Things to do in San Francisco

New Years Eve San Francisco

When the ball drops, there’s no better place to be than the Bay Area. Celebrate the new year with these San Francisco delights.

The fog lifts over San Francisco as the sun rises on a crisp, cool morning. It’s January 1st in Northern California, and the city sleeps in as finches chatter from cozy nests.

When eyes drift open and arms push covers away, a spirit of tender renewal rides the seaside air through the storied streets.

But before New Year’s Day dawns on the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco lights up in celebration of the impending calendar flip.

Temporary and permanent inhabitants gather together for a day-long party of one year’s end and another’s beginning. Here are New Year’s Eve things to do in San Francisco.

Fireworks and Outdoor Celebrations

Unlike the dim spookiness of San Francisco Halloween events, New Year’s is all about bright lights and explosions. Soak in the wonders of the natural world at these San Francisco New Year’s spectaculars.

1. Fireworks Show Over the San Francisco Bay

The sharp claps and shatters of fireworks are sensory fundamentals for any New Year’s display. San Francisco’s yearly live fireworks show bathes the Bay in a rainbow of color.

As jeweled droplets of light rain down against the iconic skyline, busy city dwellers slow down for an instant to observe the changing year in all its pigments.

Find the perfect viewing perch on Treasure Island or along the Embarcadero. Here, a merry musical accompaniment makes this a true countdown experience to remember.

Sweeping orchestral themes add magnitude to an already stunning spectacle for maximum effect. As the sky shakes and shimmers into the wee hours of the night, breathe in the tantalizing promise of a fresh, unvarnished new year.

Photographer: Cedric Letsch

2. Polar Bear Skate at Union Square Ice Rink

Even Californians can reap the benefit of a crisp, wintry snow day. Thanks to the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square, San Francisco residents can lace up their skates for a thrilling zip across the ice beneath the open air.

The new year brings an exciting annual event to this already beloved outdoor space. Kick it off with a Polar Bear Skate just after the clock rolls over into January.

A fun nod to the Canadian tradition of icy cold dives, this chilly loop around the rink asks participants to come decked out in beachwear. The result is an ice track swarming with swimsuit-clad skaters shivering giddily beneath cool skies.

Those who take the plunge might just be rewarded with unique prizes handed out to the most creative bears. When you’re through, pop over to the Union Square cafe Mazarine Coffee for a toasty hot chocolate and caffeinated drink specials.

Photographer: Cedric Letsch

Music and Dance Parties

Lose yourself on the dance floor at San Francisco’s musical NYE shindigs.

3. Kaskade at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

The hallowed halls of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium are steeped in years of age-defining sounds. Astronomical stars such as Elvis Presley and The Temptations are among the historic roster of acts to take the stage.

And every New Year’s Eve, San Francisco’s concert-goers are gifted with another performance for the ages.

Kaskade’s NYE affair is another entry in a lineup of notable achievements for the artist. The six-time Grammy nominee holds nothing back as the clock ticks closer to January. Here, electronica super-hits pour from the stage at the hands of a masterful DJ.

Charged with the infectious spirit of true dance anthems, these songs wrap themselves around the dance floor. Bumping crowds sway with the beat while Kaskade commands the historic stage.

Under the strobing lights, techno music seeps into the spirit of the crowd, coaxing out the night’s anticipation. For dance lovers, there’s nowhere better to draw December to a close.

4. New Bohemia NYE at The San Francisco Mint

Gold Rush dreamers once made The San Francisco Mint a towering symbol of prosperity. But its retirement from the coinage game doesn’t mean this landmark has gone to waste. On December 31st, the space transcends currency to welcome an interactive performance previously unseen.

New Bohemia NYE blends vaudeville and circus spectacles for an evening that stuns. Performers scatter through all five dance floors, deliciously blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Aerial tricks and explorative movement elicit visions of our own productions. It’s all avant-garde here.

DJs dot the corners of each room of this annual party, while interactive games blink with hands-on fun. Roam through this land of visual splendor while dancers twirl above and around you.

Chill spaces offer spots to catch your breath — you might need it when faced with unbelievable acts at every turn. Uncover The SF Mint’s surprises, and usher in the new year with astonishment written on your face.

5. Eye Heart New Year’s Eve at Fort Mason Center

The Fort Mason Center crowd moves with one mind at Eye Heart New Year’s EveYou’re at the mercy of the DJs, all devoted to beginning January with a bang. Neon lights illuminate a sea of dancers lost to the song, swaying and bumping along with each crescendo.

An adjacent second stage vibrates with a thousand stomping feet. Adorned with identical headphones, New Year’s revelers groove to their own music at a silent disco, one of the city’s most well-known late-night parties. Tuned into your own electrifying station, you’ll dance the night away.

Leave your mark on an interactive art exhibit, and immerse yourself in a gallery-like experience. And after 9:00 p.m., get into the spirit with a complimentary open bar. It’s a wonderland at every turn, so surrender to the joys of movement and creativity.

6. Fresh Start at The Midway

It’s a San Francisco-style block party, NYE style. California's Fresh Start pumps high-powered EDM hits through The Midway for 2 days of music and movement.

Here, electronica rock stars ignite the crowd into an infectious frenzy. Bodies collide as the music crests, sweeping passersby into its wave of jubilant euphoria.

Spend your dance breaks with scrumptious snacks in one hand and a spirited drink in the other. The endless pump of music means no one stays away from the stage for long. Local acts and industry darlings make for a sensuous lineup worthy of any playlist.

In an intimate venue, it’s easy to let the music take over. The Midway is no different, fully encompassing every sense as you move along with the swelling crowd.

Photographer: Efren Barahona

Cruises and Waterfront Events

New Year’s celebrants take to the Bay for these aquatic jubilees.

7. Empress Yacht San Francisco New Year’s Eve Party Cruise

San Francisco NYE isn’t complete without a trip to the city’s famed docks. Here, the wail of a ship on the water alerts seafarers to the bright possibilities of a brand new year. And what better way to commemorate the occasion than with a glamorous cruise beneath the Golden Gate Bridge?

The Empress Yacht San Francisco New Year's Eve bash beckons ocean lovers into the ship’s sleek, charming halls. An open bar offers a space to mingle with fellow ship-goers before hitting the dance floor.

With a steady playlist packed with hits of all music styles, you’ll soon be facing a night of dancing. Just outside, a cruise route offers stunning vistas of San Francisco landmarks such as the historic Alcatraz Island.

The dance floor falls silent as San Francisco's city fireworks display booms above the Bay. With a panoramic vantage point, the Empress boasts some of the best views in the area.

Cap off the year with a celebratory ball drop and massive confetti shower the midnight countdown concludes.

8. Gatsby’s Party Cruise

It’s a roaring twenties rewind at this Great Gatsby-inspired New Year’s party. As daytime hours fade on December’s final day, embark on a time-traveling journey abroad the San Francisco Belle.

Gatsby’s Party Cruise invites partiers to embrace their Jazz Age alter-ego for an epic night of sparkling music and dance.

Hop atop the twinkling cruise for dinner fare drawn from classic gala dishes. Top-shelf liquor swirled into creative cocktails makes festive fuel for two decks worth of jumping jazz dance floors.

You’ll have plenty of time to jive before the final New Year’s festivities kick off. A three-hour cruise follows dinner for a chance to let loose on the gold-dripped decks of the SF Belle.

Pressed against the city skyline, every second spent swaying to a hooting saxophone draws you closer to a fresh new start. By night’s end, seaside fireworks fleck the sky with gold and red while the year draws to a close.

Photographer: Kier in Sight Archives

Culinary Experiences

Treat your taste buds to flavor-fueled transformations at these taste-forward fests. From the best foods in Chinatown to all-you-can-eat buffets, there’s something for everyone.

9. All You Can Eat at Osito

Michelin-star Osito is a little restaurant with a lot of heart and soul. Here, the expansive tasting menu is served atop a single table where guests dine communal-style.

Osito’s fare highlights elemental flavor; live-fire cuisine is what’s on the menu. The restaurant’s centerpiece — a working hearth — adds a dash of intimacy to a meal that warms you inside and out.

New Year’s Eve at Osito is an all-you-can-eat extravaganza. Tasting stations across the dining space tell stories through flavor, charting a decadent course through memories and inspired futures.

Luxurious ingredients such as truffles and Dungeness crab are elevated even higher at the deft hands of Chef Seth Stowaway. Fondue and other scrumptious shareables add whimsy to an experience that feels high-end but not obnoxiously so.

When the clock strikes 12, raise your glasses high for a midnight champagne toast.

10. A Michelin-Starred Celebration at Saison

Dominating San Francisco’s upscale restaurant scene is Saison, an American eatery. This cool dining space is completely Californian, with its industrial interior and tastefully rustic opulence. Natural design elements mingle with the warehouse setting — a culinary gem for San Franciscans in need of a romantic dinner.

Saison’s dedication to wood-fired food means every meal is infused with the silky waft of hearth smoke. But what’s old is new in the name of flavor. Classic ingredients get a twist here such as barbequed caviar or dry-aged antelope.

For New Year’s Eve, the fire-wielding chefs at Saison hold nothing back. Sipping wine in the brick-rimmed dining room, you’re blessed with amazing views of the bustling kitchen.

From there, a festive tasting menu delights the senses. Innovative courses run well into the night, each plate growing increasingly novel. As the bottle of champagne flows, you’re whisked away in a swirl of imaginative mouthfuls.

11. Osechi Ryori Tasting at Nisei

Contemporary Japanese cuisine shines in a brand new way at the restaurant Nisei. Chef David Yoshimura, the son of Japanese immigrants, coaxes bright, cutting flavors from traditional ingredients to construct a rainbow of plates that astonish.

At Nisei, a new year brings double the celebration. December’s final evening brings a menu bathed in luxury. King crab and caviar adorn each plate in decadent dollops. Champagne sparkles in long-stemmed glasses as guests take their seats in the sleek black-and-white contrast of the dining room.

The first week of January keeps the culinary carnival going strong. Time-honored Japanese New Year’s cuisine, or Osechi Ryori, is on the menu for a full 5 days of feasting.

Classic favorites are jazzed up with modern flair, lacing heritage with a taste of flavorful invention. Plus, each dish incorporates a good-luck element to start the new year off with fine fortune.

Photographer: Louis Hansel

Ring in the New Year — San Francisco Style

The gold-colored glimmer surrounding New Year’s Eve wears off once January hits its stride. But when the champagne stops flowing and December sits squarely in your rearview mirror, we have just the remedy.

With us, every evening is cause for a soiree. Our house blend of music, stories, and stunning visuals invites audiences to taste the surreal. As acrobats soar through the air and euphonic ballads sweep across the room, jaws drop, and awe skyrockets.

Endearing characters drive narratives studded with fantastical sights and sounds for an experience that makes a forever memory. At our hands, what’s wild is wonderful, and what’s extraordinary is never too far from the real.

The celebration never ends when you’re with us. Secure your seats to one of our shows in San Francisco today.

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