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Make San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker a Holiday Tradition

SF Ballet Nutcracker

This Thursday we attended a performance of San Francisco Ballet's fantastic production of The Nutcracker. This is the Nutcracker that started it all—the San Francisco Ballet presented the first full-length performance of The Nutcracker in America way back in 1944—and as always it didn't disappoint!

We attended the first of the ballet's family performances. For these special performances, the Opera House opens at 6 pm, one hour prior to the 7 pm curtain time, and the first 500 children in the door received a cute teddy bear dressed in a scarf and Santa hat as a gift. In the lobby, costumed performers from the Nutcracker cast were on hand to greet children and for family photo opportunities. (Tip: make sure you get there early!)

SF Ballet NutcrackerSF Ballet Nutcracker

When we entered the lobby of San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House, we were in awe of the magnificent Christmas tree, lights, and the incredible holiday decor in the building. This was all great, but we were excited to go in to take our seats and see the production.

This production of Nutcracker is set in San Francisco in 1915, right after the Panama-Pacific International Exposition that celebrated the city's rebirth from the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and fire. A brief series of slides sets the scene, showing San Francisco's recovery from the earthquake damage and scenes of family life in the early 20th century. When it finally started, we could hardly take our eyes off the graceful dancers, the colorful costumes, and the incredible scenery. My kids never took their eyes off the stage. When I saw The Nutcracker as a child, I never remembered it being this amazing. 

SF Ballet NutcrackerSF Ballet Nutcracker

Within 45 minutes or so, it was time for intermission, so we headed out into the lobby for some free cookies and juice (also part of the family performance). Everyone was anxious to get back to their seats and see the rest of the show, though.

While the ballet recommends that children under 5 don't attend, there's enough action and adventure on the stage to keep most kids enthralled through the entire performance. That said, the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker is a full-length ballet, not a scaled-down production tailored for children, so keep that in mind. If your kids are ready, then you're in for an awe-inspiring magical holiday treat that you and your family will never forget.

The San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker is a magnificent spectacle that's truly one of the highlights of the local holiday season  We're already making our plans to go back next year.

Our favorite parts were the holiday party scenes, complete with magnificent Christmas tree and gifts, the exciting battle with the fearsome Mouse King and his rodent troops, the Russian dancers, and of course when it started snowing during the Waltz of the Snowflakes. We also loved the fact that the production was accompanied live by the world-class San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

If You Go

The San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker runs through December 29 at the War Memorial Opera House at Van Ness and Grove Streets. Only two special family performances remain—on Sunday, December 15 at 2 pm and Tuesday, December 17 at 7 pm—so order your tickets while you can.

Tickets prices range from $29 to $295, depending on performance date and seat location. Performances take place at either 2 or 7 pm; check the ballet's website for a complete schedule and availability. The entire ballet lasts approximately two hours, including intermission; at the evening shows you're out the door and on your way home by 9 pm.

We usually park the car at the Performing Arts Garage, just behind the War Memorial Opera House on Grove Street between Gough and Franklin Streets. The garage charges a $15 flat rate after 5 pm during performances, and it's clean, well-lit, safe, and close to the Opera House.

To get there, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and take Doyle Drive to Lombard Street. Follow Lombard and turn right on Gough Street. Head south on Gough and look for the entrance into the Performing Arts Garage after you pass Fulton Street.

For more information on San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker, and to order tickets, visit or call the box office at (415) 865-2000 (Monday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm).

Production photos courtesy San Francisco Ballet © Erik Tomasson

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