Best SF Bay Area
Events, Weekends & Festivals 2015
We limit our picks to only the best events in the SF Bay area in 2015, personally handpicked for local insiders. Many are unique world-class affairs. A few are just a lot of local fun. The events below are organized by month & regularly updated including local Pacific Coast time. Also see this month’s regularly scheduled weekly events and recently past events.
NOVEMBER 2015 — SF Bay Area Events & Weekends
This month has the fewest tourists and the weather is often surprisingly good … so November is a quiet month for locals to enjoy the many year-round activities and attractions San Francisco offers. For example, weekends on Ocean Beach can be outstanding this time of year.
Fall along the Half Moon Bay CoastFall is the best time of year to visit the coast. See things to see (see map) and trails & beaches (see map) along the Half Moon Bay Coastline. We also recommend visiting Pescadero, our favorite small town between San Francisco & Santa Cruz.
Dickens Christmas Fair, Cow Palace, Daly City
Opens Saturday & Sunday 11/21/15 – 11/22/15 for 5 straight weekends including the Friday after Thanksgiving. Ends the weekend of 12/19/15-12/20/15.
See more about Dickens Fair in below.
Holiday Ice Rinks in the City, 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” 11/4/15-1/3/16
Union Square Ice Rink – A holiday tradition for seven years. Open 11/4/15-1/16
For plant lovers, here’s a interesting idea: the 55-acre San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is free to non-residents all day Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Friday, 11/27/15, and Monday, 11/30/15
Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year (it’s called Black Friday because historically that’s when retail stores profits often went “in the black” for the year). Here are the best shopping centers in the Bay area. Cyber Monday, 11/30/15, when shoppers are still looking for bargains on-line from their work computers, has now also become a part of this big weekend.
On-line discounts are never better than these two days. Personally, I make my clothing shopping list for the entire year and buy it all on Black Friday. Brand items which are almost never on sale can be discounted 30% or more.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, Cow Palace, Daly City
Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday Thanksgiving weekend 11/27, 28, 29/2015, 10 am-7 pm.
Open Saturday-Sunday the following weekends through 12/20/15, 10 am-7 pm
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. Prices go up from $25 to $30 in mid December. Twilight tickets after 4 pm are $13. Parking is $10 in the lot (or free on the street where we usually park, at least during daylight). See details about the fair.
- Swing Dancing in the Park – Sundays, 11 am-2 pm. Free dancing & beginners lesson in Golden Gate Park. (year round)
- Bicycle Sundays – Sundays. 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 (open year round subject to weather).
Month of November – Other
- Sports All month, many Bay Area locations or on TV, Admission.
- SF 49ers: Sunday 11/29/15 @ 1:05 vs Cardinals. See schedule.
- Pro Sports: See NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco 49ers
- Stanford Football Last home game is on Saturday 11/28/15 vs Notre Dame where Stanford is favored. See schedule. Stanford is playing great this year and they will be playing in the 2015 Pac-12 Football Championship game on Dec 5th as well.
- 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.
- 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.
DECEMBER 2015 — SF Bay Area Christmas Events
Night of Lights Between Main Street & Kelly, Half Moon Bay
Friday, 12/4/15, 6-9 pm, Free
This local home-made event is a big favorite of Half Moon Bay residents and their children. There are tree lighting festivities, a parade, caroling, roasted chestnuts, booths by local clubs, open retail stores and more. Since mainly locals attend highway traffic has not been a problem to date. See details.
Stanford in Pac-12 Football Championship Game, Levi Stadium, Santa Clara
Saturday, 12/5/15, starts 5 pm
Stanford is playing great this year led by sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey. They may even get a shot at the national championship. See details.
California Academy of Sciences – FREE quarterly admission day, Golden Gate Park
Sunday 12/6/15, 11 am-5 pm, Free
The Academy of Sciences is expensive ($34.95/adult) and often crowded. However, on four Sundays each year there is free admission on a first-come first-serve basis compliments of Chase Bank. Early arrival is highly recommended and you can still expect to stand in line. See details.
We have also heard that the Academy’s nightlife events (6-10 pm Thursday nights, $12 for adults over 21) are a good way to go. They have cocktails, music (sometimes live), and unique themes each week … and the crowds are not so intense. Check ahead to confirm details.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, Cow Palace, Daly City
5 Weekends, Saturdays & Sundays, 11/20/15 – 12/20/15, 10 am-7 pm
Admission $25-30/adult, Parking $10/car, Twilight tickets after 4 pm are $13.
Join the largest cast (over 700 local hobbyists) of costumed Dickensian characters in the world who do an excellent job recreating Charles Dickens’ Victorian London Town. The show fills more than 3 acres and feels even bigger. There is a wide variety of things to do (food, shows, shops, caroling, street performers, wandering the town, etc.) that will get you in the mood for Christmas. See details.
Breeding Sea Lions Tour, Ano Nuevo State Park, 27 miles south of Half Moon Bay
12/15/15 – 3/31/16 (every day except 12/25/15 and 1/24-25/15). Admission
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 recommended. See more details.
Christmas Shopping Union Square and other Top Shopping Centers
Month of December, Free (if you have self control :)
We usually skip the biggest crowds on Thanksgiving weekend and pick some quieter weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas to wander around. This is the best time of year to see Union Square … when you can enjoy festive store decorations, the big Christmas tree, watching ice skating, hearing opera singers on Maiden Lane, Macy’s Christmas windows and very brisk shopping action. We’ve enjoyed a Christmas brunch overlooking Union Square … but get there early to avoid crowds.
For more Christmas shopping hike from Union Square down Powell St, along the cable car line, to Market St. At Market/Powell is the third largest urban shopping center in the U.S., Westfield San Francisco Centre with over 200 stores.
Here is a list showing the Top Shopping Centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s always fun to visit them during Christmas time even if you don’t buy anything. We like Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto and Santana Row in San Jose.
Gray Whale Migration Season, Numerous locations along the Pacific coast
12/20/15 – 5/31/16, 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 Friday 12/25/15
For plant lovers, here’s a unique idea: the beautiful 55-acre San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is free to non-residents all day Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
New Years Eve Dance Party – USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier, Alameda
Thursday 12/31/15, 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.
As a final tip, we have noticed that new events are often more unique and pleasant before most of the “world” learns about them. Then they sometimes become more crowded, commercial, and less free wheeling. Also, go early in the day. So don’t wait if you see something you may like. If you have never lived in San Francisco you may not realize that it is definitely a public party town without peer! The inhabitants really do spend a lot of effort throwing outstanding, unique, and fun events. Enjoy these special things to do … only in San Francisco!