9 Weird, Wonderful Holiday Events You Can't Miss in SF
San Francisco hosts The Nutcracker and symphony-backed performances of Love, Actually each December; this year the Opera will even debut a live version of It’s a Wonderful Life. But it’s the less-standard seasonal fare that makes the city stand out. After all, what kind of progressive haven would the Bay Area be without costume parties and drag shows to say “Happy holidays, betches!” Still sorting out your calendar for the month ahead? These are the events you can’t miss.
Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce (November 21-December 1) When a MacArthur Genius fellow puts on a holiday show in your city, you make an effort to see it. A holiday drag extravaganza, Holiday Sauce is funny, heartfelt, and poignant. (And it includes a burlesque performance unlike anything you’ve ever seen.) Tickets available here. Some nudity involved, so keep that in mind when inviting your more innocent friends.
Beach Blanket Babylon Holiday Extravaganza (Through December 31) BBB is a San Francisco institution—a comedic, musical revue poking fun at life in the modern age. The holiday iteration features iconic holiday characters—including Christmas King Louis, Mr. Peanut Santa, and a chorus line of tap-dancing Christmas trees— along with parodies of traditional Christmas carols, pop culture spoofs, and the gigantic Yuletide Hat. Tickets start at $30.
Golden Girls Live: The Christmas Episodes (November 29-December 23) Fact: you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a drag review of the Golden Girls, and the annual Christmas episodes pageant is a perfect way to get started. The holiday show has been running for more than a decade at the Victoria Theatre in the Mission. Tickets are $20-$50, and available on Eventbrite.
Drag Queens on Ice (December 6) Ice rinks pop up throughout the city during the holidays, but Drag Queens on Ice is a one-night-only event.The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square presented by Alaska Airlines is never more fabulous than during one of the City’s most popular events of the holiday season—Drag Queens on Ice. Watch some of San Francisco’s fiercest Bay Area drag queens lip-sync and skate the night away for the eighth consecutive year. Please note that this 30-35 minute show occurs during skating hours, and non-queens will be asked to watch from the sidelines and will not be allowed to skate. There are no refunds or credits for the shortened skate time. Tickets are $20-$25 on Eventbrite.
Exploratorium After Dark: Glow (December 7) The science museum’s annual festival of ebullient lights and subtle glows celebrating the close of the year. At the best light show outside of Burning Man, you’ll find mesmerizing gleams of special installations and kinetic sculptures. Some Glow artworks will be on display through January 6, 2019, but if you want to see it all, you’ll need to show up on December 6. Tickets available here. Free for After Dark members.
San Francisco Symphony’s Nightmare Before Christmas and Home Alone (November 30, December 1 and 6, December 19-21) The Symphony’s orchestra-backed film screenings are wildly popular, and this year you can add Nightmare Before Christmas and Home Alone to the show schedule. Tickets start at $27.50 for Home Alone and $95 for Nightmare, and are available through the Symphony Box Office.
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy (December 23-25) Now in its 26th year, Kung Pao originated as an event for folks who had nothing else to do on Christmas, when most other businesses are closed. Now, it’s become a holiday destination, combining Chinese food and standup comedy. There are two shows daily: a 6-course 5 pm dinner show ($72) and a vegetarian dim sum 8:30 pm cocktail show ($52). Buy tickets here.
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Home for the Holidays (December 24) Sparkle, jazz hands, and lots of ugly Christmas sweaters. Home for the Holidays brings out the full spectrum of holiday revelry as few other shows can do. The 250-member choir dashes between classical fare to swing to big band... plus a few new twists on holiday season classics. There are three performances each year on Christmas Eve at the Castro Theatre, at 5, 7, and 9 pm. Tickets start at $30.
Latke Ball (December 24) The Jewish Federation’s Young Adult Division is throwing its Latke Ball at Oasis on Christmas Eve. Organizers say, “Why stay in and swipe when you can go out, meet people IRL (perhaps your new Jew-boo?!), and dance to the hottest tunes with your crew. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, Latke Ball is coming to town.” Tickets start at $35.
Whether you’re going to a regular holiday pageant or an only-in-SF spectacle, there are tons of ways to embrace the seasonal vibes in the Bay Area. Just don’t wait to procure your tickets. This may be a city of procrastinators, but most—if not all—of these events will sell out.