Winter Walk in Union Square, a Cherished Tradition, Makes a Triumphant Return to San Francisco’s Heart
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Winter Walk in Union Square, a Cherished Tradition, Makes a Triumphant Return to San Francisco’s Heart
21 November 2023, San Francisco, CA: Winter Walk, a tradition beloved by both San Francisco locals and Bay Area visitors, is poised for a triumphant return to the City’s heart. Presented by Amazon and the Union Square Alliance (www.visitunionsquaresf.com) and sponsored by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Office of Mayor London N. Breed, this highly anticipated event pledges an enchanting fusion of contemporary arctic wonderland aesthetics, captivating performances, and festive offerings of food, drink, activities and shops.
“Winter Walk holds a special place in the heart of our city, a timeless tradition that brings joy to all who experience it,” said Marisa Rodriguez, CEO of the Union Square Alliance. “As the Union Square Alliance eagerly anticipates its return, let us embrace the enchanting blend of a modern arctic wonderland, the warmth of community, and the holiday spirit that makes Winter Walk a celebration of life’s beautiful moments. It’s not just an event; it’s a cherished tradition that unites us all in the heart of Union Square.”
“Union Square attracts residents and visitors from all over the world who want to enjoy our exceptional retail, art, and cultural experiences,” said San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed. “The Winter Walk is a wonderful experience that celebrates Union Square as an amazing holiday destination for the whole family. The City will continue to bring forward programs and initiatives to support Union Square and boost Downtown’s economy.”
“Amazon is proud to be the presenting sponsor of Winter Walk 2023. This festive event in the heart of the city is one of the ways valuable organizations like Union Square Alliance work to create magic in San Francisco,” said Sally Kay, Regional Head of Public Policy and External Affairs for Amazon. “We look forward to seeing city residents and visitors alike experience the joy that Winter Walk brings to Union Square as we come together to celebrate the season.”
Having been an annual gathering place for people to jingle, shop, and mingle between 2015 and 2018, Winter Walk reached its peak 2018 with an impressive turnout of 2.2 million attendees. Serving as a holiday respite during the Central Subway construction hiatus, Stockton Street in Union Square, which symbolizes a lively link between Chinatown and Market Street, was activated annually during the festive season. Transforming it into a welcoming public space adorned with artificial grass, illuminated seating, and a festive ambiance, Winter Walk became an enduring tradition.
Even with the Central Subway officially opening its doors in January 2023, seamlessly linking communities from Chinatown to the newly revealed Chase Center and fully reopening Stockton Street to traffic, the triumphant return of Winter Walk is a testament to the enduring spirit of community enthusiasm for this event. This revival is the result of collaborative efforts by City and community partners, including Mayor London Breed, SFMTA, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Chinatown, SFPD, SFFP, and the Union Square Alliance. The event is poised to continue bringing joy and fostering a sense of togetherness, encapsulating the spirit of the holidays in San Francisco.
“Winter Walk has been such a strong joyous program in a moment when we need this as a city,” said Malcolm Yeung, Executive Director of Chinatown Community Development Center. “I am grateful to Union Square Alliance for continuing to forward this program – and in particular, doing so in way that values the partnership of neighboring communities like Chinatown.”
“There’s nowhere more magical during the holidays than Union Square’s Winter Walk,” said Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin. “It’s not just the shopping, although many of us have fond childhood memories of visiting Macy’s gift displays wide-eyed and giddy with anticipation. There’s something nostalgic and new for everyone, including performances curated by District 3’s own BoxCar Theatre, ice-skating for all ages, and my personal favorite, the return of the SFSPCA window displays of kittens & puppies in need of good homes. Bring your family to Union Square this holiday season and get ready to make some new memories together.”
The Union Square Alliance has worked closely with SFMTA to ensure minimal traffic interruptions during this 10-day activation.
In addition, Safety continues to be a top priority. 24/7 private security by Legion will be in place within Winter Walk, in addition to the popular retired Police Officers Program, augmented by active-duty members of the SFPD, SF Travel Welcome Ambassadors, and Union Square Ambassadors throughout the district team-up to support a welcoming outdoor environment for all to enjoy.
“The San Francisco Police Department will have officers out in force to ensure this holiday season is fun and safe for everyone,” said Police Chief Bill Scott. “We’re collaborating closely with our city partners so we’re able to deter crime and respond quickly when necessary. I want to thank our officers who have been working hard and will continue to keep people safe as we begin this holiday shopping season.”
Winter Walk has long been associated with its most recognizable feature – the vibrant green faux grass. This year, however, get ready for a fresh and bold statement as the Union Square Alliance introduces a new color palette. Brace yourself for a spectacle filled with glaciers, penguins, and polar bears (oh my) as you step into a wonderland designed to captivate audiences of all ages (kids from 1 to 92). Enjoy Instagrammable moments in a modern arctic adventure brought to you by some of the best decorators in the District.
“Gump’s is delighted to be a sponsor of Winter Walk in downtown San Francisco’s beautiful Union Square. We invite you to visit our legendary holiday shop while enjoying all that Union Square and Winter Walk have to offer,” said Marc Capalbo, Gump’s – Vice President of Retail Operations. “Gump’s, like Union Square, has been a holiday destination for generations of Bay Area families. Happy Holidays – we look forward to seeing you.”
“We are delighted to be a proud sponsor of Winter Walk, contributing to the festive spirit of the holiday season in Union Square,” said Clif Clark, General Manager of Westin St. Francis and Area General Manager of San Francisco. “Our seasonal immersive lobby decor has become a hallmark, and Winter Walk provides the perfect platform for us to extend that experience beyond our hotel walls. We invite everyone to stop by our holiday windows at 100 Stockton and to visit our lobby to share in the holiday magic that we bring to the heart of San Francisco.”
The Union Square Alliance continues its newer tradition of the great Ornament Trail. Giant, larger than life Ornaments designed by local artists. Download or pick up an Ornament Trail coloring sheet at our Winter Walk Info booth and wander the neighborhood for a fun activity for the whole family. Find them all and redeem for a prize on the Winter Walk on select days.
Moreover, Union Square stands out as a premier destination for seasonal shopping, and The Alliance is introducing an indoor holiday marketplace at 100 Stockton, curated by Sunset Mercantile which will showcase a rotating selection of over 60 local vendors daily, representing the rich diversity of both the City and the Bay Area. This includes a vibrant mix of vendors from nearby Chinatown and the Tenderloin district. Attendees will have the chance to discover unique stocking stuffers while actively supporting small, local businesses. Sunset Mercantile has also planned family-friendly arts and crafts activities, along with optional indoor activities for an additional fee, ensuring a festive and engaging experience for all.
Additionally, the Union Square Alliance announces its collaboration with Off the Grid, offering an array of fantastic food trucks on themed days. Make it a daily tradition to explore diverse cultures and flavors, ranging from Noodle Night and Breakfast All Day to Football Fever (*subject to change). Alongside these delectable offerings, Winter Walk will host multiple Bars serving an extensive variety of festive specialty cocktails and beverages, ensuring there’s something for every palate to savor.
“Off the Grid is delighted to be a key partner in the return of Winter Walk, an event close to our hearts,” said Matt Cohen, Founder & CEO. “At Off the Grid, we believe food is the center of community, fostering connections between neighbors, friends, and families. Infused with our passion for diverse culinary experiences, we are excited to bring an array of flavors to Winter Walk at Union Square, a central and welcoming gathering place where people come together to commemorate cherished holiday moments in an iconic San Francisco setting.”
This event wouldn’t be complete without a visit from Santa. So, in conjunction with Boswick the Clown, We Are the Kind and Dottie Lux, Winter Walk will have a complete schedule of performances on stage, sit-downs with Santa and a variety of roaming performers, with something to entertain and delight every audience. *Performance schedule to come*
Winter Walk is delighted to highlight two esteemed charities as our community non-profit partners: The Salvation Army and the San Francisco SPCA. The iconic sound of Salvation Army bells will resonate, urging guests to contribute to holiday meals for families, provide food for the unhoused, and support a range of crucial services throughout the entire year. Adding to the festive spirit, the San Francisco SPCA, known for their charming Macy’s windows, will bring their lovable furry friends onto the turf for attendees to interact with, donate to, and even adopt. It truly embodies the spirit of the Season of Giving.
“The San Francisco SPCA is honored to join the enchanting return of Winter Walk festivities, bringing warmth and joy to Union Square. The San Francisco SPCA is excited to host a Shelter Animal Toy Drive in partnership with KTVU FOX 2, offer personalized animal themed key chains, and have our amazing Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs spreading cheer,” said Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, CEO of San Francisco SPCA. “Don’t miss the chance to meet our adoptable animals at Macy’s Union Square windows from November 17 to December 31, Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 pm. It’s a season of compassion, and we can’t wait to share it with the community.”
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Union Square Alliance and standing kettles at Winter Walk!,” said Major Matthew Madsen, Divisional Secretary for The Salvation Army in San Francisco. “As one of our most successful and longest standing efforts, the Red Kettle Campaign started at the San Francisco Ferry Building in 1891. Donations to the kettles at Christmas time support holiday meals for families, food for the unhoused, as well as a myriad of other critical services all year long. And donations made to a Salvation Army kettle, stay in the community.”
Ribbon Cutting & Press Conference: Friday, December 15 from 5pm – 5:30pm Kick-Off Party with VIP Area: Friday, December 15 from 5:30pm – 9pm
Winter Walk is a pedestrian only event and will be held on Stockton Street from Post – Geary Street and Geary – O’Farrell Street and Maiden Lane between Stockton – Grant. Driving lanes will be affected – please review the street closure map on our website for more information. It will feature ten days of activations starting from Friday, December 15 to Sunday, December 24. The Winter Walk will be open from Monday to Wednesday from 12pm to 7pm and Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 9pm. Entry is free. Food, drinks, and activities are an additional cost. For more information and updated schedules, go online to www.visitunionsquaresf.com