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Where to See Christmas Lights

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Holidays and Special Events > Where to See Christmas Lights

November 2007

Hi everyone, We have a 4yo girl, a 3yo boy, and a baby. For the first time since we moved to Kensington 3 years ago, we will not be flying back East for the holidays to be with our families. Although we will miss seeing our relatives, I am excited to be able to decorate our house, have the kids come down from their own bedrooms to discover their gifts, etc. Are there any holiday traditions in the East Bay we shouldn't miss? Cool light displays, festivals, or special holiday events? Any other suggestions for other Christmas-related stuff would be so greatly appreciated!! Merry Christmas!

Definitely visit the Christmas display at the Tilden Park Merry Go Round. The lights are great and carousel is open at night. A trip into San Francisco (Union Square) to see the downtown lights and window displays is a fun thing to do, too. Albany Dad
Some of our favorite holiday adventures are: Going to the Merry go Round in Tilden - right in your neighborhood Seeing the lights and decorations at the Mormon temple in Oakland (no we are not Mormon - the display is impressive! My husband and I do our annual San Francisco walk (sans children) - we love to walk down around Union Square and check out the window dressings - then walk around downtown enjoying the lights and bustle. We usually try to catch a simple dinner as well Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda - a cooky street where everyone decorates their houses. Santa is there and you can deliver your xmas list to santa's mailbox - and you will get a response. There are lots of lovely things to do. Enjoy! Shivaun enjoy xmas around here
Fairyland at night with Christmas lights is tops with my kids! They usually have the later hours (4-7, I think) right around Christmas for about 2 weeks. anon
There are tons of fun things to do in the Bay Area in December. I'm sure you'll get lots of good responses, but here are a few ideas: Carousel in Tilden Park decorated for holidays; Winterland at Fairyland; gingerbread house party at Habitot; driving around looking at xmas lights in one of the over-the-top neighborhoods; California Revels ( Keep your eye on the paper and BPN Announcements -- there are tons more.

As for dealing with not having a big family around on Christmas, we've just done our best to make our own traditions and fun -- make a special breakfast, take care picking fun goodies for the stockings, have a fire in the fireplace, get out for a walk later or go skating at one of the outdoor rinks...It gets me down sometimes that our family is flakey, but the kids have a good time regardless of who's there, and you'll find their excitement helps. Sometimes we get together with another family in the same boat and that's fun, too. (Maybe we need to start a club!) Or we go visit our elderly neighbor or have a single friend over for dinner. Hang in there, and I think you'll find being home for the holidays can be pretty fun. Merry By Design

I'm going to answer the ''what to do'' portion. the merry go round at Tilden Park has a wonderful Christmas display with Santa (who is a local grandfather with a real beard) on Tuesdays. You take your own photos with Santa. It starts after Thanksgiving, I think (around 5:30 ish, take a look at Tilden's web site). It has beautiful lights, a ''Santa Village'' and a ton of decorated trees around the merry go round. It is now $2 a ride, even for babes in arms. Also the Embarcadero and Union Square Hyatts have an amazing collection of little lighted villages (I know there was an article in the SF Chronicle last year) including ice skaters, trains, amusement parks, etc. It's free and wonderful. M
December 2006

hi there. i'm looking for the streets w/ the best christmas lights. i'm from l.a. and there were blocks that were famous for putting on a real show. i'd never do it myself (too much work) but whenever i see one of these houses i feel like putting a dollar throught the mail slot. sort of like street musicians, they're performing a community service.

Thompson Street in Alameda has Christmas lights on all the houses. There is a Santa on weekend evenings as well. it's off High Street. mapquest the 3200 block Have a great time
We've always taken our kids to Thompson Ave. in Alameda (off High Street). All the houses on that block have lots of lights and displays to see, the center median has huge trees that have large lights on them, and the residents have Santa there every evening (6:30-8pm) through the 23rd, and a Santa's mailbox to drop your letters to Santa in (and if you're early enough, Santa actually writes back!). It's very cute, very community oriented and friendly -mike
We live in Alameda and enjoy going to see the lights on ''Christmas Tree Lane'', which is Thompson Ave between High street and Fernside. I'm sure many others will recommend it - almost every house on the block is lit up in full swing and the effect is magical. Happy holidays anon
For next year's files -

Near Mills College there are two great places to look at Christmas lights. One is Picardy Lane (between Seminary and Yuba), a whole huge circle of houses that are (almost) all decorated. It's fantastic. And right near there, closer to MacArthur there are three blocks that are wonderful: 56th, 57th and 58th Ave. (between Brann and MacArthur).

We go both places every year to oooh and ahhh.

Also, there are some really good houses off of The Alameda in Berkeley.

(I'd love it if this was archived to the web site, as I'm on an endless search for good holiday lights). Berkelely Mama

December 2004

I am looking for a neighborhood that decorates for the holidays to show my 4 1/2 year old. Am new to the area - are there any such areas between here and Orinda? Fond memories...

Here is a web site ( that has photos and addresses of the best Christmas lights, decorated homes and displays from the Tri Valley (Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton & San Ramon) as well as Alamo, Concord, Danville, Fremont, Tracy, Lathrop, Manteca, Milpitas, Stockton, Hayward and well beyond. Helena
Go to Thompson Street in Alameda, off High Street. Take 880 South, take High Street exit, go over drawbridge to Alameda, go 6-8 blocks and turn left. You'll probably see lots of traffic, and I think you might even be able to see it off the freeway! holiday light lover
The lights at the Mormon Temple in Oakland (off Hwy 13 and Joaquin Miller) are a must! They're beautiful. anon
Nov 1999

Where are some wonderful Christmas light displays? My 4 year old is enthralled by them. We just went to the Tilden Park Merry go round which was lovely and plan on going to the Oakland zoo. I've heard there is one in San Leandro and another in N. Berkeley, but don't know where. Any ideas? Linda

To the mother who is looking for lovely Christmas light displays, don't miss the Mormon Temple on Lincoln Boulevard off Highway 13 in Oakland. It looks like a castle and is all lit up and is just beautiful. You don't have to be Mormon or even Christian to enjoy it. There is a creche in the courtyard, however, with Jesus and Mary and Joseph. Franny

I too, am enthralled by Christmas lights, just like your 4-yr-old--and I'm 33! Every year, I drag my son out to sing Christmas Carols badly and look at the lights...he's a real trooper, because at age 12, he's not into it anymore, he comes along to humor me! I love the lights at the Mormon Temple in the Oakland Hills. Take Hwy 13 and exit at Lincoln/Joquin Miller. It's right there. Last year, we went to the light dislplay at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton. I liked it, but the price was a little steep--$10/carload. I just heard that there will be a similar one in San Rafael, but I don't know the details. Some of the local radio stations also announce where to go for lights (neighborhoods and light shows) I reccommend the KFRC morning show, they did alot of that, unfortunately, I was in my car and couldn't write the addresses down. Good luck and have fun...I can't wait to find out what other people reccommend! patricia

The Tilden Merry Go Round has been decorated and is open nightly, fun and not too hectic but bring a flashlight because the parking lot and bathrooms are dark (see also:
(link update Nov 2003)
The best, the very, very best, Xmas lights I've seen in the area (and I've seen most) are on one residential street in Alameda. I believe that when you buy a home on this street you have to agree to participate -- and how. I am failing you in that I have no recollection of the name of the street, but believe me, Xmas light lovers, this one's worth the sleuthing (and I will try to get the information and send it out). Diana

The street in Alameda with the incredible Christmas lights is Thompson Avenue, off of High Street. Almost every house on this block is lit up. I know they have a live Santa come too, but I'm not sure when he's there. Heather

as to the street in Alameda with the lights, my friend who lives there writes: "it's called Thompson Avenue and is located on the West side of the island off from High Street (take High Street Bridge)...although not a "culde sac" exactly, as you can also enter from the opposite side, (Fernside Blvd), but it is an "event" not to miss. Santa also comes to visit with the tiny tots on certain nights as well". I'm definitely checking it out.... Hilary

Regarding that street in Alameda that has all the Christmas lights: It is Thompson Street (cross street High St.). Just take the High Street exit and bridge off of 880 to Alameda. It is a winter wonderland and often Santa is hanging out for a picture you can take with your own camera. Because it's a nice neighborhood it is perfect for a leisurely walk on each side of the street. They put large lights on the trees in the meridian as well as have most of the house participate. Wonderful and free entertainment. heather

A number of streets in Piedmont decorate their homes with hundreds of beautiful lights. It looks like they are all professionally done and are spectacular and magical displays. The streets we drive around are Highland, Seaview and Wildwood. It helps to be familiarize yourself beforehand with a map so you know where you are going.
In response to the where to go for Christmas Lights -- I highly recommend the Oakland Zoo Lights -- they are doing a special presentation in conjunction with KSAN. The cost is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for kids over the age of two. It is open from 5:30 to 9:00. And runs through early January (call for exact dates because they are closed around Christmas). The have various lights in the shapes of animals, and a wonderful display on the big grass field. In addition, there is a train ride (included with the admission fee) that also shows off more lights (and a wonderful volcano). Finally, they have the arcade/ride area all lit up, and several of the rides are open. Jean

I just wanted to alert those of you planning to go to the Oakland Zoo for its light display to be ready for a crowd. I don't know if its like this every night, but we went on Saturday night unprepared for what we encountered. There was a huge line to get in and the cost is $6.50 for adults and $3.50 for each child over 2 years (if you have a membership, you get $1 off). I was naively expecting to get in free with my membership, and didn't bring enough cash for my group. Also, if you decide to skip the Zoo and just go to the amusement park area, it will cost you $5 to get in and maybe you still have to buy tickets to get on the rides. Don't wait until the last minute with tired kids, either! After the congested freeway ride, that was the last straw. Laura

We also went to Zoolights on Saturday night but had a different experience than the other person who wrote in. We arrived at about 7:30. There were 3 children over age 2 @ $3.00 each and 2 adults @ $5.00 each. (We have no membership.) It WAS crowded but the only line that seemed too long was for the train ride. The crowds didn't hamper our fun and it was an enjoyable experience for all. Lark

I also wanted to comment, as we had a wonderful experience. We called ahead to ask whether our zoo membership would allow us to get in for free (The answer is no, but you do get $1 off the admission). We also found out when we got there at 5:30 pm (no line) that the first place you want to go is the train to avoid the longer line later in the evening. It gets dark early now, so I would suggest going early, giving the kids healthy snacks, and then planning on dinner at 7 pm or so (which is what we did!). Enjoy! Cindy

Nov 1998

In response to the mom who was looking for a cheap but magical christmas experience...I just visited Orchard Nursery in Orinda (off Acalanes) to buy some bulbs and was amazed to see that the interior of their building was transformed into a forest of beautifully decorated twinkling trees. I was overwhelmed with the sight and noticed several parents with small children wandering around enjoying the ambiance. If you can get away without buying Fernanda

This Holiday activity is 100% free... In Alameda there is a street called Tompkins Lane (close to the Park Street Bridge) and every (or almost every) house on the block decorates for christmas. There are lights and characters and cut outs and I think some houses even have music. I find it "magical to visit as an adult, and every year we have gone there are tons of kids. If I remember correctly there is also a Santa on the corner waving at kids, but that might not happen every night. The traffic driving down the street in the evenings is pretty slow, but I think it would be fun to walk down too. Rose
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