Bay Area holiday light displays are on another level when it comes to their creativity, charm, and photo potential. You’d better start planning if you want to see them all before the season’s over!
Illuminate SF Festival of Light
Now through Jan. 2023 around SF
The 10th annual Illuminate SF Festival of Light celebrates a total of 62 temporary and permanent glowing installations around SF. Some new permanent displays to see include !melk Design Studio’s The Wind-Baffles, which are sculptural glowing windbreakers in SF’s 5M neighborhood; and Yu-Wen Wu’s Lantern Stories, a collection of hand-painted lanterns depicting famous Chinese-Americans suspended over Grant Avenue. Additionally, Studio DRIFT’s drone show Franchise Freedom will take to the skies over the Embarcadero during 5 nights in January (specific dates TBA – stay tuned).
GLOW: Discover the Art of Light
Nov. 17 – Jan. 29 at the Exploratorium in SF
The Exploratorium is bringing back its popular light sculpture exhibition in all its 2022 glory. See brand new and expanded installations created by six different artists, including Jen Lewin’s The Last Ocean, an interactive landscape made from reclaimed ocean plastic; and Anila Quayyam Agha’s All the Flowers are For Me (Turquoise), a suspended steel cube with intricate patterns that cast an immersive shadow.
Starting Nov. 18 at Embarcadero Center in SF
SF’s Embarcadero Center will be outlined with 17,000 bright lights for its characteristic look during the holidays. Festivities include the 36th annual building lighting ceremony and carnival on November 18th starting at 4pm, with games, face painting, and special guests.
Holidays at Filoli
Nov. 19 – Jan. 8 at Filoli Estate & Gardens in Woodside
Holidays at Filoli is one of the Bay Area’s most beautiful and lesser-known light displays, taking place at Filoli Estate & Gardens in Woodside. Thousands of glittering lights will adorn the garden’s trees, plants, and hedges for a must-see experience with countless photo ops. You can also reserve a private fire pit, bring your kids to meet Santa, or make your own holiday wreath while sipping on mulled wine.
Dec. 1 – Mar. 12 at Golden Gate Park’s Peacock Meadow in SF
Charles Gadeken’s popular Entwined light display is coming back this year, bigger and better than ever before. The whimsical installation transforms Peacock Meadow into an otherworldly ecosystem of glowing trees, bushes, and other natural elements created from colorful pixel-like LED lights. The trees range from 8-20 feet tall, accompanied by dozens of glowing flower clusters and bushes to create a beautiful meadow landscape.
The Tree Twins
December 3-8, 12-24 around San Francisco
We’re not sure if this qualifies as an installation, but San Francisco’s Tree Twins are so beloved that it feels categorically Grinchy not to include them here. This pair of anonymous well-wishers makes the rounds in SF dressed as luminous Christmas trees, spreading holiday cheer to all who are lucky enough to encounter them. Although the Twins haven’t revealed specific times and locations for their SF appearances (this type of merriment is more effective when spontaneous), you can follow @treetwins on Instagram for clues.
Union Square Menorah Lighting
Dec. 18-25 at Union Square in SF
The Bill Graham Menorah Project is back this year with nightly giant menorah lighting ceremonies every night of Hanukkah. See the famous 25-foot menorah alight over Union Square and be sure to check out the special events happening on December 18th, which include kids’ crafts and performances.