While thoughts of Santa and sugar plum fairies may dance in your head, you have nearly an entire month to enjoy the festivities about town before seeing what’s under the Christmas tree. Golden Gate Park will offer plenty of events in December that provide a break in-between shopping for loved ones and preparing for the New Year.

AIDS Memorial Grove Celebration (Dec 1 )

Come celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National AIDS Memorial Grove, which coincides with World AIDS Day. This event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – offering a time to remember loved ones and friends who have lost their lives to the disease. For more details, visit www.aidsmemorial.org.

“Nightlife” Events at California Academy of Sciences (Dec 1, 8 & 15 )

Kick start December with a night on the town at the California Academy of Sciences by attending the Sugar & Spice NightLife event from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Ghirardelli Chocolate will offer tastings and you’ll get a chance to get up close and personal with a real reindeer. Tickets cost $12. Other Nightlife events for the month of December include:

• “SF Streets NightLife” ( Dec 8 ] – Live music with history of graffiti presentation. Live art demos mix with hands-on opportunities.

• “Bazaar Bizarre NightLife” ( Dec 15 ] – Forty local designers and vendors will offer their wares, as participants seek out unique gifts for the holiday season. This will be the last Nightlife of the year with a new crop of exciting evening opportunities returning in the New Year on January 12, 2012.

Holiday Tree Lighting – McLaren Lodge (Dec 8 )

Decked out in holiday finery, come to McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park to take part in the 82nd annual tree lighting. This family-friendly event takes place from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. where children can enjoy small rides, live entertainment, and a cookie factory. Arts and crafts will be on hand, while Santa also makes a guest appearance.

Frosting the Conservatory – Conservatory of Flowers (Dec 10 )

The Gingerbread House Workshop held at the Conservatory of Flowers will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Orchid Gallery – the perfect activity that sets you in the right holiday mood. For a $10 fee, you will receive a graham cracker foundation, icing and edible candy decorations. You can pay in advance online or gain entry at the door, but keep in mind – the fee does not include admission to the rest of the conservatory. To register and learn more about this opportunity, visit tinyurl.com/gingerbreadCOF.

Ghirardelli Day – California Academy of Sciences (Dec 20)

Chocolate lovers won’t want to miss Ghirardelli Day at the California Academy of Sciences. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company will transform the museum into a collection of holiday scents, sights, and flavors. The VP of Chocolate Development will be on hand for the event, while you get a chance to sample from the Ghirardelli Chocolate & Ice Cream Shop. The Naturalist Center will continue your education of cocoa, as well as provide chocolate-themed crafts for younger visitors.

Pajama Day – California Academy of Sciences (Dec 30)

Wouldn’t a slumber party at the California Academy of Sciences make a delightful Christmas gift for your child or young relative? The last Penguins+Pajamas event of 2011 will take place on December 30 – starting at 6 p.m. This after-hours special experience includes an overnight stay in the African Hall, Aquarium, Lower Swamp, or Islands of Evolution Other perks include live animal demonstrations, Planetarium shows, and continental breakfast at the Academy Café. For more information regarding pricing and tickets, check out their website.

Masters of Venice Art Exhibition – deYoung Museum (Dec until Feb 12, 2012)

Calling all art lovers! If you haven’t paid a visit to the deYoung Museum lately, you may want to check out the “Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power” exhibit. Art enthusiasts can experience the beauty and technique of Venetian painters, including Titian, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, and Mantegna. The exhibit mostly highlights the 16th century with pieces on loan from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The impressive works of art once belonged to the collections of the archdukes and emperors of the Habsburg family. Don’t forget to take a gander at the four rare paintings by Giorgione, such as The Three Philosophers.