Free Christmas and Holiday Activities and Events in San Francisco

2016 Free Holiday Festivals, Christmas Parades, Concerts and More

Celebrating the holidays in the San Francisco Bay Area can be done on the cheap, and even for free. Concerts, festivals, a Santa-themed pub crawl and arts-and-crafts-making sessions are among the fun and free offerings; all you have to do is show up. 

  • 01 of 13
    ••• Inhait SF

    Neighborhood: Union Square
    On Stockton St. between Geary and Ellis streets
    Dec. 1-31, 2016

    For five glorious weeks, the endless jackhammering goes quiet and the giant hole in the earth on Stockton between Geary and Ellis streets is covered up by green astroturf and welcomes shoppers to take a break from the holiday madness. A light art show, projected nightly onto Macy's Men's Building, stars Jack Frost traipsing across San Francisco. Food trucks are on hand, carolers and musicians perform and Macy’s offers free makeup consultations on select dates.



  • 02 of 13
    ••• Courtesy of Fourth Street

    Neighborhood: Berkeley
    Activities happen across from Peet's, 1776 Fourth St.

    Nov. 21-Dec. 21, Saturdays & Sundays; and Dec. 22 & 23

    Besides live music, there’s caroling and photo-taking with Santa and his elf on weekends. Merchants are collecting warm coats to be donated to Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, a nonprofit that helps homeless or poverty-stricken folks get back on their feet. Fourth Street is decorated with lights, and between Hearst and Virginia, it’s a hub of gourmet food, cosmetics, jewelry, apparel, chocolate, kitchenware, interior decor, gardening and stationery shops.

  • 03 of 13

    Neighborhood: Marina
    On Union Street between Van Ness and Steiner, San Francisco.
    Dec. 3, at 3-7 pm

    Ponies, a horse-drawn carriage and costumed characters cruise the main drag of Cow Hollow, whose Victorians are decked in lights. For kids, there are balloon toys, cupcake decorating and photos with Santa, 

  • 04 of 13
    ••• Peter N. via Yelp

    Neighborhood: Berkeley
    On Shattuck Ave. between Rose and Vine streets
    Dec. 4, at 10 am-3 pm 

    Snow comes to Berkeley for one day a year. Play in the snow and meet the Snow Queen. Make holiday cards and other crafts and enjoy pony rides, hot cider and store specials.

    Continue to 5 of 13 below.
  • 05 of 13

    Neighborhood: Civic Center
    100 Larkin St., San Francisco. 
    Dec. 3-Jan. 7

    Check out the magical village the San Francisco Public Library where the Hogwarts and Polar Expresses zip around villages by the touch of a button. Don't worry, Thomas the Tank Engine is there too. 

  • 06 of 13

    Neighborhood: Fisherman's Wharf and the Marina
    Boats start off of Pier 39, go west past Fisherman's Wharf and Fort Mason, turn around at Crissy Field and head back, San Francisco.
    Dec. 16, at 6-8 pm

    A flotilla of more than 60 boats festooned in lights and holiday decorations parade along the waterfront, lighting up the bay with holiday cheer. 

  • 07 of 13

    Neighborhood: Union Square
    Dec. 10, at noon

    Dress up as Santa (or as a creative interpretation of him) or one of his sidekicks (e.g., an elf or reindeer) to join this mass pub crawl through the city. Be prepared to sing warped versions of Christmas carols, drink and act responsibly and civilly and belt out “Ho, ho, ho!”

  • 08 of 13

    Neighborhood: Soma
    Yerba Buena Gardens
    Dec. 10, at 5 pm

    The parol, a Filipino Christmas light in a star shape, is, well, the star of this celebration. Join people parading with their hand-made parol lanterns, and enjoy music and performances. 

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  • 09 of 13

    Neighborhood: Mission 
    Dolores Park
    Dec. 13, at 7 pm

    In this unique mobile concert, people stroll the Mission, playing one of four different tracks of a composition on their smart phones, boomboxes or CD players (a limited number of CDs and cassette tapes are available and lent out). Everyone’s a performer-listener of Phil Kline's acoustic piece, which is meant to be heard outdoors in December.

  • 10 of 13

    Neighborhood: Marina
    Fort Mason Center

    Dec. 13 & 14, at 11 am-6 pm

    Formerly called "Bazaar Bizarre," this juried show has indie artists, designers and craftspeople offering their ceramics, bags, bath products, toys, clothing, hats, posters, gourmet sweets and other wares. Plus DIY workshops, a raffle, DJ music and a photo booth. 

  • 11 of 13

    Neighborhood: Soma
    Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St.
    Dec. 25, at 11 am-4 pm

    The galleries, live music performances, art-making activities and a puppet workshop are all free. See the featured exhibit J. Otto Seibold and Mr. Lunch, which focuses on the Bay Area author and his Mr. Lunch children's books.  

  • 12 of 13

    Neighborhood: Chinatown
    1135 Powell St.
    Dec. 26, at 3:30-5:30 pm

    Materials and instruction are provided to make bracelets or other gifts with beads. Limited to 12 participants from ages 8-18.

    Continue to 13 of 13 below.
  • 13 of 13

    Neighborhood: Civic Center
    SF Public Library, 100 Larkin St. 
    Dec. 28, at 1:30-3 pm 

    Celebrate ujima (collective work and responsibility), one of the seven principles of the seven-day Kwanzaa festival. Ceremonies, entertainment and a feast.