Another year is right around the corner, and the holiday spirit is in full effect throughout San Francisco – how will you spend your time in the park? You could take in the spectacular change in leaves of Golden Gate Park as fall colors show their brilliance, or explore other delightful displays of light at McLaren Park and the Conservatory of Flowers. Why not do a little holiday shopping by supporting local artisans and businesses? You may also want to participate in a race, run or walk in the park to get a head start on New Year Resolutions. Whatever you choose to do, Golden Gate Park events for December 2017 offer a little something for everyone:

Peak of Fall Colors – SF Botanical Garden – December 2 & 9

It’s said that the best time to take in the fall colors throughout the park is within a two-week period that takes place around November 29 to December 12. At that time, the area explodes with impressive autumn hues, especially seen at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Highlights to consider during a visit to the Garden include the scenery at the Moon Viewing Garden (with reddening Japanese maple trees) and Temperate Asia Garden (showcasing the beauty of golden Ginko biloba trees and Chinese tulip trees). Other places to visit at the Garden are the Redwood Grove and Great Meadow. Winter hours for the Garden are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with the last entry taking place at 4 p.m.). This all-day event is free for those with proof of San Francisco residency.

The DIS Edutainment Network Exhibit – Wilsey Court at de Young Museum – December 2

You have enough time before the Genre-Nonconforming: The DIS Edutainment Network exhibit ends, but this month, you can be one of the first people to check it out. Wilsey Court’s atrium will host 36 large LED screens that’ll play a continuous loop of an entertainment-education mix. This multi-media project was born out of the collaboration of a handful of international writers and artists. The exhibit will remain at the museum until June 10, 2018.

Opening Event for DIS ‘Thinkspo’ – de Young Museum – December 3

The museum is kicking off their Genre-Nonconforming: The DIS Edutainment Network exhibit with an opening day event that will offer a range of activities that includes art, demonstrations and video screenings. This event is free and open to the public, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The schedule of events for this celebration includes artmaking at Wilsey Court (2 p.m. – 5p.m.), a non/food tasting and demo with Sean Raspet at Wilsey Court (2 p.m. – 5p.m.), video screenings at Koret Auditorium (2 p.m. – 5p.m.), live research panel with Sean Monahan and Sophie Secaf at Piazzoni Murals Room (3 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.), and DIS Pop-up talk with Lauren Boyle and Marco Roso at Wilsey Court (4 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

Birding in the Garden – SF Botanical Garden – December 3

Staying in line with their first Sunday commitment of each month to set aside time for birding, the Garden is hosting a get-together at 8 a.m. that meets at the Main Gate. Join docents Helen McKenna and Allan Ridley on a walk to the John Muir Trail, where nuthatches and herons are just a couple of species you’ll encounter. Usually, participants come across around 30 species that include both resident birds and passing migratory feathered visitors. Birders just starting out will receive information on birds, ways to spot them, how to identify a species, and details on bird behavior. This event is co-sponsored by SFBGS and the Golden Gate Audubon Society. There is no cost for this experience.

88th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting – McLaren Lodge – December 7

Every year, the bright lights of the holidays decorate the park in early December, where a small Winter Carnival is set to entertain locals with free activities and fun. Enjoy the snow play area. Take a carnival ride. See what’s sweet at the cookie factory. Create something beautiful with kid-friendly arts and crafts. Listen to music and take in the sights of live entertainment.

The tree lighting festivities will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the actual light ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m. Bring the kiddies to see Santa right before the lighting of the tree. Rain or shine, you can count on this event to be held. Keep in mind that the majority of activities offered at this event are free, while some cost a nominal fee.

Photosynthesis: Love for All Seasons– Conservatory of Flowers – December 7

If you’re looking to extend the holiday cheer after watching the lighting of the Christmas tree, the Conservatory has a brand new nightly illumination they’d like to reveal. As part of the ‘Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park’ festivities, this free event is hosted by San Francisco Recreation & Park and is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Throughout the season, the lights will stay on nightly, from sundown to 11:45 p.m. To enjoy the best areas for viewing the installation, seek out a space on JFK Drive or in Conservatory Valley. There is also parking available along JFK Drive, so you can take a bit of time to appreciate the sights.

Feel the Force NightLife – California Academy of Sciences – December 7

Thursday nights at the Academy are a prime reason to get out of the house before the weekend hits, and this week is definitely something fans of Stars Wars will enjoy. For starters, the R2 Builders club will show off droids that they’ve built – ideal for the geekiest of guests. What’s even more fun is that you’re encouraged to come dressed in a costume. The central Piazza will serve up drinks while you listen to a live performance of Grammy-nominated electronic artist Shinya Mizoguchi (better known as starRo) – a treat for those who enjoy jazz, R&B, and hip hop music. Test your skills as the Golden Gate Knights will hold a lightsaber workshop.

The Academy will also have a seasonal ice rink set up in the East Garden, where guest DJs presented by DoTheBay and Deep Eddy Vodka will provide the music you need to glide. A 45-minute session on the rink will cost $12 (or $10 for members). You can get a hold of tickets for the ice rink at the Academy or purchased in advance online. Thursday NightLife events are held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and cost $10 to $12 (depending on whether you’re a member of the Academy). These gatherings are for the 21 and over crowd – you will need to show proper I.D.

Annual Winter Rose Pruning Demo – Rose Garden – December 9

Head for the Rose Garden to enjoy a demonstration on how to prune these beautiful blooms, and you’ll pay nothing to learn from San Francisco Rose Society members and volunteers from SF Rec & Park. This is the perfect time to ask all of your pressing questions related to the flowers, including proper pruning techniques and overall rose care inquiries. And lucky you, you’ll be able to bring complimentary cuttings home after the demonstration. Keep in mind that as a visitor, you will not be allowed to handle the rose plants. This free event is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Curator Tour: Inside the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest – SF Botanical Garden – December 9

If you’d like to learn more about some of the collection found at the Garden, you may want to check out this tour, which introduces you to a natural habitat that continues to dwindle in its native land. Join Associate Curator Corey Barnes (from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.), as he touches upon the ins and outs of the Cloud Forest and the plants that originate from it. The cost to enjoy this event is $18 for members and $20 for non-members.

Sunset Holiday Mercantile – SF County Fair Building – December 10

There is no charge to gain entrance into a holiday fair featuring the wares of more than 85 local artisans, merchants and makers. In addition to crossing off a few gifts from your list, there will be activities for the kids, beer and wine tasting, live entertainment, and food to buy. This event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Special Story Time: ‘Iwalani’s Tree – SF Botanical Garden – December 10

Join author Constance Hale as she facilitates a special story time gathering centered on her beautifully illustrated book,‘Iwalani’s Tree. Expect music and activities to accompany the reading, which highlights the culture of Hawaii. If you already don’t have a copy of the book, some will be on hand for purchase and signing. The story time will take place in the Helen Crocker Russell Library at 10:30 a.m.

Holiday Bazaar NightLife – California Academy of Sciences – December 14

SF Bazaar is hosting an event that allows you to shop local gifts for the holidays in a marketplace space that includes unique stocking stuffers, handmade jewelry, original artwork, pottery, stationary sets, and many other ideas. During the evening, try heading for the Project Lab to view the work of Academy scientific illustrators Sean Edgerton and Rachel Diaz-Bastin. Consider taking a spin on the seasonal ice rink (for a fee) while disco tunes play in the background and spiked drinks are served. By the end of the night, you might find your way and work up a sweat at the Hella Gay Dance Party – being held in the Philippine Coral Reef.

Don’t forget, only the 21+ crowd is admitted into the Academy for a Thursday NightLife event, which costs $10 for members and $12 for non-members. And yes, they do check for official identification. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the festivities ending at 10 p.m.

After Hours: Botanicals and Brews Beer Garden – Conservatory of Flowers – December 15

Calling all beer lovers! The Conservatory is hosting another beer garden gathering and this time around, it’s Calicraft that you’ll be able to sample – a brand that incorporates ingredients like starthistle honey, Cluster hops, and anise hyssop into their brews. General admission costs $22.50 to $25 (depending on which ticket you’ve purchased). The fee includes entry to the Conservatory from 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.; access to the Beer Garden on the Palm Terrace from 6:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.; and one complimentary craft brew. To register for this event, click here.

Boomerangs on the Brain – Pioneer Log Cabin Meadow – December 16

Courtesy of Tree Frog Treks, LLC, you will find a fun event planned for the 8-12 year old age group. A hands-on physics lesson allows young minds to explore making their own boomerang. Some of the scientific concepts that they’ll touch upon includes lift, drag, and gyroscopic pression, as well as engage in a discussion centered on air currents and all of the things that can affect flight. Boomerang enthusiast and craftsman Sam Molnar will be on hand to give a safety talk. This experience will cost $50 to enjoy. The Pioneer Log Cabin Meadow can be found at 425 John F. Kennedy. To register for this event, click here.

UCSF Diabetes Center Miracle Mile/5K Holiday Classic – Peacock Meadow – December 17

Runners of all ages and skills are encouraged to participate in a holiday race with all proceeds going towards fighting a good cause and supporting the efforts of the UCSF Diabetes Center. You’ll explore a fast-paced certified 5K course or 1 mile downhill course. You can choose to sign up for both events, or just one. Register by December 14 to secure your event T-shirt and medal. You can also register onsite at the race, but expect a slight increase in fees. Special rates are available for those that register online.

The race event schedule is as follows:

  • 7:30 a.m.: You can pick up your race packet near Peacock Meadow, which is where the events will begin.
  • 8:15 a.m.: The 1-mile run starts.
  • 9 a.m.: The 5K run starts.

For more information on registering for this event, visit here.

Rainbow Falls Holiday 5K & Kids Run – Kennedy Drive – December 24

Celebrate Christmas Eve with a run in the park. If you decide to participate, prepare yourselves for a course that runs eastward from Kennedy Drive to McLaren Lodge before turning around at the Barricade at Kezar Drive. After running around East Conservatory Drive, runners will head back onto Kennedy Drive before crossing the finish line. For more details and information on fees about this race (which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.), click here or call the DSE HOTLINE at (415) 978-0837.

Free Day at the Garden – SF Botanical Garden – December 25

While many places shut down for the holidays, the Garden is an exception. You can still visit this 55-acre wonderland’s “landscaped gardens and open spaces” on Christmas Day…and what’s even better – it’s free. It won’t cost a thing to check out the more than 8,500 varieties of plants representing native habitat from across the world.

Victorian Murder Mystery – Conservatory of Flowers – December 29

If you’ve missed out before, here’s another chance to guess who ‘did it’ with a Murder at the Conservatory get-together that presents an evening filled with Victorian murder mystery fun. Gather up your friends to see who has the best detective skills. Tickets range from $75 to $105, and include entrance to the Conservatory; artisan grilled cheese plate and side; and a glass of vino. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. To make sure you’ve secured your place at the table, click here.

Kennedy Drive 8K – South Side of Polo Fields – December 31

Here’s one of the last races to take place at Golden Gate Park before the New Year hits. For this course, participants will find themselves on Middle Drive, the Overlook Drive path, Traverse, Kezar Drive, and of course, Kennedy Drive. For more information on fees, the course and registering for the race (which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.), call the DSE HOTLINE at (415) 978-0837 or click here.