‘Tis the season for giant gingerbread houses, hot buttered rums, and jingling bells. Holiday pop-ups — and more informal decorative transformations — have taken over Bay Area bars and hotels, with more places to knock back a festively-named cocktail and relish in seasonal cheer than ever before. And we are so here for it. Read on for 14 places to feel the holiday spirit.Read More
Where to Feel the Holiday Spirit in the Bay Area
From full-blown pop-up bars to exquisitely decorated hotels
1. Claremont Club & Spa
Berkeley, CA 94705
A life-size, Whoville-inspired gingerbread house and Christmas tree are among the decorative attractions this year inside the East Bay’s fanciest hotel. There are also special holiday teas — potentially with a visit from the Oakland Balley’s Nutcracker — and a Whoville-themed brunch with Santa. On Christmas day, the hotel will unveil a six-foot tall Christmas tree made of chocolate and Rice Krispies treats.
2. Hello Stranger
On Friday and Saturday nights through December, Oakland nightlife destination Hello Stranger is transforming its VIP room into its Naughty and Nice Lounge, a Christmas-themed pop-up with a “cocktail menu that would make Santa blush.” Find it starting at 8 p.m.
3. Fairmont San Francisco
The Fairmont is always elaborately decorated for Christmas, with a 23-foot tree, a champagne bar, hot cocoa pop-up shop, a giant gingerbread house, and holiday tea. This year’s gingerbread house is the biggest yet, and for the first time, you can even dine inside of it.
4. Top of the Mark
Throughout December, you can order a festive, “12 Days of Christmas”-themed cocktail at this lounge, while the entire InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel gets decorated — including with a full-on gingerbread house village — and hosts events like holiday brunch and children’s “magical tea.”
5. Pacific Cocktail Haven
New York-born holiday pop-up bar Miracle returns to Pacific Cocktail Haven. There’s a fresh lineup of Christmas-themed cocktails in custom glassware to along with green-and-white stockings, string lights, and more decor.
6. Palace Hotel
Big, lit-up Christmas trees enter the extravagantly elegant Palace Hotel every year, alongside a slew of holiday-themed events. This year, there’s an ugly sweater party, a gingerbread-decorating mixer, and many chances for holiday afternoon tea — possibly even with a visit from Santa.
7. Union Square
San Francisco, CA 94108
Two blocks off of Union Square have transformed into the pedestrian-only Winter Walk, with rotating food vendors from Off the Grid; a giant charcuterie board for Instagramming; wine, beer, and cocktails from Rye on the Road; and, of course, twinkle lights, garlands, and other nods to the season.
8. Deck the Halls
This extremely festive and extremely rowdy holiday pop-up is back for another year, this time in the former location of Rusted Mule. It runs November 23- December 25, providing festive decor and drinks like the Yellow Snow Slushie made with Hennessy, Luxardo amaretto, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. There’s also the Dreidel Room within the Christmas-themed bar.
9. Museum of Ice Cream
Instead of decking out its sweets-themed rooms in red and green, the Museum of Ice Cream is going pink. “Pinkmas,” as they’re calling their seasonal exhibition, includes a glowing pink forest, a gingerbread house, and a new Gingerbread Disco ice cream flavor. You can get in on the Instagram action through January 6.
Until January 6, Elixir will serve its menu of traditional holiday cocktails, like egg nog (and Añogo, a nog made with añejo tequila), hot spiced cider, and “hot butt rum.” From December 15-25 there’ll also be Tom and Jerry’s, the labor-intensive, rum- and cognac-spiked holiday classic.
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11. The Beehive
San Francisco, CA 94110
The retro-themed bar is decked out as a gingerbread house (emphasis on the gin, as it’s a partnership with Zephyr Gin) this year, with plenty of festive decorations and a special list of holiday drinks. Enjoy the blasphemous Krampus Club ($14) withgin, spiced cranberry, martini, bitter, Cointreau, egg white, lemon, the Festivus martini with gin, douglas fir, martini ambrato, maraschino, improved bitters, or the Santa Baby (pictured), with Zephyr gin, Beehive hot cocoa, Wondermint, winter spice, and toasted marshmallow, served in 60’s style soda fountain glass
12. Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley
The East Palo Alto hotel transformed its outdoor lounge into wintry pop-up Après, with sparkling lights, mini pine trees, a fireplace, and fake falling snow every night. There’s a festive food menu (bison burger, cheese fondue, s’mores) and cocktail list, including hot cocoa spiked with Irish whiskey and green chartreuse. It runs through February.
13. Rosewood Sand Hill
The hotel’s first-ever Winter Terrace pop-up aims to create a cozy and immersive escape with cognac cocktails, bites via Michelin-starred restaurant Madera, and larger in-theme dishes like cheese fondue. The pop-up is open through January, though the Rosewood Sand Hill team already anticipates possibly extending into February due to popular demand.
14. Paper Plane
Christmas-themed pop-up bar Miracle has hit San Jose for the first time, with cheeky drinks (see the Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! starring sweet potato rum and marshmallow orgeat) in custom glassware and heaps of decor. Paper Plane is also kicking it up a notch with a couple of new holiday-appropriate dishes as well, including a turkey pot pie samosa and mashed potato sundae. It runs through New Year’s Eve.