Holiday Magic Returns to San Francisco this Season
Ice-skaters are once again twirling beneath Macy’s Great Tree, Union Square storefronts are dressed in holiday finery, live theater and dance have returned to the city’s stages, the historic cable cars are running again, and much of the city is sparkling with festive light displays. Experience the magic of San Francisco during the holidays with a visit this season.
Union Square is the city’s holiday epicenter and a shopping Mecca. The square is decorated to the hilt with an 83-foot tree twinkling with over 40,000 lights and ornaments. The tree towers over Union Square Ice Rink, where you can take a spin on the ice through mid-January. Ringing the square are a multitude of shops including iconic department stores like Neiman Marcus and Macy’s, luxury brands, and trendy boutiques. With so many stores, you can easily check off everyone on your list and splurge on something for yourself.
Live performance is back in full swing at theaters around the city. You can catch A Christmas Carol at Golden Gate Theatre through December 26, 2021. The San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker and the gravity-defying acrobatics of Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story will both run through December 30, 2021. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens January 11, 2022, at the Curran Theatre.
As of September, the brass bells of the city’s famous cable cars are ringing once again as they make their treks up and down the hills. Buy tickets in advance and hop aboard to soak up the sights. This time of year, the city is brimming with festively decorated parks, cathedrals, and grand Victorian homes. In addition, Illuminate San Francisco puts a new spin on holiday lights with a city-wide collection of free, public light art installations.
Where to Stay
Gift yourself with a little holiday trip to the city. Just a few blocks from Union Square in Nob Hill, three small boutique hotels (Cornell Hotel de France, White Swan Inn, and Petite Auberge) offer distinctive accommodations with gracious hospitality and affordable rates starting below $200 per night.
Cornell Hotel de France
Francophiles and lovers of French art will fall in love with the Cornell Hotel De France. This delightful and moderately-priced boutique hotel is reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century Parisian hideaway along the rive gauche. The music of Edith Piaf fills the air and fine art prints from French masters line the walls, each floor devoted to a single artist. During the holidays, the hotel turns into a wonderland of decorations with Christmas music playing in the background. The halls and stained-glass windows are all decked with festive garland and lights, a twinkling Christmas tree stands in the lobby, and charming figurines of Papa Noël abound.
Built in 1910, the hotel has been fully renovated, blending vintage charms with modern amenities. A family of French expatriates has owned and operated the hotel for over 50 years, providing a distinctively touche française.
Each of the hotel’s 50 guest rooms is individually decorated with French provincial furnishings, fine art prints, and hand-painted frescos. Many of the rooms offer seating areas or writing desks tucked into large bay windows. Junior suites also offer sitting rooms connected to separate bedrooms. Each room is equipped with coffeemakers, flat-screen televisions, USB docks, and other thoughtful amenities.
A complimentary continental breakfast is included for guests who book directly with the hotel. Breakfast features warm croissants delivered to the room along with fresh fruit, juice, and yogurt. In celebration of the holidays, the hotel provides guests with a map of holiday decorations around the city.
White Swan Inn
The White Swan Inn is a hip, boutique hotel blending the charm of an old English hotel with the sassy, mod flair of 1960s London. The décor is a joyful mash-up of florals, houndstooth, and polka dots with bold, irreverent art. During the holidays, the hotel gets even more festive with lights, garland, and charming holiday village sets decorating the fireplace mantels in the library and the parlor.
Each of the 26 spacious guest rooms at the White Swan Inn features gas fireplaces and cozy seating areas. With in-room wet bars and complimentary soft drinks, you can mix a cocktail and relax by the fire. Room service is available from the award-winning Del Popolo restaurant next door. The rooms also feature soaking tubs with aromatherapy bath salts, cozy robes, and brand new ultra-plush mattresses to ensure a restful nights’ sleep.
Guests are treated to a complimentary breakfast each morning (currently featuring special holiday pastries) and a glass of wine with nibbles each evening. Complimentary tea and coffee are available throughout the day. The courtyard patio, library, and parlor provide inviting spaces to hang out with a book or play a board game.
In addition to being a quick jaunt from Union Square, the hotel is also just a five-minute walk from the holiday lights at Huntington Park and Grace Cathedral.
If you had a well-traveled French aunt who owned a hotel in San Francisco, it might well look like Petite Auberge. This romantic boutique hotel blends French countryside charm with a curated selection of global objets d’art to craft a worldly, whimsical ambiance. The inn’s ornate wallpapers and French antiques will have guests continuously wondering whether they’re in The City of Lights or The City by the Bay. During the holidays, the hotel is beautifully decorated with garland, lights, and charming displays above the fireplace mantel in the parlor.
The hotel offers 26 guest rooms filled with carved armoires, old-fashioned writing desks, plush bedding, bathrobes, and other creature comforts. Many of the rooms also feature cozy gas fireplaces. The hotel’s Petite Suite is the perfect pied-à-terre for a winter sojourn. As the hotel’s largest guest room, the suite features a king bed, a sitting area with a gas fireplace, and a wet bar with complimentary soft drinks. The suite also offers its own private deck and entrance with French doors.
Guests of the hotel enjoy a generous buffet breakfast, cookie jar stocked with freshly baked cookies, and evening wine hour served with hors d’oeuvres. Complimentary tea and coffee are available throughout the day. Room service is available from Del Popolo restaurant next door. The hotel’s charming parlor and garden patio provide cozy retreats from the hustle and bustle of the city.