Great Dickens Christmas Fair (credit: Randy Yagi)

The San Francisco Bay Area is primed to welcome countless numbers of visitors for the busy Thanksgiving holiday. While most stores and attractions are closed on this major American holiday, the following day is the kickoff to the holiday season and there will be a wealth of places to see and activities to enjoy all over the region. For visitors looking for suggestions on what to see and do, here is a list of four recommendations for a fun-filled holiday weekend.

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Great Dickens Christmas Fair

One of the great holiday traditions is to visit the Great Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace in Daly City. By far the largest holiday event in the area, the Christmas Fair is a joyous “one-of-a-kind adventure into Victorian London,” where entertainers, retailers, food vendors and even guests dress in traditional 19th century clothing. Visitors can enjoy music and dancing from seven stages, in addition to meeting fictional characters from beloved Charles Dickens novels, such as Oliver Twist, Ebenezer Scrooge, David Copperfield and Father Christmas. Nearly 20 food vendors will be on hand to sell a variety of tasty foods, from the customary meat pies and banger sausages to artisan chocolates and rum cake. Visitors can also enjoy drinks from four traditional pubs along with a Bohemian absinthe bar. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair will be open throughout the holiday weekend, including the day after Thanksgiving. Plenty of free parking will be available in front of the Cow Palace.

Ice Skating In Union Square (credit: Randy Yagi)

Ice Skating In Union Square

San Francisco’s Union Square will be buzzing with activity over Thanksgiving weekend, when thousands of shoppers will descend upon the city’s premier shopping destination searching for discounts from leading boutique stores and major department. Later in the day, Macy’s will host its annual Great Tree Lighting Ceremony, featuring an 83-foot tree adorned with more than 33,000 lights and 1,100 ornaments. While not every visitor will want mingle amongst the crowds of bargain hunters, particularly on Black Friday, they might enjoy ice skating at the Union Square Ice Rink featuring daily skate sessions every two hours, beginning from 10 a.m. and concluding with the last session at 10 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online or at the ice rink ticket window.

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sightseeing Along The Embarcadero

With breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay every single step of the way, visitors and locals alike will be flocking all along the Embarcadero over Thanksgiving weekend. With vintage streetcars traveling up and down the eastern waterfront of the city, visitors can make stops near popular attractions, like the Ferry Building Marketplace, the Exploratorium, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. For visitors who want to get a little more exercise, especially after Thanksgiving dinner, a round trip walk between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf is 3.5 miles. Of particular interest to food lovers is the lively Ferry Building Marketplace, featuring an impressive variety of foods options, including artisan cheese, fresh farm produce, hand crafted chocolates and celebrated restaurants and glorious views of the San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz Island.

Crissy Field (credit: Randy Yagi)

Viewing The Golden Gate Bridge

No holiday trip would be complete without seeing San Francisco’s most famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. There are several vantage points in which to view this engineering marvel that was the world’s longest suspension bridge when it opened. Recommended spots in San Francisco for photo ops of the iconic structure are Crissy Field, the former airfield of the Presidio of San Francisco, Fort Point, the Marina Green and Baker Beach. There are also phenomenal spots north of the Golden Gate Park, including Kirby Cove in the Marin Headlands and Fort Baker and Battery Spencer in Sausalito. Of course, another great way to view the Golden Gate Bridge is with a bay cruise from Pier 39, although visitors can expect big crowds onboard ferries to Alcatraz Island.

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on