Christmas in the City

Holiday festivities lure crowds downtown.


Olivia Mohun

The Union Square Christmas tree, sponsored by Macy’s, is decorated with over 700 ornaments and 43,000 LED lights. The official tree lighting took place on Nov. 24, and the tree will remain up into the new year.

Olivia Mohun, City Life Editor

Home to hundreds of stores meeting most holiday shopping needs and a host of dining options from upscale restaurants to grab-and-go cafés, Downtown San Francisco offers an array of attractions.

The downtown area is divided into multiple neighborhoods including Union Square, Market Street, and the Embarcadero, providing a monopoly of activities to entice locals and tourists.

For a holiday outing, guests may stop by Union Square, nestled in between Chinatown and Market Street, the plaza bustles with activity as painters exhibit their artwork, tourists await the Hop on Hop off tour bus, and shoppers traverse streets.

Directly in its center lies the Union Square Holiday Ice Rink alongside the Macy’s Christmas tree decorated with over 700 ornaments and 43,000 LED lights. Visitors can purchase tickets to skate at $18 per person or sample sweet and savory treats at Emporio Rulli, a small café adjacent to the rink that offers heated patio seating.

While many of the district retailers are high fashion brands such as Tiffany & Co, Gucci and Prada, there are less expensive options including Macy’s and Zara nearby as well. Additionally, Westfield Mall lies two blocks south of Union Square, complete with a movie theater and food court with quick and cheap options like Chipotle and Jamba Juice.

The Neiman Marcus Rotunda offers an upscale dining experience on the top floor of the department store. The restaurant serves popovers and other signature dishes such as pan seared salmon fillet or herb roasted chicken breast. Reservations are recommended as waits tend to be lengthy.

Visitors may also dine at the Cheesecake Factory, a rooftop bistro located at the top of Macy’s, offering outdoor seating and a bird’s eye view of Union Square.

A ten minute walk from Union Square is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Located on 3rd street between Howard and Mission, the museum features pieces by artists such as Andy Warhol and Edvard Munch. Tickets are $25 for adults and entrance is free for minors.

A short drive down Market street is the San Francisco Ferry Building where local produce and product stalls line its halls each Thursday and weekend as the building transforms into a farmer’s market.

Across the street is the Embarcadero Plaza, complete with a grassy area and fountain, the space often holds concerts and other fun events. During the holiday season the space is converted into a skating rink often less crowded than its Union Square counterpart.

Downtown is accessible from the Broadway Campus on the 1 California MUNI line.