2021 Bay Area Winter Holiday Events for the Family – North Bay, East Bay, and South Bay Attractions

2021 Bay Area Holiday Events

The holidays are approaching in the Bay Area! 


If you live here or are traveling here for the holidays, we have a list of unique and lively local Bay Area holiday events and activities for you. 

From the North Bay to the East Bay to the South Bay, we’ve rounded up a list of exciting Christmas and holiday festivities for you to enjoy. 

We’re CityHealth, an Oakland and San Leandro-based healthcare clinic with COVID testing sites all across the Bay Area with fast and affordable COVID-19 testing. If you need testing for the upcoming holidays, visit our CityHealth appointments page to get started.

Whether you’re living right in the middle of a popping city like San Francisco, or somewhere in the Bay Area suburbs, there’s plenty of holiday cheer to go around. We also made a 2021 Bay Area Holiday Events video that you can find at the end of the article. Let’s break down some of the best and brightest Bay Area Holiday Events. Let’s get started!  

Holiday Bay Area Ice Skating 

Ice skating is one of the most celebrated festivities of the winter season. This year, in the Bay Area, we’ve rounded up a few ice skating venues to visit with friends and family.

Snoopy’s Home Ice

Opened in 1969, the Redwood Empire Ice Arena is one of the coolest around. You can partake in ice skating, hockey, figure skating and more at Snoopy’s Home Ice. It’s only $11 to skate here, and they have Mid Day Special prices as well for only $7. 

San Francisco Downtown Union Square

San Francisco’s favorite yearly outdoor ice-skating rink is back as of November 3rd, 2022. There is daily ice skating for all ages, and special events sprinkled throughout the holidays. General admission is $19 and includes rentals. You can learn more about the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square. 

Yerba Buena Ice Skating

If you’re looking to do some indoor ice skating, visit the NHL-size ice-skating rink at Yerba Buena in San Francisco. It’s $14 for general entry. They also have a Holiday Skating School Series that you might want to check out if you’re looking to learn how to skate.

 

Bay Area 2021 Light Shows

A Bay Area Holiday Events round-up wouldn’t be complete without the mention of light shows! Light shows are a low-energy but incredibly mesmerizing way to enjoy the holidays. There are both static light displays, as well as drive-through events that create an interactive experience. We’ll round up some of the best lighting venues happening in the Bay Area this winter season. 

San Francisco Local Houses

San Francisco residents always bring on the cheer with unique light decorations in their private residential units. You can drive around the city at your own pace and check out some of these incredible houses. Rumor has it, these will be the ones that will bring on some lights this year: 68 Castro Street, Rainbow Christmas tree at 18th & Castro in the Castro District, 1960 10th Avenue, 1929 7th Avenue, 363 Wawona Street, 515 Crestlake Drive, 488 Gallert Drive. Happy house touring!

Fantasy of Lights Drive-Thru

Santa Clara County Park’s Fantasy of Lights is an unforgettable drive-through galore of holiday lights and displays. You can see large animated displays of erupting volcanoes, Dinosaurs, penguins, and Santa playing basketball at this drive-through featuring over 50 themed displays and a giant Christmas tree, all in the warmth of your car!

Ruth Bancroft Garden of D’Lights

The Ruth Bancroft Garden of D’Lights in Walnut Creek is set out to be better than ever in 2021 with more lights and lasers! You can explore and walk through 3.5 acres of beautiful garden land, where the trees and plants are transformed into lit-up botanical sculptures. Tickets are for timed entry, with limited availability, so get your tickets soon! 

Christmas in the Park- Blinky’s Illuminated Holiday

This is a delightful, magical drive-thru experience at Lake Cunningham Park in San Jose. For Christmas in the Park, Blinky the Reindeer takes you through his imagination in a light show that features over 200,000 lights. There are also additional Christmas in the Park events on their calendar. 

Oakland Zoo Glowfari

For $24 a ticket, you can roam the Oakland zoo, which will be illuminated with all-new lantern displays for 2021. They have an African Safari, forests of Asia, and a gondola to the land of bugs with a gigantic Queen Ant Tunnel! For the holidays, you can also visit Santa and ride the Express Train through a Winter Wonderland. Oakland Zoo’s Glowfari is bound to be an unforgettable holiday experience. 

Bay Area Holiday Events: 2021 Holiday Shows and Performances

Looking for the best Bay Area Holiday events to attend with your family or loved ones? There are many classical holiday-themed shows and performances that people wait all year for. Here are some of the most celebrated and keystone winter performances and shows of the Bay Area. 

San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker

Experience the retelling of the Nutcracker and the story of little Clara in this San Francisco-inspired production. The performance is accompanied by a live orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. The San Francisco Nutcracker is held at the War Memorial Opera House. 

San Jose Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is one of the most loved Christmas performances. You can experience it in the California Theatre in downtown San Jose. The San Jose Nutcracker is a holiday production that brings a traditional story to the modern San Jose, merging history with the birthplace of innovation. 

Live Performances at the Bankhead Theater

There are an array of festive holiday performances happening in 2021 at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore. Ranging from Irish Christmas in America, to Motown Explosion Christmas, Symphonic Sounds of the Season, the Nutcracker, and Joy to the World, there will be shows for every audience this holiday season!

Christmas at Grace Cathedral

The elegant and historical Grace Cathedral is a local attraction by itself but during the holidays will glow even more with performances like A Cathedral Christmas, Brass and Organ Christmas, Soulful Joy, and Sing You a Merry Christmas. 2021 will be celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Christmas at Grace Cathedral, so it’s a great year to attend. 

Holidays with the SF Symphony

It’s 2021 holiday season at San Francisco’s Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall. Throughout the month of Christmas, SF Symphony is offering a festive array of concerts and performances with a lineup of guest artists. The lobbies of Davies Symphony Hall will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland, and the concert festivities are endless. Check out all the theatrical attractions happening this year at Holidays with the SF Symphony.

Christmas at Temple Hall Oakland

The Oakland Temple Hill Christmas Lights will shine every evening to 9:15pm till the last day of the year, but that’s not all! There are plenty of free shows and performances at this community-based venue.  You can enjoy the Christmas displays while social distancing. They have many wonderful and free holiday traditions, including Nutcracker Ballet, Scrooge! The Musical, and symphony and choir concerts for all to enjoy. 

Bay Area Holiday Events- Unique Christmas Attractions in 2021

Are you looking to visit a unique San Franciscan or Bay Area attraction that’s bustling with holiday cheer? Below are some unique attractions, ranging from high tea to wine tasting that are inspired for the holidays. 

A Winter Wonderland at Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a popular attraction in San Francisco. They have a Winter Wonderland Market and Christmas Tree Stroll on November 26th to celebrate A Winter Wonderland at Ghirardelli Square. There will be an outdoor market with stocking stuffers and a Christmas Tree Stroll featuring trees designed by Academy of Art students in San Francisco. 

All is Calm, All is Bright at Filoli Gardens

The Filoli Historic House and Gardens in Woodside is a beautiful place to visit all year round, but especially beautiful as it’s lit up for the holiday season for All is Calm, All is Bright. The winter garden will be filled with colorful decor, while you roam around the redwoods on the Estate Trail and take in the views of Filoli. During the holidays, they have a couple of themed events that you can attend. They also have a fire pit under twinkling lights, and hot cider and wine to enjoy by the fire. 

Macy’s Great Tree and Holiday Windows 

The Macy’s store in Union Square in San Francisco puts up a beautiful Christmas tree every year. The windows in Macy’s building are beautifully decorated as well. You can find more information and events scheduled around  Macy’s Christmas Tree to find a good time to visit. The whole Union Square area is bound to have mesmerizing storefronts alongside its holiday shopping temptations, so it’s definitely a fun area to check out for the year. 

Polar Express Sacramento

This event often sells out, as The Polar Express is an incredibly popular Christmas event in Sacramento. This ride pulls into the California State Railroad Museum station, while the whole train celebrates and sings Christmas Carols. 

Teddy Bear Tea at The Ritz-Carlton

San Francisco is full of high-end hotels with historical and cultural significance. This year, through select dates in November and December, the Ritz-Carlton will be hosting their legendary Teddy Bear Tea. Reserve your tea table, complete with entertainment from elves and a gingerbread fairy. 

Fairmont San Francisco

Another extravagant way to celebrate the holidays is doing Fairmont Holiday High Tea at the Fairmont San Francisco. The tickets are high-priced at $149 per adult, which is expensive but also sure to be a memorable and delicious experience for all attending. 

Half Moon Bay Nights of Lights

Half Moon Bay will open its street shops late during this end-of-year holiday period. The shops and trees will be decorated with lights. During the holidays, you can roam Half Moon Bay’s Nights of Lights, dine at various restaurants, and pick up some gifts at the local boutiques and shops! 

Bricoleur Vineyards “Cooking with Santa”

Bricoleur Vineyards is a Californian winery and hospitality retreat. Santa is coming this year to host a virtual “Cooking with Santa!” series, alongside fine dining experiences for the 2021 holidays. You can view the full Bricoleur Vineyards holiday events schedule. 

 

Virtual Bay Area Holiday Events

Lastly, if you’re looking to skip the COVID-19 testing or looking to partake in holiday festivities without leaving your house, we’ve rounded up some unique virtual events that are bound to be a good time. 

German Holiday Market

The German Holiday Market, selling all kinds of German treats, gifts, and craftwork, normally takes place in Mountain View downtown, but this year they will be bringing their event online. You can celebrate the tradition by partaking in shopping in the German Holiday Market Virtual Market. 

Dickens Fair

Drive-through Dickens fair is a delightful experience, but they also have a virtual version of their event for your Grand Concourse shopping delight! Shop and learn about the whimsical foods, entertainments, and handmade crafts of the 2021 Dickens Fair. 

We hope you enjoyed this guide to exciting events happening around the Bay Area for the 2021 holidays! We’re based in San Leandro and Oakland and will definitely be checking out these events ourselves. We also administer fast and affordable CityHealth COVID-19 testing all across the Bay Area for various event or travel needs. If you need testing for the upcoming holidays, visit our CityHealth appointments page to get started.

 

Stay safe and Happy Holidays to all!

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