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San Francisco's magical holiday celebrations

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The holidays are a beautiful time of year to experience San Francisco. Market Street is adorned with lighted snowflakes, Union Square is illuminated, stores create memorable window displays and hotels festively decorate their lobbies. Here are a plethora of events so that you can create new holiday traditions.

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Holiday Tea: Whether you wish for Tea with Santa, a magic tea, or civilized afternoon tea with champagne, we have something for you. This is a special way to celebrate the holidays and will become a favorite tradition.

Palace Hotel offers Afternoon Tea and Santa Claus Tea in the beautiful Garden Court. Celebrate a beloved tradition at the Palace Hotel with Afternoon Tea in The Garden Court Monday – Friday. Choose from Afternoon Tea, Sparkling Wine Tea and Prince and Princess Tea served from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Details: Adults $55 and Children $45 (6-12). On Saturday December 7, 14 and 21, 2013 meet Santa during Tea from 2:00 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. Details: Adults $55 and Children $45 (6-12). Reservations can be made at or by calling 415-546-5089.

Top of the Mark is offering their Holiday Tea Monday through Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. concluding Monday, December 30. Guests receive a three-tiered selection of tea sandwiches, dessert buffet and scones served with Devonshire cream and lemon curd with your choice of tea. Details:cost is at $40 per person or $50 per person with unlimited champagne. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 415-616-6941.

Magical Holiday Tea at the Top of the Mark is a family affair, featuring Perry The Magician and face painter Fire Pixie. Guests can take home their own gingerbread creations from the cookie decorating station. Adults can select from sweet and savory tea sandwiches, Kobe beef sliders, chicken wings, and Southeast Asian pulled-pork sliders. The children's meal includes pigs in a blanket, macaroni and cheese, and ham and cheese sandwiches. Details: held 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, December 6, 13, 20, and 27 and Saturday, December 14, 21, and 28, price $50 per person or $48 with toy donation; Reservations recommended. Santa will be on hand in the hotel lobby on December 7, 14, and 21, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Please bring a new toy to donate to Toys for Tots.

Ritz Carlton is hosting Teddy Bear Tea December 1, 6-8, 14-15, 20-24, 2013; Seatings are at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Children are invited to bring a favorite stuffed animal to tea in the Terrace Room. Children’s entertainment includes performances by Stretchy the Elf, the “tallest elf in the world,” and his sidekick Holly Berry, along with the Ritz-Carlton Teddy Bear. Enjoy hot chocolate with marshmallows, children’s tea sandwiches, and cookies and pastries. Each child will receive a small teddy bear gift and a photo of themselves with the giant Teddy Bear. Details: tickets must be purchased in advance to ensure a seat. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay Area. Details: cost is $110 per person excluding tax and gratuity. To purchase tickets, please call (415) 773-6168 and the tickets will be e-mailed to each guest. Advance purchase required. Alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase.

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz is held December 5-8, 12-24, 2013 at 3 p.m. Take advantage of a time-honored tradition to get in the holiday spirit or to unwind after a long day of shopping. Afternoon Tea features an sumptuous array including a pot of tea, savory finger sandwiches and holidays treats such as scones and macaroons while enjoying soothing live music. Details: Afternoon Tea is $65 per person, exclusive of tax, gratuity and alcoholic beverages. To make a reservation, please call (415) 773-6168.

Ice Skating under the Stars: Choose from the Hawaiian Airlines sponsored ice rink at Justin Herman Plaza along the Embarcadero waterfront or Union Square’s ice rink surrounded by a shopper’s paradise.

Sunday Jazz Brunch in The Garden Court at the Palace Hotel. Don’t miss Holiday Brunch featuring live jazz entertainment and a bountiful and decadent menu, one of the best in San Francisco. Holiday brunch is served Sunday December 1, 8, 15 and 22, 2013 from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Details: $99 Adults / $59 Children (6-12). Make reservations at

Decorative Hotel Lobbies:

The Palace Hotel has a brand new Gingerbread Chateau designed by Executive Pastry Chef Renee Cade. It is 8 feet by 16 feet, showcasing a three-room chateau. The thatched roof is made from licorice while the kitchen is comprised of marzipan complete with elves preparing a feast. A sugar chandelier sparkles, brightening the decorated tree. The exterior includes landscaping with candied planter boxes filled with cookie crumb soil and flowers made from fondant. The wafer waterwheel and chocolate pond accentuates the garden. Guests can join the Palace in supporting SFCASA by making donations through the Gingerbread Chateau mailbox. See the chateau in the lobby through December 30, 2013.

Hyatt Regency is offering an interactive snowfall display in their lobby throughout the holidays. Complementing the lights cascading down the atrium is a 30-foot tree along with giant holiday characters. Snow times are: weekends (Saturday and Sunday) at 10:30 a.m.; 2:30 p.m.; 4:30 p.m.; and 6:30 p.m. Weekdays you can see it snow (Monday – Friday) at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Enjoy the picturesque Snow Village display of over 1000 pieces located in the hotel lobby through December 30.

Breakfast with Santa is held at Eclipse Restaurant with a weekend buffet from 8:00 a.m. to Noon on December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, and 22. Details: cost is $28 per adult and $14 for children 4-12, children under four are free (limited to one complimentary child per one adult).

The Westin St. Francis is transformed into a holiday wonderland. In the historic Landmark Lobby, a 15-foot, glimmering white and silver holiday tree is decorated with ever-changing-colored lights. Discover the 18-foot tree adorning the Tower Lobby and the front desk decorated with Christmas trees, glittering wrapped packages, sparkly garland, patches of snow and clusters of dripping icicles.

The Sugar Castle continues to expand, created by Executive Pastry Chef, Jean-Francois Houdré and his team. Resembling a French medieval city, it weighs over 1300 pounds and features more than 20 grand circular towers, approximately 30 rooms, glowing windows and a running train. New this year, and in celebration of the hotel’s upcoming 110th anniversary on March 21, 2014, is the addition of the top newsmakers over the past century on display throughout the castle on display through January 3, 2013.

About the Author: Karla writes about global destinations, food, wine, horse racing and exotic car events. Discover more from over 400 travel articles of places to explore.

©Karla Erovick 2013 article, photos

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