SF LED's the Way

San Francisco Festival of Lights Do it yourself walking tour

Something very cool is glowing on in San Francisco until New Year’s Day. 35 vibrant light art installations are brightening up neighborhoods throughout the city. Illuminate SF is a festival of light true to its name: Outdoor sculptures glimmer and shimmer, buildings decked in artisan lights shine, and you can see as much as you’d like on self-guided walking tours (download four itinerary options below). For a full immersion into lively colors and vibrant culture, visit San Francisco’s Yerba Buena and SOMA neighborhood for an easy two-block artistic walk.

Start at SFMOMA (151 Third Street; open until 9:00 p.m. on Thursdays) and view the exterior—bright with colorful beam lights. Make your way across the street to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission Street; open until 8:00 p.m. Thursdays). Outside the museum’s main entrance find the Murmur Wall installation. Comprising custom electronics and LEDs, this artificially intelligent artwork “whispers” the thoughts and feelings of the city (you can even contribute your own “murmur” for the wall).

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Afterwards, walk across the street to the Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission Street; open until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays), where blue block artwork lights up the rooftops (inside is the first major artwork commissioned by the museum, the monumental marvel “Lamp of the Covenant,” hanging overhead in the lobby). End the evening with a fireside cocktail and warmed flatbread snack at the W SF (181 Third Street). Immediately inside the lobby hangs “Lumina,” a luminous light sculpture shaped like a jellyfish.

TIP: SFMOMA’s Floor 5 features Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Arts: the Fisher Collection, an exhibition that includes several eminent light artists, including Andy Warhol.

Check out and download self-guided itineraries of holiday light walks in San Francisco.

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