Northern California, which is known for its pink sunsets and beautiful sun-kissed days, does winter like no one else.
From November onwards, the days begin to get noticeably shorter, and in December, we find ourselves staring at sunset as early as 5 PM.
These winter vibes are balanced with beautiful sunny afternoons, and you quickly grow to understand why every San Francisco street is filled with magic in every possible season.
While there are plenty of bars, restaurants, and waterfronts to enjoy in San Francisco, the biting evening chill can be a deterrent for both tourists and residents.
It is precisely this weather that has prompted us to scout and design the perfect activity. A drive around the best neighborhoods of San Francisco to see Christmas lights!
Whether you’re visiting the city or you are a seasoned resident, there is no doubt that this particular route will surprise and delight you. So, without further ado, let’s begin this special Tripster Christmas light drive…..
Often called the most crooked street in the world, Lombard Street is the single most visited street in the city. Shaped like the ridges on a hairpin, this street boasts some of the city's best views.
Lombard Street used to be a two-way street, but now it is only a one-way street heading downwards, so make sure you head to it from Lombard and Hyde. Do not head to Lombard and Leavenworth as that is the bottom of the hill.
It might interest you to learn that Lombard street came to be that crooked as an attempt by the city to make the steep slopes of San Francisco safer and slow down the traffic on them.
Well, thanks to those plans, now we can drive slowly down this funny street and feast our eyes on the view in front of us. The best part about doing this iconic San Francisco drive in the evening and closer to Christmas is that the view and lights are even more stunning than usual. Both bridges and Coit tower are beautifully lit up for the holidays and our viewing pleasure.
Now that your eyes are quite literally filled with the starry lights you saw in the distance, let me steer you towards some further delights.
Vallejo and Broderick Street Intersection
Why am I quoting street intersections? If you want to tour the city lights like a resident, you have to locate hidden treasures like one. This will be your first stop on this wondrous journey.
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The easiest thing to do is to navigate to the Consul General of Norway on Broadway street and then turn right on Divisadero street to join Vallejo, where you will turn left, and a block down is Vallejo and Broderick. This street has some beautiful street lighting to bring you Christmas cheer at the mere sight of it. You’ll know that you’re looking at it when you see some decorated trees and houses starting at the very street corner.
Jackson and Baker Street Intersection
The Jackson and Baker street intersection is down the road where the next set of beautiful lights await. The closest landmark to navigate to is Hotel Drisco Pacific Heights.
From here, you would either head down Pacific Avenue towards Baker Street and turn left on Baker, or you could head down Broderick street and turn right towards Jackson and Baker.
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All roads lead to Rome, as they say, and both these roads lead to this beautiful intersection with its bewitching lights. As you are now firmly in Pacific Heights, your view of these beautiful lights will be enhanced with a gorgeous view of the bay or the hills. Look around and take the charm in before moving on.
Jackson and Laurel Street Intersection
You may have noticed that you are right next to Presidio park but don’t get distracted just yet; there are at least three more intersections to visit! We now head to the intersection of Jackson and Laurel, where more street lighting awaits you.
The best part about this stretch of the drive is that you get to see some architecturally stunning houses in addition to the beautifully lit streets.
This section is home to historic Presidio houses, once used for military housing. These houses are their very own unique architectural design that nods to the Edwardian and Military architecture styles. Every time I drive by them, I can’t believe that these houses are available to live in. They are so picturesque that everything feels ethereal with the twinkling lights.
Washington and Locust Street Intersection
Just about a block away is another intersection with a fantastic display of street lights. As you head towards your fourth beautifully decorated intersection, take a minute to reflect that the residents themselves have decorated these streets.
These decorations are not put up by the city to encourage tourists or any business to make the street appear more attractive. This is an act of joy by the residents to extend their Christmas spirits outside their homes and spread cheer to passers-by. Just knowing that makes the yellow lights feel even warmer, and the biting cold feels less sharp.
Jackson and Cherry Intersection
Saving the best for last, this stunning display has lights and snowflakes! I mean, who doesn’t love snowflakes, and when they decorate a gorgeous ivy-covered wall, sigh, that is pure magic.
The twinkling lights cover a significant part of the wall. In addition, you may even want to halt a minute to take it all in. Finishing your little driving tour with this street will firmly embed Christmas cheer in your heart, perhaps even forever.
Awww, don’t be sad that the night has come to an end. You’re in San Francisco, and there are a number of options of how you may end the night with Christmas lights. You can head to Union Square for ice skating, photos with Santa, or a spot of some good ol’ shopping.
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You could also head down to Fisherman’s Wharf or Pier 39 for a night by the water. Better yet, don’t go too far at all. Head over to Fillmore Street within Pacific Heights for shopping and delicious food.
Want to make your own home look just as dazzling? Take a look at how you can hang your Christmas Lights like a pro!