Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, it’s full speed ahead through the rest of the holiday season. Don’t stress — there are plenty of local galleries, pop-ups and fairs so you can stock up on gifts, as well as an array of family-friendly entertainment to keep everyone in the best of spirits. Check out all the Bay Area has to offer as we head into the busiest time of the year.
Enjoy a Klezmer concert
Head over to the Old First Church for an in-person concert or enjoy a Klezmer party in your own living room this Saturday, courtesy of the San Francisco Yiddish Combo. The group brings its special blend of traditional Eastern European sounds with hints of hip-hop, jazz, blues and folk. The five musicians are classically trained and led by cellist Rebecca Roudman.
Saturday, December 4, 8 p.m. (live and virtual)
Celebrate a classical icon
Beethoven turned the big 2-5-0 last year, but since so many events were postponed or canceled due to the pandemic, Symphony San Jose is celebrating his 251th b-day instead. SSJ salutes the innovator under the leadership of Maestro John Nelson. Internationally renowned local favorite Jon Nakamatsu will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and the Fifth Symphony.
Saturday, December 4, 8 p.m.; Sunday, December 5, 2:30 p.m.
See a unique production of a holiday staple
Nothing kicks off the holiday season quite like a production of It’s A Wonderful Life, and thanks to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, fans of the movie can experience it in a whole new way. Adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra and Jo Swerling, It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play presents the 1946 film as a 1940s-era radio play. Five actors take on dozens of roles — even providing all of the live sound effects — to tell the iconic tale of love, loss and redemption. Performances are presented live in Palo Alto and can be livestreamed as well.
December 4–26 (previews December 1–3)
Peruse artwork from dozens of local creators
The ICB Artists Association, a collective of more than 75 creators from around the Bay, opens its Sausalito studio, inviting the public to see works up close and personal. Among those participating in ICB Winter Open Studios are Judith Calder, Georgette Osserman and Davey Whitcraft.
Saturday, December 4, and Sunday, December 5, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Take the kids to a family-friendly version of this ballet must-see
The Peninsula Ballet Theatre presents Nutcracker Sweets, an abridged version of Gregory Amato’s reimagining of the classic story. Specifically tailored to young audiences and families, the show is performed by members of the PBT Conservatory along with artists from the professional company. The 55-minute performance takes place in the company’s intimate Studio One Theatre in San Mateo. For an extra treat, book a separate ticket for the Sugar Plum Tea Party on December 5 or 11.
Saturday, December 4; Sunday, December 5; Saturday, December 11; Sunday, December 12; 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Commemorate 35 years of a Bay Area dance tradition
ODC/Dance brings The Velveteen Rabbit to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts stage to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Bay Area tradition. Directed and choreographed by KT Nelson, the production is based on the beloved children’s tale by Margery Williams. With a musical score by Benjamin Britten, the show is a crowd-pleaser for all ages and available both in-person and on-demand.
Saturday, December 4–Sunday, December 12 (ASL interpretation will be offered December 5 and 11)
Escape to a winter wonderland in Old Palo Alto
For one magical night only, Palo Alto’s Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden will be transformed into a winter wonderland. An Evening of Holiday Cheer at the historic home and garden includes festively lit trees, a European-style marketplace, arts and crafts galore for the kids (plus free ice cream!) and much more. Even Santa, the Snow Queen and the Grinch will be attendance.
Friday, December 3, 5:30–7:30 p.m.
Head to the drive-in for a unique big-screen experience
Fort Mason FLIX offers a truly special way to get in the holiday spirit with two showings of Deck the Hall at the Drive-In, a digital family program presented on the big screen. Hosted by the San Francisco Symphony’s Resident Conductor of Engagement and Education Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser and featuring SF Symphony musicians and holiday characters, the festive experience includes two options: an earlier dress-up event and a later pajama party option.
Sunday, December 5, 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Take home a wonderful clay creation
Support a local maker while getting some holiday shopping done! Ruby’s Clay Studio & Gallery in San Francisco is hosting its annual holiday show and sale, featuring works by 22 artists. Through its gallery and classes, the nonprofit cooperative is dedicated to keeping the ceramic arts accessible to all.
Now through December 31
Find a work of art for everyone on your list
Explore and shop original drawings, paintings, prints, ceramics, tapestries and one-of-a-kind fashions at Creativity Explored’s Holiday Art Pop-Up Shop at the Ferry Building. The San Francisco nonprofit, which was founded in 1983, supports and celebrates neurodiverse and disabled Bay Area artists. Stop by on Saturday to meet an artist, partake in an art-making activity and, of course, browse the collection.
Saturdays through December 18, 8 a.m.–3 p.m.