There’s something special about the holiday season in Yerba Buena Gardens. Perhaps it is the unmistakable scent of holly wafting across the gardens. The sight of candles flickering behind every window. The cheery peals of holiday music drifting out from restaurants and shops. Or perhaps it’s the dazzling, avant-garde light displays scattered through the neighborhood.  

Created by a niche group of world-renowned artists, dramatic light art fills the area, elevating the tradition of holiday light seeing to an entirely new level. Rather than seeking out simple string lights, you can enjoy a self-guided tour of incandescent light sculptures and LED masterpieces brought to you by Illuminate SF Festival of Light.

It’s an innovative take on a time-honored tradition that will forever change how you celebrate the season. A light tour like no other, just like the Yerba Buena Gardens neighborhood itself. 

The Ladder (Sun or Moon)
1066 Market Street

Prolific artist Ivan Navarro created a beautiful piece of light art at 1066 Market Street. His creative eye has transformed an everyday fixture of urban architecture into a bright, delightful, and subversive work that will have you looking for all the everyday art around you.

Love Over Rules
165 Jessie Street

The glowing 6-foot-6-inch letters spell out “LOVE OVER RULES” on the exterior wall of the Salma Family Building. The best way to view this light sculpture by artist Hank Willis Thomas is by standing on Mission Street (facing north towards Jessie Street) and looking up.

The Bay Lights
Embarcadero: San Francisco Bay Bridge West Span

An iconic installation by artist Leo Villareal, The Bay Lights is comprised of 25,000 individually programmed LED lights to create a never repeating, dazzling display. The luminescent sculpture is nearly 2 miles wide and 500 feet high, shining nightly from dusk to dawn.

736 Mission Street

Thirty-six diamond-shaped windows light the top floor of the metal cube known as the Yud in the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The museum’s vision of the relationship between tradition and innovation is perfectly embodied in the Yud and is one of the most intriguing designs by the studio led by architect Daniel Libeskind.

181 Third Street, W SF Hotel Lobby

Lumina is a vibrant and otherworldly light sculpture. A lustrous mass reminiscent of bioluminescent jellyfish, cosmic star clouds, and the brain’s neural networks. The sculpture emanates a sense of mystery as its translucent fiberglass and fiber optic strands draw hotel guests to its vivid core.

This is just a small sampling of the many unique light sculptures that span that Bay Area. For a list of all of the art installations, please visit Illuminate SF Festival of Light.