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The Embarcadero Center.
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The best holiday lights in the Bay Area

20 illuminated spots guaranteed to bring cheer

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The Embarcadero Center.
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The Bay Area is no slouch when it comes to decking the proverbial halls. There are plenty of spots that take the business of holiday light decorating seriously—from a lavish private residence in Marin to a well-known cemetery in the East Bay Hills, these illuminated destinations will get you in the holiday spirit and light up the darkest of winter nights.

Bundle your family and friends and check out the biggest and brightest the Bay Area has to offer this holiday season.

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Rombeiro’s Christmas House

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Unapologetically extravagant, this family home in Novato is a holiday miracle with 140,000 lights adorning the outside. Guests are treated to five decorated spaces inside the house as well, including a train room that shows off an impressive miniature winter wonderland scene.

Mickey Mouse Christmas House

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It’s hard to go wrong with this Disney-themed holiday display in San Rafael. The Mize family stared collecting Disney memorabilia since the 1970s and proudly display it each year amid their holiday decorations. A must for any Disney enthusiast.  

Holiday Circle of Lights

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Don’t let the fact that this light display is in the Mountain View Cemetery deter you. The elaborate setup is at the front fountain, where glowing trees, trains, reindeer, skating figures, and scenes from Santa’s workshop light up the night.

A post shared by Jennifer Noland (@hellovader) on

Fisherman’s Wharf Lighted Boat Parade

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This legendary boat parade takes place on December 14, where boats illuminated to the nines parade along the waterfront. The staring point is at Pier 39 and goes all the way down to Crissy Field, passing the Marina Green and Aquatic Park. If you miss the parade, fear not since the Fisherman’s Wharf Fishing Fleet stays lit all season at Sport Fishing Harbor.

The Fisherman’s Wharf Lighted Boat Parade in San Francisco. There are multiple boats in a marina. The boats are illuminated. In the distance is a bridge. Photo by Daniel Parks

Oakland California Temple

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Illuminated palm trees in the foreground of this East Bay temple make for a holiday light display that is worth the trek to Oakland. Bonus: There’s a spectacular view of the twinkling San Francisco skyline from this elevated spot in the Lincoln Highlands. 

The exterior of the Oakland California Temple in San Francisco. There are illuminated trees on both sides of a path leading up to the white building. There are lights on top of the building.
Christmas in Oakland

Holiday Nights and Sights City Tour

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Jump on a motorized cable car to get whisked around the city to see decked-out sights like Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, the Embarcadero, and Pier 39. This 80-minute tour is the perfect way to show off San Francisco during its holiday finest. Ideal for family and friends visiting from out of town.

A post shared by Amber Nelson (@missazazel) on

Embarcadero Center

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For those of you who prefer a more stark and modern take on holiday lights, look no further than the Embarcadero Center towers in San Francisco. The four brutalist high-rises get dolled up each year with pristine, minimalist lights.

Jack London Square Christmas Tree

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Admire a 55-foot Mount Shasta fir tree adorned with 5,000 sparkling lights on Oakland’s waterfront. Make it an evening, and grab dinner before strolling along the water afterward amid the contagious holiday cheer.

Fairmont Hotel San Francisco

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As one of the city’s iconic hotels, the Fairmont in Nob Hill has decades of experience under its belt with spreading holiday cheer to all who visit. There’s an impressive decorated floor-to-ceiling tree in the lobby, but the star of the show is the life-sized gingerbread house that has holiday lights dripping from the eaves, and fills the entire room with a delicious aroma. (Psst: Please don’t eat the house.)

Union Square

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There is nothing more classically San Francisco during the holidays than joining the maddening downtown crowds, and admiring Macy’s sky high Christmas tree in Union Square that brightens up the night with 43,000 LED lights.

A few feet away is the Macy’s building that doesn’t skimp when it comes to holiday decorations, with all its windows and exterior ablaze with lights.

A lit up Christmas tree at night in the middle of a busy city square. Shutterstock

Westfield SF Centre Inverted Christmas Tree

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Take a break from your holiday shopping to admire the city’s most Instagramed Christmas tree. Hanging upside down from the domed skylight, this tree is made out of thousands of tiny crystals. Talk about holiday bling.

A post shared by Andy Lutz (@andylutz7) on

Holiday Train

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Make your way to a Caltrain station in December to witness the holiday transformation of this train decked out in lights as it makes its way from San Francisco to Santa Clara. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the crew are the only passengers allowed on board this holiday express, but you can say howdy to them at each station on the way.

An illuminated Caltrain Holiday Train. There are people standing on the platform while the train waits in the station.
Caltrain Holiday Train - 10
Photo by Phil Hollenback

Picardy Drive

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Almost every home in this storybook house adorned neighborhood participates in its annual tradition of going all out for the holidays. In this East Oakland neighborhood on Picardy Drive, located between Seminary and 55th Avenue, you’ll find twinkling lights, adorned facades, and merriment galore.

The tradition goes back more than 90 years. According to SFGate, “The hundred or so residents of Picardy Drive in East Oakland fought back the gloom Saturday by illuminating their street with an unbroken string of lights, in a holiday tradition that dates back to the first Great Depression.”

Night Bloom at the Conservatory of Flowers

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Night Bloom returns this holiday season at the Conservatory of Flowers, a light and sound spectacle highlighting its mammoth plant collection and its iconic Victorian facade.

McLaren Lodge Holiday Tree

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Located at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park, this holiday tradition will celebrate its 89th year this holiday season.

Chase Center

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Want to see the tallest Christmas tree in the city? Then head over to the new Chase Center in Mission Bay where you’ll find a 92-foot tall stunner decked out in white twinkling lights.

Christmas Tree Lane

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This festive neighborhood block in Alameda features homes that go the distance when it comes to decorating for the holidays. Each house has its own holiday theme, and if you are lucky you might spot Santa strolling around.  

Tom and Jerry’s House

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A longtime San Francisco tradition, this house in Dolores Heights is hard to miss with its giant illuminated Christmas tree, oversized toys decorating the exterior, and the owners’ huge stockings hung over the garage with care.

Zoo Lights

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The twinkling animal light displays throughout the park will bring a smile to visitors both young and old. Catch a ride on one of the lit-up gondolas that soar through the night and provides an uninterrupted view of the Oakland Hills. For a grand finale, make sure to stay for the laser light show.

Christmas Tree Lane

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Fulton Street in Palo Alto has a special tradition of decorated holiday houses that has been going on since the 1940s. Visitors are recommended to park nearby and admire the lights on foot. Decorations are brought out two weeks before Christmas, and the lights are turned on from 5 p.m.-11 p.m. daily.

Fantasy of Lights

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This spot allows you to fully immerse yourself in the holiday spirit by driving through the Los Gatos park with miles of light displays while listening to holiday tunes. Most nights are dedicated to driving through, but a few evenings are reserved for walking if you prefer to see the lights up close.

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Rombeiro’s Christmas House

Unapologetically extravagant, this family home in Novato is a holiday miracle with 140,000 lights adorning the outside. Guests are treated to five decorated spaces inside the house as well, including a train room that shows off an impressive miniature winter wonderland scene.

Mickey Mouse Christmas House

It’s hard to go wrong with this Disney-themed holiday display in San Rafael. The Mize family stared collecting Disney memorabilia since the 1970s and proudly display it each year amid their holiday decorations. A must for any Disney enthusiast.  

Holiday Circle of Lights

Don’t let the fact that this light display is in the Mountain View Cemetery deter you. The elaborate setup is at the front fountain, where glowing trees, trains, reindeer, skating figures, and scenes from Santa’s workshop light up the night.

A post shared by Jennifer Noland (@hellovader) on

Fisherman’s Wharf Lighted Boat Parade

The Fisherman’s Wharf Lighted Boat Parade in San Francisco. There are multiple boats in a marina. The boats are illuminated. In the distance is a bridge. Photo by Daniel Parks

This legendary boat parade takes place on December 14, where boats illuminated to the nines parade along the waterfront. The staring point is at Pier 39 and goes all the way down to Crissy Field, passing the Marina Green and Aquatic Park. If you miss the parade, fear not since the Fisherman’s Wharf Fishing Fleet stays lit all season at Sport Fishing Harbor.

The Fisherman’s Wharf Lighted Boat Parade in San Francisco. There are multiple boats in a marina. The boats are illuminated. In the distance is a bridge. Photo by Daniel Parks

Oakland California Temple

The exterior of the Oakland California Temple in San Francisco. There are illuminated trees on both sides of a path leading up to the white building. There are lights on top of the building.
Christmas in Oakland

Illuminated palm trees in the foreground of this East Bay temple make for a holiday light display that is worth the trek to Oakland. Bonus: There’s a spectacular view of the twinkling San Francisco skyline from this elevated spot in the Lincoln Highlands. 

The exterior of the Oakland California Temple in San Francisco. There are illuminated trees on both sides of a path leading up to the white building. There are lights on top of the building.
Christmas in Oakland

Holiday Nights and Sights City Tour

Jump on a motorized cable car to get whisked around the city to see decked-out sights like Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, the Embarcadero, and Pier 39. This 80-minute tour is the perfect way to show off San Francisco during its holiday finest. Ideal for family and friends visiting from out of town.

A post shared by Amber Nelson (@missazazel) on

Embarcadero Center

For those of you who prefer a more stark and modern take on holiday lights, look no further than the Embarcadero Center towers in San Francisco. The four brutalist high-rises get dolled up each year with pristine, minimalist lights.

Jack London Square Christmas Tree

Admire a 55-foot Mount Shasta fir tree adorned with 5,000 sparkling lights on Oakland’s waterfront. Make it an evening, and grab dinner before strolling along the water afterward amid the contagious holiday cheer.

Fairmont Hotel San Francisco

As one of the city’s iconic hotels, the Fairmont in Nob Hill has decades of experience under its belt with spreading holiday cheer to all who visit. There’s an impressive decorated floor-to-ceiling tree in the lobby, but the star of the show is the life-sized gingerbread house that has holiday lights dripping from the eaves, and fills the entire room with a delicious aroma. (Psst: Please don’t eat the house.)

Union Square

A lit up Christmas tree at night in the middle of a busy city square. Shutterstock

There is nothing more classically San Francisco during the holidays than joining the maddening downtown crowds, and admiring Macy’s sky high Christmas tree in Union Square that brightens up the night with 43,000 LED lights.

A few feet away is the Macy’s building that doesn’t skimp when it comes to holiday decorations, with all its windows and exterior ablaze with lights.

A lit up Christmas tree at night in the middle of a busy city square. Shutterstock

Westfield SF Centre Inverted Christmas Tree

Take a break from your holiday shopping to admire the city’s most Instagramed Christmas tree. Hanging upside down from the domed skylight, this tree is made out of thousands of tiny crystals. Talk about holiday bling.

A post shared by Andy Lutz (@andylutz7) on

Holiday Train

An illuminated Caltrain Holiday Train. There are people standing on the platform while the train waits in the station.
Caltrain Holiday Train - 10
Photo by Phil Hollenback

Make your way to a Caltrain station in December to witness the holiday transformation of this train decked out in lights as it makes its way from San Francisco to Santa Clara. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the crew are the only passengers allowed on board this holiday express, but you can say howdy to them at each station on the way.

An illuminated Caltrain Holiday Train. There are people standing on the platform while the train waits in the station.
Caltrain Holiday Train - 10
Photo by Phil Hollenback

Picardy Drive

Almost every home in this storybook house adorned neighborhood participates in its annual tradition of going all out for the holidays. In this East Oakland neighborhood on Picardy Drive, located between Seminary and 55th Avenue, you’ll find twinkling lights, adorned facades, and merriment galore.

The tradition goes back more than 90 years. According to SFGate, “The hundred or so residents of Picardy Drive in East Oakland fought back the gloom Saturday by illuminating their street with an unbroken string of lights, in a holiday tradition that dates back to the first Great Depression.”

Night Bloom at the Conservatory of Flowers

Night Bloom returns this holiday season at the Conservatory of Flowers, a light and sound spectacle highlighting its mammoth plant collection and its iconic Victorian facade.

McLaren Lodge Holiday Tree

Located at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park, this holiday tradition will celebrate its 89th year this holiday season.

Chase Center

Want to see the tallest Christmas tree in the city? Then head over to the new Chase Center in Mission Bay where you’ll find a 92-foot tall stunner decked out in white twinkling lights.

Christmas Tree Lane

This festive neighborhood block in Alameda features homes that go the distance when it comes to decorating for the holidays. Each house has its own holiday theme, and if you are lucky you might spot Santa strolling around.  

Tom and Jerry’s House

A longtime San Francisco tradition, this house in Dolores Heights is hard to miss with its giant illuminated Christmas tree, oversized toys decorating the exterior, and the owners’ huge stockings hung over the garage with care.

Zoo Lights

The twinkling animal light displays throughout the park will bring a smile to visitors both young and old. Catch a ride on one of the lit-up gondolas that soar through the night and provides an uninterrupted view of the Oakland Hills. For a grand finale, make sure to stay for the laser light show.

Christmas Tree Lane

Fulton Street in Palo Alto has a special tradition of decorated holiday houses that has been going on since the 1940s. Visitors are recommended to park nearby and admire the lights on foot. Decorations are brought out two weeks before Christmas, and the lights are turned on from 5 p.m.-11 p.m. daily.

Fantasy of Lights

This spot allows you to fully immerse yourself in the holiday spirit by driving through the Los Gatos park with miles of light displays while listening to holiday tunes. Most nights are dedicated to driving through, but a few evenings are reserved for walking if you prefer to see the lights up close.