It's the holiday season and you need to get out of the house, no matter how cold and dark it gets. Here at KQED, we care about seasonal affective disorder so much that we've collated some of the most dependable holiday events in the Bay Area. Many events listed here are annual traditions; some are promising newcomers. Before the gloomy skies get to you, pick one or two to help make the season bright.
A John Waters Christmas
Expect nothing less than ribald fun from John Waters, the Bay Area’s favorite transgressive filmmaker. His annual romp is for those who like their Christmas tidings with a bit of smarm and slapstick.
Nov. 28 at the Great American Music Hall
SF Gay Men’s Chorus
Revel in "Elfstravaganza," the Gay Men’s Chorus latest holiday showcase. With the choir serving their most elfin looks, an operatic Santa Claus, and “lumbersexuals” and nuns thrown in for good measure, this year's show will be one for the books.
Dec. 8 and 9 at the Nourse Theater
Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Great expectations abound at this annual reproduction of Victorian-era London, replete with hundreds of Dickensian characters and seven different performance stages. For a whole month, every day is Christmas Eve.
Now through Dec. 17 at the Cow Palace
Beach Blanket Babylon Seasonal Extravaganza
What to expect from an annual holiday bash hosted by the longest running musical revue? Tap-dancing Christmas trees, send-ups of Christmas favorites, and a whole lot of garland, that’s what.
Now through Dec. 31 at Beach Blanket Babylon
Home for the Holidays at Carolwood
A slice of Disneyfied nostalgia right in the Presidio, Home for the Holidays manifests Walt Disney’s well-documented love of trains into a scale recreation of his personal steam train, complete with lights and Walt Disney’s own heirloom caboose.
Now through Jan. 9 at the Walt Disney Family Museum
'A Christmas Story'
With music and lyrics from the folks behind “City of Stars,” the Tony-nominated musical brings Ralphie Parker’s misadventures to the San Francisco Playhouse.
Now through Jan. 13 at the San Francisco Playhouse
The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes
Now in its 12th year, four local drag queens go for gold and honor the queens of '80s sitcoms in this family-friendly spoof. Bring all your pals and confidants.
Nov. 30–Dec. 23 at the Victoria Theater
A Christmas Carol
Ebenezer Scrooge and spooky specters of Christmases past, present and future galore at A.C.T.’s musical rendition of the classic tale.
Dec. 1-24 at the A.C.T.’s Geary Theater
We're not quite sure what to expect with this newcomer on the scene at the San Francisco Symphony. But with the lineup of people on stage — Armistead Maupin, Peaches Christ, Bob the Drag Queen and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — we're sure it'll be worth bringing visiting relatives from Nebraska.
Dec. 8 at Davies Symphony Hall
For those on a quest for an irreverent production on a holiday classic, fear not. Sea shanties and jigs are afoot at the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s family-friendly, audience-participation take on The Nutcracker.
Dec. 9 and 10 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum
The time-honored tradition at San Francisco Ballet -- running every holiday season since 1944 -- may well be the gold standard of Tchaikovsky’s seasonal ballet.
Dec. 13-30 at the War Memorial Opera House
Charlie Brown Christmas Live
The Peanuts-inspired holiday staple continues to be a tried-and-true family favorite. With the San Francisco Symphony adding some joie de vivre to Vince Guaraldi’s classic numbers and live performers onstage, it’s not hard to see why.
Dec. 21–24 at Davies Symphony Hall
Kung Pao Kosher
A seven-course prix fixe meal (or veggie dim sum), some stellar Jewish comedy and a portion of the performances’ proceeds going to Hurricane Maria and North Bay fire relief? Mazel tov!
Dec. 23-25 at New Asia Restaurant
Kwanzaa San Francisco
Seven days of feasts and festivities throughout San Francisco mark the seven principles, or Nguzo Saba, of Kwanzaa. The Village Project’s annual celebration kicks off at the Museum of African Diaspora with a performance by blues singer Alabama Mike.
Dec. 26–Jan. 1 at various locations
Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir’s Holiday Concert
Now in its 32nd iteration, Oakland’s Interfaith Gospel Choir’s legendary holiday concerts are a joyous Bay Area institution. With none other than LeVar Burton emceeing the affair, the merriment of the evening should reach stratospheric heights.
Dec. 2 at the Paramount Theater
Berkeley Artisan Holiday Open Studios
Artisan wares and handicraft goods abound, and 100 artists, craftspeople and galleries are on public display throughout the city of Berkeley at this annual tour.
Every weekend through Dec. 17, and Dec. 18–24 daily, Berkeley
Second City Dysfunctional Holiday Revue
The legendary Second City improv troupe — where the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert first cut their teeth — journeys westward to escape the Chicago chill in its first-ever showcase at Berkeley Rep.
Dec. 5–31, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Christmas Revels at Scottish Rite Theater
For 32 years, the California Revels have transported Oakland audiences in December to old-guard Scotland. The Hogmanay celebration is filled to the brim with haggis, puirt a buel (traditional Scottish mouth music) and plenty of plaid kilts to ring in the Scottish new year.
Dec. 8–10 and Dec. 15–17, Scottish Rite Theater
Now in its 11th year, Nicolas Bearde’s annual holiday showcase adds much-needed flair to the tried-and-true hits. His baritone and charm are sure to please, and the one-night only affair often draws a sellout crowd.
Dec. 9 at Piedmont Piano Company
Winter Fest @ OMCA
A special edition of OMCA’s Friday Nights series brings multicultural festivities to the fore — performances by Balinese group Gamelan Jaya Sekar Ensemble and avant-garde musicians Thingamajigs, plus a wealth of family-friendly activities across denominations.
Dec. 15 at the Oakland Museum of California
Graham Lustig’s Nutcracker
The Oakland Ballet adds a much-needed touch of mirth to the traditional Nutcracker musical. Children are dressed up as snowballs, mice soldiers look more precious than menacing; in all, it's a sweeter take on a perennial holiday treat.
Dec. 23 and 24 at the Paramount Theater, Oakland
Hubba Hubba Revue’s Burlesque Bash
With more burlesque performers than you can shake a stick at and a live performance by “goth swing” band Lee Press-On and the Nails, ditch the televised countdowns and ring in the New Year with this grown-up revue.
Dec. 31 at the Uptown
San Jose’s Longest Running Nutcracker
San Jose Dance Theatre’s rendition of The Nutcracker has run since 1966 — the longest-running version in Silicon Valley and the second-longest in the Bay Area. Plus, they’ve tapped S.F. Ballet alum Julia Rowe to play the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Dec. 1–3 and Dec. 8–10 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
Redwood City Open Studios
Redwood City’s status as an emerging arts locale is on full display as 80 artists across several disciplines present their wares and works in seven different venues.
Dec. 3 and 4 at locations throughout Redwood City and San Carlos
Menorahs and Miracles: A Hanukkah Celebration
With a performance from the Yavneh Day School choir and traditional festivities, Hannukah comes a bit early at the Children’s Discovery Museum.
Dec. 3 at the Children’s Discovery Museum at San Jose
Warm up your caroling pipes! This iteration of Handel’s Messiah implores — nay, requires — the audience to sing along to the San Jose Baroque Orchestra’s gorgeous instrumentation.
Dec. 4 at the California Theatre, San Jose
It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker
Two revered holiday staples cross paths at Menlowe Ballet. Plus, this year’s expanded Act II adds a storyline celebrating magnanimity and unity amid our current political divisions.
Dec. 8-10 and Dec. 15-17, Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center, Atherton
Ragazzi Boys Chorus’ Winter Recital
Each choir group — from the tots at Primary to the teens in Avanti — perform a set at their annual Winter Recital, not only to ring in the holiday season but to show off their newly-discovered vocal skills.
Dec. 9, First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Woodside Village Band
The Woodside Village Band’s seasonal concerts have regaled town residents since the spring of 1988 — a charming, rustic alternative to big-city fare.
Dec. 16, Woodside Village Church, Woodside
The customary Mexican posada, replete with the Three Wise Men, the star pinata and Ballet Folklorico de Sacramento’s gorgeous choreography, makes its way to Santa Rosa for the 11th year.
Dec. 8 at the Luther Burbank Center, Santa Rosa
The hellscape that is the retail industry and its dutiful inhabitants — that probably means you — get roasted on an open fire for the final time. For the last 10 years, David Yen has brought David Sedaris’ uproarious tales of his brief stint as a Macy’s SantaLand elf to life; he says this set of performances will be his last.
Dec. 8–23 at Left Edge Theatre, Santa Rosa
Marshmallow dreidels and DIY menorahs are just a couple of the goods kids can make at the Schulz Museum’s annual crafty Chanukah celebration. Fun tip: Admission is free if you say “Hands-on Hanukkah.”
Dec. 10 at the Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa
Sophie and the Magical Toyshop
Dancing toys in a frosty fantasia may bear a striking resemblance to another holiday production, but Sophie’s dream world is sweeter and more gentle. Also, it comes complete with a tea party.
Dec. 16 at the Marin Veterans' Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael
Santa ditches Rudolph and his sleigh for a roarin’ helicopter ride at Pacific Coast Air Museum’s annual holiday event.
Dec. 16 at the Pacific Coast Air Museum, Santa Rosa
Moscow Ballet’s Nutcracker
Imported straight from Russia, Moscow Ballet’s tour de force Nutcracker holds its own against longer-running productions. Their take, which has now toured North America for 25 years, boasts a 50-foot Christmas tree, matryoshkas and Russian-made costumes.
Dec. 18 at the Luther Burbank Center, Santa Rosa
Noon Year’s Eve
A New Year’s celebration where the clock strikes noon and festivities ensue. Your tots even get a live DJ to play the hottest (family-friendly) hits of the year!
Dec. 31 at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito