Celebrate the holiday season with the Golden Girls, high-in-the-sky tea, and plenty of music and comedy this month in San Francisco.
AFAR Local is our monthly insider guide to the best of what’s happening in cities around the U.S.
December 1 - 31 | Music
SF Symphony Holiday Concert Series
The annual Holiday Concert Series from the San Francisco Symphony is thoughtfully programmed, with a diverse lineup of performances that cover a range of themes and prices (tickets start as low as $15 for some events). Highlights from this year’s season include Holiday Gaiety with Tales of the City author and new memoirist Armistead Maupin, Peaches Christ, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (December 8); Holiday Soul with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and CeCe Winans (December 12-13); a live screening of Home Alone accompanied by the Symphony (December 16-17, 20); annual favorite A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live! (December 21-24); and the Symphony ringing in New Year’s Eve with Seth MacFarlane (December 31).
Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco | From $15 | website
December 1 - 23 | Theater
The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes
San Francisco’s fabulous drag queen posse who occasionally pose as Golden Girls (Heklina as Dorothy, Matthew Martin as Blanche, D’Arcy Drollinger as Rose, and Holotta Tymes as Sophia) return with a beloved annual holiday tradition of performing live-action holiday episodes from the series. These gals have great chemistry and provide a loving tribute to the original.
8:00 PM | Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco | From $25 | website
December 4 - 20 | Drink
Holiday High Tea
It would be a dream if the sky-high Top of the Mark, which offers some of the most dazzling views in San Francisco, offered afternoon high tea all year round, but your only chance to have this afternoon delight is during December for the Holiday High Tea. This year, chef Michael Wong has crafted tea sandwiches such as lobster with grape, microgreens, and caviar; Santa Barbara smoked salmon with cucumber and cream cheese; and Brie with strawberries, prosciutto, and balsamic glaze. Pastry chef Phuong Vong has made sweets, including blueberry maple scones, pear caramel tartlets, and orange chocolate eclairs.
2:30 PM - 5:00 PM | Top of the Mark, InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco, 999 California St., San Francisco | From $60 | website
December 9 | Music
San Francisco participates in an annual worldwide music walk called Unsilent Night, and it’s easy to join in the fun if you download the four associated songs (including “Unsilent Night” by Phil Kline) ahead of time from the event’s official website. You’ll be guided when to press play and create a sonic flash mob of sorts, which organizers like to call a “sound sculpture.” Any phone will do, but if you’re really old school and have a cassette boom box, there will be a few cassettes available to rock as well.
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM | Dolores Park, 19th and Dolores Sts., San Francisco | Free | website
December 15 - 30 | Holiday event
On a select few nights in December (15-17, 19-23, and 26-30), the San Francisco Zoo is open after dark for a holiday-inspired light show called ZooLights. The 100-acre park stays open three hours past its normal closing time for a completely different view of critters, crawlies, and creatures big and small. A special gift marketplace and carolers will infuse some holiday spirit into the wildlife.
5:00 PM - 8:00 PM | San Francisco Zoo, Sloat Blvd. and 45th Ave., San Francisco | From $20 | website
December 26 - January 1 | Film
“The Sound of Music” Sing-A-Long
One of San Francisco’s most beloved holiday traditions is the Castro Theatre’s annual Sing-A-Long screening and party for The Sound of Music. Nerding out on all the songs is celebrated, and there are helpful captions on the screen for the uninitiated or the forgetful. Costumes and free spirits are encouraged.
Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco | website
December 23 - 25 | Comedy
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
The time-honored Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas is taken to its greatest heights at New Asia Restaurant every year for Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. This 25th anniversary edition features stand-up comedy with organizer Lisa Geduldig, Wendy Liebman, Cathy Ladman, and Gary Gulman during the choice of a cocktail show with vegetarian dim sum or a performance paired with a more extensive and omnivorous seven-course dim sum menu.
New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave., San Francisco | From $52 | website
December 31 | Music
Eye Heart New Year’s Eve
The revitalized Autotuner T-Pain and Party Favor from Diplo’s Mad Decent label helm an evening of year-ending and year-beginning fun at the ninth annual Eye Heart New Year’s Eve. A general admission ticket includes access to the open bar all night, so there will be plenty of slizzered party patrons guaranteed, with the organizers boasting of having the best bartender to guest ratio around. Bottoms up to 2018!
9:00 PM | Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd., San Francisco | From $139 | website
December 31 | Music
The Acid Test New Year’s Eve Freakout
Discover your inner Merry Prankster in the Mission on New Year’s Eve and hallucinate without drugs with the assistance of liquid lights and other super optical illusion–generating visuals on a retro ride through the Summer of Love and beyond. There will even be a pop-up shop offering psychedelic rock posters for sale. You’ll be back in your right mind by 2018.
9:00 PM | Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St., San Francisco | Free (donations welcome) | website
January 11 - 28 | Plan ahead: Comedy festival
The 17th Annual SF Sketchfest
Don’t dilly-dally if you want to see any of the comedy shows, panels, screenings, or other events associated with the 17th Annual SF Sketchfest, which sells out many events quickly and others well before the date. The 2018 edition features more than 200 shows to choose from, including tributes to comedians Ricky Gervais, Paul F. Tompkins, Dick Cavett, and Christopher Guest; classic shows like Twin Peaks; and the ultimate party movie, Animal House. Treat yourself this January and plan a day or evening of laughter.
Times & locations vary | From free | website
Tamara Palmer is a daily news writer, rapper confidante, DJ, and celebrity chef ghostwriter from San Francisco.