Posted November 5, 2018

Five Things to Do in Union Square This Winter


San Francisco’s Union Square thrums with festive energy during the holiday season. Flagship stores are bedecked, cable cars are clanging, the ice skating rink is wide-open and kittens and puppies inhabit the annual Macy’s + SPCA window display. But what to do after you’ve pulled off your skates or had your fill of holiday shopping? Here are some less conventional ideas that run the gamut from classy to cozy to truly offbeat. It might be the holidays, but put down the cookie cutter and embrace the singularity of San Francisco.

1. Tea Under the Tree at Sir Francis Drake Hotel

Every holiday season, beloved Crown and Crumpet serves an elaborate pop-up afternoon tea at Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Indulge in sparkling wine, tea sandwiches, warm savories, scones, crumpets, clotted cream, lemon curd—basically, everything scrumptious. A make-and-take-home holiday craft even captivates the kiddos. Call 415-771-4252 for the schedule and reservations.

tea under the tree - photo credit crown & crumpet

Cozy up for an elegant afternoon tea by the Christmas tree. Image credit: Crown & Crumpet

2. SantaCon Merrymaking

Somewhere on the order of 12,000-17,000 Santas amass in Union Square every year to partake in holiday revelries that are equal parts flash mob, costume party and pub crawl. This sea of red plush skews heavily toward twenty-somethings; expect some cheery mayhem. Though the festivities officially begin in Union Square, they could end pretty much anywhere.

3. Chilly Treats at the Museum of Ice Cream

museum of ice cream photo credit katie gibbs

No need to pack a bathing suit to swim in this pool of colorful sprinkles. Image credit: Katie Gibbs

For a good dollop of frostiness, opt for ice cream in the winter. The Museum of Ice Cream is the perfect place to sample treats from favorite local vendors like My/Mo Mochi, La Michoacana, and Ghirardelli while taking your Instagram game to soaring new heights. Sweet news? The museum recently announced it is making San Francisco its permanent home. Installations have included a gummy bear forest, a cave of Pop Rocks, a mint jungle, and a swimming pool completely filled with sprinkles. More whimsy-filled surprises are just around the corner; the experience promises to be entirely new starting in 2019.

museum of ice cream - photo credit katie gibbs

A kaleidoscope of colors define the Museum of Ice Cream – it’s all part of the sensory experience. Image credit: Katie Gibbs

museum of ice cream image credt courtesy museum of ice cream

Excuse us, we’ll just be here, nabbing our next profile photo. Image credit: Museum of Ice Cream

4. Heartwarming Ramen

There’s nothing cozier than a steaming bowl of ramen, especially after the requisite line outside your mobbed noodle shop of choice. Two spots near Union Square that draw flocks of fanatics are Mensho Tokyo and the newly opened and larger Ippudo outpost at Yerba Buena Lane. A slow-cooked broth, a pile of chewy noodles, a perfectly soft-boiled egg—it’s a bowl of pure winter goodness.

mensho tokyo sf ramen image credit courtesy mensho tokyo sf ramen

Should every winter outing include a steaming bowl of ramen from Mensho Tokyo? We think so. Image credit: Mensho Tokyo SF Ramen

5. One Kearny’s Roof Terrace Respite

One of San Francisco’s hidden secrets is the privately owned public open space (or POPOS) at the very top of One Kearny. With a stunning view of Union Square and the downtown skyline, it’s the ideal spot to take a break from the clamor of the holiday hustle. This urban secret garden is open to public access 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

one kearny club image credit courtesy one kearny club

Just steps from Union Square, One Kearny is a little-known secret you won’t want to miss. Image credit: One Kearny Club

Located right on Union Square, just steps from myriad department stores and high-end boutiques, Kimpton Sir Francis Drake Hotel is the place to be for the holidays.


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