Number 39 - November 2012
Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's quarterly newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website,, to learn more about our private, custom tours.

Holidays in San Francisco

Many folks no longer do traditional family holiday celebrations at home. They decide that the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays provide good opportunities for a vacation. If you want to make San Francisco your holiday destination or are a local sticking around town, here are some tips for enjoying Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day Activities

Most shops and attractions are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. However, there are still fun things to do on these days:

Walk among the coastal redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, at Muir Woods National Monument. The park is open 365 days a year. Winter hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $7 for each person over the age of 15. Be aware that parking is limited so you may want to go to the park with a tour operator to avoid struggling to find a place for your car.

On Christmas Day, you can visit the The Contemporary Jewish Museum. Current exhibits include The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951 and California Dreaming - Jewish Life in the Bay Area from the Gold Rush to the Present. The museum will be open from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and does not charge admission on Christmas.

There are many fun things to do that can be done on any day of the year. A walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco's number 1 tourist attraction, is a great way to see some beautiful scenery and get a little exercise. The walkway is open from sunrise to sunset. There is public transportation to the San Francisco end of the bridge but not to the Marin County side.

Ride the cable cars. Travel over Nob Hill on America's first moving National Historic Landmark. The fare is six dollars per person.

Visit San Francisco's number 2 tourist attraction: Lombard Street - "The Crookedest Street in the World." Visitors flock to Lombard Street to see its gardens and curves. Don't forget that two blocks away is the steepest street in San Francisco: Filbert Street. You can take the Powell-Hyde Cable Car to the top of the crooked part of Lombard and then walk down the hill to North Beach or Fisherman's Wharf.

If the day is nice, go for a walk in the city. The Coastal Trail at Land's End and The Embarcadero are two of my favorites. I also enjoy walking up and down San Francisco's many stairways. Buy a copy of Stairway Walks in San Francisco and pick a walk that looks like fun. I especially like the walks on Russian Hill.

Most movie theaters are open on the holidays, so you can easily take in a flick. If you are planning to go late in the afternoon or early in the evening, be prepared for crowds.

Dining During the Holidays

San Francisco is a great eating city. While many restaurants close on Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are an increasing number that serve special meals on these days. A good listing is usually available in the food section of You can see a list of open restaurants on when you try to make a reservation on these dates. The concierge or front desk staff at your hotel can also help you. Many Asian restaurants are open on Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially in Chinatown. However, be prepared for crowds at the more popular dim sum restaurants such as Yank Sing and Ton Kiang.

If you want to dine at one of our top restaurants during Thanksgiving weekend or the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, make a reservation well in advance. The very best restaurants fill up quickly.

Special Holiday Events

American Conservatory Theater (ACT) has a long tradition of performing "A Christmas Carol" between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shows start on November 29 and conclude on December 24. Similarly, the San Francisco Ballet performs The Nutcracker. Performances begin on December 7 and finish on December 28. Shows frequently sell out, so buy your tickets early.

San Francisco hasn't seen snow since 1976, but we do have ice skating. Seasonal rinks are located at Union Square and Embarcadero Center. The Union Square Ice Rink will be open from November 7 through January 21 from 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. The Embarcadero Ice Rink opens on November 7 and closes on January 6. Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., except on Fridays and Saturdays when the rink closes at 11:30 p.m.

Over in Oakland, the California Revels offers its "Christmas Revels," a celebration of the Winter Solstice, on December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16. This year's production,"The Celestial Fools," is set in the 16th century village of Prosecco.

There are numerous other holiday events. You can see a listing on the San Francisco Travel Association's website,

Winetasting during the Holidays

The winter is our rainy season but that doesn't need to stop you from having fun. Tasting wine in a warm, dry winery is a great activity on a wet day. Many wineries close as early as noon on Christmas Eve and 2:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve. A few wineries close completely on one or both of these dates. Nearly all wineries close on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. (I say nearly because, in years past, I have been surprised to learn that one or two wineries chose to remain open.) Most wineries are closed on New Year's Day but enough remain open to make a visit to Napa or Sonoma Valley possible. If you do go winetasting on New Year's Day, make a lunch reservation in advance as restaurants are likely to be crowded.

Blue Heron Custom Tours invites you to enjoy the holiday season in San Francisco. If you'd like a tour during your visit, contact us at 1 (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or I wish you and your family happy holidays and a prosperous new year.

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See you on the road,

Rick Spear
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel
275 Staples Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112
(866) 326-4237 (toll free)
(415) 337-1874 (local)
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TCP 16309-S

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