16 BEST Christmas Lights in San Francisco [2024 Guide]

Reviewed by Elina Ansary
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Spending Christmas time in the Bay Area? Visit the best Christmas light displays in SF to ensure a festive holiday season.

There are tons of places to view breathtaking lights during Christmas in San Francisco

From giant art installations to holiday home displays, fun Christmas events happen every day of the week throughout the holiday season. 

San Francisco has you covered for budget-friendly Christmas activities. Holiday cheer should not mean breaking the bank; luckily, many of these events are free to view. 

With such a wide selection, you may wonder where to even begin.

With this curated list, I’ve selected the very best for your viewing pleasure. All you have to do is plan your route!

Statues of cherubs playing in the center of a fountain glowing with green light, with rees decorated with red Christmas lights in front of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, seen at night glowing with yellow light.

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Where Can I See Lights in San Francisco?

To find the best Christmas lights in SF, check out our map of San Francisco Christmas Light Destinations below:

Best Neighborhoods for Christmas Lights in San Francisco

A Spanish-style residential San Francisco house decorated with red and green lights and Christmas decorations, seen at dusk.

Lombard Street (Russian Hill)

Where: Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA
When: Throughout December

Lombard Street is one of the most famous streets in San Francisco, known for its steep incline and the eight hairpin turns within a 1-block radius. 

The street’s unique design makes for a fantastic Christmas light display and does not disappoint. 

Recognized by many as the street in San Francisco that has the best Christmas lights, Lombard glows with beautiful lights that decorate the homes on SF’s most crooked street. 

If you’re driving, be sure to enter from the top of the street (from Lombard and Hyde), as the street is one-way. 

Even if you’re walking, starting from the top will provide a more effortless experience, as it will take you downhill. 

You will get astonishing city views while strolling or driving down this unique street. Lombard offers some of the best neighborhood Christmas lights in San Francisco

Merced Heights Houses (Ingleside)

Where: Intersection of Garfield St and Monticello St, San Francisco, CA
When: Nightly throughout December, 6pm – 12pm

Inflatables of Christmas characters, nativity scenes, thousands of twinkling lights, dazzling tree displays, and so much more await you on this unassuming block in Ingleside. 

This may be the best Christmas light neighborhood in San Francisco.

While the light displays have been a tradition for several years, it grew and expanded during COVID-19 and still remains today. 

The residents of one of the homes will stand outside with positive and encouraging messages on signs to inspire their guests. 

One of the best parts of viewing these houses is chatting with the folks living there. They love to interact, so don’t be shy! 

Another house has an entire lawn display of vintage decorations. They are a very passionate bunch, so be sure to witness the Christmas spirit for yourself.

Best Houses for Christmas Lights in San Francisco

A view from below of a brick house decorated heavily with Christmas Lights and garlands in San Francisco.

68 Castro Street House & Castro Rainbow Tree

Where: Castro District, San Francisco, CA
When: Evenings throughout December 

There are many delightful holiday light displays and holiday decorations in the Castro District. Two sights in particular, however, absolutely must be on your To-Do List. 

For many locals, the beautiful Victorian family home at 68 Castro Street has long held the title of the best Christmas house in San Francisco, and it’s no mystery why. It’s the most decorated Christmas house in San Francisco.

Almost every inch of this classic SF home is covered with twinkling lights, decorations, inflatables, bows, garlands, and more. You’re in for a treat here.

Once you’ve thoroughly taken in the gorgeous sight of this unique Christmas house display, you can head to the corner of 18th and Castro to view the infamous Rainbow Christmas Tree. 

The tree is about a mile from the Christmas House at 68 Castro. 

This giant Christmas tree lights up rainbow to celebrate the city’s LGBTQIA+ community and is unique to the neighborhood. It’s the perfect opportunity for a dazzling holiday photo. 

There is an annual holiday tree lighting ceremony for this Castro Holiday Tree, so be sure to attend that if you can.

Light Tunnel House

Where: Outer Sunset on 43rd & Rivera Street, San Francisco CA
When: Nightly throughout the season

Giant lighted arches covering almost the entire block will lead you to the Light Tunnel House at 43rd & Rivera Street. 

This house’s residents have created a spectacle worthy of running through repeatedly. 

And, if you catch it right at sunset, the gorgeous pink sky behind the series of lighted tunnels adds an extraordinary element to the experience. 

Holiday House 45 Upper Terrace House

Where: 45 Upper Terrace, Corona Heights, San Francisco, CA
When: Throughout December

This San Francisco house has come to be known as The Holiday House in Corona Heights for its over 20 years of unique and beautiful Christmas decorations. 

As it’s built entirely of brick, the house is a unique sight in San Francisco and, therefore, already one of the notable houses in the area. 

The couple that lives here enjoys invoking Christmas cheer each year with their holiday displays.

The residents of this house also create displays for other holidays throughout the year, including Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving, and St Patrick’s Day.

Best Places to Look at Christmas Lights in San Francisco

A overhead nighttime view of Union Square in San Francisco with a huge Christmas tree lit up in the center, with Saks Fifth Avenue visible in the background.

Illuminate SF Festival of Light

Where: Throughout downtown SF (there is an art installation map on their website)
When: Thanksgiving through January 31st

Illuminate SF is an ongoing light festival during the winter months throughout San Francisco. 

As the days get shorter toward the holidays, Illuminate SF brings a vibrancy to the city with incredible light shows in many of the city’s most prominent public spaces. 

Laser light shows shine from the tops of iconic SF buildings, landmarks, and neighborhoods from Mission Bay to SoMa. 

If you just stroll down Market Street or through Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll surely catch many of these Christmas displays. 

Most of the laser light show events and other installations are publicly accessible and free of charge. However, some attractions are in the museums and other spaces that require an admission fee. They all aim to transform the city with light and art!

The art installations are primarily in downtown San Francisco, and you can find them by following the map and itinerary on the event’s website.

Happier Holidays at Pier 39

Where: Entrance Plaza of Pier 39, San Francisco, CA
When: November 21st – January 7th

The holidays at Pier 39 are an annual event that sparks holiday cheer every year. 

Happier Holidays bedazzles Pier 39 with holiday lights, including a 60-foot Christmas tree, which gets re-illuminated in a tree-lighting ceremony every half hour from 5pm-10pm each night. 

There will be ice skating, holiday treats, and some of the best holiday lights the city has to offer.

Entwined at Golden Gate Park

When: December 1st – March
Where: Peacock Meadow, Golden Gate Park, 240 John F. Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA

Some of the best Christmas light displays in San Francisco are at Entwined in Golden Gate Park throughout the winter months. 

This winter festival of art and light shows lasts well past Christmas, keeping the spirit alive throughout the colder days.

The event brings numerous sculptural light installations throughout the park, which glow in technicolor every evening.

Entwined is excellent for a family or romantic evening with your sweetheart. 

One of my favorite features of Entwined is the Lighted Forest in Peacock Meadow. You’ll feel like you’re in a CGI fantasy world!

The Gingerbread House at Fairmont San Francisco

When: Throughout December
Where: Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA

The Fairmont San Francisco in Nob Hill displays its famous two-story gingerbread house each year. There are also many Christmas decorations and holiday lights here.

The Fairmont Hotel Gingerbread House is a nostalgic holiday tradition anticipated by SF locals every holiday season. 

You can walk through the life-sized gingerbread house and then stroll through the hotel to enjoy the festive decorations. 

These are some of the only San Francisco Christmas lights and decorations accessible on Christmas Day. 

And if just strolling through isn’t enough to fulfill your Christmas fever, you can even stay in one of the hotel’s Santa Suites for the weekend. 

If you plan it right, you can also meet Santa, participate in The Fairmont’s Holiday Tea, or attend one of their other holiday events.

Winter Wanderland in Union Square

Where: 333 Post St., San Francisco, CA
When: November 1st – January 15th

San Francisco’s Union Square becomes a true winter wonderland during the holidays. 

Christmas in Union Square means ice skating beneath the famous Union Square Christmas Tree illuminated by thousands of shimmering lights. 

Check their website for the event’s itinerary, and attend the Christmas Tree Lighting in Union Square Park (2023 dates TBD). 

Even though it’s not a white Christmas in California, you’ll feel like you’re at the North Pole in Union Square during the holidays. 

You can also check out the holiday events at the Civic Center, such as the tap dancing Christmas Trees in the Civic Center holiday show and The Nutcracker Ballet.

Ghirardelli Square Winter Wonderland

When: Throughout December
Where: Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA

Ghirardelli Square in Fisherman’s Wharf becomes a winter wonderland here during the holiday season when San Francisco Christmas lights are at their finest.

Since Ghirardelli Square is also home to Ghirardelli Chocolate, I’d recommend grabbing some sweets and taking a stroll around the square to view the lights and do some holiday shopping. 

There will also be holiday movie screenings throughout the season and opportunities to take photos with Santa, hear live music, and more.

You’ll find some of San Francisco’s best holiday lights and Christmas trees in Ghirardelli Square. 

The event itinerary is on their website, so stay tuned and plan your visit.

Rainbow World Tree of Hope Lighting at Grace Cathedral

A grove of trees in a park at night with their trunks wrapped in red and green Christmas lights and benches beneath them, bathed in a green glow.

When: 2023 dates TBD
Where: Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco, CA

Tom & Jerry’s House in San Francisco was once the epicenter of Christmas lights in the queer community. Sadly, one of the owners has since passed. 

But fear not because the spirit is still alive! If you’re looking for queer community this Christmas, the Rainbow World Fund’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Grace Cathedral is a yearly event that celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community.

This huge Christmas tree stands 23 feet tall. Named the World Tree of Hope, it symbolizes wishes for better queer futures in the Bay Area. 

Dozens of origami cranes carrying handwritten wishes adorn the Christmas tree. It’s recognized internationally as a queer cultural phenomenon.

To complete the experience, live music from the San Francisco Boys Choir accompanies the thousands of glorious Christmas lights. The queer holiday spirit is potent!

Let’s Glow SF

Where: First Market Tower, 525 Market Street, San Francisco, CA
When: December 1st – 10th, 5pm – 10pm nightly

If you’re seeking San Francisco Christmas Lights on a record-breaking scale, Let’s Glow is one of America’s largest holiday light projection shows.

This annual winter light festival is two weeks of holiday lights, animation, music, art, and entertainment, brought to you by SF’s local artists as well as several international artists.

Each of the festival’s animated shows aims to celebrate winter in some way. There will be projections and light shows each evening. 

The festival ceremony starts with the “Switch On” event on December 1st.

Other Places to Look at Christmas Lights Near San Francisco

A suburban Bay Area house lit up with Christmas decorations, seen at dusk form the sidewalk.

Christmas Tree Lane on Fulton Street

Where: 1700-1800 Fulton Street, Palo Alto CA
When: Nightly throughout December, 5pm – 11pm

Christmas Tree Lane on Fulton Street has been returning to Palo Alto for over 80 years. It’s earned its stripes!

The holiday displays at Christmas Tree Lane on Fulton draw thousands of visitors yearly to witness the dozens of houses lit up for the season. 

Although located in the suburbs outside the city, it’s a long-standing San Francisco tradition that many SF locals are willing to hop in the car for.

Holiday characters on roofs, Christmas music playing on loudspeakers, hundreds of thousands of colorful lights, an extensive collection of holiday decorations, beautiful Christmas trees, and so much more make this neighborhood one of the Bay’s most festive. 

While in the area, I’d urge you to check out Fantasy of Lights in Santa Clara. 

Lighted Yacht Parade, Oakland

Where: Oakland Yacht Club, 1101 Pacific Marina, Alameda, CA (parade starts between Wind River and the Fortman Marina’s public pier)
When: 2023 date TBD

The Holiday Yacht Parade in Oakland is an annual lighted boat parade that brings Bay Area boat owners out to celebrate the holidays by decorating their boats, yachts, canoes, kayaks, and all other watercrafts with beautiful DIY holiday decorations and lights. 

There is a different theme each year and contests and prizes in various categories that boat owners can enter. 

This holiday boat parade is a smaller version of the Fisherman’s Wharf Holiday Boat Parade in San Francisco, which begins at Pier 39 and goes to Crissy Field, passing the Marina Green along the way. 

Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda

When: Throughout December
Where: 3200 Thompson Avenue, Alameda, CA

Alameda’s Christmas Tree Lane is a holiday tradition that has continued to spark joy in the Bay Area community since 1938. 

The residents of Thompson Ave transform their street into a Christmas spectacular, filled with holiday trees, treats, caroling, Christmas music, and holiday cheer each year.

You can drive down the street and enjoy the holiday lights without even getting out of the car, or you can park and stroll through the festivities. 

Either way, this is always a bucket list item for the holiday season.

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Taylor Neal

Taylor is a multi-disciplinary artist, writer, yoga instructor and frontline worker who spends most of her time in her van (Vannigan) winding through the coastal and mountain roads of California where she feels most at home. From navigating the realities of van-life to the fluctuations in diverse climates and landscapes, Taylor is excited to bring everything she’s learned about California to fellow wanderers seeking beauty and adventure.

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.


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