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Holiday Site Seeing Adventure San Francisco Style

Updated on December 23, 2015
Macy Department Store Christmas Department
Macy Department Store Christmas Department | Source

Spoiler Alert

I hate to do this, but for the year 2015 you may be disappointed adventuring San Francisco this holiday season. Hyatt Regency which is usually spectacular has punted Christmas and has it's sights set on Super Bowl XXXXX. Super Bowl City will be from the Ferry Building about a mile up Market Street. Maybe next year San Francisco will get dressed for Christmas again.

This Tour

Like Disneyland a tour of San Francisco hotels is perfectly lovely any time of the year. The city of San Francisco is compact; the downtown area is easily walked in a few hours. Anytime of the year is a good time to view the sites from the top of the Grand Hyatt and many of the places we will tour today.

Between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, the city San Francisco, California really sparkles and shines. This naturally beautiful city wears Christmas decorations with elegance and style. Gome along and see why Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. While seemingly chiche it isn't at all. San Francisco will truly steal your heart. I can't wait to get started on this tour, so come along.

Look Up

Whether you arrive in a taxi, on a ferry or by B.A.R,T. Look up when you get to San Francisco. It isn't that the buildings are so big, it is the architecture that is stunning. You can view buildings like the Trans-America Pyramid, Coit Tower, and the Flatiron building. There is history all over this town and you will find photos and histories inside these beautiful hotels buildings as we wander inside of them. Some of this history will take you back to the original forty-niners, the rough and tumble men and women who helped tame the wild California coast.

In many respects San Francisco is a traditional sort of city. Hotels decorating for the holidays is a San Francisco tradition. Black Friday is traditionally the beginning of this holiday extravaganza. A little group of friends have a route we follow each year. We hope you will enjoy your day with us.


Nut Cracker

Life sized Nutcrackers
Life sized Nutcrackers | Source

Hyatt Regency

Our first stop of the day is the Hyatt Regency. This is one of the newer hotels on our tour, even though it is at least forty years old. Get off B.A.R.T. at the Embarcadero exit. You will come out of the subway across the street from the Hyatt. If you are come out of another exit look to the right a block and you will see it to your left. Enter through the driving entrance facing Drum Street. Ride the elevator until you see these, two sword welding fellows.(Nutcrackers). Keep following the escalator there's more, continue up to the lobby. Make sure you are looking up as you come off the escalator. Twinkly lights cascade down from the walkways overhead making the atrium look like fairyland.


Snow Village

Several years ago this tradition was suspended. The gentleman who created the snow village, Len Connacher passed away. The good news is this lovely tradition has been reintroduced by new designers using Mr. Connacher's buildings There are 200 buildings set around a lovely fountain. The bicycle shop is one of my favorites.

If as you wander around the atrium in the lobby and notice poinsettias with a dusting of snow on them look up. It may be snowing.

Starbucks Holiday blend. Yum!
Starbucks Holiday blend. Yum! | Source


As you exit the Hyatt Regency Starbucks may catch your eye. They have very pretty holiday packaging in their stores. Order a cup of coffee to ward off the chill. Don't worry if you are not ready for a cup at the moment; there will be plenty of opportunity along the route for coffee and chocolate. Peet's, or Starbucks? We will pass about eight of them. We will eat lunch too!


The Palace Hotel

The history of the Palace Hotel is as sparkly as the Christmas tree in the Garden Court. The last king of Hawaii died in the Palace.

The Palace Hotel has undergone several transformations during its 137 year history. Originally opened in 1875 it was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. A Baby Palace was quickly designed and built until the New Palace was finished in 1909. After the Loma Prieta earthquake the The Palace was closed for a couple of years to undergo retrofitting. It is worth a stroll around the lobby or even a drink in the Pied Piper to view the "Pied Piper mural" by Maxfield Parrish.

The "Cliff House"
The "Cliff House" | Source

Each year The Palace hosts a gingerbread competition. Celebrities team up with a member of the Palace culinary team to create amazing gingerbread houses. Their hope is to win a generous cash prize for their favorite charitie. While you are at the Palace be sure to vote for your favorite creation.

The "Cliff House" was my favorite, with the "Giants of Mt. Rushmore" a close second.


Four Seasons Hotel

This is a quick trip up the escalator then up elevator to the lobby to see their tree. On the landing between the escalator and the elevator notice the pretty snowflakes.

West Field Mall

What can be more festive than a mall? The food at the food court is surprisingly good. The Greek salad at the Buckhorn Grill is very tasty. If you are a fan of Michel Cluizel chocolate, the candy store next to Juicy Couture has a nice selection. Michel Cluizel makes some chocolate without soy for those who need to avoid soy.

Whose that doggie in the window?
Whose that doggie in the window? | Source

Macy's Department Store

The windows of this downtown Macy's store are decorated with puppies and kittens waiting to be adopted. Volunteers from the from the SPCA are waiting to help you adopt one of these nice little creatures.

If you don't cut your tour short by adopting a kitten, head inside and up to the 7th floor. One of the architectural intrigues is the escalator. Each floor requires you to walk around to the next machine. The fun part is noticing when the escalator narrows. On the 7th floor you will find Christmas trees full of ornaments. If you are in a whimsical mood you can sit on Santa's lap. Be sure to look out the window and down at the ice skaters down in the square.

Gingerbread Chateau At The Saint Francis

Gingerbread Chateau at the Saint Francis
Gingerbread Chateau at the Saint Francis | Source

Saint Francis Hotel

The Saint Francis hotel is our next stop.The first thing you see as you enter the hotel is this four foot tall gingerbread house. This gingerbread house was created to look like a French Chateau. It took 120 pounds of gingerbread to create this lovely creation. Wait for the little train to come around. It surely will. Our next stop will be the Sir Francis Drake hotel.

Sir Francis Drake Hotel
Sir Francis Drake Hotel | Source
Sit for awhile an gaze at this tree
Sit for awhile an gaze at this tree | Source

Sir Francis Drake

Opened during the roaring twenties this San Francisco icon is known for its character. Their doorman dressed in Beefeater attire is quick with a smile. This hotel is stunningly gorgeous. Be sure to look up. The Italian Renaissance chandeliers and gilded ceilings are eyecatching without holiday decorations. As you stroll through the lobby be sure to walk up the winding staircase to see this lovely tree.

Now Is The Time

Now is the time to decide if you are going to call it a day and head back to B.A.R.T. or make a run up to Nob Hill. The view from the top is spectacular on a clear day, but it is quite a steep walk. If you have patience to wait for the cable car you might consider hopping one.

Mark Hopkins

Mark Hopkins is on the southeastern peak of Nob Hill. It is named after one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad.

Back Of The Mark Hopkins

Backside of the Mark Hopkins take from Pine Street.
Backside of the Mark Hopkins take from Pine Street. | Source

Fairmont Hotel

The Fairmont hotel across the street from the Mark Hopkins hotel. This is the home of Tony Bennett. It was here in the Venetian Room that Mr. Bennett made, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco", famous.

When you walk into the lobby the aroma of gingerbread is delightfully welcoming. As you enter the dining room you walk through a gingerbread castle. This life sized gingerbread house has candy decorations guarded by this life size nutcracker. Next to the castle there are envelopes to donate to the Leukemia Lymphoma foundation. Nearly all the hotels spend the holidays promoting some charitable organization.

The Molinari Family," Nutcracker Collection", is also interesting.

There is a children's area where children can write letters to Santa, sitting at child size tables and chairs, then drop their notes into the North Pole mail box.

Strolling around the halls off the lobby will bring you to shops and displays of the history of Nob Hill. The Big Four, Charles Crocker, Collis P. Huntington, Leland Stanford and Mark Hopkins, founders of the Central Pacific Railroad, contributed a great deal to the development of Nob Hill and the history of California. The shops are full of interesting items as well..

Traditional Christmas tree
Traditional Christmas tree | Source
Nut Cracker guard patrols the gingerbread castle.
Nut Cracker guard patrols the gingerbread castle. | Source

Grace Cathedral

Down the street about a block is Grace Cathedral. This beautiful church rivals many in Europe. The nativity was one of the most beautiful I have seen. Christmas concerts and concerts all year round are given regularly. This was a fitting place to sit and be quiet for a few minutes. If it weren't for the baby Jesus how we celebrate in December would be different.

Finally it is time to head down the hill, but look up again to get one last glimpse of the Mark Hopkins Hotel from the back. This picture gives you some idea as to how far up the hill from the bay you have come.

Quirks Of San Francisco

Some of the quirks of San Francisco are the streets that have no roads. The above picture is of Joyce Street where it intercepts Pine Street. The Filbert Street steps is another street that has no road.

Joyce and Pine Streets
Joyce and Pine Streets | Source

View From The 36th Floor Of The Grand Hyatt


Grand Hyatt

One last hotel stop on the way down from Nob Hill. The Grand Hyatt. The decorations paled in contrast to the view we saw from the top. We took the elevator to the 36th floor. The view was breath taking. This may be one place to look up if you are leery of heights, you don't miss the Trans-America building.(the pyramid in the picture above)

All the sites we have seen and the history we have learned has left us with no choice. As we pass the Ghirardelli chocolate store we simply must go in for a treat before we head underground for the train home. Ghirardelli is the chocolate of San Francisco.

Hopefully you have had a good time on this little jaunt around downtown San Francisco and up to Nob Hill. Remember if you can't get to San Francisco before New Years visiting these places is worthwhile any time of the year. Also remember to look up, for the sights you will see will thrill and amaze you whenever you visit the, "City By The Bay".

show route and directions
A marker50 Drum Street, San Francisco, CA 94111 -
50 Drumm Street, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA
get directions

Hyatt Regency

B marker2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 -
2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA
get directions

The Palace Hotel

C marker757 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 -
757 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
get directions

Four Seasons Hotel

D marker865 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 -
865 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
get directions

Westfield Mall

E marker170 O Farrell Streat, San Francisco, 94108 -
O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA, USA
get directions

Macy's Department Store

F marker335 Powell Street San Francisco, California 94102 -
335 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA
get directions

Saint Francis Hotel

G marker450 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 -
450 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
get directions

Sir Francis Drake Hotel

H marker999 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108 -
999 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
get directions

Mark Hopkins

I marker950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108 -
950 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
get directions

Fairmont Hotel

J marker1100 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108 -
1100 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
get directions

Grace Cathedral


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    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 4 years ago

      I love San Francisco. You make me want to pack and Really enjoyed the tour

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Joanne, Thanks for commenting. It's that time of year and I can hardly wait to get over for this years tour.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Holiday Site Seeing Adventure San Francisco Style amazingly beautiful and so different. Lovely ornaments

    • profile image

      Joanne M Olivieri 4 years ago

      You have captured all of them so beautifully. There's just nothing like downtown SF during the holidays or any time of year. Voted Up!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      I could kick myself for not buying one of the trolley ornaments, but the line was long. Thanks Glimmer for visiting

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Great hub about a great city. Hoping to get back there one day. Love the trolley ornament in the picture. I am looking at the one I got on my tree right now.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Point, Thanks for the vote. San Francisco is a beautiful city hope you get a chance to visit.

      Mhatter99, I is amazing how much less Stockton is than Chinatown. The bakery near Chinatown on Stockton has amazing sticky buns.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      WOW after reading your hub I want to visit San Francisco right away. Very well showcased. This hub will be a very useful guide to those who want to visit San Francisco. Voted up and shared.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks for this delightful San Fran tour, tireless - now I'll have to return during the Holiday season to see all the sights you have so faithfully described.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Great hub! It is useful for non-San Franciscans to know, You can save a lot of money my spending away from our tourist traps. For instance: visit Chinatown but shop and eat on Stockton St. (1 block away) and save 75%.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I have never been to San Francisco, but i would love to see the sites. I stayed at a Fairmont in New Orleans and it was great. Excellent review..

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

      Thank you for the trip through San Francisco. It has been several years since I had the pleasure of visiting that interesting city. Voted up.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 4 years ago

      This is a great hub and San Farncisco is a great city any time of the year. I really enjoyed your photos and the information was great as well. Thanks for the excellent tips. Voted up.