San Francisco is a magical city anytime of the year but especially during the holidays. If the whimsy of cable cars and colorful Victorian mansions don’t already have you in the holiday spirit, visiting on of these festive San Francisco neighborhoods sure will!

To be fair, pretty much every neighborhood in San Francisco is festive during the holidays. Below are the top picks from Danielle Lazier :: SFhotlist Team and Compass San Francisco.

Union Square and Downtown

It doesn’t get much more festive during the holidays in San Francisco than in Union Square and Downtown. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, you’ll love searching for the perfect gifts amidst the holiday storefront displays that line market street. If big shopping centers are more your fancy, the Westfield San Francisco Centre goes all out with Christmas trees, a Festival of Lights Hanukkah Celebration, wreaths, and lights galore, and just up Powell Street Macy’s decks their halls with red bows, giant wreaths, and window displays with adorable shelter animals waiting to be adopted.

Union Square itself features a skating rink next to a towering holiday tree twinkling with thousands of lights. This downtown hub also hosts Hanukkah lighting celebrations of the menorah. The hotels surrounding and nearby Union Square also boast larger-than-life holiday displays, including a two-story gingerbread house (which visitors can tour) at the Fairmont and giant sugar cookie castles at the Westin St. Francis. Just don’t try taking a bite out of one of these delicious looking confections — opt for holiday sweets and treats from the local shops instead.

Noe Valley

This quaint San Francisco neighborhood already has a village-like charm that’s reminiscent of wintery ski towns, except there are palm trees instead of evergreens and no snow to be found. Noe Valley residents make up for the lack of snow by going full force with the holiday spirit. Trees are lit with twinkling lights, poles and meters are candy striped, and the range of activities runs from a menorah lighting to Santa appearances to a Holiday Wine Walk.

The main holiday event in Noe Valley is the 24 Holidays on 24th Street, which runs from the last Saturday of November until December 24th. For a whole month, merchants promote holiday festivities and entice passersby with festive decorations, Christmas carolers, and other fun-filled events. If you’re thinking about buying a home in Noe Valley, the holiday season is a great time to buy a cup of hot cocoa and meander through the festive streets while touring potential dream homes. One home that’s not to be missed is Tom and Jerry’s on 21st Street. Every year this Noe Valley Victorian is trimmed with giant ornaments, holiday mascots, and over-the-top decorations that truly make Noe Valley a one-of-a-kind destination during the holidays.

Cow Hollow

The residents of the Cow Hollow neighborhood kick off a month-long celebration of the holiday season with the Union Street Fantasy of Lights (this year held on December 3rd). This historic neighborhood transforms into a dazzling display of Victorian and Edwardian homes lit with colorful lights, entertaining performers, photos with Santa Claus, and an abundance of Yuletide cheer.

Storefronts along Union Street and in the neighborhood keep the holiday spirit going all December long by competing for awards for best holiday window displays. Take a stroll down this festive street and catch a glimpse of sugar plum fairies, mischievous elves, cheerful snowmen, and other colorful holiday delights. This season is a perfect time to catch an open house or two if you’re looking to buy a home in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, since you will be able to see the homes in their most whimsical states.

Bernal Heights

This year, Bernal Heights celebrates its 7th annual Holiday Stroll on December 8th. This event is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Attendees enjoy great food, fabulous entertainment, and shopping for gifts from unique Bernal Heights boutiques.

As a family-oriented neighborhood, Bernal Heights residents are known for going all out with decorating their homes for the holidays. Local shops get in the spirit, too, and the entire neighborhood takes on an extra element of cheer. Combine that with the dazzling views of San Francisco’s city lights and you’ve got one of the most festive neighborhoods in San Francisco during the holidays. The Bernal Heights neighborhood also happens to be one of our specialties at SFhotlist. If you’re interested in buying or selling a home in Bernal Heights, reach out!

The Castro

It’s no secret that residents and merchants in the Castro neighborhood adopt a “go big or go home” attitude to most celebrations and this includes the holiday season. Not to be rivaled by the tree in Union Square, the Castro neighborhood has their own annual tree lighting ceremony at Castro and 18th Streets. Hundreds of people attend the ceremony to witness the lighting and entertainment by groups such as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the SF Gay Men’s Chorus.

If you missed the tree lighting ceremony, you better not pout and you better not frown, because the tree is on display all season long. Of course, merchants and residents also spruce up their stores and homes with fabulous holiday displays. If you really want to feel festive, purchase some freshly baked cookies from Hot Cookie and then head on over to the historic Castro Theater to catch a holiday movie.

The Most Festive San Francisco Neighborhoods

Did we miss any of your favorites? What’s the San Francisco neighborhood you’re most likely to visit during the holidays? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter! #SFhotlist

Happy holiday season from Danielle Lazier :: SFhotlist Team and Compass San Francisco!

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