If you want to get into a Christmas spirit, and you are in California right before Christmas, you should visit San Francisco. There are so many things to see and do in this iconic city. Last week I met with a friend in San Francisco just do some touristy things. Sometimes it's fun to pretend that you are just another tourist even if you live close by. We went to see what kind of things San Francisco has to offer for people who love Christmas.
1. ICE SKATING AT UNION SQUARE
Union Square is the heart of San Francisco, and it's a good place to rediscover your Christmas spirit. Every year, there is a huge Christmas tree at Union Square, and an ice skating rink. But there actually is a heart at Union Square too. It is part of a charity programme called Hearts in San Francisco. These hearts can be found around the city, and every year they are auctioned to raise some money for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. The idea of hearts as art work came from Tony Bennett's song "I left my heart in San Francisco", and the heart that he donated got a permanent spot at Union Square.
2. CHRISTMAS RIDE ON A CABLE CAR
Riding a cable car is one the most popular things to do for tourists in San Francisco. It is a convenient way to see the city, and also a big part of San Francisco's history. Before Christmas some of the cable cars are decorated with some Christmas decorations, and they are a fun sight riding up and down on the famous hills of San Francisco. And it's not only tourists who ride cable cars, the locals still use them to commute to work.
3. WINDOW SHOPPING AND MACY'S HOLIDAY LANE
Macy's department store is right across the street from Union Square, and usually has the most popular holiday displays in the city. Like most years, among the clothes and toys, they had some kittens and puppies in the windows. All the animals were looking for an adoptive home, and there were lots of volunteers telling people about the adoption programme, and getting donations. Right next to Macy's are both Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus, which also had festive decorations.
Inside Macy's they have beautiful holiday decorations. Holiday Lane is almost overwhelming, and behind all the decorations sits none other than Santa Claus and greets the kids. If your little one wants to make his or her own toy, there is a Build a Bear workshop with many different stuffed animal choices, and don't forget to leave your wish list in Santa's mailbox. Even though we were not hungry yet, we visited the Cheese Cake Factory on the upper floor of Macy's. They have a great out door patio with an awesome view of Union Square.
Westfield Mall's attraction this year was a Christmas tree hanging upside down from the ceiling. It is located across the street from Macy's.
4. SUGAR CASTLES AT THE WESTIN ST. FRANCIS
Right by Union Square is The Westin St. Francis hotel which displays some huge sugar castles in it's lobby. Their French executive pastry chef, Jean-Francois Houdré with his team, have created two sugar castles inspired by French chateaus. Hundreds of pounds of sugar have been used to make these castles, and they have so many amazing details. The other castle is rotating in the middle of the lobby, and has a little train riding around it. Tiny elves are climbing up to the castle's windows. The lobby is open for curious Christmas people, so don't be shy. You can also buy some pastries to go from the gift shop.
5. A GIANT GINGERBREAD HOUSE AT THE FAIRMONT HOTEL
A short walk from Union Square is the luxurious Fairmont hotel. For many years now, they have displayed a giant gingerbread house in their lobby. This year the gingerbread house was made out of 7,750 pieces, 1,500 pounds of royal icing, and 700 pounds of candy. Hundreds of hours have been used to plan and execute this house. And every now and then, some guest can't resist to take a little bite from the gingerbread house. Even though you have to walk up hill to get to this hotel, it's well worth it!
These are some of my favourites in San Francisco, but there are of course plenty of other things to see as well. For example, the popular Pier 39 usually has a Christmas tree and other holiday things, same with Ghirardelli Square. When visiting San Francisco, you should always check out an events calendar to see what is happening on the days you visit.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas spirit!