Winter’s the Time to See San Francisco’s Illuminated Buildings

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With the sun setting earlier in winter, there’s more time to enjoy San Francisco’s many displays of lights.

Bayview Rise

With the sun setting earlier in winter, there’s more time to enjoy San Francisco’s many displays of lights. From illuminated buildings to art installations and holiday celebrations, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the magic of the season’s longer nights. The San Francisco Travel Association provides a Holiday Guide with all the details.

Holiday Lights Galore
To make your holiday season merry and bright, there’s no better place than San Francisco. Macy’s Union Square tree sparkles with 33,000 LED lights and 1,100 shining ornaments on the city’s most iconic Christmas tree. At Fisherman’s Wharf, PIER 39 and Ghirardelli Square both celebrate the season with their 60-foot trees. The Embarcadero Center outlines their four office towers with white lights. The Bill Graham Menorah Lighting in Union Square is a local Hanukkah tradition that’s been going strong for more than 40 years.

Illuminate SF Festival of Light
This seasonal celebration, which lasts from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, includes light art installations, guided tours and other special events that add up to weeks of perpetual wonderment. From Bayview to Golden Gate Park and SFO to the Embarcadero, there are dozens of installations throughout the city, ranging in size from park benches to the entire Bay Bridge. While not its only claim to fame, the new Salesforce Tower, which at 1,070 feet is the tallest building in San Francisco, will also be topped by what is being billed as the tallest public art installation in the U.S. — a nine-story electronic sculpture by San Francisco artist Jim Campbell. Find information about artists, events, self-guided tour maps and more at

Metallic Tapestry Light Show at 690 Folsom
This repurposed parking garage has been transformed by the addition of an illuminated metal skin, an LED-lit façade that resembles a spider web pulled tight around a box. The San Francisco-based office of Charles F. Bloszies FAIA designed the aluminum sheets that envelop the second story of the building and inserted two rows of LED lights between the original façade and the new screen. The lights change colors according to pre-programmed sequences. It’s not just fun to look at from outside either. Inside, you’ll find SPiN San Francisco, a ping pong-centric social club with two bars, a kitchen and 16 ping pong tables.

There are lots of other interesting buildings to see at night. Read about other unique, illuminated buildings on San Francisco Travel’s website,

The Bay Lights
First time and repeat visitors to San Francisco will be entranced by the 25,000 LED lights that “perform” on the Bay Bridge. What started as a temporary installation by artist Leo Villareal (it was supposed to end in 2015) has become a permanent addition to the city’s nighttime skyline thanks to the popularity of the project.

The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco.

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Laurie Armstrong
San Francisco Travel Association
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