Skip to main content
Arts & Entertainment

Get active on New Year’s Day with these local activities

Seven-year-old Kayla LaMarche enjoys the view as she and her aunt take a lunch break with the group Outdoor Afro, whose mission is to get people of color into national and state parks, during a hiking trip through Angel Island State Park. | Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

If you’re not a night owl or party crawler, you may be looking for active activities on New Year’s Day that engage your body and mind. But given that holiday falls on a Sunday this year—and Monday, Jan. 2, is the federally observed holiday—many stores and restaurants are likely to have wonky hours.

Whether you’re hoping to get out of town and into the great outdoors or looking for something fun and low-cost within city limits, here are a few places with their doors open and a handful of wholesome and healthful activities to help you start the new year off right.  

Holiday Day Windows at Macy’s

Union Square
🕔 12 p.m.-5 p.m.
📍 170 O’Farrell St.
🎟 Free 

Kittens up for adoption through the San Francisco SPCA sit in a storefront window at Macy’s Union Square location in Downtown San Francisco. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Depending on your stance on strikes, you may have qualms crossing the picket line at Macy’s, but it’s a little harder to resist the cute cats and dogs taking up residence in the department store’s Union Square windows this holiday season. Jan. 1 is your last chance to see these cute little critters looking for forever homes as part of the San Francisco SPCA’s annual pet adoption drive—back for the first time since the start of the pandemic. If you’re so moved to adopt, you can learn more here.   

Explore Your Scientific Side  

📍 Various, Locations, Prices & Hours

The California Academy of Science's resident albino crocodile, Claude, is one of the creatures you'll encounter at the natural history museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. | Barbara Munker/picture alliance via Getty Images

A number of San Francisco’s institutions dedicated to the exploration and study of the natural world are open on New Year’s Day. See some of the city’s cutest and coolest new creatures at the San Francisco Zoo or the California Academy of Sciences. The museum's winter wonderland-themed pop-up featuring indoor flurries and wintry science experiments ends on Jan. 8. Or discover what lies beneath the waters of San Francisco Bay at Pier 39’s aquarium. All have fascinating exhibits on creatures from around the world that are sure to please the inner scientist or naturalist in your family.  

Commune With Art 

📍 Various Locations, Prices & Hours 

Patrons view Diego Rivera’s America gallery at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on Dec. 2, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

San Francisco boasts some incredible art museums and some of its flagship temples to creativity have their doors open on New Year’s Day. Get a last look at Diego Rivera’s masterpieces at SFMOMA. Check out a treasure trove of Egyptian artifacts at the de Young’s Ramses the Great and The Gold of the Pharaohs exhibition. Or see these quirky ceramic sculptures by artist Michelle Erickson at the Legion of Honor.    

Get Out to a Garden

Golden Gate Park

SF Botanical Garden

🕔 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
📍 1199 Ninth Ave., Golden Gate Park
🎟 Free 

Stop and smell the roses on New Year’s Day. Golden Gate Park’s Botanical Garden is not only open, but admission is free, too. The garden boasts an array of florals and plants that are sure to tickle your senses. Last entry is at 4 p.m. Advance tickets are recommended.

Japanese Tea Garden 
🕔 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.
📍 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
🎟 Free-$25

Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden is also open on New Year’s Day and free for San Francisco residents. This is a great opportunity to visit the oldest item in San Francisco’s Civic Art Collection, a 200-year-old Buddha statue gifted to the city by luxury home decor retailer Gump’s. Last entry is a half hour before closure. Visit this link for ticket and reservation information. 

The large bronze Buddha statue at the Japanese Tea Garden was cast in Tajima, Japan, for Taionji Temple, then presented to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco in 1949. Made around 1790, it is the oldest piece in the city’s art collection. | John S. Lander/Getty Images

New Year’s Day Japanese Shrine Visit 

🕔 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
📍 1909 Bush St.
🎟 Free

If you want to explore and honor more Japanese cultural traditions, Japantown’s Konko Church of San Francisco opens its door for Hatsumode, the Japanese tradition of visiting a shrine or temple at the start of the year. Shake off last year’s bad vibes with a traditional shrine bell ringing and write your wishes for the future on a "shide," or slip of sacred zigzag paper, to hang on a wishing tree. Hatsumode continues through Jan. 3. 

First Day Hikes Around the Bay

📍 Various Locations, Prices & Hours

Get out of the city and start the new year off with an epic hike in one the Bay Area’s scenic state parks. Part of a national movement to get people into the great outdoors on New Year’s Day, you can find a few First Day Hikes within driving—or ferry—distance of the city. 

Angel Island State Park
🕔 10:30 a.m.
📍 Ayala Cove ferry dock to Mt. Livermore
🎟 $6+ for ferry

If Angel Island has been on your Bay Area bucket list, this park’s First Day hike may be your first opportunity for 2023. Make your way to the Tiburon ferry and bring lunch for this moderate-to-difficult hike to the 788-foot summit of Mount Livermore. The 4.5-mile trek includes trail stairs and switchbacks, but the 360-degree views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge are worth it. Recommended for ages 6 and up. Ferry service is available from Tiburon—but not San Francisco—on New Year’s Day, and only for groups that book in advance, so be sure to make your ferry reservations soon. 

Jack London State Historic Park

🕔 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
📍 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen
🎟 $10 + parking fees 

The 10th Annual First Day Hike at Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Historic park takes trekkers on an eight-mile “moderately strenuous” climb to the summit of the park for a photo op and great views. The hike is not recommended for children under 12, but this could be a fun fitness challenge for the athletically minded adults in your crew. Meet in the parking lot of the state park. 

Mount Tamalplais State Park

🕔 2 p.m.
📍 Pantoll Trailhead
🎟 $8 for parking

Take in Marin’s scenic beauty on this 3.2-mile hiking loop through woodlands dominated by Douglas fir and redwoods. Once through the lush forest, you’ll descend into a coastal shrubland with views of the Pacific and San Francisco. The trek takes hikers from the Pantoll Trailhead through the Alpine, TCC (Tamalpais Conservation Club) and Old Mine trails and lasts about three hours with photo opportunities and snack breaks in between. Ages 7 and up are preferred. Trekking poles are recommended. 

Check for more hikes, updates and additional details here

Christina Campodonico can be reached at