Take a tour of SF's holiday lobbies

There is no better way to get into the spirit of the season than by walking around Union Square taking in the festive lights and extravagant holiday décor.

Nobody does holiday cheer better than San Francisco’s downtown hotels, whose already lavish lobbies are even more fun to visit once they are elaborately adorned with oversized wreaths and twinkling lights. They really go all out, which is especially fun to see for those of us who don’t have quite as many halls to deck with boughs of holly at home … or anywhere to put a 40-foot tree.

While most of the hotels will dress their lobbies up during this season, we’ve made a short list of our favorites that really go all out in the name of holiday cheer.

Fairmont

The Fairmount, 950 Mason Street, is home to the famed two-story Gingerbread House, which can be viewed in the hotel's Grand Lobby.
The Fairmount, 950 Mason St., is home to the famed two-story Gingerbread House, which can be viewed in the hotel's Grand Lobby.

Even for those not easily impressed, the Fairmont’s giant two-story Gingerbread House built in the hotel’s Grand Lobby is guaranteed to drop a jaw faster than a one ton block of royal icing (which, coincidentally, is how much icing it takes to create the 22-foot high structure).  As if creating an entire building out of home-baked gingerbread cookies wasn’t enough, there are several moving parts and a motorized train to add even more to the spectacle.

Kids can write a letter to Santa in the lobby’s “North Pole Nook” and brag about how good they’ve been to have not eaten any of the gingerbread masterpiece, no matter how tempting.

Tip: The unveiling party takes place Saturday, Nov. 25, from 11 am to 3 pm. Enjoy complimentary holiday refreshments and music while Santa Claus, a Balloon Elf and a Christmas Fairy pose for photos. 

InterContinental Mark Hopkins

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins, 999 California St, gets into the holiday spirit by offering festive nibbles and drinks to guests.

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins, 999 California St., gets into the holiday spirit by offering festive nibbles and drinks to guests. 

Starting Dec. 1, make yourself cozy in the decorated lobby and enjoy complimentary hot cider and gingerbread cookies. While you’re there, make sure to take the elevator to the Top of the Mark – you can walk the perimeter and enjoy views of all the city lights from nineteen stories up. If there is any chance to see Santa’s sleigh flying over San Francisco, it will probably be from up there.

Ritz Carlton

The Ritz Carlton, 600 Stockton St, will host a tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 3, 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
The Ritz Carlton, 600 Stockton St., will host a tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 3, 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

The Ritz Carlton knows how to celebrate, as evidenced by their towering 40-foot tree, as well as the wreaths, garlands and topiaries inside the lobby.The Tree Lighting Ceremony takes places Thursday, Nov. 30, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Watch as Santa Claus lights the 40-foot holiday tree outside the hotel at sundown! Enjoy free holiday beverages and treats as Dickens-era costumed carolers and trumpeters perform holiday favorites, while children visit and take photos with Santa.

Westin St. Francis

The Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell St, is home to a 12-foot Enchanted Castle made entirely from sugar.
The Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell St., is home to a 12-foot Enchanted Castle made entirely from sugar. 

Anyone with a sweet tooth will instantly get a cavity upon looking at the 12-foot tall Enchanted Castle made entirely from sugar. On display through Jan. 2, you can admire the delicate sugar art in the form of handcrafted colorful ornaments, elaborate gift boxes and tiny elves scaling the walls of the enormous rotating sugar castle.

After staring at all the sugar, if you’re still in the mood for something sweet, visit the special St. Francis Sweet Shoppe in the Landmark Lobby. You’ll find a selection of freshly-baked decorative cookies, orange scented shortbread, gingerbread men and rice crispy treats, all available for purchase. Open Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 25 to Dec. 23; 11am to 4pm.

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