With temperatures plunging into the 50’s this week, San Francisco is starting to feel downright festive. If you’re looking to get your holiday fix, here are San Francisco’s must-see twinkle light and decoration displays
1. Hyatt Regency Lobby, Embarcadero
Thousands of strands of twinkle lights rain down over the Hyatt Regency’s lounge, along with an impressive Victorian village complete with zoo, amusement park, and, of course, a trolley car to usher the plastic figurines between attractions. If you’re in need of a tranquil oasis to stop and have a hot chocolate or a hot toddy away from the holiday shopping hordes, look no further.
To get there: From Union Square, either walk a mile along Market Street to the Hyatt Regency at Drumm Street and Market Street. Or, hop on a BART or MUNI line from the Powell Street station, two stops to Embarcadero station. The Hyatt will be just ahead on Drumm Street and Market Street.
2. 21st street between Church and Sanchez Streets, Noe Valley
Propped up on a steep hillside in Noe Valley, this house give you the double whammy of some serious creative decorative effort in addition to stunning views of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, and San Francisco Bay. The main attraction is a 4-story tree, decorated to the nines like a Christmas tree with over sized glittery ornaments and what I can only imagine is thousands upon thousands of lights. And the crane parked outside hints that the owners still aren’t finished with this one.
To get there: From downtown, take the J-Church MUNI streetcar from the Powell Street or Montgomery Street stations to 21st Avenue. Hop off and walk up the hill for a 1 ½ blocks.
3. Union Street, Cow Hollow
For 23 years running, Union Street has hosted its Fantasy of Lights on or around December 1st. The festivities might last for only one night, but the lights stay up for the rest of the holiday season. This is where you want to go for festive holiday shopping.
To get there: From downtown, take the 45 Union-Stockton bus from the corner of Kearny and Stockton Streets to (Van Ness Street). Hop off and walk west along Union Street.
4. Castro Street between 14th Street and Duboce Avenue, Castro
The north pole itself exploded all over this massive Edwardian in the Castro. Not an inch of siding, bay window, or railing is spared from the onslaught of lush garland, stalagmites of gold and red Christmas tree ornaments, and a full size Santa Claus making a run for the chimney.
To get there: From downtown, take any of the underground MUNI streetcar lines from the Powell Street or Montgomery Street stations to Castro station. Exit the station and walk north on Castro Street for 3 ½ blocks.
5. Quintara Street and 34th Avenue, Outer Sunset
After a day at the zoo or taking in an early December sunset at Ocean Beach, this house is a fun stop on your way back home. Featuring dozens of glowing candy canes, a squadron of drummer boys, glowing nativity, and every decorative light-up lawn ornament you’ve ever seen. And that’s before we get to the impressive number of lights.
To get there: From downtown, take the L-Taraval MUNI streetcar line from Powell Street or Montgomery Street stations. Hop off at 35th Avenue and Taraval Street. Walk a block to 34th Street, then walk north along 34th Street for 3 blocks to Quintara Street.
6. Westin St. Francies Lobby, Union Square
There are two gingerbread houses on this list. And each is special in it’s own right. The Westin St. Francis, just across the street from the Union Square skating rink, is the most artistic gingerbread house I’ve ever seen. Reaching nearly to the lobby’s chandeliers, this year’s “house” is actually a 1,300 pound gilded chateau, complete with dozens of rooms, 20 turrets, and a small village at its base.
7. The Fairmont, Nob Hill
What The Fairmont’s gingerbread house lacks in glitter dust and turrets it makes up for in sheer size. This is a gingerbread house you can walk through. It took the hotel’s pasty and engineering shops 895 hours to build, with 7,750 individual tiles of gingerbread, 1,250 pounds of royal icing, and 675 pounds of candy. The lobby also features a holiday kids corner, where children can write letters to Santa and drop them off in the mailbox.
To get there: From downtown, walk north on Powell Street for four blocks (it’s a vertical hike) and turn left on California Street. The Fairmont will be to your right.
8. Hayes Street, Hayes Valley
Like Union Street, Hayes Valley hosts an annual Holiday Block Party with decorations lasting the rest of the month. Hayes Valley’s tree-lined streets turn into a technicolor twinkle light display, with most stores opting out of the traditional white-bulbs. It’s an ideal spot to shop for the design enthusiasts in your life under a canopy of holiday cheer.
To get there: From downtown, take any of the underground MUNI streetcar lines from Powell Street or Montgomery Street stations to Van Ness Station. Walk two blocks north on Van Ness Avenue, then take a left onto Hayes Street.
Did we miss any of your favorite San Francisco holiday displays? Let us know in the comments!