Holidays in San Francisco

By Stephanie Wright Hession

Each year I look forward to the holidays in San Francisco and all the activities they bring. From Union Square to adoptable animals and an overnight stay at a grand dame of a hotel, here are some of my favorite spots:

Union Square

Admire the hundreds of glistening ornaments and more than 40,000 sparkling LED lights on the Christmas tree. Macy's has featured a tree in Union Square during the holiday season for almost three decades.

Location one, photo one, Macy’s Tree. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession.jpg

Don a pair of skates and take a whirl in the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink presented by Alaska Airlines. Special events at the rink include Disney's “Arabian Nights," themed around the "Aladdin" musical, 6-7:30 p.m. and 8-9:30 p.m., every Wednesday through Jan. 10, 2018. Featuring music from the original Broadway cast recording and a rink lit in purple, it celebrates the musical’s run at SHN’s Orpheum Theatre (through January 7. 2018.) Safeway Holiday Ice Rink admission including skate rental: $13-$18. Locker rental: $3. Hours: 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. daily. Through Jan. 15, 2018. (415) 781-2688.

Safeway Ice Rink. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession.jpg

San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows at Macy's

Stop to see and perhaps provide a loving, forever home to one of the adoptable kittens, cats, puppies and dogs from the San Francisco SPCA through January 1. Take home the new addition to your family from the San Francisco SPCA adoption pop-up located on the main floor of Macy’s. Last year through this program 267 animals found homes and it raised $90,000 to provide support year-round for the nonprofit's lifesaving programs. During the last 28 years, the program helped more than 8,500 animals find their loving, forever homes.

The San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows at Macy's. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession.jpg
Location one, photo two, The San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows at Macy's. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession.jpg


Open since 1861, Gump's is a distinguished department store found only in SF. Look for exquisite home decor, gift and personal care items created by craftspeople, designers and artisans from throughout the world. These currently include handcrafted, glass-blown Vermont evergreen trees by Simon Pearce, lighted gingerbread houses, a miniature, vintage-style carousel from Germany, a pillow adorned with the image of a yellow lab donning a top hat and much more. 135 Post St., S.F. (415) 982-1616.

Afternoon tea at The Rotunda-Neiman Marcus

I remember the first time I came here with my mom and brother during the holidays. Perched beneath a stained glass ceiling, original to the City of Paris department store, with views of the iconic Neiman Marcus tree and windows overlooking Union Square it's certainly one of the most dramatic places to enjoy afternoon tea.

Choose from a variety of Dammann Frères loose leaf teas accompanied by finger sandwiches, scones served with preserves and rich cream, and housemade sweets ranging from tarts to cookies. Reservations a must.


“A Christmas Story: The Musical.” Through Jan. 13, 2018. $20-$125. San Francisco Playhouse, 2nd floor of the Kensington Hotel, 450 Post St., S.F. (415) 677-9596,

See my previous post about this hilarious musical for all of the details.

The Palace hotel

Reopened in 1909 after the 1906 earthquake and fire, the Palace hotel remains the epitome of refinement. I’ve celebrated many special occasions here from a Valentine’s day getaway with my hub to a girls' Sunday brunch in the Garden Court restaurant with its breathtaking glass ceiling and crystal chandeliers

The Garden Court restaurant. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession.jpg
 The Garden Court restaurant 

The Garden Court restaurant 

If you decide to stay overnight, be sure to take a dip in the heated indoor pool. I love swimming here surrounded by windows affording views of the city skyline and then enjoying a relaxing soak in the whirlpool spa.

The Palace pool.jpg

At the end of the evening, before heading up to your room, stop in for a nightcap at the Pied Piper bar and spy its namesake, Maxfield Parrish's "Pied Piper of Hamelin" mural.

 A superior guestroom

A superior guestroom

Current holiday packages include the “Park, Shop and Save,” which includes a one-night stay, complimentary parking for one vehicle and special offers from Bloomingdale’s, Gump’s and more. Rates from $205. Through December 30, 2017, blackout dates do apply. (415) 512-1111.  


The living room of the State Suite

 The State Suite bedroom

The State Suite bedroom

 The bath in the State Suite

The bath in the State Suite