The pop-up event that turned part of Stockton Street near Union Square into a traffic-free, pedestrian-only zone in December during five years of Central Subway construction is coming back, and ten days of holiday fun and events kick off on Friday.
Remember the astroturfed Winter Walk pop-ups at Union Square from back in the before times? The event actually did not end because of the pandemic, but over a year before the novel coronavirus upended our lives. The city bowed to pressure from Chinatown businesses and community leaders in 2019, and after Stockton Street reopened to traffic that year after five long years of a construction mess, there didn't seem to be the will to close the street again come December.
But the Union Square Alliance, with help from Amazon and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development came together this year to bring us the "triumphant return" of Winter Walk, following the 2018 peak when the event saw 2.2 million people attend. And it seems to coincide with the city's multiple other efforts to revive downtown and Union Square amid multiple, as Breed says, "challenges."
The Alliance's press release about the event appears to have been partly written by ChatGPT — to wit: "this highly anticipated event pledges an enchanting fusion of contemporary arctic wonderland aesthetics, captivating performances, and festive offerings of food, drink, activities and shops." But "Arctic wonderland aesthetics" aside, it should be a good time for those heading to Union Square for ice skating and shopping.
(Oddly, that release also says the Winter Walk started in 2015, but SFist reported on the first one in 2014 and the talk once it ended about making this an annual tradition.)
Winter Walk runs from Friday, December 15 through Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24, and this year it will occupy two blocks, from Post Street down to O'Farrell, and including Maiden Lane.
Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday.
There will be Off the Grid food trucks, beer and wine gardens, and live music and entertainment throughout the day, including bands, holiday music, and evening DJ sets by DJ Tangerine, DJ Mario, and DJ Trippy. And on the afternoon of Sunday the 17th, they'll be screening the 49ers game.
The Ornament Trail features larger-than-life Christmas ornament balls throughout Union Square, designed by local artists — many of which are already installed — and a map for finding them all.
This year's Winter Walk also includes an indoor holiday marketplace curated by Sunset Mercantile which will be open each day at 100 Stockton (a.k.a. the new building that replaced the former Macy's Men's Store). You can find stocking stuffers and more there from a "vibrant mix of vendors from nearby Chinatown and the Tenderloin district," as well as others.
The Alliance also promises a "new color palette" this year and "Instagrammable moments" throughout, with "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)."
The group is also actively soliciting sponsorship opportunities for the event.
It should be noted that, as during those endless Central Subway construction years, a bunch of Muni lines will have to be rerouted to accommodate the street closure, which already began on Monday. These include the T-Third Street Bus, 8-Bayshore, 8AX and 8BX-Bayshore Express, 15-Bayview Hunters Point Express, 30-Stockton, 45-Union/Stockton, and 91-3rd Street/19th Avenue Owl.
The street closure will be ongoing, as the event gets disassembled, through midnight on December 28.