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San Francisco’s 10 Great Holiday Lightings and Displays

  • Published by Vedat
San Francisco is a holiday destination that is literally glowing with displays, decorations and tree-lighting events.
Here’s a roundup of 10 great lightings and displays in the city by the bay:


1.     The Ritz-Carlton Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

Dec. 4, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.

The hotel’s 40-foot holiday tree is illuminated by Santa Claus and his little helper from the Make-A-Wish Foundation as part of The Ritz-Carlton Community Footprints program. This special evening in the porte cochere includes Dickens-era costumed carolers, hot apple cider, holiday confections and visits with Santa in The Terrace Courtyard Tent after the ceremony. Free.

2.     11th Annual Parol Lantern Festival and Parade

Dec. 14, 2013 at 5 p.m. in Jessie Square

Celebrate in festive Filipino style and join this amazing event. More than 25 local organizations will march through Yerba Buena Lane with traditional Christmas lanterns, or parols, lighting up the neighborhood. Following the parade there will be music, games and entertainment. Free.

3.     Palace Hotel’s Gingerbread Chateau benefit SFCASA

Through Dec. 30, 2013, Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery St.

Designed by Executive Pastry Chef Renee Cade, the Palace Hotels’ Gingerbread Chateau measures 8 feet by 16 feet. The three-room chateau features a hand-tied, licorice thatched roof. In the marzipan made kitchen, apple elves prepare a holiday feast. The kitchen table is laden with delights made entirely out of edible ingredients. The foyer is adorned with a crystallized sugar chandelier. The animated living room scene showcases a sugar and spice decorated tree. Outside, the chateau is landscaped with candied planter boxes filled with cookie crumb soil and fondant flowers. A moving wafer waterwheel and chocolate pond complete the French county holiday garden.   In the true holiday spirit of giving, the Palace Hotel is supporting SFCASA, a nonprofit organization that focuses on volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children. Palace guests can also join in supporting SFCASA by making donations through the SFCASA Gingerbread Chateau mailbox.

4.     Conservatory of Flowers celebrates "Boomtown: Barbary Coast"

Through March 16, 2014 in Golden Gate Park

San Francisco’s rowdy past comes to life this holiday season at the Conservatory of Flowers’ newest garden railway exhibition, "Boomtown: Barbary Coast." In a display landscaped with hundreds of dwarf plants and several water features, model trains wind their way along miniature docks crowded with replicas of the clipper ships that brought fortune seekers to California. Trains will then zip past whimsical recreations of the city’s most important landmarks such as Portsmouth Square, Chinatown’s Waverly Place and Maiden Lane. The Conservatory is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibit will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

5.     Holiday Sugar Castle at Westin St. Francis

Through Jan. 2, 2014 at Union Square

The Westin St. Francis executive pastry chef Jean-François Houdré created his signature 12-foot rotating holiday sugar castle in the Main Lobby of the hotel. Originally created in 2005, this magnificent Sugar Castle continually grows larger each year. Resembling a French Chateau, the castle weighs more than 1,200 pounds and features 20 grand circular towers, 30 rooms, glowing windows and a running train. New this year is the addition of the top 2012 “newsmakers” on display throughout the castle, including life-like elf replicas of politicians, celebrities, athletes and personalities. Free.

6.     ’Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences

Through Jan. 5, 2014; Monday–Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. California Academy of Science, Golden Gate Park

The California Academy of Science is getting a winter makeover for the holidays. The popular ’Tis the Season for Science exhibit returns for a third year, bringing with it the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Experience indoor snow flurries, get up close and personal with live reindeer at the East Garden and immerse yourself in a snow-themed mini-dome show. For 2013-2014 season, the Academy has also added three new programs suitable for all ages: "Reindeer Rendezvous"; "Holiday Migration Quest" of gray whales and monarch butterflies; and "P” Is For Penguins. There are also festive holiday performances at the academy on selected days at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

7.     Luxury Collection Holiday Tree and Palace Hotel Glass Ornaments

Through Dec. 26, 2013, Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery St.

The Palace Hotel presents their first ever Luxury Collection holiday tree, inspired by more than 80 unique Luxury Collection hotel destinations worldwide.   The ornaments adorning the tree are indigenous to each property. Also on display on the tree are exquisite holiday ornaments inspired by two of the treasures within the hotel and hand blown, painted and decorated. The Garden Court ornament features the famous glass ceiling, marble columns and chandeliers adorned with Swarovski crystals. The Pied Piper ornament captures the true essence of the Maxfield Parrish original masterpiece created for the hotel in 1909.

8.     Annual Victorian Holiday Time at Queen Anne Hotel

Through Jan 1, 2014

Each year the fabulous Queen Anne dresses up the interior of the hotel in grand Victorian style.   It’s a sight to see with Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, a winter wonderland, Santas and much more. Visitors can take a step back in time and see how warmth and charm were created more than a century ago.

9.     Hyatt Regency San Francisco's "Home for the Holidays"

Through Dec. 30, 2013, Hyatt Regency San Francisco

Although it never snows in San Francisco, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco is predicting snowfall throughout the holiday season in its dramatic, Guinness Book of World Records’ Largest Atrium Lobby in the world. Complementing a 1,000-piece Department 56 Snow Village, thousands of cascading lights and a dramatic 45-foot tree, snow will fall three times a day in the hotel's lobby, through Dec. 30, 2013. Free.

10. Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju

     Through May 11, 2014 in Terminal 3 at San Francisco International Airport The Japanese imagination has led to       many of the world’s most extraordinary toys. Japanese toys span an unparalleled gamut – from a centuries-long           practice of traditional doll making to whimsical folk toys, such as ghostly mechanical kobe figures and papier-       mâché guardian dogs. In this whimsical exhibit, Kokeshi dolls, menko playing cards, and battery-operated robots     are among the quintessential toys on display. Vinyl kaiju figures, Ultraman novelties, and a dress made entirely             from plush Hello Kitty dolls are some of the unexpected items on view. Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju is located in Terminal 3, Boarding Area F. The exhibition is located post-security and is only accessible to passengers ticketed for travel through Terminal 3. There is no charge to view the exhibition.

To make it even more inviting, the San Francisco Travel Association is offering “49 Hours of SF: Holidays” hotel deals featuring deeply-discounted rates when booked at www.49HoursofSF.com.  Visitors who stay three or more nights at participating hotels can receive up to 25% off the entire stay. This offer is valid through March 31, 2014.
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