Marching toy soldiers, leaping doves and even circus performers usher in the holiday season this year. With performances that range from classical renditions of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol to the perennial San Francisco favorite dance-along Nutcracker, there’s something for even the youngest theater-goers. Check out our list below and get your seats reserved!

San Francisco Ballet

photo: San Francisco Ballet by Erik Tomasson

San Francisco

San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker
Treat the kids to a magical family performance of The San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, set right in the City by the Bay. One hour prior to curtain, the characters are also available for photo opps—so dress the family in their best gear, get there early and don’t forget your camera. If you need to leave the theater during the show with your little ones, catch the performance on a monitor in the Family Viewing Area on the Dress Circle level. Note: no children under 3 allowed. Runtime: two hours including 20 minute intermission. Dec. 12-16, 18-24, 26-29. $39 and up.

The War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Ave. (at Grove)
San Francisco, CA
Onlinesfballet.org

ODC Dance’s The Velveteen Rabbit
Celebrate the 32nd year of ODC Dance’s magical production of The Velveteen Rabbit. Beautiful storytelling, whimsical costumes and genuine holiday cheer—all bring the story of a well-worn nursery rabbit to life. For an additional $20 you can attend the Milk and Cookies party after the show on Nov. 25 for dancing, games and treats. Runtime: 90 minutes with intermission (no intermission during weekday performances). Nov. 24–Dec. 9. $15-$65.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
700 Howard St. (at Third)
San Francisco, CA
Onlineodcdance.org

photo: ODC Dance by Andrew Weeks

San Francisco’s Youth Ballet’s The Nutcracker
This charming rendition of The Nutcracker by San Francisco’s Youth Ballet is also an affordable one, which could make it the perfect intro for even the youngest of audience goers to the joy (and etiquette) of a beautiful ballet—not to mention getting them into a festive mood. Stay after the show for photos with the dancers. Runtime: two hours. Dec. 1 & 2, 1 and 5 p.m. $24-$50.

Mercy High School Theater
3250 19th Ave.
San Francisco, CA
Onlinesanfranciscoyouthballet.org

Dance-Along Nutcracker: Clara Potter & the Edler Baton
Grab your owl and a broom and go back to school at Fogwarts, an exclusive school for those with extraordinary magical and musical talent. Join Clara Potter and her friends on a fun-filled musical adventure, featuring secret riddles, an evil school board, kazoos, a three-ish headed dog and more music and dancing than you can shake a wand at! Dec. 8 at 3 and 7 p.m. & Dec. 9 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. $20-28 kids/seniors/students, $35-45 adults. 

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
700 Howard St. (at Third)
San Francisco, CA
Onlinesflgfb.townalive.com

photo: Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet by Keith Sutter

Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet
The whole family is sure to get dancing as Smuin lets loose a playful performance with vignettes ranging from ballet and tap to swing and jazz, and other dances drawn from holiday celebrations around the world. Runtime: two hours. In San Francisco from Dec. 13-24, with performances around the Bay Area including Mountain View (Dec. 5-9), Carmel (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) and Walnut Creek (Nov. 16-17). $34 and up.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA
Onlinesmuinballet.org

photo: African American Shakespeare Company

African-American Shakespeare Company’s Cinderella
An annual holiday treat, this timeless tale, brought to whimsical, magical life just in time for the holiday season, is an uplifting re-telling of the classic fairytale, featuring all of the pageantry, hilarity, and charm of the original, but with a soulful twist. Dec. 21 at 8 p.m,, Dec. 22 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. $25-45.

Herbst Theatre
401 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA
Onlineafrican-americanshakes.org

photo: Zan Keith Photography

Circus Bella’s Kaleidoscope
Get ready for a full-force, non-stop show of thrilling feats in Circus Bella’s upcoming winter showcase Kaleidoscope, a celebration of diversity and color! Enjoy an evening of performances by aerialists, acrobats, family foot jugglers, clowns and more—all performed to original music written by local music legend Rob Reich and performed by a live six-piece band. Located at the restaurant Mersea in the heart of Treasure Island, the restaurant will feature an upscale circus menu to accompany the show. Nov. 30-Jan. 6. Wednesday-Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. $39 and up. 

Mersea Meadow
699 Avenue of the Palms
San Francisco, CA
Onlinecircusbella.org/kaleidoscope

nutcracker-sweets-ginger-house-700x524

photo : Mark Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets by Matt Harber

Mark Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets
Foehringer’s Dance Project|SF performs a Nutcracker choreographed with the kids in mind. It’s just 50 minutes and recommended for anyone over age two. Live music and a few deviations from the classic will keep the whole family entertained. The cast meets with the audience after, so bring your camera. Weekends, Dec. 8-23. $20.50-42.50

Cowell Theater
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA
Onlinenutcrackersweets.org

photo: Patrice Lamoureux

VOLTA by Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil returns to the San Francisco Bay Area with VOLTA, a captivating voyage of discovery! Inspired in part by the adventurous spirit that fuels the culture of street sports, VOLTA explores the themes of celebrating differences and unique qualities in a world where technology often isolates people from one another rather than freeing them. Nov. 15-Feb. 3. Tuesdays-Thursday at 8 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays at 4:30 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. $54 and up. 

Under the Big Top
AT&T Park
San Francisco, CA
Onlinecirquedusoleil.com/volta

photo: A.C.T. A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
Featuring a lively cast of dozens, delightful music, gorgeous costumes and deliciously spooky ghosts, this version of A Christmas Carol stays true to the heart of Dickens’s timeless story of redemption and brings a playful sensibility to his rich language. Now in its 42nd year, A Christmas Carol is a cornerstone of the A.C.T. repertory and has become a holiday tradition for families around the Bay Area. Dec. 6-29. $10-120.

A.C.T.’s Geary Theater
415 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA
Onlineact-sf.org

photo: Oakland Ballet Company by John Hefti

East Bay

Oakland Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker
One girl’s enchanted evening comes to life in contemporary choreographer Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker, amidst a turn-of-the century setting that features a hot-air balloon ride. Runtime: approximately two hours including intermission. Dec. 22 at 1 & 5 p.m., Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. $24-97 (15% discount for kids and seniors). Purchase $15 tickets to the Sweet Dreams party to enjoy refreshments and photos after the 1 p.m. shows. After the 5 p.m. show, join the dancers for an encore reception of champagne and holiday treats at $25/adult and $15/child. 

Paramount Theatre
2025 Broadway
Oakland, CA
Onlineoaklandballet.org

Berkeley Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker
This rendition of The Nutcracker is considered an East Bay must, especially for the youngest ones (even for toddlers as young as three!).  To give your own aspiring dancers some inspiration make sure to point out that this year’s principal roles are performed by members of the BBT’s Youth Company.  Dec. 14-16; Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. $35. Tickets for Sugar Plum Fairy parties following Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. performances are $10. 

Julia Morgan Center for the Arts
2640 College Ave.
Berkeley, CA
Onlineberkeleyballet.org

Berkeley Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker

photo: Berkeley Ballet Theater

Peninsula/South Bay

My Very First Nutcracker
My Very First Nutcracker is a special one-hour classical ballet presentation suitable for the youngest audiences that features the first act of The San Jose Nutcracker, including a festive holiday party hosted by young Clara, her brother Fritz and their family in San Jose at the turn of the last century. Dec. 15-16 and 22-24 at 11 a.m. $12.50-33. 

Hammer Theatre Center
101 Paseo de San Antonio
San Jose, CA
Onlinesanjosenutcracker.com 

photo: Cliff Warner

JOY! A Holiday Show
This interactive holiday show for the 21st Century features a capella singers, circus artists, dancers and gymnasts for a visually stunning show that the whole family will enjoy. Dec. 7-9 in San Jose. Also, Nov. 23-Dec. 2 in Santa Cruz. $15-50 with group discounts available.

Hammer Theatre Center
101 Paseo de San Antonio
San Jose, CA
Onlinetandybeal.com/joy

Peninsula Ballet Theatre’s Hip-Hop Nutcracker
This production plays homage to both the tradition of Nutcracker and future of dance. It features 35 hip hop artists from The Tribe and Poise’n, joined by dancers from Peninsula Ballet Theatre. For the ultimate in fun, make the event a train adventure—the station’s right behind the theatre! Meet the cast after every performance.  Dec. 21-22, 28-29 at 7 p.m. $35 until Dec. 1, then regular pricing. 

The Art Deco Fox Theatre
2215 Broadway
Redwood City, CA
Onlinepeninsulaballet.org

photo: Kevin Berne

Tuck Everlasting
An enchanting bestseller springs to life in this 1890s tale of Winnie Foster, a free-spirited girl whose search for adventure leads to the Tucks, a close-knit family that has discovered the secret to everlasting life. With a rousing score and a wealth of warm-hearted humor, this whimsical Broadway musical offers Winnie the choice of a lifetime: return to everyday life, or join the Tucks on their infinite, irreversible voyage through time. Don’t miss this magical holiday treat for the entire family. Runtime: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Note: allow extra time before the show to find street parking as the lot is under construction. Select days Nov. 28-Dec. 30. $40-100. 

Lucie Stern Theatre
1305 Middlefield Road
Palo Alto, CA
Onlinetheatreworks.org

Moscow Ballet Nutcracker

photo: Moscow Ballet

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker
This holiday performance for families features magical toys, falling snow, growing Christmas trees, the feather-winged dove of peace and astounding ballet moves. Dec. 16 at 3 and 7 p.m.. $23 and up.

Flint Center
21250 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino, CA
Onlinenutcracker.com

Bayer Ballet Company’s Snow Queen 
When the Snow Queen’s spell captures a young boy, his best friend sets out on a quest to save him. A journey filled with whimsy and intrigue, friend and foe, this beautiful original youth ballet takes you on a magical journey where true love and enduring friendship overcome evil. No kids under age three allowed. Runtime: Approximately 2.5 hours with one 20-minute intermission. Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. & Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. $33-53.

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St.
Mountain View, CA
Onlinebayerballetacademy.com

photo: Carol Rosegg

Cinderella
This lush production features an incredible orchestra, jaw-dropping transformations and all the moments you love—the pumpkin, the glass slipper, the masked ball and more—plus some surprising new twists! Be transported back to your childhood as you rediscover some of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s most beloved songs in this hilarious and romantic Broadway experience for anyone who’s ever had a wish, a dream. . . or a really great pair of shoes. Nov. 30-Dec. 2. $43-138.

Center for the Performing Arts
255 S. Almaden Blvd.
San Jose, CA
Onlinebroadwaysanjose.com/cinderella

photo: Marin Ballet

North Bay

Marin Ballet’s Nutcracker
The Marin Ballet’s huge cast of over 200 dancers electrifies the stage in this lavish performance of a classic holiday tale. Dec. 8 & 9 at 1 and 5 p.m. $25 youth/seniors, $45/adults. $10 for the Candy Cane Party immediately following every 1 p.m. performance. 

Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
10 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA
Onlinemarinballet.org

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Sophie and the Enchanted Toyshop at Marin Dance Theater
Your family’s in for a treat in this two-act children’s ballet, where a mysterious toy maker sweeps young Sophie away on a magical adventure full of colorful characters, inspired sets, and toys that come to life.  A Teddy Bear Tea Party follows the 1 p.m. performance with a cast member/photo-opp meet and greet.  Dec. 15 at 1 and 5:30 p.m. Adults $40; seniors and students $32. Teddy Bear Tea Party $10.

Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
10 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA
Onlinemdt.org

photo: Mark Strassman, Stapleton Ballet

Stapleton Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Stapleton Ballet’s inspired performance of The Nutcracker full of intricately crafted costumes and sets has a loyal following of families each year, and it’s not too late for you to make it part of your family’s holiday tradition. Meet and greet after the 1 p.m. shows. Dec. 1 & 2 at 1 and 5 p.m. Adults $39; seniors and youth $26. 

Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
10 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA
Onlinestapletonschool.org

photo: A Magical Cirque Christmas

A Magical Cirque Christmas
A Magical Cirque Christmas is a holiday entertainment blockbuster set to dazzle audiences of all ages. Featuring the best talent from around the globe, this show includes jaw-dropping magic, breathtaking circus acts, and angelic voices singing Christmas carols backed by incredible live musicians on stage. Audience members will be transported to the golden age of entertainment by the mind-blowing talents, stunning costumes, comedy and more. Nov. 23 at 8 p.m. $49 and up. 

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
50 Mark West Springs Road
Santa Rosa, CA
Onlinelutherburbankcenter.org

—Kate Loweth, Mae Respicio & Erin Feher