9 Actually Fun Things to Do in San Francisco This Thanksgiving Weekend

A massive Banksy exhibit, holiday pop-up bar, and more.

Photo by Kyle Flubacker

SF typically empties out over Thanksgiving, so if you’re one of the few people who didn’t flee town, then be sure to enjoy the quiet streets and ample parking. The weekend should be pretty mellow weather-wise, so it’ll also be a great time to take advantage of SF’s parks and hiking trails—maybe pack those leftovers turkey sandwiches for a picnic?

Looking for some fun that doesn’t involve leftovers? First, don’t be ridiculous. Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the biggest joys in life. But second, we’ve got you. Art shows, live performances, and lots of holiday festivities, including a magical two-story gingerbread house, holiday pop-up bar, and more.

Friday, November 26–Sunday, November 28
Palace of Fine Arts/Marina
“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible, and childish... but that's only if it's done properly.” So said Banksy, the controversial street artist whose work you can now see at the Palace of Fine Arts. The exhibit has over 100 original works of privately owned Banksy artworks, including iconic pieces, as well as some you likely haven’t seen before. The show runs through February if you can’t score tickets this weekend. And yes, you exit the gift shop.
Cost: Tickets start at $40.

Friday, November 26–Sunday, November 28
Hungry I/North Beach
Throw yourself into the holidays head first at Deck the Halls, an over-the-top winter wonderland pop-up bar. Sip on holiday cocktails, including one named “yellow snow” that will require you to do the opposite of everything you’ve ever been taught. Deck the Halls will be popping up every day until Santa’s reindeer have done a full rotation around the earth.
Cost: Admission is free. Bring a new, unwrapped toy, and you’ll get a complimentary hot cider.

Friday, November 26–Sunday, November 28
Cornerstone Sonoma/Sonoma
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to experience everything at Cornerstone Sonoma, the gorgeous Sonoma property with unique shops and galleries, wine tasting rooms, and ever-changing art-filled gardens, Cirque de Bohème, a Parisian-inspired circus (and beloved holiday tradition), is the perfect one. This year’s show is titled “Behind the Mirror” and features poetry, music, mystery, and world-class performers, including a magician, mime, contortionist, mentalist, slight roper, juggler, and more. Make a reservation at the onsite restaurant, Folktable, for dinner before or after. There will be three shows every day of the weekend through December.
Cost: Tickets are $38 for adults.

Friday, November 26–Sunday, November 28
The Walt Disney Family Museum/Presidio
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Disney studio lot in Burbank was requisitioned as an Army anti-aircraft base, and Walt Disney Studios devoted over 90% of its wartime output to producing training, propaganda, entertainment, and public-service films, publicity and print campaigns, and over 1,200 insignia. Learn all about this rarely-shared period of the studio’s history and more at the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Cost: $25 admission to the museum; $15 for the exhibit.

Saturday, November 27–Sunday, November 28
Fairmont San Francisco/Nob Hill
If you’re having trouble getting into the holiday spirit, a walk inside of the Fairmont’s famous 22-foot-high, 23-foot-wide, two-story gingerbread house made with over 8,000 baked bricks and covered with 1,900 pounds of candy is all you need. The ribbon-cutting ceremony is on Saturday at 11 am, but the house will be on display through the holidays. Make it a truly festive celebration by partaking in the oh-so-fancy Holiday Tea in the gorgeous Laurel Court, complete with house-made scones, tea sandwiches, luscious pastries, and sweets (seatings at 1 pm and 3:30 pm, Thursday through Sunday).
Cost: It’s free to see the gingerbread house; the tea is $149 for adults.

Friday, November 26–Saturday, November 27
Great Star Theater/Chinatown
The historic Great Star Theater, a traditional proscenium stage live theater built in 1925, was originally home to Cantonese Opera and Hong Kong kung-fu movies. This weekend, you can experience “an evening of unbridled passion, music, humor, and artistry” at Dark Kabaret, an annual event that mixes “sumptuous champagne, an array of beautiful gowns, and gentlemen in their finest frocks.”
Cost: Seats range from $28 to $500 for a VIP table for four.

Friday, November 26–Saturday, November 27
Immersive Nightlife/Los Gatos
“Expect the unexpected” at this event that begins with a theatrical “Holidaze” dinner show with cirque variety performances and a six-course dinner, with an optional cocktail and wine pairing followed by Immersive Nightlife, a dance party with DJs, bottle service, and more.
Cost: Dinner tickets start at $115.

Saturday, November 27
The Chapel/Mission
Petty Theft, a Tom Petty tribute band, is taking the stage at the Chapel on Saturday night. Head to next-door sister restaurant Curio before the show for dinner (the burger is legit).
Cost: $18 for tickets to the show.

Sunday, November 28
One Market/Embarcadero
Matzo ball soup, 12-hour smoked beef brisket, and a jelly donut for dessert—One Market is offering a traditional prix fixe menu from November 28–December 6 (with an option that’s not really an option to add potato latkes). Prefer something a little more casual? You can always get hot pastrami sandwiches and other classics at One Market’s Jewish deli spinoff, Mark ‘n Mike’s.
Cost: Prix fixe menu is $49.

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Daisy Barringer is an SF-based freelance writer who is taking advantage of these strange times by exploring San Francisco on foot. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see where she goes next.