by Melanie Graysmith

Holiday 2016 is almost here and, lucky for us, San Francisco proves again it is the city that knows how to do it right. In keeping with its yearlong agenda of something for everyone, family-friendly holiday activities and events top the list. From free and low-cost family fun to the holiday splurge, read on for seasonal family fun holiday events in San Francisco.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas
San Francisco Symphony
Davis Symphony Hall
2001 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 864-6000

Dates: Dec. 21 – Dec. 24, 2016

Charlie Brown, one of the most beloved comic characters of all times and his equally loved gang of friends return in a perennial holiday classic that brings a television favorite to life. Live actors on stage in front of an animated backdrop with the San Francisco Symphony performing Vince Guaraldi’s incredible music live deliver A Charlie Brown Christmas memorable experience not to be missed. Luring the audience into the holiday mood this family-friendly concert begins with beloved holiday favorite carols and songs performed by the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Chorus.

Home for the Holidays at Carolwood
Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 345-6800

Dates: Through Jan. 9, 2017

There’s something special happening at the Walt Disney Family Museum this holiday season. The museum’s newest holiday tradition opening this month is Home for the Holidays at Carolwood, an immersive and engaging seasonal installation that highlights Walt’s family and his love of trains. This is sure to be an exhibit that excites everyone in the family. The installation will include an intricate three-dimensional model of the Disney Family home on Carolwood Drive in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, complete with Walt’s personal steam locomotive, the Lilly Belle, chug-chugging along his Carolwood Pacific Fair Weather Route. 

While the elaborate scale model will be on view for the extent of the installation, the seasonal lights decorations will be ceremonially ignited on Walt’s birthday, Dec. 5; beginning Dec. 7, the museum will invite one lucky family to be the first to flip the switch each of the following mornings. Accompanying this installation this December are screenings of “Christmas with Walt Disney,” a film exclusively made for and shown only at The Walt Disney Family Museum during the holidays. What fun! Read on for additional details here.

The Nutcracker
San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 865-2000

Dates: Dec. 10 – Dec. 29, 2016; family performances December 13 -16 at 7 p.m.

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The Nutcracker is an annual event in San Francisco performed each December by the San Francisco Ballet, the first ballet company to perform this holiday classic in the U.S. and still one of the most popular performances in the country. Plan on attending one of the five special performances designed specifically for families, when special treats are given to the first 500 children (under 12) to arrive, though everyone in attendance is treated to special attention at these family focused performances. A highlight is the 30-minute only opportunity for photos with Nutcracker characters one hour before curtain time, so be sure to bring your camera to preserve the memories of the day. Read all about it here.

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Ice Skating on the Embarcadero
Holiday Ice Rink
Justin Herman Plaza
4 Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 837-1931

Dates: Through Jan. 8, 2017

The largest ice-skating rink in the Bay Area returns to celebrate 30 years of holiday spirit in San Francisco, and fun-loving skaters of all ages couldn’t be happier. Open for making the ultimate, fun-filled, unforgettable memories, be prepared to laugh, play, and yes, even fall as you skate along San Francisco’s beautiful waterfront.

Holiday Ice Skating Rink
Union Square
Geary & Powell Streets
San Francisco, CA
(415) 781- 2688

Dates: Through Jan. 16, 2017, 10 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. daily

San Francisco’s second ice-skating rink is conveniently located in the heart of downtown where an array of free ice skating events take the stage with skaters of all ages. Free 30-minute skating lessons available that include 30-minutes of free skating to practice. There are many ice-skating events that are worth attending. For more details, click here.

Bill Graham Menorah Project
Hanukkah Festival of Lights in Union Square
Union Square
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 469-1994

Dates: Dec. 24 – Dec. 31, 2016, Lighting Ceremony at 4:30 p.m.

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Named in memory for rock impresario and rock concert promoter Bill Graham who helped finance and promote the public menorah lighting from its start in 1975 until his death in 1991 in a helicopter crash, the Union Square Menorah Lighting has become one of several significant holiday lightings in San Francisco. With menorah candle lighting each of Hanukkah’s eight nights, the first night’s lighting is known as Bill Graham Menorah Day, an honor given the rock promoter’s memory two years after Graham’s death by then mayor Frank Jordan. This significant first night lighting has become quite a popular event, with people of all faiths attending for the lighting ceremony, the music performances, the Hanukkah crafts, and special guests. Come for the blast! 

Hanukkah Candle Lighting
San Francisco Jewish Community Center
3200 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 292-1200

Date: Dec. 26 – 30, 2016 at 4 p.m.

San Francisco’s beautiful Jewish Community Center extends a warm welcome to all to “celebrate illuminating the darkness with candle lighting, storytelling, singing and festive treats.” There will be story time and Hanukkiyah lighting and songs for the kiddos.