In between hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree and shopping for holiday gifts, there’s always time to explore the magic and fun of Golden Gate Park events in December. This month, an assortment of cultural, social, creative, active pursuits, and celebratory get-togethers awaits. As for opportunities to celebrate the holidays in the park, McLaren Lodge is certainly the place to be, as well as a holiday island fest at the County Fair Building, various holiday runs, and wreath-making at the Botanical Garden.


World AIDS Day 2015: Celebration in the Park – National AIDS Memorial Grove – Dec 1

From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the National AIDS Memorial Grove will swell with locals who come to observe World AIDS Day. During this time of recognition and remembrance, the aim of this event is to honor those who have lost their lives and those who continue to fight the disease. The program, which begins at noon sharp is open to the public, and includes a light lunch – all of which is offered for free. A musical performance by Parris Lane, a presentation of various awards, and a reading of names is also slated for this event.

California Mushrooms: A Talk with Dr. Dennis Desjardin – SF Botanical Garden – Dec 1

If you have an interest in agriculture, gardening or mushrooms, this might be an event you’d like to attend. From 6:30 to 8 p.m., join Dr. Dennis Desjardin, Professor of Mycology in the Biology Department at San Francisco State University, as he leads a talk in the library that touches upon a range of mushrooms found in the state of California. Some of the information you’ll encounter includes learning where to locate mushrooms, as well as collect and identity them. A book-signing will also take place at this event, where you’ll have a chance to purchase Desjardin’s new book, “California Mushrooms: The Comprehensive Identification Guide” and snag his John Hancock. You can RSVP by contacting [email protected] .

Feel the Force NightLife – California Academy of Sciences – Dec 3

Calling all Star Wars fans, the Academy is hosting an extravaganza centered on the popular science fiction film series…and you are encouraged to look the part…literally. Participants will be coming in costume, and you’ll have a chance to channel your favorite character for the night. Throughout the evening, you can also sharpen your lightsaber skills in a workshop hosted in African Hall. As you come across roaming droids, don’t forget to pose for photos. Additional highlights include various stations and activities to explore.

Music for the night will come courtesy of Noise Pop with a live performance by Canadian indie-electronic duo HUMANS (8:30-9:30 p.m. in the Piazza). A DJ set by Johnny Hwin is scheduled for 8:00-8:30 p.m. and 9:30-10:00 p.m.

Admittance to Thursday Nightlife events at the Academy is for those who are 21 and over; proper identification is required. It costs $10-$12 to gain entrance to the events, which are held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

86th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting & Winter Carnival – McLaren Lodge – Dec 3

For some families, coming to Golden Gate Park to see the annual tree lighting has become a tradition they can’t miss. This free event starts at 4 p.m. (rain or shine) and offers a little something for everyone – from carnival rides to kiddie arts and crafts to live entertainment. And, what holiday event like this is complete without a visit from Santa? He’ll be on hand to spread cheer.  A snow play area will be set up where sledding will take place. Other highlights for this event include caroling, games, and other activities.

After Hours Ethereal Psych & Dub Concert – Conservatory of Flowers – Dec 4

It’s not every day that you get a chance to experience music at the Conservatory of Flowers, but they will be hosting an event that might interest you if you’re looking for something different to do on a Friday night. Live performances by Heron Oblivion (offering up English folk rock and West Coast psychedelic music) and Extra Classic (providing the sounds of vintage Jamaican dub and psychedelic rock) will start at 6:30 p.m. Another draw for this event is that you’ll be able to experience the Conservatory’s tropical indoor jungle at a time when the sun has set. Oakland DJ Don’t Tell Mom will also spin tunes for the night.

This event is scheduled to take place from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Girls on the Run 5K – Music Concourse Bandshell – Dec 5

If you’re looking for a family-friendly event that gets everyone moving in the right direction, as well as does a little good for others, Girls on the Run is hosting a 5K that kicks off at 9:30 a.m. The schedule of events is as follows: DJ-spun music with bib and T-shirt pickup at the Runner Check-in  tent (8 a.m.); warm-up led by Zumba with Stef (9 a.m.); race start (9:30 a.m.); post-race festivities (10 a.m.); and the close of the 5K (11:30 a.m.). Proceeds from this event go towards benefiting Girls on the Run of the Bay Area. For more information, you can check out the Girls on the Run website.

Free Guided Trail & Nature Walk – Stow Lake – Dec 5

If you’re looking for a relaxing time with family and friends, why not take in the fresh air and beautiful scenery of Golden Gate Park? Come explore the natural allure of the park with a walk that involves native plants and wildlife. This event will start at 10 a.m., costs nothing to enjoy, and does not require any pre-registration on your part.

Before walking through the park, you’ll stretch as a warm up, followed by the hike. Keep in mind that trail walks are canceled when it’s raining or conditions are deemed unsafe. The trail walks are recurring and take place on the first Saturday of each month at the Stow Lake Boathouse.

Wreath-Making Workshop – SF Botanical Garden – Dec 5

Nothing says ‘happy holidays’ like a wreath decorating your front door, and the SF Botanical Garden is more than eager to make sure yours will be the envy of the neighborhood.

You’ll be taking direction from local floral designer Baylor Chapman, who happens to be the owner of Lila B. Design and author of The Plant Recipe. Chapman will demonstrate simple techniques that you can use to create an eye-catching wreath with unique materials. Your fee payment includes a wreath base, wire, and greenery, such as dried seedpods, fragrant herbs, fresh greens and even succulents. However, you are asked to bring your own clippers, scissors and any ornaments or ribbon you’d like to use to enhance your masterpiece.

This workshop is being held at two different times: 9 a.m. -11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. -3 p.m.

For more information about prices and purchasing tickets, click here.

Windmill 10K – Dutch Windmill – Dec 6

The last Dolphin South End Runners-promoted run for the 2015 season held at Golden Gate Park is scheduled for earlier this month. Taking place at the city’s beloved Dutch Windmill, participants will run eastbound up Kennedy Drive to the intersection prior to McLaren Lodge (Kezar Drive/Second Barricade). Runners will then turn around and return the same way towards the finish line. The cost to participate is $3 for 13-17 years old and 18 and over members. Non-members pay $5, while ages up to 12 years old are free. The race starts at 9 a.m. For more information, you can contact  (415) 978-0837.

Holiday Bazaar NightLife – California Academy of Sciences – Dec 10

This holiday, the SF Bazaar will transform the Academy into a festive marketplace filled with local treasures. You’ll have access to dozens of local crafters, artisans and merchants. An assortment of handmade jewelry, original artwork, ceramics and pottery, apothecary products, stationery, and plenty of other gift ideas will be on display for purchase.

But that’s not all… a pair of live reindeer will be onsite in the East Garden to add a seasonal touch to the event.  Other goodies to note include a selection of winter beers, treats from Smitten Ice Cream (churned-to-order), and the magic that comes from their signature Brrr™ machine, which uses liquid nitrogen to produce sweet treats.

Thursday Nightlife events at the Academy run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and are for the 21 and over crowd only. You will be required to show proper I.D. in order to gain entrance. The cost to enjoy this event is $10 for members and $12 for non-members.

#SanDiskTalks Panel Discussion – de Young Museum – Dec 12

Presented by SanDisk in San Francisco, join the discussion with panelists who will host the first of SanDisk’s educational forums geared towards promoting creativity amongst artists. Registration for this event will be held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The panel discussion will take place at the Koret Theater (moderated by Dan Cohen) from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. with an audience Q & A to follow from 12:15 to 1 p.m. If you like, lunch is  available for purchase at the de Young Museum Café at 1 p.m.

Aloha Poly Holiday Fest – San Francisco County Fair Building – Dec 12

When you’re looking for a unique way to usher in the holidays, there is a multicultural event centered on celebrating the diversity of traditions associated with Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, Cook Islands and Guam. At the event, a range of entertainment awaits, which includes dancing, singing, and performances by musicians. You’ll also be able to shop retail vendors and purchase island-themed gifts that you can put under the tree for the holidays.

Other highlights of the event include:

  • BBQ food
  • A Kids’ Zone with activities, games, holiday arts and crafts
  • A visit from Santa
  • Raffle prizes
  • Free shuttle transportation

Not only is it free to enjoy this event, but you will also enjoy complimentary parking. This event is scheduled to be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info, visit the official website at

UCSF Diabetes Center Miracle Mile / 5K Holiday Classic – Peacock Meadow – Dec 20

You can choose to run or walk this family-friendly holiday event which aims to raise funds to benefit research, education and patient care related to diabetes, and provided by the UCSF Diabetes Center. Dubbed the ‘Miracle Mile,’ participants will follow a course marked by gentle slopes – this event starts at 8:30 a.m. The 5K Holiday Classic is certified by the U.S. Track and Field Association, and begins at 9 a.m.

When registering for this event by December 13, you are guaranteed to receive an event T-shirt. Individual registration fees are as follows: $40 (One Mile), $40 (5K), $45 (One mile and 5K), and $20 for youths 12 and under who are participating in the 1 Mile or 5K. Held at Peacock Meadow (240 John F Kennedy Drive), this event will go on rain or shine. For more information on this event, you can visit

Garden Free Day – SF Botanical Garden – Dec 8 & 25

In addition to every second Tuesday of every month (which falls on December 8th this year), the San Francisco Botanical Garden allows free admission from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on Christmas Day.