New Year's Eve in San Francisco

Fireworks over the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge in San Francisco
Fireworks over the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge in San Francisco.

Christopher Michel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If you want to celebrate New Year's Eve in San Francisco, California, you can find plenty of things to do in this outspoken and party-loving city. From professionally-staged venues to the more budget-friendly alternatives and romantic cruises on the bay, there are events well-suited for both those who want to dress up in their glitziest outfits and those who want to keep things casual.

In 2020, some New Year's Eve events in San Francisco were canceled. Be sure to check with organizers and official websites for the latest information.

New Year's Eve Firework at San Francisco
Spondylolithesis / Getty Images

Watch the Fireworks

The big event to ring in the New Year in San Francisco is the Embarcadero Fireworks Show. It goes off at midnight above the Ferry Building. To view it from the street, stand near the end of Market Street at the Embarcadero. Avoid standing in front of the Ferry Building, where the building will block your view.

You can also watch the fireworks from inside at hotels with a good view, especially the Hotel Vitale, Harbor Court, and the Hyatt Regency, but you'll need to make reservations well in advance.

Dolores Park, San Francisco
TripSavvy / Melissa Zink

Celebrate Like a Local

On the evening of December 31, you're likely to find many people outside enjoying a late afternoon picnic in Dolores Park. This sloping field offers a sprawling view of the skyline and is usually a festive scene on New Year's Eve with park-loungers bringing their own champagne for a sunset toast. For many, Dolores Park is the pre-party for the night's much later celebrations, but it's also the perfect way to celebrate if you want to turn in early for the night too. The park is located in the Mission District on the corner of Dolores Street and 19th Street.

Take a Midnight Cruise

You can set sail and enjoy the end of the year with a dinner cruise on the bay. Many boat operators offer special tickets for New Year's Eve dancing on the docket. You can spend the night on a four-hour dinner cruise with Hornblower's and try to get tickets aboard the San Francisco Belle, which has three levels for dancing. If you're feeling lucky, you can also try the Commodore New Year's Eve Fireworks Dinner Cruise, which typically departs from Alameda's Mariner Square. The Commodore's Speakeasy New Year's Eve Cruise aboard the Fume Blanc is one of the first San Francisco celebrations to sell out every year with blackjack and multiple DJs.

If you prefer to paddle your own canoe, City Kayak traditionally takes just 30 experienced paddlers out for a midnight outing. The lucky group, led by guides in a motorboat, paddle out for a front-row fireworks view and a glass of ice-cold champagne.

In 2020, many cruise operators have not yet resumed operations in San Francisco. Be sure to check the official cruise organizer's website for the latest details.

Party Into the New Year

San Francisco never shies away from a good party and even if you don't know anyone in town, you can still buy tickets to some of the city's biggest events. If you want a unique look inside the Old San Francisco Mint, you can try to secure some tickets to the New Bohemia New Year's Eve Party. If that's a little too artsy for you, you could also attend the celebration on the USS Hornet across the bay. This old aircraft carrier sets the scene for the annual New Year's Eve Party on the flight deck, offering a gorgeous vantage point to enjoy the city skyline.

If you plan to party hop, make sure to brush up on your transportation options and the holiday hours. On New Year's Eve, the BART Train typically extends service until 3 a.m., with extra trains running right after the fireworks show ends. Caltrain also provides free service, with four post-fireworks trains. 

In 2020, most organized parties have been canceled to comply with social gathering limits.