And it’s bound to be considerably less crowded than the slushy sidewalks of Manhattan. All this means that there are plenty of reasons to be out and about in San Francisco on Christmas Day.
Ice Skate in Downtown San Francisco
All three downtown San Francisco ice skating rinks (Yerba Buena Gardens, the Embarcadero Center and Union Square are open for you to show off your triple axels on Christmas Day, the latter two until late in the evening. The Union Square rink is particularly jolly, as the commercial bustle will have ceased but the adjacent holiday tree remains lit.
San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
The Reindeer Romp at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens runs from Nov. 19 to Jan. 1, and stays open Christmas Day. Those reindeer don’t even take the day off! Considering the zoo is across the street from the Pacific Ocean, it’s hard not to take a bonus trip to the beach in late December, especially with a cup of hot chocolate from the Lemur Café.
San Francisco Botanical Gardens Society at Strybing Arboretum
The Botanical Gardens are Golden Gate Park’s most manicured jewel. Although San Francisco residents never pay an entrance fee, the gates are flung open to everyone on Christmas Day. Roam through 55 acres of native plants, succulents, magnolias, a grove of redwoods, the Ancient Plant Garden, and the rest of the 8,000 species on display, some of which might even be in bloom (especially the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest). If you’re lucky, the weather will be temperate enough for a picnic.
Contemporary Jewish Museum
The Contemporary Jewish Museum is open on Christmas. Better yet, it’s a Community Free Day, so all the galleries are open (which means advance registration is highly recommended). Art-making, musical performances and a nosh from Wise Sons Delicatessen round out a wonderful holiday afternoon inside Daniel Libeskind’s post-modern cube.
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy brings together the Jewish comedic heritage with the venerable tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas. Comic Lisa Geduldig began performing at the 370-seat New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown in 1993, and the tradition has grown every year since. This year’s performances happen Dec. 23-25.
Brunch at the Palace Hotel
The freshly renovated Palace Hotel turns into a holiday wonderland each year, with a giant gingerbread house and tea with Santa every Saturday in December. Spoil yourself at one of six brunch seatings on Christmas Day, in either the Grand Ballroom or the fabulous 19th century Garden Court. An upscale buffet as opposed to a standard meal (think crepes and a carving station), its Yuletide grandeur befits both the occasion and the surroundings. Check out which restaurants are open on Christmas Day.
Editor’s Note: If you’re planning a Christmastime visit to San Francisco, you should first check out Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Craft Beer purveyors and nearby Wineries.