Where to See Christmas Lights
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Where to See Christmas Lights
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!!
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.
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
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
downtown enjoying the lights and bustle. We usually try to catch a
simple dinner as
Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda - a cooky street where everyone
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.
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 (www.calrevels.org). 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
Park has a wonderful Christmas display with Santa (who is a local
with a real beard) on Tuesdays. You take your own photos with Santa. It
after Thanksgiving, I think (around
5:30 ish, take a look at Tilden's web site). It has beautiful lights, a
Village'' and a ton of decorated trees around the merry go round. It is
a ride, even for babes in arms. Also the Embarcadero and Union Square
have an amazing collection of little lighted villages (I know there was
in the SF Chronicle last year) including ice skaters, trains, amusement
etc. It's free and wonderful.
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
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?
Here is a web site (www.lightsofthevalley.com) 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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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....
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.
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
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
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.
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
but we went on Saturday night unprepared for what we encountered. There was
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
with tired kids, either! After the congested freeway ride, that was the
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.
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
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
at 7 pm or so (which is what we did!). Enjoy!
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
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.
this page was last updated: Dec 16, 2008
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