We know the feeling. Here you are on vacation with your family during a major holiday and there’s nothing open.
If you have kids, they are impatient because they’re itching to do something or go somewhere. Well, here’s a list of 15 activities to do whether or not you have kids. That’s the day to be a kid so enjoy yourself.
- Bowling at Yerba Buena Gardens
750 Folsom Street, between 3rd & 4th streets in San Francisco.
The Ice and Bowling Centers are located at the Rooftop at Yerba Buena Gardens.
Open from 12noon – 8pm Cost: $45/lane $45/hour
Where else can you feel as if you are back East or Midwest? Skating is one of the sports where you fortunately do not need Mother Nature. Here in San Francisco, we have three man made ice skating rinks (one permanent and the other two just during the Christmas Holiday season).
Yerba Buena Gardens (same place where they have the bowling alleys).
Skating at the Embarcadero is unbelievably peaceful and you can see the giant clock on the Ferry Building across the street while taking in the “F” line streetcars on its way back and forth to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Where else can you skate and see the giant Christmas tree decorated with lights at Union Square?
There are two great multiplex theaters in San Francisco and located 10 minutes walk from each other.
One is the Metreon theater, 101 4th Street at Mission. On Christmas Day, there are bound to be premieres for the family. Check online to see what’s playing.
The other theater is located at the Westfield shopping mall. Although the mall will be closed, the entrance will be open to the escalators leading up to the theater. In the middle of the top floor is a beautiful glass dome.
- Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf
Although the shops at Pier 39 will be closed, you can take a ride down to Pier 39 for lunch and then take pictures at the giant Christmas tree. Go to the rear of the Pier on the 1st level and say “hi” to the sea lions who are not going anywhere for the holidays.
Then walk along the Wharf to get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz from afar.
- Macy’s Holiday Windows and Union Square Christmas Tree
This is a nice place to take the kids. Look into the Macy’s holiday windows. For 26 years, the SPCA has helped animals find homes. Be careful because your kids will want to adopt a pet.
When done, cross the street to Union Square Park and view the giant Christmas tree. Adjacent to the tree is the skating rink. If you feel energetic, try ice skating right on the Square.
- The Palace Hotel
If you can book early, it is nice to have Christmas Day Brunch or Holiday Afternoon Tea at the Palace Hotel. You will see the beautiful Christmas tree and decorations.
Christmas Day Brunch Tuesday, December 25
The Garden Court & Grand Ballroom
The Garden Court Seatings:
11:00am – 12:00pm or 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Grand Ballroom Seating:
11:00am – 3:30pm
$105 Adults / $75 Children (5 – 12)
Holiday Afternoon Tea
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday
December 3 – 24
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Monday
December 26 – 31
- Fairmont Hotel’s Famous Gingerbread House
Take the Cable Car to California and Powell, walk to the Fairmont Hotel at California and Mason and see the wondrous Gingerbread House, 23-foot Christmas tree in the main lobby, Molinari Nutcracker collection and holiday decorations.
Chinatown is a fun place to take kids on Christmas Day. Chinatown rarely closes on Western holidays so the main street to be on is Grant Avenue, with its souvenir stores, tea shops and restaurants. Most likely, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, 56 Ross Alley, will be open and kids can get a sample of the cookie and watch how the cookies are made. Enter Ross Alley on Washington Street between Grant and Stockton
- Outdoors- Golden Gate Bridge, Land’s End Trail, Muir Woods
Even though the Pavilion will be closed, the Bridge will still be opened and you can take public transportation to the viewing area of the Bridge and walk across Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll need to take two buses there, the #30 (direction towards Broderick or Jefferson Loop) and change at Chestnut and Laguna and take the #28 bus to the Bridge. (Fares are exact change, $2.00 adults, $.75 seniors 65+ and children 5-17.)
Otherwise, try to go to the Land’s End Coastal Trail. Even though the Visitor’s Center will be closed, you can still hike a bit of the trail and stop for something to drink at the Café which will be open. http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/lands-end.html
Muir Woods is open 365 days a year. Admission is $7.00 adults, free for children 15 and under. There is no public transportation to Muir Woods and shuttle service only runs during the summers. However, you can rent a car (best to do this before the holiday and have the car during the holiday) or even schedule a private car with driver. Depending on the number of people in your party, it might be a nice way just to get out of the city. http://www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm
- Hyatt Regency, Embarcadero
What nice way to put you in the festive mood, with falling snow?? The 30-foot tree with cascading lights in the lobby will amaze you especially when snow falls three times a day at 4:00pm, 6:00pm, and 8:00 pm. And if you like, just go outside to the skating rink and you’ll feel as if you are in a Currier and Ives picture.
- Cable Car Ride
Ride the famous Cable Car (Powell, Mason or California line). You will see many of the cable cars decorated with holiday lights or trim and what a festive way to take a photo! Bear in mind that lines are sometimes long but purchase a hot cocoa while you are waiting in line and people watch. (Drinks aren’t allowed on the cable cars but by the time you get on, you’ll have finished your drink!)
- Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
Walk through the beautiful gardens and enjoy a tranquil moment walking the arched bridge, stone paths and admiring the koi ponds and zen garden. There is also a Japanese tea house where you can sip green tea and savor Japanese delicacies of tea sandwiches and sweets.
- San Francisco Botanical Gardens
The San Francisco Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park is open year round and on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, admission is free. There are daily docent tours at 1:30pm. departing from the main gate. There are over 55 acres of landscape and over 8,000 types of plants from all over the world. Check out the website, http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org/
- Contemporary Jewish Museum
The museum has its Community Day on Christmas Day and is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm. In celebration of The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, special art workshops and music performances will take place. This is a fun place to take the family.
- San Francisco Zoo
The zoo is open 365 days a year. Check out all the animals and the Chinese fire-bellied Newt in the amphibian section as well as the Australian walkabout, featuring plants and animals native to Australia. The zoo is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm.
Have a wonderful time in San Francisco on Christmas Day whatever you do!
By Kathryn D.