Union Square has long been the center of San Francisco’s holiday celebrations, a cheerful spot drawing visitors and locals alike. With an ice skating rink, a towering tree and throngs of shoppers, it’s as wintry as can be—in a climate where the temperature almost never dips below freezing.
This year, though, the beginning of the season coincides with the city’s largest gathering of world leaders in decades, as the Moscone Center is set to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) for a week in mid-November.
The holiday magic begins on Wednesday, as the Union Square Ice Skating Rink will be open the instant that all the ghosts and goblins crawl back to the netherworld, from Nov. 1 until Jan. 15, 2024.
The holiday tree, though, won’t be lit for another week. A spokesperson for Macy’s confirmed to The Standard that the date is now Nov. 9, with more details to follow in the days ahead.
The lights on Downtown’s other holiday trees—at Pier 39 and Civic Center—will be turned on on Nov. 21 and Dec. 7, respectively. Up on Nob Hill, the World Tree of Hope at Grace Cathedral will be blessed by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in a ceremony on Dec. 4. Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, diagonally across Civic Center from City Hall, will be the site of a menorah lighting on Dec. 7, the first day of Hanukkah, and remain lit through Dec. 14.
The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will once again fill the windows of Macy’s Union Square with adorable, adoptable puppies and kittens fogging up the glass with their playfulness every Thursday through Sunday from Nov. 17 to Dec. 31. It might be hard to resist an “animal-assisted therapy ambassador” roaming through the neighborhood, so be warned.
Last year, the Union Square Alliance received a $500,000 grant from the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to transform the sunken plaza just outside the Powell Street BART Station into a “Winter Wanderland” filled with vendors and musical performances. That is unlikely to return this year, a spokesperson said. Instead, the neighborhood may choose to pedestrianize a few blocks of nearby Stockton Street, as in years past.
While APEC security-related street closures will largely be contained to South of Market, the Central Subway—which has a Union Square station—will also be shut down. Parts of Nob Hill may also be restricted to pedestrian access, as President Joe Biden will be staying in a hotel there during his visit.
Astrid Kane can be reached at email@example.com