There’s nothing that kicks off the holiday season more than gathering together with your Bay Area community for a tree or menorah lighting ceremony. These celebrations bring musical performances, activities for the kids and tons of festivity. Below is our list of some of the best and brightest displays to make your holiday planning easy!


photo: Ghirardelli Square

San Francisco

Building Lighting Ceremony & Carnival at Embarcadero Center
While not technically a tree lighting, this building lighting is one you’ll definitely want to attend as it kicks off the holiday season in SF. Four iconic buildings will be lit with 17,000 holiday lights and the sky will explode with fireworks. Fri., Nov. 17. Festivities begin with a carnival at 4 p.m. followed by the building lighting at 6 p.m. Embarcadero Center, SF. 

Pier 39 Tree Lighting
This San Francisco tradition includes holiday carols and the lighting of the 60-foot tree. Sun., Nov. 19. 6 p.m. Pier 39, Beach St. and Embarcadero, SF. 

Debut of the Enchanted Castle and Sugar Castle at the Westin St. Francis
Forget lights—sugar is the star of this holiday celebration. Created by “Sugar King” Executive Pastry Chef Jean-François Houdré and his team, this year two masterpiece castles will be on display. If your mouth is watering, enjoy some complimentary coffee and cookies or head over to the Sweet Shoppe for some take-home treats. Wed., Nov. 22. 11 a.m. 335 Powell St., SF. 


Macy’s 28th Annual Great Tree Lighting
An 83-foot tree, 33,000 twinkling energy-efficient LED lights and 1,100 shining ornaments kick off the holiday season in Union Square. For the best viewing, stop by Union Square early to stake out your spot. Fri., Nov. 24. 5:30 p.m. (tree lighting around 6:40 p.m.). Union Square, SF. 

Ghirardelli Square’s 53rd Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
This Black Friday, Ghirardelli Square will be hosting its annual tree lighting ceremony, complete with Santa, snow and live music. Free kids activities include face painting, caricatures and henna. Fri., Nov. 24. 4-8 p.m. Ghirardelli Square, SF. 

Holiday Tree Lighting at 555 California Street
An 80-foot tree with 96,000 lights is just the beginning of the fun at 555 California Street. The Pacific Boy Choir and Dick Bright Orchestra will be joining in the musical cheer. Wed., Nov. 29. 6-9 p.m. 555 California St., SF.

Rainbow World Fund World Tree of Hope Celebration
This 22-foot holiday tree is decorated with thousands of white origami cranes, each containing written wishes of hope and peace from children and individuals from around the world. Enjoy a performance by the San Francisco Boys Chorus followed by the tree lighting. Mon, Dec. 4. 6-8 p.m. San Francisco City Hall, One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, SF. 

Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park
The official City Tree, a 100 year-old Monterrey Cypress, will be adorned with more than 550 multi-colored lights and surrounded by a decorated train. Then a new light installation will illuminate the Conservatory of Flowers starting at 7 p.m. Thu., Dec. 7. 6 p.m. tree lighting. John McLaren Lodge, Golden Gate Park, SF. 

Presidio Tree Lighting
Join the Golden Gate Carolers to light the tree and sing holiday carols. After the tree lighting, a lantern-lit forest walk will follow. Fri., Dec. 8. 5-6:45 p.m. Presidio Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Ave, SF. 

Hanukkah Candle Lighting
Storytelling at 4 p.m. with candle lighting, singing and festive treats to follow. Dec. 12-19. 4 p.m. JCC of San Francisco, 3200 California St., SF. 

Light the Menorah at Ghirardelli Square
Celebrate Hanukkah at Ghirardelli Square with free kids activities and lighting of the menorah by Rabbi Peretz Mochkin. Event will start at 4 p.m., and the ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. Thu., Dec. 14. 4-6 p.m.. Ghirardelli Square, SF. 

photo: Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

East Bay

Lighting of the Old Oak Tree
This 350-year old majestic tree will become festive for the holidays at this annual tree lighting. Fri., Nov. 24. 5:15-8:30 p.m. Diablo Road, Danville. 

Alameda South Shore Center’s Tree Lighting
Enjoy this Black Friday celebration with carolers and live jazz music, a festive tree lighting ceremony, photos with Santa, as well as skating at The Little Ice Rink throughout the season. Fri., Nov. 24. 6 p.m. Alameda South Shore Center (Located in the Center Court), 523 South Shore Center West, Alameda. 

Light Up the Night
Enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, free cookies and hot chocolate, a holiday arts and crafts fair, costumed characters, music, dancing and caroling. Plus, the lighting of the 25-foot tree! Wed., Nov. 29. 5-8 p.m. Downtown Pleasant Hill, Crescent Drive. 

Broadway Plaza Tree Lighting
Music and festivity will fill the shopping center at Broadway Plaza’s annual Parade of Lights, Open House and Community Tree Lighting. This year’s tree will be lit by Santa Claus himself, who will also make it snow at the Plaza. Thurs., Nov. 30. 6–9 p.m., 1275 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek. 

Jack London Square Lights Up for the Holidays
Oakland is ringing in the holidays with festivities galore! Music, snow flurries, real reindeer, the Oakland Ballet’s Sugar Plum Fairies, cookie decorating, ornament making, plus a Holiday Pop-Up with 70 local artisans will all be part of the event. Officials will be lighting up the skies with the Jack London Square’s 55-foot Mount Shasta Fir Tree. Fri. Dec. 1. 5–7 p.m. Jack London Square, Broadway and Embarcadero, Oakland. 

Bishop Ranch Tree Lighting
Come witness the spectacular lighting of the 70-foot White Fir holiday tree and experience an array of free family-friendly holiday activities including a petting zoo with live reindeer, snow play and food trucks. Fri., Dec. 1. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Bishop Ranch, 6111 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon. 

Concord Tree Lighting
Sing along with the mayor, school choirs and other community entertainers at this holiday extravaganza in Concord. Then, stay for Santa’s big arrival and the tree lighting festivities. Sat., Dec. 2. 4 p.m. Todos Santos Plaza, Salvio and Grant Streets, Concord.

photo: Jack London Square


San Mateo on Ice Tree Lighting
Kick off the holiday season and the opening of San Mateo on Ice with this tree lighting ceremony that includes performances by Olympic skater Polina Edmunds and more. Fri., Nov. 13. 6 p.m. Central Park, 50 E. Fifth Ave., San Mateo. 

Half Moon Bay Night of Lights
Old-fashioned fun is the name of the game as downtown Half Moon Bay lights up for this tree lighting and parade. Fri., Dec. 1. 6-9 p.m. Main Street, Half Moon Bay. 

Redwood City Improvement Association Tree Lighting at Hometown Holidays
This full-day holiday celebration includes a parade, live entertainment, special musical performances, a visit from Santa, real falling snow and a tree lighting. Sat., Dec. 2. Event runs 10 a.m.-8 p.m. with tree lighting at 5:45 p.m. Courthouse Square, Redwood City. 

photo: Santana Row

South Bay

Santana Row Tree Lighting Ceremony
Bring the kids to see costumed characters, performances by local theater groups and the lighting of the 40-foot Christmas tree by Santa himself. Tue., Nov. 14. 5-9 p.m. Santana Row, San Jose.

37th Annual Christmas in the Park Tree Lighting Ceremony in San Jose
This year’s Annual Community Giving Tree Lighting Ceremony includes a festive tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Holiday cheer continues throughout the month so be sure to check the event details and website for a full rundown. Enjoy free photos with Santa all season long! Fri., Nov. 25, 6 p.m. Plaza De Cesar Chavez Park, San Jose.

Santa Clara Tree Lighting
Kick off the holidays with music, entertainment, food and more at this Santa Clara ice rink. Fri., Dec. 1. 6-9 p.m. Central Park, 969 Kiely Blvd., Santa Clara. 

Cupertino Tree Lighting
Enjoy a countdown to light the tree, music, refreshments and a special visit from a friend who lives in the North Pole. Fri., Dec. 1. 6-8 p.m. Quinlan Community Center, 10185 N. Stelling Road, Cupertino.

Mountain View Community Tree Lighting Celebration
Head to Mountain View for live holiday music, refreshments, children’s activities, free photos with Santa and a holiday tree lighting ceremony. Mon., Dec. 4. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Civic Center Plaza, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. 


photo: Rainbow World Fund by William Lee

North Bay

San Rafael Winter Wonderland
Downtown San Rafael will once again host its annual holiday Parade & Winter Wonderland. In its 38th year, the event will feature a Holiday Marketplace with arts and crafts, live entertainment, children’s activities, free snow sledding and one of the largest Holiday Parades in the Bay Area. After the parade, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and the mayor of San Rafael will join together to light the dazzling Christmas Tree. Fri. Nov. 24, noon (5:30 p.m. parade of lights) Fourth St., B St. to Lootens, San Rafael. 

Jelly Belly Factory Tree Lighting
Puppet shows, live music and Santa will all kick off the holiday season at this tree lighting event. Santa photos available after the character parade. Sat., Nov. 25, 5-8 p.m. Jelly Belly Visitor Center, One Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield. 

Tiburon Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting
Get there early to great Santa as he arrives via firetruck then stick around for a festive day of gingerbread house decorating, horse-drawn wagon rides and roasting chestnuts. The tree will be set aglow at 6 p.m. Sat., Dec. 2, 2:30–9 p.m. Fountain Plaza, Tiburon. 

Where do you go to usher in the holidays? Let us know below!

—Kate Loweth & Erin Feher