San Fran: special cultural events during Thanksgiving weekend

Roberta Ortolan
Vallejo in San Francisco

San Fran offers special cultural events for those who still want to enjoy the last days of November and the Thanksgiving weekend – besides eating and drinking, my favorite activities. Check it out:

World Cup 2022


World Cup Village is an event organized by the City Hall in partnership with Street Soccer USA to welcome soccer lovers with free screening of World Cup matches. The event is planned to take place at The Crossing at East Cut, Union Square, JFK Promenade and Civic Center.

Starting November 21st, the World Cup Village will feature food trucks, performances, various activities, and live music. For matches that take place in the morning, food trucks will offer breakfast. This event is to celebrate what San Francisco has most in evidence: cultural diversity.

The ice from the rink to Broadway

san francisco: cultural events thanksgiving
Font: International Education Exchange Council / Frozen The Musical

For 15 years now, Union Square has hosted an ice rink for the vacation season. The Union Square Ice Rink will be available daily for cold weather lovers until January 16, 2023.

Taking advantage of the freezing weather, the Broadway musical Frozen arrived in San Francisco on November 18 at the Orpheum Theatre through December 30.

Light, camera, action!

san francisco cultural event thanksgiving weekend
Font: San Francisco Friends Experience / Fever Up

Technology + Art

The Palace of Fine Arts hosts Verse Art of Future from November 18 to December 30. At this cultural event, art and technology interact through holographic displays.

Between 30-60 min, you can check out mutable, scintillating, animated artworks by famous artists who are part of the metaverse. It is an event for all ages, but it is recommended that holographic lenses be used for guests over the age of 5.

10th Annual Festival of Light Illuminate San Francisco

Since November 9, the 62 light installations are spread around the city to make San Francisco more beautiful, lively, and animated. Some are permanent and some are temporary. This is the 10th annual Festival of Light Illuminate SF – see the complete map to enjoy the lights around the city for free!

San Francisco Friends Experience

Remember Friends, the 90’s TV show? If you are a fan, you can’t miss this experience. Until January 2, 2023, you can participate in activities in 12 rooms that reproduce the realistic scenery of the series. For more information, click here.

Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday

san francisco cultural event thanksgiving
Font: World Fall of Hope / Grace Cathedral

During the month of November, Grace Cathedral will be assembling the largest origami Christmas tree in the world. In all, 17,000 origami are handmade, and each one has messages of hope for the future.

If you want, you can volunteer in the process of assembling this installation. If you are just curious, you can look to see how this tree is assembled. However, it will be lit between December 6 and January 7, 2023.

Another event involving the lights is the Nob Hill Lighting Ceremony. This year it celebrates its 50th event and will be held in the trees in Huntington Park outside the cathedral on November 28.

And before I finish…

Do you know the origin of Thanksgiving Day?

XVI Century

It seems that the first Thanksgiving Day took place in the 16th century. The inhabitants of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, a region known as New England, celebrated the good harvest of food at that time with great joy. Winter is the season when nature sleeps and nothing is harvested.

XVII Century

Beginning in the 17th century, the governor organized the Autumn Festival between the Native Americans and the English settlers in Plymouth Colony.

The intention of the feast was to give thanks for the harvest of the good crop. The dishes served during the event were based on legumes, vegetables, fish, duck and turkey.

XIX Century

Since 1863, President Abraham Lincoln has chosen the fourth Thursday in November as a holiday for Thanksgiving Day. However, in 1941, it became a national holiday.

The purpose of the holiday remains the same as in the past: to give thanks. So, family and friends gather together, remember and give thanks for all the good things that have happened during the past year.

Many turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving Day, and that is why it is known as “Turkey Day”.

But, Roberta, what is the relationship between Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday sales?

san francisco cultural event thanksgiving
Font: Ti Inside / Reader’s Digest

As written above: in custom initiated by Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Day would be on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, the last Thursday was coincidentally the last day of November.

Concerned about the short shopping period for the holiday, shopkeepers petitioned Franklin Roosevelt to bring the holiday forward by a week, which was authorized by the president.


For the next three years, Thanksgiving Day was nicknamed “Franksgiving” (a mixture of Franklin and “Thanksgiving”) and celebrated not only on different days, but in different parts of the country.

In late 1941, a joint resolution of Congress finally solved the problem: Thanksgiving Day would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, guaranteeing an extra week of shopping until Christmas.

Coffee tip

san francisco illy caffe
Font: Sah P / Prowin Prakash / Own pictures

Today I wrote this content at the Illy Caffè. This is one of my favorite coffees. Creamy cappuccino, nice meal, excellent service, and the atmosphere is cozy. Besides, it is very close to the hostel.

Did you like the content? Enjoy reading First time in San Francisco?

Food, Wine Culture and Travel Blogger / Freelance and Content Writer / Ph.D. student and Master degree in Cultural Sciences at Universidade Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD - Portugal).

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