Christmas Lights San Francisco: 12 Must-See Magical Places

Northern California, which is known for its pink sunsets and beautiful sun-kissed days, does winter like no one else.

Follow along to discover the 12 best places to view San Francisco Christmas lights. 

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 visitors will quickly understand why every San Francisco street is filled with magic during the holiday season. If you can brave a slight frosty chill, you’ll be rewarded with plenty of holiday razzle-dazzle. 

Some of the most popular streets in San Francisco feature a plethora of street string lights, light installations, animated decorations, and illuminated trees to discover.

Travel by foot or e-bike, or cozy up in your car as you cruise through swaths of reindeer, sparkling lights, and tinsel.

Whether you’re visiting the city or you are a seasoned resident, there is no doubt that this special street route will surprise and delight you. So, without further ado, let’s begin this Christmas lighting San Francisco drive…..

Best Christmas Lights in San Francisco

Lombard Street

Often called the most crooked street in the world, Lombard Street is one of the most famous streets in San Francisco. Shaped like the ridges on a hairpin, this street boasts some of the city’s best views.

As you drive down the street, you can get some fantastic views of the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and Coit Tower.

Related Post: Upcoming San Francisco Events and Festivals 

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.

Shot looking up Lombard Street with hundreds of people dressed as Santa walking down it in San Francisco, California, USA
photo credit:
Mediatrix Medy West via Facebook

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’s steer towards some further delights.  

Can’t get enough of San Francisco streets? Hit the pavement, but preserve your energy when you book an Electric Tour of the Golden Gate City. Catch spellbinding glimpses of the most beautiful and coolest streets in San Francisco, all while on top of a Segway.

Vallejo and Broderick Street Intersection

Why are we 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 in witnessing this winter wonderland.

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. 

Large house decorated with bright warm colored Christmas lights at night
photo credit: Juliana Malta via Unsplash

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.

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. So look around and take the charm in before moving on. 

Need a break from soaking in all the Yuletide sparkle of San Francisco? Take on the best streets in San Francisco like a true veteran with a Skyline Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Tour. From Haight/Ashbury to Peacock Meadow at Golden Gate Park, you’ll conquer the top sights and cool streets in San Francisco like a pro.

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 Christmas street. Known as one of San Francisco best streets, this tree-lined reprieve is home to historic Presidio houses.

Once used for military housing, in winter, these stately homes feature stunning lights and decorations. These houses have unique architectural designs that conform to the Edwardian and Military architecture styles. Quite appropriately, these picturesque dwellings looked like they have been plucked straight out of a Christmas Carol!

christmas light reindeerWashington and Locust Street Intersection

Just about a block away is another intersection with a fantastic display of street light San Francisco. As you head towards your fourth beautifully decorated intersection, take a minute to reflect that the residents themselves have decorated these Christmas 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. 

Christmas tree and people in Union Square, San Francisco, CA, USA

Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda

Christmas Tree Lane may be technically located in Alameda. However, if your schedule allows, make time to abscond from Fog City for a night of merriment, music, and extravagant light displays. Swing by the 3200 block of Thompson Ave, between High & Fernside in Alameda, California for an over 80-year-old tradition.

Every December evening from 5 to 10 pm locals and residents alike can walk or drive down the lane to soak in the impressive explosion of lights, inflated elves, and performing groups. Passersby should pack their Santa hat and thermos of cocoa, as they’ll want to spend at least an hour touring the Elve’s workshop or clapping along to the tunes of local marching bands. 

Psst..Want to make your own home look just as dazzling? Take a look at how you can hang your Christmas Lights San Francisco like a pro!

christmas lights with santa, reindeer, small dogs, snoopy all in a front yard at night
Photo Credit: Howard Harawitz via Facebook

Christmas Tree lighting San Francisco

Pier 39

Take down that Christmas list with ease, when you spend an evening shopping and spotting lights at Pier 39. Tuck into creamy chowder or fresh bread at Boudin, before setting your sights on the Pier’s stunning 60 feet tall tree. Pier 39 will flip the switch for the season on November 23rd sans ceremony.

But shoppers searching for an extra dose of holiday joy should stay put, as this fully outfitted Fir will offer a musical light show every half hour from 5 pm to 10 pm nightly.

Union Square Tree Lighting

Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree! Inhale that fresh scent and steep yourself in the magic of the mistletoe season, when you catch a glimpse of the magnificent Union Square Christmas Tree.

While this year there will be no official tree lighting ceremony, Christmas lovers can admire the multi-colored bulbs and LED efficient holiday lights from November 25, 2022, through the New Year. Donated by Macy’s to the city of San Francisco, this stunning and sustainable tree will be sitting pretty in Union Square Park. 

Pro Tip: Journeying from Union Square/Market Street Station to Union Square Park is a breeze – just a brief 5-minute walk. Head out from the station on the Geary Street side and amble north along Geary Street until you hit Powell Street. Voila! Union Square Park greets you on the left.

large christmas tree with building in background at night at Union Square Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony in San Francisco, California, USA
photo credit: Handlery Union Square Hotel via Facebook

Civic Center

Fun, festive, and free? Say less! Every little elf on this side of the North Pole will be flocking to the Civic Center for a night of Christmas music, DIY activities, refreshments, and more. On December 7th, 2022 the Civic Center Plaza Holiday Tree Lighting returns.

In addition to the stately allure of the lit-up Civic Center, visitors can snap selfie after selfie of the bejeweled tree. From 4 to 7 pm enjoy entertainment led by the Boxcar Theatre’s artistic director. Revel in tap-dancing Christmas trees, appearances by the Grinch, and festive holiday activities with SF Etsy. Indulge in mouthwatering holiday treats and even participate in a toy giveaway.

Holiday Season Events San Francisco

Illuminate SF

Art enthusiasts, listen up! The Illuminate SF Festival of Lights is back, and it’s lighting up San Francisco like never before. Prepare to be amazed by over 60 outdoor art installations scattered throughout the city. From delicate flower pieces to monumental sculptures, this festival is a visual feast that’ll leave you in awe.

Get ready to embark on a journey through 17 neighborhoods, each transformed into a canvas of creativity. As you wander, you’ll encounter the work of more than 40 talented artists who’ve infused their passion into every installation.

Holiday Tea at the Fairmont San Francisco

Pinkies up! Craft unforgettable Yuletide memories when you experience the tradition and sophisticated charm of a holiday tea at the Fairmont. This classic event is the ideal way to welcome the winter season. Delight your little prince or princess with the stunning ambiance of Laurel Court.

Sip piping hot cups of perfectly brewed loose-leaf tea with seasonal flavors like Vienna Eggnog and Frosty Plum Spice. Sample plates of fresh-made maple scones and buttermilk biscuits, or opt for a selection of tea sandwiches.

And don’t miss the enchanting gingerbread house display, adding a touch of magic to your experience. It’s a symphony of flavors and aromas that’ll warm your heart and tantalize your taste buds.

Woman Taking Photo of Christmas Lights
photo credit: Catherine Zaidova via Unsplash

Building Lighting Ceremony & Carnival

Who can say no to the enchantment of Embarcadero? Tap into your candy cane reserve, as you’ll need plenty of energy to attend the Building Lighting Ceremony & Carnival.

Congregate at the Center on November 18th at 4:00 pm to commemorate over 30 years of festivities, decorations, and activities. This year’s entertainment boasts plenty of carnival games, face painting, and even a special appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

San Francisco Attractions

Need a few more exciting experiences to round out your yule-tide itinerary? Check out some of our favorite Bay Area activities below:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco’s version of the Museum of Modern Art is just as appealing to guests of all ages as New York’s MoMA was envisioned to be. Choose from a growing collection of more than 30,000 masterpieces and take an audio tour to learn more about the exhibits that spark your interest.

people standing around the gallery at the san francisco museum of modern artEscape From the Rock Cruise

Cruise around The Rock while listening to chilling tales of Alcatraz’s legendary escape attempts. This 90-minute cruise will have you learning about the intriguing stories of Al Capone, Billy Cook the Killer, Clyde Johnson, and many others as you appreciate every angle of the mysterious island. Alcatraz cruise tickets are discounted! Escape From the Rock Cruise discount tickets are available here.

Glen Blair Bar Skunk Train

Towering Redwoods, the soft murmur of crickets, and a crackling firepit. All under a star-studded northern California night sky. Sneak away to imbibe among the giants when you secure discounted tickets to the Glen Bair Bar Skunk Train experience through Tripster.

Hop aboard a vintage locomotive and ride the rails along Pudding Creek to a secret watering hole with live music, a twinkle-light-strung pavilion, and a world-class Skunk Train bar serving wine, beer, and more.

front of skunk train with steam blowing traveling through a redwood forest
Photo Credit: Skunk Train via Facebook

San Francisco Hotels

Before viewing San Francisco Christmas decorations, you should secure your lodgings. See Alcatraz, munch on fresh Sourdough, and explore Ghirardelli Square when you extend your Golden Gate stay.

Whether you are dying to see the south San Francisco Christmas lights, or wish to celebrate the season at the Aquarium of the Bay, we have a bounty of San Francisco Hotels to choose from. As always, schedule your reservation stress-free knowing you are guaranteed our lowest rates online.

a photo of a bedroom

White fairy lights, giant crimson bows, and tons of Holly. Even before the commencement of Turkey Day, The Happiest Season is in full swing in San Francisco.

Related Post: San Francisco Christmas: How to Spend a Holiday by the Bay

From Lombard to Locust street, you can use your car or hop aboard cable cars to tour the most iconic San Fran Christmas spots.

Complement your evening adventure with a scrumptious afternoon tea full of buttered biscuits and brownies. Or observe tap dancing Christmas trees and musical performances at the Civic Center. 

Ready to see the Christmas lights of San Francisco? Tell us, which streets of San Francisco will you visit first?

Did we miss any of the best Christmas lights Streets?

Where else are the best streets San Francisco for Christmas lighting?

Leave us a comment below!

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

2 comments about “Christmas Lights San Francisco: 12 Must-See Magical Places”


December 16, 2023 at 9:31 pm

I visited all of these intersections and there were hardly any lights.

avatar of Teresa in blue tripster shirt


December 21, 2023 at 7:34 am

Hi Nicki, thank you for sharing your experience. We are disappointed to learn that there were minimal lights to see while checking out these recommended festive spots in San Francisco. Time for us to do some deeper digging to uncover where to find them!

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