The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

Exams finishing and Holidays beginning

Festive activities SF State students can do this season
Lydia Perez
All four stars surround and are connected to Union Square’s Christmas tree by rope

Visitors are scattered around Union Square, one of many places in the Bay Area decorated during the holidays. Visitors are also seen taking photos in front of a greenery backdrop that says “Winter Wonderland In Union Square San Francisco.”

As final exams are wrapping up, the semester is coming to an end. Students begin to go home for winter break, leaving the campus empty. Whether students have time to spare before going home, are staying in SF for the holidays or live in the Bay Area, there are plenty of festivities throughout December. 

From San Francisco to across the Bay Bridge, annual fairs, decorated homes and parks invite people to be festive during the holiday season. Some locations require a fee to enter depending on activity or location while others don’t require a fee.


San Francisco’s Union Square


The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square is brought out annually by Kaiser Permanente for people to come out and skate from Nov. 1, 2023 to Jan. 15, 2024. Alongside the ice rink is a tall and bright Christmas tree for people to see while skating across the ice.

For $20, a general admission ticket includes a skate rental and 60 minutes to skate around. Attendees can buy tickets online as well as purchase a locker rental to store their belongings for an additional $5.

“I also love the atmosphere of the city during the holiday season,” said Drew Parker, a second-year SF State student.  “It’s been great people-watching. It’s a great time to walk around the city, whether it’s foresty areas, even more of the local areas like local parks, things like that — just seeing the winter aspect, the holiday season and the different areas of the city is something that I personally really enjoy.”

Marcio Ramirez Lopez, a Big Bus Tours salesman, works during the weekends at Union Square. Even though he works weekends, Ramirez Lopez said Union Square has been lively during the peak hours. He said San Francisco is one of the biggest spots to do shopping as well as get their “holiday fix” with the Christmas tree.

“It’s always nice just to come somewhere where you know there’s going to be people, especially where it’s a high-tourist area. So being a local, you’re going to come down here and talk to someone and kind of get that homey vibe fix that you might need,” said Ramirez Lopez.

Parker said he and his friends will probably go ice skating at Union Square. Even though he won’t be around his family and friends from back home for the holidays, he still enjoys going out and exploring the city to bring him joy during the holiday season. Festive things Parker does includes watching cheesy holiday movies, listening to Christmas music and building gingerbread houses.

“For anyone, but I think especially for college students, it’s their first time not being home for the holidays. I know I kind of said it already — just going out, even into the city, and just looking at the tree they put up in Union Square — little things like that you know you do back home somewhere helps overcome certain things,” said Parker.

Mia Hill, a second-year psychology major at SF State, stayed on campus for Thanksgiving break. Hill will be going home a few days before Christmas to be with her family. Hill seemed surprised when she found out ice skating was available in San Francisco.

“Is there ice skating? Where? […] I’ve never been ice skating so maybe as a goodbye to all my friends because I think they’re staying [for the holidays] and I’m not, because I’m out of state,” said Hill.


Ghirardelli Square


In SF, Ghirardelli Square’s Winter Wonderland provides activities for people to come out for festivities. From movies to photos with Santa Claus, Ghirardelli Square will be hosting events from Dec. 12 to 23. Movies to be played at Ghirardelli Square are “The Grinch” on Dec. 12, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on Dec. 17 and “Elf” on Dec. 19. Santa Claus will be making appearances for photos on Dec. 13, 17, 21 and 23. Hands-on activities are ornament making on Dec. 13, card decorating on Dec. 14 and mistletoe making on Dec. 15.

On Dec. 18, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco will host the Glowing Hanukkah event where there will be a live glowing piano performance, candle lighting, crafts and a sing-along. Ghirardelli Square will have live music by Dakil on Dec. 16, SF German Band on Dec. 17, MeloDious Christmas concert on Dec. 22 and the Homestead High School Choir on Dec. 23.


Alameda’s Christmas Tree Lane


Martin said lights at Christmas Tree Lane will be on from around 5 p.m. to 10 p.m (Lydia Perez)

Mike Martin, a resident of Christmas Tree Lane, said people who don’t get to go home for the holidays or locals returning home for the holidays visit to see the festive block.

Christmas Tree Lane is a block on Thompson Avenue in Alameda, CA, which celebrates the holidays with homes draped in cheerful decorations — even the trees along the traffic island are hung with lights. The block has an array of different motifs, ranging from traditional themes like Santa Claus and Hanukkah to new-age decor like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “The Grinch.”

Alameda’s Tap Dancing Christmas Trees will be performing at Christmas Tree Lane on Friday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. Christmas Tree Lane also has a mailbox for kids to drop off letters to Santa. Senders will sometimes receive a letter back, which was Martin’s kids’ favorite part of the season.

Before moving to Alameda, Martin lived in Oakland and took his kids to Christmas Tree Lane during the holidays to see the decorated homes. This holiday season will be Martin’s 18th Christmas living on Thompson Avenue. Martin said his theme is the North Pole toy factory that has a conveyor belt, which he built with his kids about 10 years ago.

“We knew very much what we were getting into and we found it exciting to share with everybody and just try to come up with some way to keep the lights not exactly the same in my house,” said Martin.

He said there is no formal requirement to be a part of Christmas Tree Lane.

“When you buy a house on this street, one of the disclosures is that it is Christmas Tree Lane for the month of December,” said Martin. “I would say most people that buy a house on this street, love it or are very interested in doing that.”

Martin said that Christmas Tree Lane was officially given the name of Thompson Avenue in 1938 after little pine trees which looked like Christmas trees were planted on the island. 

Martin recommends those who come out to Christmas Tree Lane to park a block or two away to enjoy the lights and avoid the traffic.

“Having it as a tradition that [people] can do with friends, often we’ll see people who bring their own hot chocolate, maybe carol a little as they go along the street,” Martin said. “It’s a nice way to enjoy the fun of the holiday and be with some friends and family and hopefully enjoy the nice lights.”


Berkeley’s 40th Annual Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair


On Telegraph Avenue, between Dwight Street and Bancroft Way, is where the 40th Annual Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair will take place throughout three weekends. On Dec. 9-10, 16-17 and 23-24 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., there will be music, food and vendors.

Grace Teasdale, a vendor who is taking charge of the street fair, said everything sold by vendors is handmade. Some local storefronts on Telegraph Avenue will also join the street fair but don’t offer 100% handmade items.

“It’s for everybody — it’s very family-friendly and it’s just nice to be able to see what people have been creating all year and their heart is on their table and you get to take a little bit of them home and just getting that experience is beautiful,” said Teasdale.

As far as handmade crafts that are sold, they range from a wide set of things such as clothing, body care products, jewelry and holiday apparel.

“Everything is handmade which is locally sourced, so you’re keeping our money local, which is good for our community. And that is the purpose of the event — to boost our community,” said Teasdale.

Visitors can expect a dance floor with live entertainment, activities for kids and a free gift-wrapping booth. The fair also offers different types of food such as Filipino food, baked goods and Mexican food. She said since food vendors don’t participate all six days of the fair, it’s okay to come on different days to see all the vendors.

“It allows people to buy gifts that are unique and not just giving money to Amazon and it’s giving money back to local artists and giving the person buying it something unique that they can’t find somewhere else that’s very well-made,” said Teasdale. “It’s just a nice thing to continue in a world where everything can just be spit out of a machine.”

For transportation, visitors can take BART to Downtown Berkeley and there will be a three- to four-block walk to Telegraph Avenue. For visitors who are driving, all parking is free on Sundays. Besides street parking, the Telegraph-Channing Parking Garage is free for the first hour and only $1 per hour after that.


Tilden Parks Winter Wonderland


According to Kwasnicki, the original tokens are still able to be used at the carousel (Lydia Perez)

Tilden Park’s Merry-Go-Round in Berkeley seems secluded, being surrounded by trees, and the only things heard are the music coming from the carousel and people talking. The area is decorated with traditional wood cutouts on the grass. The Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round is having its Winter Wonderland for people to stop by until Jan. 7.

Beginning Dec. 18, the hours will be extended from Monday to Friday 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will be closed on Christmas Eve and Day but from Dec. 26 to Jan. 7, it will be open from 11am to 5pm

One single-ride ticket for the carousel is $4 and is available to be purchased online at

Olaf the Snowman from “Frozen” and Santa Claus will make appearances in the park based on a meet-and-greet schedule.

There will also be Breakfast with Santa events on specific dates throughout December from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. There are also unlimited carousel rides during the event, and characters come in for photos and seasonal movies on select days. Reservations can be made on the website as well.

Diana Kwasnicki, project manager and event coordinator of the Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round, said what makes the Merry-Go-Round and Winter Wonderland unique is that it’s in the middle of nowhere and there are lights everywhere

The carousel is operated as one was in the 50s; instead of a button being pushed, or an audio recording being played, the operator of the carousel yells for everyone to wait for the bell.

“The music, the lighting, the riding — it’s a 113-year-old carousel so everyone is treasuring those times,” said Kwasnicki.

Christmas trees are placed along one side of the carousel decorated with ornaments available for purchase. “We have people come in every year just to buy the ornaments here,” said Kwasnicki.

Kwasnicki said it’s good to come in the afternoon to avoid the rush. At night when Santa comes, Kwasnicki said it’ll be busier.

“The carousel is actually a piece of moving art that you are able to ride,” Kwasnicki said. “You can’t do that with a canvas or anything like that. This is hand-carved, hand-painted. We don’t have a lot of antique carousels, especially in this side of the country. I think that’s a treasure, for sure.”

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About the Contributor
Lydia Perez
Lydia Perez, Staff Reporter
Lydia Perez (she/her) is a fourth-year student majoring in print and online journalism and minoring in Labor and Employment Studies. Growing up in Oakland, she watched the morning news every day sparking her interest in journalism. Besides school and work, she hangs out with friends (typically at the movie theater), family, reads, or spends time at home with her pets while watching TV shows.

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