San Francisco offers a holiday season filled with activities and events

During the holiday season, a seven-metre Christmas Tree and two-storey gingerbread house display grace the Fairmont San Fracisco's Grand Lobby.

During the holiday season, a seven-metre Christmas Tree and two-storey gingerbread house display grace the Fairmont San Francisco’s Grand Lobby.

During the month of December, visitors to San Francisco will find the City by the Bay aglow with lights, sights and decorations that add to the city’s naural scenic beauty and magical atmosphere.

While Christmas can be a challenging day to plan activities, several notable spots in San Francisco keep their doors open and the merriment level set to high. Consider visiting some of the following areas and enjoying the special holiday activities on offer druing the 2014 holiday season.

After delivering presents to more than one-billion children worldwide, Santa unwinds by driving a Zamboni. All three Downtown San Francisco ice skating rinks (Union Square, Embarcadero Center and Yerba Buena Gardens) are open on Christmas Day, the latter two until late in the evening. The Union Square rink is particularly jolly, as the commercial bustle will have ceased but the adjacent holiday tree remains lit.

The Reindeer Romp at the San Francisco Zoo runs through Jan. 1, and is open on Christmas, too. On loan from the North Pole, the four reindeer will mesmerize kids and considering the zoo is across the street from the Pacific Ocean, it’s hard not to love a bonus trip to the beach in late December, especially with a cup of hot chocolate from the Lemur Café.

The Botanical Gardens are Golden Gate Park’s most manicured jewel. The gates are flung open to everyone on Christmas Day, free of charge. Roam through 55 acres of native plants, succulents, magnolias, a grove of redwoods, the Ancient Plant Garden, and the rest of the 8,000 species on display, some of which might even be in bloom (especially the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest). If you’re lucky, the weather will be temperate enough for a picnic.

Although closed New Year’s Day — and Yom Kippur, of course — the Contemporary Jewish Museum is open on Christmas. Better yet, it’s a Community Free Day, so all the galleries are open (which means advance registration is highly recommended). And because the CJM is exhibition-based, lacking a permanent collection, every year is different.

Bringing together the Jewish comedic heritage with the venerable tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas, the 22nd annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy fills that gaping hole around dinnertime when Gentiles are eating a roast. Since its inception, Kung Pao has catered to more than 40,000 attendees. The tradition has expanded into two shows (a dinner show at 5pm and a cocktail show at 8:30pm) on Dec. 24, 25 and 26. Two Canadian-born comedians are on the bill: Jeremy Hotz (Best Male Stand Up: Canada, Best International Performer: Sydney Comedy Festival) and Ophira Eisenberg (Host of NPR’s trivia comedy show, Ask Me Another).

The incomparably beautiful Palace Hotel turns into a holiday wonderland each year, with a giant gingerbread house and tea with Santa every Saturday in December. Anyone looking for something traditional can choose from among six brunch sittings on Christmas Day, in either the Grand Ballroom or the fabulous 19th century Garden Court. An upscale buffet as opposed to a standard meal — think crepes and a carving station — its Yuletide grandeur befits both the occasion and the surroundings.

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