Thanksgiving in San Francisco: Where to Go & What to Do

October 30, 2018

With the brisk 60-70℉ weather and ample fun by the bay, spending Thanksgiving in San Francisco is a fantastic idea.

Instead of spending an entire day cooking a gigantic feast, take a break this year and escape to San Francisco.

Use the holiday to a few of San Francisco’s top attractions and destinations before heading out to dinner reservations at a world-class restaurant.

man walking through muir woods near san francisco, California, USA

10 Things to Do on Thanksgiving in San Francisco

Since you won’t have to prepare a meal or tidy up the house for guests, you have the whole day free! Check out these great things to do in and around the Bay Area on Thanksgiving Day.

Muir Woods National Monument

If your family is the outdoorsy type, a trip to Muir Woods National Monument is a must. Plus, with most people celebrating the holiday at home, you’ll have the park practically to yourself!

Roam through the towering Redwood trees on 6 miles of hiking trails, each with a unique perspective of the park. While most of the trails are easy or moderate, a few are quite strenuous. Before embarking on a trail, grab a map and ensure you know where you’re going.

Golden Gate Bridge and National Recreation Area

If you’re going to spend Thanksgiving in San Francisco, you have to visit the city’s most notable landmark! For the best views of the bridge, head to these prime sightseeing destinations:

Plus, while you’re there, take time to explore the massive Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Here you’ll find beaches, hiking trails, waterfront walkways, picnic spots, and so much more. Two of my favorite spots to visit are Kirby Cove and the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

San Francisco Botanical Gardens

Located in Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Gardens is a serene and beautiful escape from the hectic city. While at the gardens, visitors are invited to stroll through 55 acres of open and landscaped greeneries boasting 8,500+ types of plants from all over the globe.

Related Post: San Francisco Modern Art Museum: Everything You Need to Know

The Botanical Gardens are open from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day. And, Thanksgiving is one of the garden’s free admission days! You won’t spend a dime to enter this hidden San Francisco treasure.

Pier 39

Pier 39 is a San Francisco tourist staple. As part of Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 offers visitors an abundance of attractions, activities, and restaurants, along with sightseeing opportunities. While each individual store or attraction at the pier will have their own Thanksgiving day hours, most of them are open on the holiday.

While at the pier, check out top attractions including:

California Academy of the Sciences

Bringing the kids along to celebrate Thanksgiving in San Francisco? Then a stop at California Academy of the Sciences should be on your itinerary. The museum houses an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum all in one building. Visitors have the opportunity to interact with exhibits on topics ranging from tropical fish to our solar system.

Be sure to head into the Osher Rainforest where you’ll encounter thousands of butterflies and free-flying birds from around the world.


Did you know San Francisco is home to the second-largest Chinatown in the country? Filled with delicious restaurants, intriguing tours, and a myriad of festivals, there’s always something to do here. Find time on your Thanksgiving Day to roam the neighborhoods, visit the shops, and grab a meal or two at locally-owned restaurants.

Japanese Tea Garden

Also situated in Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden is a peaceful spot to relax on Thanksgiving day. The garden was originally created for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition but ended up staying on the grounds as part of a mutual agreement.

While in the garden, guests can stroll through the pathways, enjoy a cup of tea, and visit the gift shop. The Japanese Tea Garden is open from 9:00 am to 4:45 pm on Thanksgiving Day.

San Francisco Zoo

Looking for something wild to do on Thanksgiving in San Francisco? Visit the San Francisco Zoo! Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, the zoo houses hundreds of animals and plants, along with educational exhibits designed to intrigue visitors of all ages.

The San Francisco Zoo also offers rides and playgrounds for the little ones as well as keeper talks and feedings to captivate older children.

Ice Skating

What holiday season would be complete without going to an outdoor ice skating rink? Plus, ice skating is a great way to work off that Thanksgiving dinner! A few of the top outdoor ice skating rinks in San Francisco include:

  • Embarcadero Ice Skating Rink - Across from the Ferry Building. Open from 11/5/18 - 1/6/19.
  • Union Square Ice Skating Rink - Open from 11/7/18 - 1/21/19.
  • San Jose Downtown Ice - 120 South Market Street, San Jose. Open from 11/16/18 - 1/27/19.
  • Civic Center Ice Skating Rink - Open from 11/30/18 - 1/6/19.

Union Square Tree Lighting

One of San Francisco’s grandest Thanksgiving weekend traditions is the Union Square Tree Lighting. Each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, San Francisco tourists and locals gather in Union Square to watch the gigantic Christmas tree light up with thousands upon thousands of lights and ornaments.

While the ceremony starts around 5:30 pm, the actual tree lighting does not occur until closer to 7:00 pm.

Make your Thanksgiving reservation at San Francisco’s top restaurants ASAP!

Where to Eat in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day

Instead of cooking the day away, reserve a table at one of San Francisco’s best restaurants! However, it is in your best interest to make a reservation sooner rather than later.

Hornblower Dining Cruises

Enjoy a Thanksgiving feast while taking in the views of the San Francisco Bay on one of the Hornblower Dining Cruises. These cruises fill up fast, so secure your spot today!

One Market Restaurant

1 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Thanksgiving Dinner includes a four-course Prix menu from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Main course options include Roasted Turkey, Berkshire Pork Loin, Wild Mushroom Risotto, and more.

Reservations are required. $79 per person, excludes beverages, taxes, and gratuity. Call (415) 777-5577 to place a reservation.

Presidio Social Club

563 Ruger Street, San Francisco, CA 94129
For those spending Thanksgiving in San Francisco, consider making reservations at Presidio Social Club. A traditional Thanksgiving menu will be served from 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm and features a classic turkey dinner. Reservations are required and seats fill up fast! Call (415) 885-1888 to make a reservation.

House of Prime Rib

1906 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109
If steak is more up your alley, make reservations at the House of Prime Rib. Along with a Thanksgiving menu, this fine-dining restaurant offers world-class cuts of meat and delectable sides. Place your reservation by calling (415) 885-4605.

How Will You Spend Thanksgiving in San Francisco?

Are you planning to sit by the ocean and soak in the sun? Will you go on a Thanksgiving day hike? Or, perhaps you’re gearing up for a day of museum hopping. Tell us how you plan to spend your Thanksgiving in San Francisco below.

Don’t forget to book a hotel room, too! San Francisco hotel room reservations fill up quickly during the holiday season.

isis with mural in background

Written By Isis Maya

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

Want to write for Tripster?

Have something to add? Post it here:

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe to our Newsletter