Best SF Bay Area
Events, Weekends & Festivals 2018
We limit our picks to ONLY the best events in the SF Bay area in 2018, personally handpicked for local insiders to enjoy. Many are unique world-class affairs. A few are just a lot of fun. The events below are organized by month & regularly updated including local Pacific Coast time. Also see regular weekly events at the end of each month below and recently past events.
DECEMBER 2018 — SF Bay Area Events & Weekends
Lighted Boat Parade, Fisherman’s Wharf
Friday evening, 12/14/18, 6-8 pm, Free
More than 60 decorated boats will parade along the waterfront (from Pier 39 to the St Francis Yacht Club and back) in this annual parade. The Fisherman’s Wharf Fishing Fleet will remain lit at night during the holiday season; best viewing of the fleet is from Jefferson Street between Jones & Taylor. See details.
College Football Bowl Finals
Saturday 12/15/18 – Monday 1/7/19.
The college football bowls start December 12/15/18 and end with the semi-finals on Monday 1/1/19 and the national championship on Monday, 1/7/19. See the complete schedule and the best bowl games each weekend. Some of the biggest bowl games we will watch on New Years day are the:
* Rose Bowl: Saturday 1/1/19, #3 vs #2
* Sugar Bowl: Saturday 1/1/19, #4 vs #1
* College National Championship: Monday 1/7/19. The winners of the Rose Bowl & Sugar Bowl (the national semi-finals) will play in the College National Championship .
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, Cow Palace, Daly City
6 Weekends, Saturdays & Sundays, 11/17/18 – 12/23/18, 10 am-7 pm
Admission $30/adult, Parking $12/car (or free on the street where we usually park, at least during daylight). Twilight tickets after 3 pm are $18 at the box office; we like those.
A big event on three acres transformed into a facsimile of Victorian London circa 1865. You can walk around amidst hundreds of amateur “actors” playing different roles. Enjoy “authentic” food, music, shops and a wide variety of free shows inside. It’s a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. See details about the fair including any on-line price deals.
Holiday Ice Skating Rinks in San Francisco,
Union Square & Embarcadero Center
Rent some skates or just enjoy the holiday atmosphere. Both are surrounded by festive stores and decorations. See details below.
Embarcadero Center Ice Rink – The “largest outdoor rink in San Francisco” 11/5/18-1/19
Union Square Ice Rink – A holiday tradition for seven years. Open 11/7/18-1/21/19
Here’s a list of ice rinks between San Mateo and Palo Alto.
Breeding Sea Lions Tour, Ano Nuevo State Park, 27 miles south of Half Moon Bay
12/15/18 – 3/31/19 (every day except Christmas and last weekend in January). Admission $7 + $3.99 reservation fee
See 2.5 ton, 16 foot long elephant seal bulls skirmish for dominance during breeding season. Thousands of seals and sea lions gather for a 3-month orgy of fighting, mating, and birthing. This naturalist-led tour of the world’s largest mainland breeding colony for the northern elephant seal is about 2.5 hours and 3 miles long. Advance reservations are recommended since available slots fill up quickly, especially on weekends. See more details.
Gray Whale Migration Season, Numerous locations along the Pacific coast
12/15/18 – 5/31/19, Paid boat tours or Free from shore
Watch some 20,000 gray whales migrating from the Arctic to Baja, Mexico. Tour boats leave San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, Moss Landing and Monterey during this season. Or, watch them from on shore. See more details.
Christmas Day, Tuesday 12/25/18
The beautiful 55-acre San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is free to non-residents (as well as residents as usual) all day Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. By the way, the nearby California Academy of the Sciences is open every day of the year including Christmas and New Years Day … see details.
New Years Eve Dance Party – USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier, Alameda
Monday 12/31/18, 7:30 pm-1 am, Admission
There are three dance floors on the enclosed, heated hangar decks of this famous World War II aircraft carrier which is now a National Historic Landmark. This is a big, fun event that thousands attend. It is run by and proceeds benefit the USS Hornet Museum. See details.
- Swing Dancing in the Park – Sundays, 11 am-2 pm, year round. Free dancing & beginners lesson in Golden Gate Park.
- Bicycle Sundays – Open Sundays round subject to weather. Main roads are closed to cars on Sundays at both Golden Gate Park and Canada Road (off Hwys 280 & 92, Belmont) for bicyclists & skaters of all levels to enjoy.
Month of December – Other
- Pro Sports:
- Golden State Warriors: Preseason starts 9/29/18, regular season starts 10/16/18. See schedule (or national TV NBA schedule).
- College Football Bowl Games: See schedule and the best bowl games each weekend.
- Pro Football: Oakland Raiders: See schedule. SF 49ers: See schedule.
- Hockey: San Jose Sharks: See schedule.
- College Sports of all types, including football, are in full swing. See Stanford, Cal Berkeley, San Jose State and San Mateo Jr. College event schedules.
- College Sports: In the Bay Area you can see a variety of interesting collegiate sports up close and at low cost. E.g., the sunken diamond at Stanford is one of the best places to watch college baseball in the country. Check Stanford’s schedules for baseball or all sports. Also see the Cal Berkeley, San Jose State and San Mateo Jr. College event schedules.
- FREE Monthly Museum Days:
Typically the first Tue/Wed/Thu, every month at many Bay Area locations
Many San Francisco Bay Area museums have free admission days once a month. See dates & links. Often these events are quite crowded but if you arrive early enough this is a way to see the best museums for free.