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Best Touristy Things in San Francisco This Holiday Season

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Whether your holiday travels are taking you there or you decide to head to San Francisco for a holiday getaway, The City has tons of things to do. While it might not be a place that people would think of for a holiday trip, it has so much to offer. Here are some things you absolutely have to do if you end up in San Francisco this holiday season.

Illuminate SF

This is a light festival that you truly can’t experience anywhere else. It runs from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day and involves 35 installations you can go and see as well as other events. The installations are throughout 12 neighborhoods and are made up of works by 31 different artists.

December 10 is a hot day for events, with lantern-making all day and the Parol Lantern Festival and Parade in the evening. If you want to learn a bit, the San Francisco Neon City: Evolving Landscape event runs in the afternoon as well.

The Walt Disney Family Museum

While this is a great attraction throughout the year, this holiday season there’s a new seasonal exhibit. Home for the Holidays at Carolwood showcases Walt’s family and his love of trains. The centerpiece of the exhibit is an extravagant 3D model of the Disney family home—including Walt’s personal train. Throughout December, screenings of the film Christmas With Walt Disney will be shown to accompany the exhibition—a movie exclusive to the museum.


image of the Walt Disney Family Museum from Yesterland

See the Sights

If you can’t make a decision on what popular places you want to visit, take a bus tour around the city and see them all! The bus loop takes you to all the most popular places and you can hop on and off as you please. If you want to eat, shop or explore an attraction more, you can just hop off and visit and hop back on when you’re ready to keep going.

The Bay Area also has a ton of epic Christmas displays that are worth exploring as well if you want something holiday-specific. If the bus tour doesn’t take you past enough, find a neighborhood to drive around in and explore—especially once evening hits and the lights come on.

Union Square

It might be known as an amazing shopping district, but that’s not all it has to offer! The Union Square Ice Skating Rink is open for the season so you can skate out under the blue California sky. They also have a whole bunch of holiday events happening here. Go look at the adoptable dogs in cats in the Macy’s windows or take in the giant castles made by pastry chefs in the Westin St. Francis Hotel.

Musée Mécanique

Both a transport back in time and a place to have fun, Musée Méchanique is full of antique arcade machines and coin-operated musical instruments. There are over 200 machines that are all playable. Prices to play are as low as a penny and don’t go over a dollar—admission into the museum itself is free!

While it’s fun for all ages, it’s an interesting place to take the younger generations who have never even heard of many of the games inside this building. It’s a great attraction for the gamers to get a taste of how things worked before the technology boom and history buffs to see some unique pieces.


Awesome game at the Musee Mecanique. image from California Travel Tips


It’s a bit out of the way of the hustle and bustle, but it’s worth it for the food. They specialize in wood fired pizza and pasta for dinner, but they also have a delicious brunch menu. It’s easy to see why people make the trek to eat here.

California Academy Of Sciences

This place seriously has everything. It combines a natural history museum, planetarium, aquarium and biodome all in one place. Their planetarium is one of the biggest, there’s a four-story rainforest and you can take a journey exploring the ins and outs of earthquakes.

They also have special events and exhibits specific for the holiday season, like real reindeer and a digital theater shaped like a giant snowman. Throughout the season there are also festive live performances that are included in the price of admission.

Bi-Rite Creamery

There’s almost always a line at this ice cream joint, but that’s how you know it’s good. Bi-Rite Creamery makes all of their ice cream by hand, as well as any of the baked goods that go along with it. Everything they use is locally sourced and organic and they rarely have more than five ingredients in their ice cream flavors. They take pride in unique and intense flavors and they’re sure to hit the spot for your sweet tooth.

San Francisco is full of things to do—both holiday-themed and just in general. Make the most of your trip here and enjoy everything this great city has to offer!

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Kacey Bradley

Kacey Bradley

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective. Throughout her life, she has found excitement in the world around her.

Kacey has been able to further her knowledge and interest for nature, understand the power of exploring other locations, and embrace the styles and cultures that surround her through her passion for writing and expression.