SF: 10 Haute Holiday Happenings You Don’t Want To Miss

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread House
Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread House

Photo Credit: Courtesy Fairmont San Francisco

As we turn the calendar from November to December, it’s time to truly get in the holiday spirit with events throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Here are some of the hautest holiday happenings in the region that we think you should check out.

Napa Valley Wine Train Santa Express
Napa Valley Wine Train Santa Express

Photo Credit: Courtesy Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa Valley Wine Train’s Santa Express

November 30, 2015-December 17, 2015
Hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train’s Santa Express and share a magical adventure with family and friends rolling through spectacular Wine Country. In the station before boarding, children can take a professional picture with Santa that will be available for purchase following the ride. Journey with Frosty, Rudolph, Gingerbread Man and jolly Old St. Nick from downtown Napa to Yountville for 90 minutes of holiday cheer. A child-friendly menu is available with adult options including local wines and festive beverages. The Santa Express runs mornings and afternoon on Mondays through Thursdays. 
Tickets: $25 per person (children and adults), $45 per person for seats in the Vista Dome
. For the full schedule, visit http://winetrain.com/package/santa-trains.

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread House

Through January 1, 2016
For more than a century, Fairmont San Francisco has enchanted guests with its joyful holiday festivities and exuberant seasonal ambiance. Once again, the hotel lobby has been transformed into one of the world’s most beloved holiday destinations. The highlight of this awe inspiring exhibit is a two-story giant Gingerbread House in the hotel’s Grand lobby. Equal in size to last year’s stunning, two-story-high Victorian, the house stands more than 22 feet high and 23 feet wide and include thousands of home-baked gingerbread bricks and more than a ton of royal icing and candy décor. Kids can write letters to Saint Nick in the lobby’s “North Pole Nook” all season long (Fairmont guarantees speedy delivery to the North Pole). Friends of Fido will delight in the pet-friendly hotel’s Gingerbread Doghouse, located right next to the North Pole Nook. Due to popular demand, the gingerbread house’s railroad track has been extended, which will surely delight the many train-loving children who happily gaze upon this favorite feature. More holiday characters and moving parts have also been added to increase the holiday magic! In the spirit of the season, and as a part of Fairmont’s “Trees of Hope” campaign, a donation box benefitting Michael Franti’s “Do it for the Love” Foundation is set up next to the Gingerbread House and towering Main Lobby tree.

Westin St. Francis Enchanted Castle

Through January 2, 2016
While out holiday shopping in Union Square, be sure to stop by the Westin St. Francis, where Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Francois Houdré and his team recently unveiled the new “St. Francis Enchanted Castle” in the Landmark Lobby. This one-of-a-kind rotating 12-feet-tall winter wonderland features brilliantly colored ornaments, elaborate gift boxes, candies and Christmas trees. Elves can be spotted climbing all the way up to a towering all-white sugar castle. Each item is intricately handcrafted using the practiced techniques of sugar art including pulling, blowing, shaping and molding, each taking years to perfect. Through December 20, satisfy your sweet tooth at the pop-up “St. Francis Sweet Shoppe,” also in the Landmark Lobby and where you’ll find a selection of freshly-baked decorative cookies, orange scented shortbread, gingerbread men and rice crispy treats all available for purchase. Open Saturdays and Sundays until December 20, 2015; 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco Tree Lighting Ceremony & Teddy Bear Tea

Thursday, December 3, 2015
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
A favorite among the Bay Area community, the Tree Lighting Ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco ignites the holiday season at sundown, when the 40-foot holiday tree outside the hotel is illuminated by Santa Claus and his little helper from the Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay Area. Hosted by KRON Channel 4 anchor Vicki Liviakis, this annual tree lighting ceremony begins with Dickens-era costumed carolers and trumpeters performing holiday favorites throughout the hotel while guests and locals alike enjoy holiday beverages and treats. After the ceremony, children are invited to take photos and visit with Santa. The Tree Lighting Ceremony, taking place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., is complimentary and open to the public.

Another fabulous experience at The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco is the Teddy Bear Tea, an annual holiday tradition where children are invited to gather in the festively decorated Terrace Room for a special tea experience of hot chocolate, teddy bear cut-out cookies, and assorted sandwiches in playful shapes. They are entertained with a lively holiday show starring an entertaining elf, his animated sidekick and a giant Teddy Bear. Each child will receive a teddy bear gift and photo with the giant Teddy Bear to take home. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay Area, as part of the hotel’s Community Footprints program. Teddy Bear Tea tickets are available for $120 per guest; $115 per child, inclusive of tax and gratuity. Advance purchase required, and tickets are non-refundable and will be charged within 72 hours of making the reservation.
For available dates and reservations, please call (415) 773-6168 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com/sanfrancisco

Chef Christopher Kostow
Chef Christopher Kostow

Photo Credit: Courtesy The Restaurant at Meadowood
The Twelve Days of Christmas

December 4-19, 2015
Meadowood Napa  Valley
Hosted by three-Michelin starred Chef Christopher Kostow, Director Nathaniel Dorn and The Restaurant at Meadowood team, The Twelve Days of Christmas® at Meadowood Napa Valley returns for its eighth season. Eleven influential chefs from around the world will cook in collaboration with Chef Kostow to create unique menus.  Each night’s menu will be accompanied by wines from the Napa Valley and not an individual vintner as in years past. This allows The Restaurant the opportunity to highlight more vintners during the 12 nights and include both established and up-and-coming winemakers in the Valley. This year’s celebration will once again benefit two Napa Valley charitable organizations with the goal of making a positive impact on the community and locals in need: The Holly Cranston Memorial Fund and the Napa Emergency Women’s Services (NEWS). Meadowood will donate $2,000 in honor of each participating chef plus 10 percent of every dinner ticket sold will be shared equally between the local charities. Pricing options for the Twelve Days of Christmas 2015 range from $495 per guest to $2200 per guest (with overnight accommodations), exclusive of tax and gratuity. For reservations, please call (855) 953-2435 or email reservations@meadowood.com. For the full lineup of chefs, visit http://www.meadowood.com/events/december-4-19-2015

Robert Mondavi  Winery 5th Annual Tree Lighting Celebration

Saturday, December 5, 2015
Robert Mondavi Winery will host its 5th annual tree lighting celebration and holiday party, which will include Santa and his #1 Elf, horse and buggy rides through the To Kalon vineyard, wine tasting and carolers. While enjoying the beautifully decorated Margrit Mondavi Vineyard Room, guests can listen to Margrit Mondavi tell her holiday story and officially light the Christmas tree to ring in the holiday season. Refreshments include Italian cookies, cheese and charcuterie appetizers, hot apple cider and wine tasting. The celebration is complimentary for Wine Club Members, children under 12 and those who bring a canned food donation for the Napa Valley Food Bank. All other non-club members can join the celebration for $25 each.

20th Annual Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade

Saturday, December 5, 2015
Downtown Lincoln Avenue between Cedar and Stevenson, Calistoga
Calistoga’s Lighted Tractor Parade is the ultimate small-town holiday celebration. Celebrating Calistoga’s agricultural heritage, vintage and modern tractors, antique trucks, and construction equipment bedecked with dazzling lights parade down Calistoga’s charming main street to celebrate the Christmas season. Santa himself makes a special appearance during the parade, rain or (moon) shine. This popular Napa Valley event, which gets bigger and better each year, is perfect for the whole family. Be dazzled by the whimsical sights and sounds as 60 unique tractors, floats and farm equipment dance down Main Street for thousands of eyes. 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

White Tie Ball

December 5
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller, Commandery of San Francisco will host its annual white-tie charity fundraiser, A “Buon Natale” Christmas, which is sure to draw notables from San Francisco and the South Bay. Walt Joyce is the Chair and John Rosin the Co-Chair. Contact Barbara Oates (boates925@gmail.com) to purchase tickets ($375).

6th Annual Holiday Heroes

December 7, 2015
AT&T Park
Wender Weis Foundation for Children (WWFC) presents its sixth annual Holiday Heroes event, an extraordinary experience for children, enabling them to create holiday memories that last a lifetime. Kids of all ages will have the exclusive opportunity to meet local athletes, gain rare access to the San Francisco Giants’ dugout and batting tunnels and enjoy ballpark fare during this one-of-a-kind holiday celebration that raise funds and awareness for children’s charities, plus give hundreds of kids the chance to enjoy holiday activities and memorable encounters with their favorite Bay Area athletes. Activities include s’more–making on the field, holiday cookie decorating, teddy bear stuffing, face painting, photo/video booths and a silent auction. This year’s special guests include Kristi Yamaguchi and Bret Hedican who will be the recipients of WWFC’s third annual Inspiration Award, sponsored by Level Construction Supply. In addition, current and former Bay Area athletes – such as San Francisco 49ers Eric Heitmann, Shayne Skov, Carlos Hyde and Michael Wilhoite, Oakland Raider Justin Tuck, San Jose Earthquake Chris Wondolowski, and US Olympian Jonny Moseley – are scheduled to attend. http://holidayheroes.org


December 16-31, 2015
War Memorial Opera House
San Francisco Ballet’s sparkling production of Nutcracker, set here in our own “City by the Bay,” has introduced audiences of all ages to the magnificent world of ballet. This holiday season, experience the beauty and athleticism of SF Ballet’s international cast of world-class dancers in Nutcracker, a San Francisco tradition since 1944. You can also join SF Ballet in  providing new toys and books for children in need. If you wish to donate, bring an unwrapped, new toy or book to your Nutcracker performance; toy collection barrels will be in the lobby of the Opera House. www.sfballet.org