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Top Destinations in NorCal to Visit This Holiday Season 2021


Written by Leslie Ingraham

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/22/2021, edited: 12/07/2021


Northern California, or NorCal, is the pawrfect destination for adventurers and their pooches looking for somewhere to visit this 2021 holiday season! The northern part of the state is replete with dog-friendly venues.

Northern California’s cities and towns celebrate the holidays with festivals and other furbulous events, and many are open to pupsters. So if you and Fido are planning some time away for the holiday season, or want a staycay to remember, look no further than Northern California! Let’s look at some of the fun you and your doggo can enjoy during the 2021 holiday season!

enjoy the holiday season with your dogs this 2021

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

With multiple recreation areas, museums and trails, San Fran’s largest park boasts lots of activities for people and their pooches to celebrate the holidays.

  • Take a walk through “Entwined,” an art installation of lights in Peacock Meadow that is one of the most-attended holiday events in the city. This free light show is open from December 22nd to February 1st.

  • Watch the Tree Lighting at McLaren Lodge on December 2nd, and enjoy games, live entertainment and even visits from Santa! Considered by some to be the “official” Christmas Tree of SF, you can join in for free.

  • Need to take a breather from the crowds? Check out the 6-mile Golden Gate Park Loop that offers views of a lake and the Golden Gate Bridge, or head to the trail in Strawberry Hill, an island in the middle of Stow Lake.
  • If your pup still has some pep in their step, let them run out their energy at the furbulous off-leash areas inside Golden Gate Park!
  • Itching to get some sun and sand for the holiday? Head to nearby Ocean Beach for a splash!

Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square, San Francisco is a nice holiday destination this 2021

The holidays are nowhere more festive than at Union Square, where shops try to outdo each other with lights and decorations. Union Square also features an ice skating park! 

  • This iconic San Fran spot hosts the largest Christmas Tree in the city! Sponsored yearly by Macy’s, Union Square’s Tree Lighting brings in crowds from near and far to gaze in wonder at this holiday spectacle! Due to Covid, this year’s tree lighting won’t be accompanied by events, but can be viewed from November 19th to January 1st right across from Macy's.
  • Celebrate the Chanukah Festival of Lights from November 28th to December 6th with 8 consecutive lighting ceremonies featuring music and various events surrounding one of the largest menorahs in the U.S.! 
  • Start your Christmas shopping in style by perusing nearby dog-friendly Macys, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks, Williams-Sonoma and Bloomingdales!
  • Support your local pups in need and check out the San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows at Macy's! From November 23rd to January 2nd, you can share photos of this incredible sight on Instagram, enjoy the pawdorable animal videos on the main floor, and be on the lookout for other holiday surprises!
  • Don’t furget to snap a photo of your precious pup with Santa this year at the Macy’s Union Square Santa Paws event! On December 12th from 5 PM to 8 PM, your pup can bark their holiday wishes into Santa’s ear, as well as enjoy treats and giveaways! Tickets are $45 and proceeds benefit the SF SPCA, so register early!

Heavenly Village, South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a year-round getaway featuring everything a pet parent and their pup could want, including festive holiday celebrations in December. If you and Fido roll into town around the holidays, you’re in for fun treats galore!

  • Visit the Heavenly Holidays celebration at Heavenly Village, where you’ll find decorations, lights, and the daily lighting of the Heavenly Village holiday tree, a wonder to behold! 
  • Explore the shops and put a dent in your Christmas shopping with gifts from dog-friendly Patagonia, Powder House Sports, the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and more! 
  • Take your fur baby to one of the dog-friendly restaurants with outdoor seating, like the Base Camp Pizza Company or Fire & Ice.
  • Relax at the Holiday Santa Paws and Yappy Hour on December 2nd and 9th from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM at the furtastic Fire and Ice Restaurant. Stroll through the ice sculptures, take a photo of Fido with Santa Claws, and enjoy refreshments from the Fire and Ice’s holiday menu! Admission is a $5 donation to the Humane Society. 
  • If you and your furry buddy are aching to get away for some peace and quiet, give snowshoeing or cross-country skiing a try. Dogs are welcome on leash on the snow-covered trails of Bijou Community Park. 
  • Bijou Dog Park inside the Bijou Community Park is the pawrfect spot for Fido to blow off some steam and for you to hang out with the other pet parents over a cup of hot coffee.

Downtown, Mill Valley

Lovely Mill Valley is host to a pawsome holiday event in 2021! After a largely virtual presence in 2020, Winterfest this year is in-person and exciting! 

  • Start Winterfest on Friday November 27th with the kickoff of the Winterfest Holiday Hunt, a scavenger hunt spanning three weeks until December 17th. Thirty businesses in the Mill Valley place Blue Stars in their windows for photo backdrops. Collect at least eight photos to be entered into a raffle for gift cards to the participating businesses. Don’t forget to include Fido in your pictures!
  • Be sure to attend the Winterfest Festival on December 5th for a day of safe, in-person holiday doings. Slide down the long, gentle Rainbow Slide and enjoy dancing, music and a visit from Ol’ St. Nick himself, who will mingle and pose for pictures.  
  • Curl up with a cocoa or beer at one of the area’s dog-friendly restaurants. The Hook Fish Company at Proof Lab Beer Garden is the pawrfect spot, and Super Duper Burgers is worth a drive to Miller Avenue for a quick and tasty takeout meal! Be sure to bring dog beer along for Fido!
  • Getting away from all the holiday crowds and activity is easy in Mill Valley. Grab your pupster and their leash and head out to the Mill Valley-Sausalito Path, an easy four mile walk. Or try the Tenderfoot Trail, which is only a mile long but will test your hiking skills as you meander through a redwood forest. And for a jolly good off-leash romp, try the Bayfront Dog Park and Beach, on Richardson Bay.

Downtown, Nevada City

Nevada City is the pawfect place to celebrate Christmas surrounded by the scenic ponderosa pines that circle the village, and its quaint, narrow streets.

  • Found along Main Street, the annual Victorian Christmas brings you back to the time of Dickens, with its authentic gas lamps and folks in classic Victorian attire. Running on Sundays, December 5th, 12th, and 19th from 1:30 PM to 6 PM, and Wednesdays, December 8th and 15th from 5 PM to 9 PM, dogs are welcome to stroll through the hilly streets with their pet parents to admire the storefronts decorated with sparkling white Christmas lights.
  • Sing along with the street carolers and munch on roasted chestnuts. 
  • Watch for Santa to appear at the Old Firehouse at the top of Broad Street, and be sure to get a photo with him and Fido ($6 for one, $10 for two).
  • Look for Nevada City’s Walking Christmas Tree as you stroll around town. Handmade, it’s made of green satin, fleece, a hoop skirt, and is covered in lights. Christmas Tree Ladies compete for the chance to “live” in the tree throughout the Victorian Christmas celebration, bringing cheer to one and all, and candy canes, too!
  • Peruse the vendor tents lined up in the middle of the main streets of town for some pawsome holiday shopping. You can find sweetmeats and other delectables, artworks and crafts, homemade food items and more!
  • Embrace the holiday season with free entertainment, including singers, brass bands, strolling musicians and bagpipes. Watch that the loud bagpipes don’t startle Fido - keep a steady hand on that leash! 
  • Check out the trails leading from town when it’s time to quiet the soul. A favorite is the Deer Creek Tribute Trail. Or enjoy nature this holiday by planning a trek through nearby Tahoe National Forest with your adventure pup!

If you want to visit an attraction in Northern California that doesn’t allow dogs this holiday season, check out the dog sitting services in your area. Wag!’s fun and friendly sitters will visit with your pup in your home or hotel room for as long as you need to be away. Fido will have a ball, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your events, knowing your pup is well-cared for by a professional! 

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