In between bargain hunting for last-minute holiday gifts and crafting Pinterest-worthy gingerbread houses, Golden Gate Park events for December is more than ready to help you put 2018 to bed in style. Whether you take a spin on the Academy’s ice rink, enjoy Winter Carnival festivities, or channel your inner Jedi, there’s plenty of lights and action to keep you entertained when you want to take a break from gift-wrapping, baking and shopping this month.

Native Artists of Western North America – de Young Museum – December 1 – 31

Calling all art enthusiasts! This month is your last chance to take in the artistry, ceramics, carvings and weavings of indigenous Americans from the West. This exhibit provides an exploration into a slice of western North America, as illustrated through the cultural, natural and spiritual interpretations of Native artists. More than 800 years of art will be on display, and are located in de Young Galleries 3 and 4 until the end of the month.

Daytime Skate – California Academy of Sciences – December 1 to 31

If you’re looking for a place to glide across the ice this winter, the only place to do so safely at Golden Gate Park is at the Academy’s very own ice rink.

The Academy holds two daytime skate sessions:

Morning Skate Session

  • Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Afternoon Skate Session

  • Daily, 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. on 11/23-24; 12/26-28)

Available online and onsite at the Academy’s ticket window, you can purchase daytime admission to the ice rink. The cost for one skate session (which includes skate rental) is $10 per person. If you wish to enjoy a visit to the Academy, you must purchase a separate admission ticket.

Night Bloom – Conservatory of Flowers – December 1 to December 31

On select nights throughout December, the Conservatory presents a light and sound exhibition that incorporates its own glorious specimens. It’s an interactive, nighttime experience that you won’t want to miss. There will be five galleries on hand to explore from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. – each with a dazzling presentation that includes the likes of prisms, glowing ponds, imaginative displays, and a lot more. Admission for this event is $27 for general adult entry, $20 for members, $39 for Night Bloom Express (that lets you skip the wait), and free for kids 8 and under. For more information on available options, and to buy tickets for Night Bloom, click here.

Annual Holiday Tree Lighting & Winter Carnival – McLaren Lodge – December 6

Rain or shine…it’ll be the 89th time this highly anticipated holiday event in Golden Gate Park will have taken place. Family-friendly to the max, there will be carnival rides, live entertainment, cookie decorating, toboggan rides, and a snow play area for the kiddies. Don’t miss your chance to share your holiday wishlist with Santa. The fun continues with free admission to the Conservatory of Flowers, which aims to dazzle you with a holiday light show. McLaren Lodge is located at 501 Stanyan Street. The majority of activities for this event are free, with some incurring a nominal fee. The fun kicks off at 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Feel the Force Nightlife – California Academy of Sciences – December 6

This evening is for you, Star Wars fanatics! There’s plenty to see and do, from lightsaber duals in the Piazza to photo-taking sessions with costume clubs (like R2 Builders and the Rebel Legion) throughout the entire building. Come in costume and make the most of it all. Entertainment for the night comes courtesy of live act Blackbird Blackbird (presented by Noise Pop) and DJ sets by Qrion, davOmakesbeats, and Make It Funky. Thursday NightLife events start at 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Please note that this event is a premier-priced experience, with members paying $18 and non-members charged $22. This party is for the 21 and over crowd, so be prepared to show valid identification at the door.

California Field Atlas with Obi Kaufmann – SF Botanical Garden – December 7

Artist, poet and naturalist Obi Kaufman will give a presentation on conservation, art and the restoration of California’s ‘natural world’ at the Helen Crocker Russell Library. A book signing and Q&A session will follow the event with exclusive watercolor prints available for purchase. The event is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. While this is a free event, pre-registration is required. Click here to secure your tickets.

Sunday Skate Night – California Academy of Sciences – December 9

The only ice rink at Golden Gate Park is putting on a family-friendly extravaganza that you won’t want to miss. Hourly snow flurries and a guest appearance by Santa Claude – what more could you ask for? For an additional fee, take part in festive food and beverages, as well as cookie and ornament decorating Enjoy yourself from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Skaters pay $15 per person and $10 for members, which includes skate rental. For $5 per person (and free for members), you’ll gain entry to the event.

Free Day and Free Garden Tour – SF Botanical Garden – December 11 & December 25

You don’t have to pay a thing to take in the blooms, encounter local wildlife, or learn historic tidbits about the Botanical Garden, when you take advantage of the Garden’s Free Day. This tour lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes, and is free for all San Francisco City & County residents. Don’t forget to bring proof of residency. The tour begins at 1:30 p.m. and meets at the Main Gate.

Another free Garden Day for the month will be held on December 25th.

Holiday Bazaar Nightlife – California Academy of Sciences – December 13

Every year, the Academy sets up shop (literally) for those who are still looking for last-minute holiday gift ideas. In between browsing a marketplace of local merchants and artisans, enjoy the extra activities, music, eats, spiked hot drinks, and disco-themed ice rink. Just some of the goods to look forward to bringing home include handmade jewelry, ceramics, stationary and original art. Music for the night will be provided by King Most.

This Thursday NightLife event begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Ticket prices for the evening are $12 for members and $15 for non-members. You can skate from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for the added cost of $10 per person (skate rental included). Don’t forget to have a valid I.D. on hand, since this event is a 21 and over affair.

Baby Story Time – SF Botanical Garden – December 13

A special story time set aside just for infants and babes up to 18 months (and their caregivers) will be held from 9:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Garden – filled with stories, rhymes and songs. This event allows families to make new friends, as well as see what the children’s nature library has to offer. There is no cost to enjoy this outing with your lil’ one.

Hike Day: Dahlias, Views, Buffalo & Beer – Haight/Stanyan entrance – December 15

Exercise + nature + new friends = the social hike at Golden Gate Park that’ll take you throughout a variety of favorite attractions, including Lily Pond, Strawberry Hill, Stow Lake, the windmills of Great Highway, and the ocean. Along the way, take in the breathtaking views from the de Young observatory and wave ‘hello’ to the resident buffalo. Cap off a fun outing by buying a drink from the Beach Chalet Brewery with your new friends. Those who are interested in this free experience will meet at the Golden Gate Park entrance at Haight & Stanyan. The hike is scheduled to take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Yoga in the Garden – SF Botanical Garden – December 15

Accredited instructor Sarah Allison invites you to join her in a 60-minute session of yoga surrounded by the beauty of Golden Gate Park. Keep in mind that this is an outdoor class, so plan accordingly. All levels are welcome to participate; simply bring along your own yoga mat or beach towel. Heavy rain does cancel the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. To purchase your tickets, click here.

Miracle Mile/ 5K Holiday Classic – Peacock Meadow – December 16

Runners of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to come out and support the UCSF Diabetes Center, as they hold this event to raise awareness and funds towards fighting a disease associated with about 1.5 million new diagnoses per year. The day’s events include a fast, certified 5K course and 1-mile course. You can participate in one or both. If you register by December 13, you are guaranteed an event T-shirt and medal. You can pick up your race day packet at 7:30 a.m. The mile run starts at 8:15 a.m., followed by the 5K at 9 a.m. All proceeds from this event go towards benefitting the Center. To sign up and get more details, click here.

Kennedy Drive 8K – Polo Fields – December 23

Get pumped for the holidays with a run that takes you through Golden Gate Park, touching upon Middle Drive, Overlook Drive path, Transverse, Kennedy, and the barricade at Kezar Drive. The race begins at the south side of Polo Fields, with a scheduled run time of 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Fees for participation include free for 12 years old and under; $3 (for 13-17 year olds; and 18+ members); and $5 for 18+ non-members. Call (415) 978-0837 for more information, or visit to learn more about the course.

Rainbow Falls Holiday 5K & Kids Run – Kennedy Drive – December 30

It’s your last chance to get a run in at Golden Gate Park for 2018… with events for both adults and kids being held. The 5K course takes participants up Kennedy Drive to McLaren Lodge with a turnaround at Barricade at Kezar Drive. This event runs from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. The cost to participate in the races is free for 12 years old and under; $3 for 13-17 year olds; and for the 18 and over crowd – $3 for members and $5 for non-members. For more details and information, you can visit or call (415) 978-0837.