As some of us start pulling out the Christmas decorations or dress the house with lights, don’t forget about the December 2013 events at Golden Gate Park, which also includes the annual tree lighting festivities at McLaren Lodge. Throughout the month of December, the park offers an array of merry events and activities meant to delight, inspire, and entertain during the holiday season. In addition to being an ideal time to explore the great outdoors with birding and trail walks, you’ll also find many seasonal pursuits at the park, such as botanical wreath making, holiday shopping, and visiting with the Academy’s reindeer.


Birding in the Garden – SF Botanical Garden – December 1

Thanks to the SFBGS and the Golden Gate Audubon Society, you can catch a glimpse at the feathered friends that either make a pit stop at or call Golden Gate Park their home. Docents Helen McKenna and Allan Ridley will lead bird-watching expeditions on the first Sunday of each month – starting at 8 a.m. from the 9th & Lincoln entrance. Birders typically spot about 40 species of resident and migratory birds, such as herons and nuthatches. This free event is held from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.


Directors Cup Tournament – Angler’s Lodge & Casting Pools – December 1 

The events offered at the Directors Cup Tournament are held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Golden Gate Park, and include Trout Fly, Bass Bug, and 5/8 oz. While there is a nominal entry fee for participants regarding each event, spectators do not have to pay a fee to watch all the action. To browse over the rules for this event, click here.


McLaren Holiday Tree Lighting – McLaren Lodge – December 5

The 84th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting at McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park is a tradition that draws in an abundance of locals of all ages. The kids are excited to experience the train rides, as well as catch a glimpse of Santa, who makes a special visit to the event. Live entertainment helps set the mood, which includes other fun activities. The festivities will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and are free to enjoy.


Holiday-Themed ‘Nightlife’ Events – California Academy of Sciences – December 5 & 12 

Every Thursday night, the Academy transforms into a venue filled with culture, science, cocktails, music, and good times. ID is required to enter this 21 and over party, which rocks on from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The cost to enjoy this event is $10-$12. Every week, there is a new theme to explore with two scheduled in the beginning of December centered on the upcoming holiday season:

‘Tis the Season’ Nightlife – Dec 5: The music for the night will be provided by DJ Nathan Blaz of Geographer, and up and coming Portland R+B act Shy Girls, but they’re not the only ones serving as entertainment. For your holiday pleasure, a pair of live reindeer will be on hand in the East Garden. GoGoCraft will guide guests in making DIY holiday cards and fingerless gloves. Don’t forget to take a pic at the photo booth hosting by Magnolia Photo Booth Co. where you can use your very own handmade reindeer antlers. Ghirardelli Chocolate will provide sweet tastings that you can wash down with an array of ciders, teas, and hot toddies.

Holiday Bazaar NightLife – Dec 12: With the help of more than 40 local merchants, the Academy will offer a wide range of marketplace goodies– perfect for a little last-minute gift shopping. Some of the items to look forward to browsing include artwork, kiddie toys, fashion and accessories, silk-screened T-shirts, ceramics, décor, zines, handmade jewelry, as well as apothecary products. DJ Mark Farina will set the mood with jazzy house and downtempo tunes. Other highlights include spiked snow cones and star gazing the North and South poles in the planetarium.


Botanical Wreath Making – SF Botanical Garden – December 7 

Use the unique and intriguing evergreen greenery of the Botanical Garden to create a work of art wreath for the holidays in a crafting session that incorporates the sprouting roots of succulent cuttings. After the holiday season passes, the cuttings can then be transferred into a pot for a springtime planter. You’ll have access to an array of natural materials to create an original wreath with instructors giving you step-by-step directions along the way. You will also receive a wreath base, wire, and greenery. However, you must bring your own clippers, scissors and any ornaments or ribbon you’d like to use as an embellishment for your botanical creation.

This event is offered during two different time slots:

• 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

• 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

The cost to enjoy this opportunity is $35 for members and $45 for non-members.


2-for-1 Plant Sale – SF Botanical Garden – December 7 

A 2-for-1 Customer Appreciation plant sale will be held at the Botanical Garden from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nursery, where you can bring home a few items to brighten up your home or garden. You can access this sale by entering through the Main Gate.


Stow Lake Trail Walk – Stow Lake Boathouse – December 7

As part of the Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative sweeping across San Francisco, Golden Gate Park will host a walk on every first Saturday of each month – 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Interested parties will meet at the Stow Lake Boathouse for a bit of light stretching, followed by an easy walk through some of the loveliest features of the park. The 1- to 2-mile long jaunts will also include history facts and sights of fascinating, local natural wonders. Trail Walks are a free opportunity to sightsee Golden Gate Park, and are only canceled if conditions are unsafe due to rain. This event comes courtesy of a partnership between SF Rec and Park and Healthy Parks, Healthy People Bay Area, as well as another 25 local agencies.


Angler’s Swap Meet – Angler’s Lodge – December 7

From 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the Golden Gate Angler’s and Casting Club will host their annual swap meet, where you can trade, barter, or explore a range of fishing related equipment for sale (or in some cases, given away). Come browse the rods, reels, and other treasures at the swap.


Winter Holiday Bazaar – Sharon Art Studio – December 8

An attractive array of ceramics, jewelry, glass, metal work, fine art, textiles and other creations hand-crafted by master students await those who pay a visit to the Winter Holiday Bazaar held at Sharon Art Studio. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can purchase a few pieces with a portion of the sales going towards the nonprofit Friends of Sharon Art Studio, which offers affordable art and crafts classes and workshops for kids, teens, and adults. You never know…you may a few cool Christmas gifts for loved ones. For more details, you can visit or call (415) 753-7005.  Admission is free.


Windmill 10K – Dutch Windmill – December 8 

How does a run in the park starting at a historic attraction sound for the month of December? From 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., join in the fun for the Windmill 10K, which equals out to about 6.20 miles. The course, which runs eastbound up Kennedy Drive to the intersection prior to McLaren Lodge (Kezar Drive/Second Barricade), is comprised of a mix of flat terrain, hills, and roads. The fee for members and participants aged 13-17 and 18 and over is $3. Non-members pay $5, and runners 12 years or younger pay nothing. For more information on the race, you can call (415) 978-0837.


Free Zumba Workouts – GGP Carousel – December 9, 14, 21 & 28

For those looking for a way to sweat off the extra Thanksgiving meal pounds gained in November, you can choose from one of the free Zumba workouts offered across the city, including the ones held at the Golden Gate Park Carousel.  What better place to burn calories than with the ultra-fun dance-fitness party inspired by Latin dance? The class is held from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and meets in front of the Carousel – free with an RSVP to Olive by filling out the form found here.


Holiday Nights at the Academy – California Academy of Sciences – December 10 & 17

An RSVP is required for the members-only Holiday Nights events held at the Academy, which offer complimentary access to the museum to enjoy the annual holiday exhibit, “‘Tis the Season for Science.” Some of the features of the program include reindeers, holiday carolers and other performers, a special planetarium show, winter-themed crafts, special free cocktail, and a meal at the Academy Café. The event is held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. To RSVP, Academy members can call (415) 379-5888.


Free Casting Lessons – Angler’s Lodge and Casting Pools – December 14

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to cast, Golden Gate Park is home to free lessons for all levels of casters at their Angler’s Ponds from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Casting classes are typically held on the second Saturday of each month, but it’s always a good idea to check the website for any changes that may occur. Classes are taught in two groups: Beginning to Intermediate; and Intermediate to Advanced. Instruction will concentrate on the use of a single handed rod during classes. Those without the single-handed fly casting equipment can use complimentary gear for lessons when arriving at least 15 minutes early. Pre-registration is expected – via this RSVP link or by contacting John C. Till [[email protected]] or (650) 348-1216.


Strybing Circle Conifer Walk – SF Botanical Garden – December 14

With an inviting spread of green, gold and blue foliage, the conifers of Golden Gate Park are certainly a sight to see. The Botanical Garden provides access to an array of conifers, including the tallest tree in the world, Sequoia sempevirens (coast redwood) to some of the fastest growers. This event, held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. is for Members of the Strybing Circle only. At 10 a.m., members will meet on Conifer Lawn for morning coffee, tea and pastries. The guided walk will start at 10:30 a.m.

Members will encounter a collection of interesting sights, such as small dwarf forms and the bristlecone pine – one of the oldest known trees in the world – thanks to the guidance of longtime conifer specialist and docent at SFBG, Mike Wales, and SFBGS Curator Don Mahoney. Members must RSVP by calling (415) 661-1316 [ext. 304].


Cloud Forest Docent Tour – SF Botanical Garden – December 14 

As part of a weekly treat available for free with admission to the Botanical Garden, visitors can enjoy guided tours through the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest. The price of admission for San Francisco residents is free, while non-residents pay $7. The tour (which is held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.) meets at the North Gate. For more information, you can call (415) 368-5406.