traditions.

Menlo Atherton Performing Arts Center, Atherton,

The Great Russian Nutcracker  |  December 16

All ages are invited to celebrate Christmas with the company of almost 40 ballerinas and dancers on their 26th Anniversary Tour of North America in 2018. Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker is known for its award-winning Principal Dancers and lavish costumes in the style of the Victorian era.

Flint Center for the Performing Arts, Cupertino,

Nutcracker Sweets  |  December 10 – 20

Celebrate the holidays with a 50-minute production of the classic holiday ballet for families with small children and audiences of all ages. This production is danced storytelling that is affordable, magical, zany, and fun. See all of the favorite Nutcracker characters in beautiful costumes performing on a colorful set with live chamber orchestra music.

Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francisco,

Carlos Carvajal’s Nutcracker  |  December 22 – 24

Choreographed by Bay Area dance legend Carlos Carvajal, Peninsula Ballet’s Nutcracker has become the holiday favorite, delighting audiences throughout northern California. Over 125 characters in sumptuous costumes bring the story alive for young and old.

The Fox Theatre, Redwood City.

Santa Clara Ballet’s The Nutcracker  |  December 8 – 9

Celebrating its 45th anniversary, the Santa Clara troupe presents a full-length, traditional version of this classic story. This delightful classic spotlights acclaimed dance professionals alongside company soloists and pre-professional students from schools and dance companies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Santa Clara Convention Center,

 San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker  |  December 12 – 29

Join SF Ballet as the lights dim, the music soars, snowflakes swirl, and a little girl dreams about a new world in a Nutcracker that is as unique as it is magical. Experience the beauty of an international cast of world-class dancers together with the genius of Composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Choreographer Helgi Tomasson.

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco,

San Jose Dance Theatre’s The Nutcracker  |  December 7– 9 & 14 – 16

San Jose’s longest-running production of The Nutcracker will capture your imagination and transport you to a magical world of brave toy soldiers and dancing snowflakes. Masterful conductor Scott Johannes Krijnen will lead the The Cambrian Symphony’s 52 piece symphony orchestra. Continuing the tradition for the 53rd year, San Francisco Bay Area dancers take part in this iconic production.

Center for Performing Arts, San Jose,

Western Ballet’s The Nutcracker   |  Through December 2

Join Clara, Fritz, and all their friends as they celebrate the festive season with the magic of Drosselmeyer, toys that come alive, and Clara’s enchanting visit to the Kingdom of Sweets.

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts,

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Here comes Santa Claus! Save yourself a trip to the North Pole and meet jolly old Saint Nick in person at these very merry venues near you.

Hometown Holidays Festival and Children’s Parade  |  December 1

Redwood City comes alive with Santa, reindeer, ice sculptures, and snow!

Breakfast with Santa  |  December 1

Santa will arrive at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center for a delicious pancake breakfast and festive children’s crafts co-sponsored by the Menlo Park Rotary Club and the City of Menlo Park Community Services Department. Make a reservation, as the multiple seatings fill up quickly.

Family Holiday Tea Party  |  December 2

Visit with Santa, enjoy children’s holiday crafts, and take in a puppet show at Atherton’s Holbrook-Palmer Park.

Santa Paws at Santana Row  |  December 2

Bring your pet to Valencia Park at Santa Row for a photo with Santa. Proceeds benefit Humane Society Silicon Valley.

Napa Valley Santa Train  |  Through December 28

Guests of the Santa Train will experience games, sing-alongs, and a fun cast of holiday-inspired characters, all while savoring hot cocoa and freshly baked cookies. The Wine Train will also be hosting a Secret Santa Toy Drive at the train station and will have receptacles to collect new and unwrapped donated toys from generous riders through December 18.

Where to see Santa:

  • Macy’s Union Square, San Francisco
  • Westfield Centre, San Francisco
  • Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto
  • Hillsdale Shopping Center, San Mateo
  • Westfield Valley Fair, Santa Clara
  • Santana Row, San Jose
  • Los Gatos Town Plaza

Sparkle & Shine!

Magical light displays

Union Street Fantasy of Lights  |  December 1

Union Street is transformed as thousands of lights set off the Victorians, turning the street into a magical backdrop for Santa and his elves to celebrate along with jugglers, ponies dressed as reindeer, costumed characters, and live entertainment. Santa arrives at the Cudworth Mansion at 5:30pm, where he will be available for pictures until 7:00pm. Guests are encouraged to bring new toys for the San Francisco Firefighters’ Toy Program.

Sausalito’s Lighted Boat Parade  |  December 8

There’s nothing like an on-the-water view aboard the classic schooner Freda B for Sausalito’s Lighted Boat Parade and fireworks show. It sells out every year, so get tickets soon! Reservations required.

Parade starts at 6pm and fireworks at 7:30pm.

Christmas in the Park  |  Through December 25

Downtown San Jose comes alive for the season with magical animated holiday scenes and rides in Cesar Chavez Park.

Hilton Union Square  |  Through December 31

Aglow in Christmas cheer, Hilton Union Square’s Tower 1 will light up the city’s holiday skyline with red and green gels, illuminating the Union Square neighborhood. Take in the view from the hotel’s new cityscape sky-view lounge.

Annual Illuminate SF Festival of Light  |  Through January 1, 2019

This event celebrates 32 dramatic, eco-friendly light art installations accessible by public transit and free for all ages. Illuminate SF Festival of Light features the permanent Bay Lights, four vibrant installations in the new SFMOMA, neighborhood light art tours, artist studio and neon walking tours, a stargazing party at the Presidio, and more. Many of San Francisco’s neighborhoods will also light up shopping districts, streets, and galleries, and host participatory activities.

Fantasy of Light, Los Gatos  |  Through December 26

More than just your simple tree lighting, Santa Clara County Parks sponsors this spectacular drive-through light show at Vasona Lake County Park. Trip includes a pair of fantasy 3D glasses and a special holiday treat bag.

Candy Cane Lane Redwood City  |  Through December 25

Park nearby and walk down Redwood City’s Dewey Street between Roosevelt Avenue and Carson Street and delight in the wonderful displays of light.

Christmas Tree Lane Palo Alto  |  Through December 25

The residents of Fulton Street in Palo Alto lovingly don their homes and front lawns with lights and decorations for the community to enjoy. For the best view, plan to park on adjacent streets.

Standing Ovation

Must-see holiday performances

The Velveteen Rabbit  |  Through December 9

The Oberlin Dance Company brings a tradition to life in Margery Williams’ classic tale of a well-worn stuffed rabbit that becomes “real.” Told through music, dance, and narrative, The Velveteen Rabbit celebrates a relationship between a boy and his stuffed rabbit, and the power of love.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco,

A Christmas Carol  |  December 6 – 29

Delightful music, gorgeous costumes, and spooky ghosts return as the American Conservatory Theater presents this classic. This version of A Christmas Carol stays true to Dickens’ story of redemption and brings playful sensibility to his rich language.

A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, San Francisco,

Smuin Ballet’s The Christmas Ballet  |  Through December 24

Smuin kicks off the holidays with the return of The Christmas Ballet, featuring two acts packed to the brim with both flawless classical ballet and red-hot contemporary numbers. Celebrating the company’s silver anniversary, the 2018 ballet includes original pieces from Michael Smuin, plus two festive world premieres: a beautiful new work by Rex Wheeler, plus a pas de deux by Erica Felsch.

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts & Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco,

A Christmas Story: The Musical   |  Through January 13

A holiday family favorite, this beloved story is based on the popular film of the same name. Nominated for three Tony Awards in 2013, A Christmas Story is a classic and heartfelt holiday tale backed by a magnificent score.

San Francisco Playhouse,

Joy!  |  December 1 – 3

This holiday show with circus, dance, and live music features the reunion of Cirque du Soleil soloists Jeff Raz and Diane Was-nak. It is set to the live music of SoVoSó performing seasonal favorites and accompanying a madcap holiday circus featuring acrobats, dancers, and circus artists in a zany holiday spectacular.

The Hammer Theater, San Jose,

A Christmas Carol—A Musical  |  November 29 – December 16

Broadway heavy hitters Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens breathe new life into the classic tale of A Christmas Carol.

Hillbarn Theatre, Foster City.


Not-to-be-missed choral events

Deck the Halls with the San Francisco Symphony  |  December 2

Enjoy a concert of holiday favorites and sing-alongs with members of the San Francisco Symphony, guest artists, and costumed characters. Tickets include post-concert festivities with treats, arts and crafts, entertainment, and more.

Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco,

Ragazzi Boys Chorus  |  December 2

This performance honors composers through the ages who have contemplated their natural surroundings, giving thanks through music for nature’s gifts. A fun and syncopated Deck the Halls (in 7/8) sets the stage for Moses Hogan’s arrangements. Concerts will conclude with traditional carols and an invitation for the audience to join in song.

Messiah Lutheran Church, Redwood City,

A Chanticleer Christmas  |  December 12

It wouldn’t be December at Stanford without this a cappella male choir filling Memorial Church with sound and joy. Since its 1978 founding by Louis Botto, Chanticleer has toured the world, winning bravos from the capitals of Europe to the greenways of Central Park, where the group has sung with the New York Philharmonic.

Memorial Church, Stanford,

Holiday Soul with Vanessa Williams  |  December 7 – 8

The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir’s vocals and harmonies have garnered praise from critics and audiences around the world. This year, they combine talents with acclaimed entertainer Vanessa Williams. Don’t miss this performance of soul, jazz, and Christmas classics, with plenty of vocal fireworks and foot-stomping energy.

Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco,

Love Actually with the SF Symphony  |  December 11 – 12

The funny, irresistible, and heart-warm-ing Love Actually is set in contemporary London in the weeks before Christmas and tells one tale that weaves together a spectacular number of love stories—all funny in their own way.

Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco,

’Twas the NightA Festival of Carols   |  December 23

Delight in a warm and intimate holiday program and sing along with your favorite seasonal tunes at San Francisco Symphony’s Davies Symphony Hall, which will be cheerfully decorated for the season, putting you and yours in a holiday mood. You’ll hear members of the Symphony’s brass section and singers from the chorus, all accompanied by the gorgeous Ruffatti organ, creating Yuletide memories that will last a lifetime.

Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco,

Carols in the California  |  December 7

The Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale, under the baton of Elena Sharkova, presents the annual Carols in the California, a festive program of holiday cheer. Come for a traditional sing-along of your favorite carols with the choir and brass ensemble and prepare to be dazzled by performances of classical works by members of Symphony Silicon Valley and the SSV Chorale, all in the warm glow of the beautifully restored California Theatre.

The California Theatre, San Jose,

Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel

Hanukkah events

Annual Chanukah Festival  |  December 2

At 4pm in downtown Redwood City, the 9-foot-tall menorah lighting ceremony will take place in Courthouse Square. Enjoy arts & crafts, latkes and sufganiyot, and the Chanukah gelt drop.

Courthouse Square, Redwood City,

Bill Graham Menorah in Union Square  |  December 2 – 9

Local dignitaries participate in the lighting of the menorah in San Francisco’s Union Square. Times vary each evening.

Hanukkah Celebration at Stanford Shopping Center  |  December 14

Celebrate the Jewish festival of lights with a musical performance by Isaac Zones of Shamati, arts and crafts for the kids, dreidel games, and a special candle lighting ceremony. 5pm – 7pm in the plaza near Neiman Marcus.

Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto,

Ice, Ice Baby!

Where to Skate this Holiday Season

Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center  |  November – early January

Celebrate the holiday spirit in San Francisco at the Bay Area’s largest outdoor ice rink. Enjoy a beautiful city setting and an array of shops and restaurants.

Justin Herman Plaza, Embarcadero Center, San Francisco,

Safeway Ice Rink at Union Square  |  unscheduled

Everyone can enjoy ice-skating in San Francisco’s iconic plaza surrounded by the sights and sounds of the season. Hailed as one of the “Best Ice Skating Rinks in the U.S.” by the “TODAY” show, the Holiday Ice Rink delights children of all ages with ice-skating, a variety of performances, and special birthday treats.

Union Square, San Francisco,

San Mateo on Ice  |  Through January 13

The Bay Area’s largest outdoor ice-skating rink is open to all ages, offering daily recreational ice-skating, skate rental included. San Mateo on Ice also offers parties, private ice time, and special events. The outdoor ice rink features 9,000 square feet of REAL ice. Skaters will be able to skate in the sunshine during the day, and under the stars at night.

Central Park, San Mateo,

Winter Lodge  |  Open all winter long

There’s something magical about ice-skating out in the fresh air, and Palo Alto’s Winter Lodge is the only permanent outdoor ice rink west of the Sierras. A popu-lar Peninsula tradition for 60 years now, Winter Lodge and its renowned skating school are open late September until April. $11 single admission, $5 skate rental.

3009 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto,

Nazareth Ice Oasis  |  Open all winter long

This classic indoor rink offers public skate sessions, hockey leagues, figure skating, and broomball for private parties.

3140 Bay Road, Redwood City,

Holiday Homes, Tours, & Local Events

Fun ways to get into the Holiday Spirit

A Century of Traditions  |  Through December 23

Family traditions will be honored at the historic Filoli house, featuring a story of Christmases from 1917 – 1975 and beautiful décor. This year’s nine-day centennial celebration kicks off on November 18th, when the dining room transforms into a yesteryear holiday party. On the following days, you can shop the boutiques, enjoy lunch or a historical dinner in the café. Each Saturday during the holidays, Filoli will feature activities geared to families.

Filoli, Woodside,

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair  |  Through December 23

Over three acres of exhibition halls are transformed into the lively world of Charles Dickens’ London. Cheerful calls of street vendors meld with songs of holiday carolers; enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air; and inviting shops overflow with one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts. Guests are surprised and delighted by scenes and colorful characters out of Victorian life and fiction.

Cow Palace, Daly City,

The Fairmont Gingerbread House and Holiday Tea  |  Through January 1

Fairmont’s elves are once again working overtime to create a dazzling, unparalleled winter display. The highlight of this awe-inspiring exhibit will be the two-story giant Gingerbread House in the hotel’s grand lobby. Make the whole holiday excursion complete by reserving your spot at the hotel’s Gingerbread Holiday Tea.

The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco,

Christmas at Our House  |  November 30 – December 1

Now in its 30th year, Christmas at Our House benefits the Women’s Club of St. Francis—a Holy Cross High School. Event highlights include a Gala Christmas Party, a Gift Boutique, entertainment showcasing Saint Francis family musicians and vocalists, designer displays, a Santa’s Workshop, and a prize raffle.

Saint Francis School, Mountain View,

Christmas Tree Elegance  |  December 1

One of Silicon Valley’s most beloved holiday events, Valle Monte League’s Christmas Tree Elegance will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the event’s signature element—the Jeweled Tree. This fundraising extravaganza includes over a dozen designer holiday trees, a fashion show, brunch, and a dinner party. Each year a special piece of jewelry, titled the ‘Valle Monte Sparkle,’ is donated by a local jeweler. For the past ten years, Joe Escobar Diamonds in Campbell (a third generation jeweler) has donated the ‘Valle Monte Sparkle,’ and will be doing so again this year. As Stacey Escobar says, “Valle Monte has always been special to our family. Our late father Joe believed firmly in giving back to the community—his spirit of generosity is core to our family and business. It’s a true joy to continue the tradition of giving back to the community.”

DoubleTree Hotel, San Jose,

Holiday Heroes  |  December 4

Held at the home of the San Francisco Giants, Holiday Heroes turns the Club Level at AT&T into a holiday wonderland for more than 300 underserved children and their families. Meet current and former players and mascots from the San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Golden State Warriors, San Jose Earthquakes, Cal Bears, and performers from the San Francisco Ballet. Holiday Heroes endeavors to connect at-risk youth with professional athletes with the goal of providing the recipient children with hope and direction.

AT&T Park, San Francisco ,

Ring in the New Year!

Welcome 2019

San Francisco Symphony  |  December 31

Celebrate with famed drag sensation Peaches Christ, Edwin Outwater, and the SF Symphony! Featuring a lineup of surprise guest stars, vocalists, and drag queens galore, you’ll be regaled by big laughs, big fun, and even bigger hair.  Before the ball drops, kick off your celebrations at Davies Symphony Hall with an evening of sass and flair fit for a queen.

Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco,

San Francisco’s Fireworks  |  December 31

At 11:59pm, a fireworks display will light up the night sky over the Bay. You can watch the fireworks anywhere along the eastern side of San Francisco by the waterfront. If you have time to get there early, your best bet is to grab a seat somewhere along the waterfront to the south of the Ferry Building, where you can stake out a spot and wait for the show to begin.

The Waterfront, San Francisco, 


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