13 San Francisco Holiday Office Party Ideas you must try
With the holiday season knocking on our doors, office managers and office administrators around the Bay Area are busy planning the best holiday office parties for their organizations. We’re not talking about cake-in-the-conference-room type parties either. We’re talking about parties that you’ll call home about, share on your Instagram, and remember for years to come.
In my five-plus years in San Francisco, I’ve been lucky to experience some fantastic holiday parties. From a night in a local speakeasy, floating down the Russian River (this is California after all) and indulging in arcade games at Golden Gate Tap Room, it’s been a fun ride. For those still wondering what to do to ensure a fantastic experience for their coworkers, check out our list of 12 SF holiday office party ideas that won’t break the bank.
1. Volunteer with your coworkers
- Location: Varies
- Capacity: Varies
- Price: Free to donation-based
Many groups choose to volunteer during the holiday season, and if you’re looking later in the year, you might find that many places are filled up. However, this is a great case to make volunteering a more integrated part of your company culture. There are many causes to support in the Bay Area from environmental, socioeconomic, youth-based, and more.
HandsOn Bay Area is a great resource to find a one-time volunteer opportunity for your group. They focus on hunger and homelessness, youth development, and environmental protection. They customize each volunteer experience to match your goals, and services range from $115 to $130 per volunteer with a minimum service fee of $3,500.
You can also reach out directly to your company’s favorite local nonprofits and see how you can help. Everyone can use some support, and planning ahead of time allows them to get a group sized project ready so you and your team can make the biggest impact and put your holiday office party towards a good cause.
Courtesy of HandOn Bay Area
Photo Courtesy of Semuteh F. on Yelp
2. Ice Skating
- Location: Union Square Ice Rink
- Capacity: up to 250
- Price: Ranges from $2250 – $4050
Ice skating might not be your first thought when thinking about holiday office parties in San Francisco, but the pop-up ice rink at Union Square every year is a fun tradition. Whether your coworkers grew up near an ice rink or it will be their first time seeing a frozen expanse of fun, this is a more active holiday party idea for your larger groups.
During private events at the Union Square Ice Rink, the facility is closed to the public. As stated on their website, “For a private buyout of the rink, a host may bring décor, food, beverage, entertainment and other party elements as they wish.” So order your office’s favorite food from a nearby restaurant to keep everyone fueled up for skating. If you want to take this to the next level, pick a theme to use for your decor, and encourage people to dress up. An “ugly sweater” party could be an easy choice, and will keep people warm on the ice.
3. Movie Screening
- Location: Alamo Drafthouse
- Capacity: 5 screens ranging from 34-326 seats
- Price: Varies
You could go lowkey and hook up a projector in your biggest conference room. But, if you want to take your office movie screening to the next level this holiday season, considering hosting your holiday office party at Alamo Drafthouse. With five movie screens with a range of seats (smaller ones of about 30 people to over 300), you can customize your budget.
You’ll get all that a classic Alamo experience brings, with that special something extra just for you. You can create a custom menu or rely on their classics, either way, they’ll be delivered to your seat as you and your team enjoy the movie. Don’t forget about their bar and lounge area before and after the flick. When it’s all over, you’re still in the heart of the Mission so those looking to keep the fun going will be in the right spot.
Photo Courtesy of Alamo Draft House
Photo Courtesy of Go Game
4. Scavenger hunt
- Location: The Go Game (varies)
- Capacity: How many you got?
- Price: What are you looking to spend?
Want to take your team on an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt? Play lawn games on a boat? Almost any group game you can imagine, the team at Go Game can bring it to life. They can set up at different locations in the Bay Area (and internationally, if you were curious) and their experiences are 100% customized to your group’s needs.
It’s their customization that really sets this experience apart. If you want to work in company trivia to a game, choose a theme based on your product, or have everyone end up at a certain location for drinks or dinner, Go Game will come through. You’re in good hands too, Netflix, Facebook, Salesforce, Adobe, and more, have all used the Go Game for an amazing holiday office party experience.
Looking for something even more local? Check out the Golden Gate Park Geocache Treasure Hunt Airbnb experience hosted by our friend Jess. She’s organized hundreds of geocaching outings around the world and on this experience in Golden Gate Park will help you hunt for 4 geocaches together while hiking and learning secrets about the park’s history. Her hunts start at $24 a person, and you’ll start and end in Golden Gate Park, so a picnic before or after is a great way to round out your holiday party.
5. Wine and Canvas
- Location: They can come to you
- Capacity: Minimum of 15
- Price: $35-45 per person
For a more creative group, Wine and Canvas is a great option for a holiday office party in San Francisco. You’ll choose the painting you want your group to do. You can pick from their existing designs like Sonoma Vineyard, Bay Bridge, or San Francisco skyline, or work with them to create something new for your team. Perhaps something holiday-themed that everyone can put their own spin on!
They can set up your paint party at your office, or you can rent out restaurant space. This is something to keep in mind for your budget – while the name is “wine” and canvas, wine and food are not included. They do, however, include all of the canvases, easels, paints, brushes, and instruction that you’ll need.
Photo Courtesy of Wine and Canvas Facebook Group
Photo Courtesy of Mission Bowling
- Location: We like Mission Bowling
- Capacity: 17 – 180 people
- Price: Varies
Bowling is a classic company outing, and the experience at Mission Bowling takes things to the next level. It’s a smaller venue (six lanes) which makes it a more intimate experience. They also have a great bar and food service on-site, which makes things easier to plan for your group. They don’t have a dessert menu, so they charge a small fee for bringing desserts on site.
Mission Bowling is, you guessed it, located in the Mission. They are a community-focused business with a monthly charity partner. They also feature a rotating selection of art from their partnership with Artspan. While you’ll still have to wear bowling shoes on the lanes, the experience at Mission Bowling is a step above. Host your holiday office party here to show people what an elevated bowling experience looks like.
7. Escape Room
- Location: We like Escape SF
- Capacity: Varies
- Price: Varies
Escape from Alcatraz, escape from the antique room, escape from the Blind Tiger…these adventures await you and your team at Escape SF. Use one of their premade adventures – in the Antique Room, “The Mona Lisa has been stolen. The suspect is Florentine antiques and art dealer Jerry Alfredo, who has recently disappeared. It has been reported that he has been a part of this ‘theft of the century.’” What will your team do!?
You can also customize games for your group to include information about your company. They can come to you and set up (for bigger groups) or you can go to their location in downtown San Francisco. For custom games, they can bring Game Masters OR you can train a few of your own staff to get things started. This is a great holiday office party option for more adventure-seeking groups and ones who won’t feel stressed out being stuck in a room with their coworkers for over an hour.
Photo Courtesy of EscapeSF
Photo Courtesy of Ann E on Yelp
8. Rent a Food Truck (park)
- Location: We like SoMa StrEat Food Park
- Capacity: 70 – 1,000 people
- Price: Varies based on size, charged per hour
Sometimes food at an office holiday party is an afterthought, why not make it the main event at a food truck party? SoMa StrEat Food Park offers a variety of vendors, Izzy’s Cheesesteak, Lobsta Truck, and Roli Roti are just a few of the classic trucks you can expect.
The smallest event size starts in the Bus, a real-life school bus converted into a wonderful private party space featuring tables, chairs, and a tv screen. You can get the entire venue too (up to 1,000 people) and choose your favorite trucks to have on-site. With food sorted, you can run your own company trivia, bring games or crafts, and make it a night to remember.
9. Museum of Ice Cream
- Location: 1 Grant Ave. San Francisco, CA 94108
- Capacity: Varies
- Price: Varies
Want to be the talk of your company for years to come? Book a private event at the Museum of Ice Cream. While this is not really a budget-friendly item, it’s so unique to San Francisco, we had to include it. Where else can you find an exhibit with ice cream and candy themed exhibits, all brightly colored, in a maze of rooms containing “among other things, a rock-candy cave, a unicorn, and a swimming pool of rainbow sprinkles”. Okay, a location in New York is opening soon, but San Francisco will still be the original location. Fill out a private event request if you’re ready to indulge for your holiday office party.
Photo Courtesy of Museum of Ice Cream
10. Food Walk: Painted Ladies & Sweets Walk
- Location: A local San Francisco cafe
- Capacity: 2 person minimum
- Price: $58 per person
We’d be remiss not to feature on of our fantastic food tour experiences for your next San Francisco holiday office party. What’s better than getting to know more about our amazing city while tasting delicious food along the way? For the holiday season, we like the Painted Ladies and Sweets walk.
You’ll get to know three San Francisco neighborhoods (including Alamo Square), try local chocolate and taste the delicious history of San Francisco sourdough, and try unique seasonal ice creams in hip Hayes Valley. True to this tour’s namesake, you’ll see the Painted Ladies, one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco and for good reason! It makes the perfect picture postcard moment. There’s no dress code for our tours, but if you want to don your best holiday sweaters, wear your best food-related tees, or rock your corporate swag, we’re in full support. We’re here to make sure you have the best time with your team, get in touch today!
So far we’ve shown you great ideas that are ready-to-go when you sign on the dotted line. However, if you’re looking for something for a smaller office or just want to do something more hands-on, take a look at our # DIY ideas below.
11. Cookie Decorating
There’s nothing wrong with going back to basics for your holiday office party. Purchase some plain sugar cookies, get some frosting and sprinkles, and set up space in your kitchen or bigger meeting room. You can also turn it into a cookie swap if people want to bring in their favorite recipes.
Be sure to have boxes people can use to take home their sweet creations, get them customized with your company’s branding to make it even more special. If your company has remote employees, send them a cookie decorating kit so they can participate too!
Not feeling confident about being your company’s cookie curator? Make it an experience through Airbnb. Cookies for a cause is run by Rebecca from XOBakes, a local bakery in San Francisco. This experience takes place at Family House, a home away from home for families of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. You’ll get a tour and then learn how to make royal icing and how to use food gels, and each class includes 2-3 unique designs based on the season. The best part? 100% of the profits support Family House.
12. Gift Exchange (Secret Santa)
With a smaller team, a classic gift exchange (also known as Secret Santa) is a great way to celebrate the holidays. Give everyone a budget (ideally furnished by your company) and have people create a wish list for their items. There are plenty of online gift exchange generators you can use to make sure everyone is paired up. Provide a wrapping station in a (secret) part of the office that everyone can use.
You can easily involve remote team members in this activity as well. Ensure they’re included on your list and ship them out ahead of time so everyone can open their gifts together. Besides opening a gift, the other fun comes when people try to guess who purchased the gift for them. You could have a few gift cards or other small prizes for people who guest correctly. Make it a party by having food and drinks on hand while you do your exchange!
13. Office Decorating Competition
An office decorating competition can get people into the holiday spirit, and can be tacked on to any of the other ideas above. Give each team or “pod,” however your office is arranged, a budget provided by the company. Then, give them a theme to decorate and hold a competition at the end of one week. Your theme could just be, “holiday,” or you can pick something connected to your brand, your office locations, or something else important to you and your team.
Before you announce the competition, create a set of guidelines for how the judging will work (and be sure to pick your judges!) so that everyone knows what to expect. You could have everyone in the office vote, or just nominate a few people. Depending on how many prizes you want to give out you could award categories like, Best Overall, Best on the Cheap, Best use of recycled materials, or whatever resonates with you!
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