Christmas Outings & Activities
Berkeley Parents Network >
Places to Go >
Christmas Outings & Activities
We find ourselves planning to be in the bay area for christmas this
year, when we would normally be heading home to the Uk.
We'd be grateful if you would share the secrets of your favourite
local festive activities??
making new traditions
Every year we enjoy taking BART to Embarcadero to see the ''Snow Village'' display
in the Hyatt Regency lobby. When the kids were little we'd walk through the
Embarcadero Center, have dinner at Chevy's, watch the ice skaters at the outdoor
rink, and if we were feeling particularly energetic ride the cable car up the
hill and back again.
I recommend going to sfgate.com and then to entertainment and searching. There
Christmas Carols, Messiahs and other things for every budget. We like the 1 hour
matinee of the
Nutcracker by the San Jose Ballet. It is only 1 hour, fairly affordable but still
a treat. (around $18-$45 or
so). But there are other Nutcrackers for every taste. Merry Christmas! Oakland
Zoo might be having zoo
lights show (they used to, not sure about this year), the Macy's Union Square
Santa is very good.
Last year we went to the merry-go-round at Tilden Park for the first time. We
vowed to make it a Christmas tradition. The lights and decorations are awesome
and the whole thing is very affordable. Certain nights they have Santa Claus, if
you want to get your picture with him there.
Our other favorite is the Ardenwood holiday festival (1st weekend in Dec). So
many things to do I can't recount all here and now. It is also part of East Bay
Regional Parks. They have a grumpy, old-time Father Christmas that you can take
pictures with. We love him!
There's lots to do - those are our two favorites. Enjoy!
lovin' the East Bay holidays
Don't miss the outdoor ice arena at Embarcadero Center in SF that is now open
through January 3. Take BART or the Ferry from Larkspur and it is in the
plaza with the big fountain. Skating is about $9/adults $6/kids 10 and under,
skate rental is $3.50 and sessions start on the even hour. It is a magical
place to skate once it gets dark and the lights come on. It will be very busy
during the school break, but it gets very little traffic on normal weekdays
and evenings. Somtimes it is closed for parties so check their website or call
before going http://www.embarcaderocenter.com/ec/Holidays/2009%20rink.html
Love to Skate
My family attends The Christmas Revels every year. It's great fun
and I highly recommend it if you're looking for something fun to do
for the holidays.
''Zoo Lights'' at the Oakland Zoo is another favorite holiday activity.
I am looking for advice on starting some holiday traditions for
my family. We have no family near by and all of our friends
spend the holidays with their families. We just seem to let the
holidays pass by and they have become very uneventful and
depressing. I want to change that! My husband's family didn't
really celebrate the holidays and when I was growing up we lived
near all of our extended family so the holidays were always a
big family gathering and I have such great memories. I want our
children to also have great memories. Would anyone like to
share something special they do for Thanksgiving and Christmas
besides cooking? Our kids are too little yet to volunteer so I
am looking for suggestions on things to do with just our small
missing the holiday cheer
Like you, we have families that either aren't around or don't
care about celebrating holidays, so we've made our own
traditions. There are a million fun things to do around here at
Christmas time -- the carousel at Tilden Park, outdoor ice
rinks, Nutcracker, family crafts (paper chains, snowflakes...),
Christmas Revels, checking out holiday books/movies from the
library to enjoy together, tree farms, Fairyland's winter
celebration, having an elderly neighbor over for dinner, driving
around in pjs looking at lights...we do an activity (some at
home, some out; some free, some paid) every day in December, and
always have to pick and choose because there are so many
options. On New Years Day, we go for a family hike. For
Thanksgiving, we usually either travel or host some friends who
are in the same boat as us, but sometimes we've cooked just for
us. Don't feel like you have to go overboard or set
expectations too high; keep things low-key but consistent from
year to year and build on it as your kids get older. Realize
that things won't be like the giant celebrations you remember as
a kid, but they can still be fun and magical. (And remember
that a lot of our friends who spend holidays with their families
have admitted they're jealous of *our* family traditions and
freedom, so the grass is always greener!)
This holiday tradition thing is something I've struggled with,
too. When our kids were very young we lived near family on the
east coast and joined their events. Once out here, we travelled
less frequently, and saw the extended families in the summer.
Look for fun public holiday events that you can make your own
and do every year. Here are some we liked at Christmas-time,
hope they are still happening...
Ice skating on Christmas eve. This was at Berkeley IceLand. It
was very nice - they played old-time Bing Crosby type Xmas
music, and hardly anyone was there, we tended to have the place
to ourselves. Hot chocolate and cookies at home afterwards.
Several years we brought friends, who always loved it, too.
The Oakland Zoo puts up holiday lights and does a night-time
ride on their elevated Sky Ride, which is fun. They also do a
The carousel at Tilden Park gets decorated nicely for Xmas and
sells hot chocolate and treats. It can be crowded, but is fun
because everyone there is very excited, and often you are
riding after dark.
We also always did drives to look for good decorations at
Halloween and Xmas, often after a dinner out at someplace the
kids liked. Ask around for areas that really put on a show.
There are a bunch of fun activities that we tend to do year
after year, like going to the Christmas Carousel at Tilden,
going to Thompson Ave. in Alameda to see the lights on this
amazingly decorated street, and as our kids get older we'll
probably add ice skating at Justin Herman Plaza in SF, or doing
high tea at Plaza Hotel in SF. One year we also went to the
Hyatt in Embarcadero where they have an amazing Christmas
display including lots of trains. These things, along with the
Christmas party we throw every year and the classic shows
(Grinch, Charlie Brown, Rudolph), help us feel like we have a
lot of ''events'' leading up to Christmas day, and it's nice
since we're not at all religious but do like having some warm-
love Christmas time!
We have started our own holiday traditions since neither of us
lives close to our relatives. One thing we started last year was
an Advent calendar. I got a really cute wooden one at Target,
and starting Dec 1, place one small gift (usually stickers or
lollipops) for each child in it. Every morning when they wake up
they have a special surprise.
We also have tons of Christmas music that I'll play in the car or
when we're doing things around the house. We read books, watch
all the Christmas movies, make an outing to see the neighborhood
Christmas lights, attend a church holiday service, buy festive
pajamas so everyone looks great in Christmas morning pictures,
and do holiday crafts like making paper snowflakes. A trip to
see Santa is great for getting everyone in the mood, as is a
festive play, ballet or musical.
I can relate to your post. We, a family of just 3, also have no family around. We have
made a point of establishing family traditions. Here are some of the things we do.
For halloween we have candle races. You go out and find three holiday votives and light
them all together. You have to decide whether the winner is the longest lit or the first
one out, and have fun guessing who will win.
For xmas, we do the advent calendar - we shop for a tree together, we decorate it
together, and on ambitious years, we have an ornament making night. We also make
homemade egg nog. We traditionally open one gift on xmas eve. We traditionally break
out the video camera for the waking up and first present opening on xmas morning. It
is fun to look at the videos over the years.
Small families are great
One fun tradition that someone suggested to me when my kids were
small that we have now done every year is to drive up to Petaluma
area and cut down our own tree from one of the Christmas Tree
Still searching for our own traditions
Our closest family (husband's sister) is 2 hours from us, but
all other family requires a flight, so we are frequently on our
own for holidays (with the exception of Christmas)!
I don't know how old your kids are, but here are some ideas.
* Pumpkin patch trip every October.
* Decorate the yard for Halloween & Christmas - I do this with my
daughter & involve her
* Go get a Christmas tree ( a real one) - even going to a tree
farm is fun. Then, decorate the tree together, play Christmas
* Drive around and look at holiday decorations. This is
obviously most prominent at Christmas, but we do it a couple of
* Arts/crafts for decorations - things like Christmas ornaments
other other 'dangling' things that kids can create & paint & send
to relatives. Michael's has kits for this, or Oriental Trading
* This year, I let my daughter invite some friends over the
weekend before Easter & we had an egg decorating & cookie
decorating party. I hard-boiled a bunch of eggs & made dozens of
egg-shaped cookies & bought icing & tons of sprinkles for the
kids to decorate those. Made a mess but they had a blast.
* Easter egg hunt - either find one in your area OR create one in
your own yard.
* When I was a kid & a bit older, my dad would always buy a new
game for the family to play on Christmas eve. While we always
spent time with our extended family on Christmas eve, just our
family hung out together & played a game. I have fond memories
Most of these may seem obvious but when I talk to my
friends/neighbors they aren't necessarily doing much !
Kinda hard to not do cooking ideas but here are a few that we've
been doing with our kids since they were toddlers:
We go to one Christmas event like: San Jose Christmas carnival,
the carousel at tilden park (open at night and decorated for
xmas), or go to the nighttime Christmas thing at Children's
Fairyland. We rotate it, but the last two years and this year, we
did children's fairyland because they'll grow out of it soon.
This really is fun because there's Santa and the rides and the
whole place is full of lights.
Go to crazy lighted neighborhoods and walk and look at lights.
Often on fridays or weekends, there will be neighbors with hot
chocolate and other people walking around.
There's an old English concert/sing along thing at the Masonic
Temple in Oakland. can't remember what it's called, but it's a
good secular holiday thing to do. [Editor: probably the Revels at the
Scottish Rite Theater in Oakland]
Thanksgiving we have people over for dinner. it's all food
related and my kids participate, help with setting the table,
making decorations, etc.
For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is living 3000 miles from our families,
we have had to make our own holidays too. My simple answer is to do them with your
friends! For instance, 5 years ago my friend and I got together to plan Thanksgiving.
She, being Chinese, had no idea about fresh turkey, stuffing besides sticky rice, fresh
cranberry sauce without the ridges from the can. We made a traditional dinner
together. Since then, we plan each Thanksgiving, perusing articles and cookbooks for
new ideas so each dinner is different. We get together on Wednesday and spend the
day without any children cooking and talking and having a great time! We have had to
incorporate both families and a variety of friends into the meal, so it is quite a large
gathering, but people sit all over and it is really fun and casual. Much less stressful in
alot of ways from the formal holiday dinners I had with my family of birth. Try it!
If you like holiday traditions, start one. I celebrate Passover
but my hubby doesn't. We invite one couple who have never
celebrated this holiday every year to celebrate with us. We
celebrate Hannukah, which he didn't but now we invite a few
friends with children to play dreidel. The point, do what you
like to do. There are likely friends around who also don't have
family, so maybe invite them to join you. One other
family/couple can make it more joyous. Don't not to anything.
Decorate, go out, do whatever will make it fun. Tilden park
decorates its Merry Go Round the day after Thanksgiving every
year with many Xmas trees all with different themes. Go and have
a ball. Don't let the lack of family make your holiday lonely.
Bake, cook, share and have fun.
Only have In Laws around but still happy
Due to a house remodel we didn't take a family vacation this summer.
So...my husband wants to go SOMEWHERE over Christmas (we usually never go
anywhere over Christmas and celebrate Chanukah at home and Christmas with
At first my husband thought The Big Island, but of course it's way more
money to go then then it is to go now, so we're thinking twice about that
(we are a family of 4). My husband and 12 yo son ski, so a winter type
place would be a possibility and hopefully my 16 yo son and I will
entertain ourselves otherwise...maybe.
So, what do you all recommend? Flying somewhere is OK but we should make
resrvations soon. The less we spend the better, but more importantly, we
need to stay someplace that has a kitchen, 2 rooms, something that will
please a 16 year old and a 12 year old (possible we could bring a friend
or two) and hopefully something fun for mom and dad. We're not huge
outdoors types, but we enjoy some hiking, walking, sight seeing, visiting,
Thanks in advance.
I suggest Sea Ranch for Christmas. There are plenty of lovely house
rentals. A place on the bluff with full-time views of the ocean costs a
lot less than multiple air-fares + hotels.
The weather is really good there at Christmas...not foggy like it is in
the summer. There are lots of Bay Area families up there for the
holidays. Sea Ranch has a swimming pool you can use, too. AND there's a
video store in Gualala that's one of the best in the world...really. Try
BEACH RENTALS (on the web) - they always had lots of places and good
service when/if things go wrong.
Have you ever considered Santa Fe, NM? New Mexican Christmases are full
of rich hispanic culture and crisp weather. I grew up there so nothing
says Christmas to me like Santa Fe. There are many ski resorts really
close too and it's pretty affordable. Southwest flies nonstop from
Oakland to Albuquerque and Santa Fe is only about 45 minutes north. Enjoy
I highly recommend Disneyland on Christmas day. It is generally less
crowded and very festive. On the drive down you could spend a night at the
Madonna Inn. My husband and I just stayed there and it was very cool with
good television so it isn't just for honeymooners. Avoid the restaurants
there they are overpriced. You also might want to check out Hearst Castle.
I don't know what they do for Christmas in addition to decorating.
How about Monterey and Carmel? There is lots to do there including
Aquarium, Natural History Museum in Pacific Grove, great hiking at Point
Lobos and Andrew Molera State Park, wonderful beaches at Asilomar and
Carmel State Beach, and great walking along the water between Monterey and
We just stayed at a wonderful cottage in Pacific Grove called the Andril
Cottages. It's great location right across the street from Asilomar
Conference Center so quick access to the water. Very nice folks, nice
cottages, fireplaces, etc. They are on the web.
This is the first year I've lived in the bay area with kids for xmas, and
also my mother
will be visiting from england over the holidays. I'd love ideas for the most
things to do for families; so far we have tickets for the Nutcracker at
Julia Morgan, but
are there other shows you'd recommend? (particularly for after xmas) Best
seeing tree/lights? Fun shopping areas? Holiday markets? The less tacky, the
better : )
searching for xmas
This is a bit biased on my part, but my family grew up ''window shopping'' in the Union Square area. Some of
the stores and displays have changed over the years, but it's still kind of fun to look at the window displays
(kittens & puppies--adoptable--in the Macys windows, big xmas trees, hustle and bustle of people, etc). plus
you can go on the cable cars. we used to sing xmas carols w/ friends on the cable cars. For littler kids, I
love Fairyland at night. Christmas lights on, Santa usually visits, hot chocolate, treats, story time (but
COLD sometimes!). Various neighborhoods have Christmas-y things like Montclair's parade (already happened).
Plus there's the Nutcracker. Try Berkeley Ballet Theater, Cal Performances, or Ronn Guidi's ''Secret
Nutcracker'' at Holy Names College. Paramount also has Ron Guidi's Nutcracker (slightly different version). If
your kids are older or you can afford the extra $$, SF Ballet's nutcracker is great! If churchy things are ok
w/ you, find one in your neighborhood-many have caroling, Xmas eve services, etc. and MANY schools have xmas
programs that are open-check your local or favorite school. Oakland Library (oaklandlibrary.org) has a
calendar with pinata making for 6 yr +), story times, marionettes, and other holiday crafts. Other libraries
may do the same. Plus all the regular venues do something (the zoo has Santa on the weekends, Bay Area
Discovery museum has a performance, habitot, Oakland Museum (their Family day already passed, but keep it in
mind for next year, or throughout the year!). have fun!
My family went to see David Hirata and Friends Magic Holiday at The Marsh in SF last weekend. It was a great
show -- our 9-year-old and 5-year-old loved it and we parents did too. David is a great magician and is
terrific with kids. His Friends include other magicians and a juggler. My son thought that magician Kim
Silverman looked like a cross between Dumbledore and Hagrid. There is lots of audience participation (my
9-year-old got to go help with a trick), and they taught the kids a trick they could do at home. The Marsh is
a small venue and you can see from everywhere -- it's very intimate and you feel like you're part of the show!
There's detailed info about the show on the Marsh website at http://themarsh.org/ magic_holiday.html . The
theater is three blocks from 24th & Mission BART, and has convenient parking on the next block. (We parked in
a garage around the corner for $3 for just under 2 hours.) The show runs December 16-17, 19-24, 26 -30, all
shows at 2 pm. It's 60 minutes, with no intermission. Tickets are $10, or $7.50 for parties of 4 or more.
What fun activities are open on Christmas Day? We will have
relatives visiting and would like to do something fun with them,
but everything I can think of will be closed. They are not into
hiking. I know some movie theatres are open, but that's not very
interactive. Our group will have four kids, ages 0, 3, 5, and 8,
and four adults.
I'm dreaming of a fun Christmas
One year, my family had a fabulous Christmas day in the City. This was years
ago when Union Square had an ice rink. It was open that day, so we did that,
then toured around going from one fancy hotel to another to look at the
fabulous trees and decorations. We had lunch, took lots of pictures, rode the
cable car. It was great! I think the ice rink is down at the Embarcadero now--
you could call to see if they are open for Christmas day.
Holiday Events for Toddlers
Having just moved to Berkeley, I would love to know if there are any
great holiday events for toddlers in the Bay area. My daughter is 3
years old and would greatly enjoy any plays, productions, fairs, ice
skating shows, etc. Are there any not-to-be-missed shows out there?
Thank you in advance
Zoolights at the Oakland Zoo
Nov. 23 ZooLights Opening Night, 5:30 PM - 9 PM
Join us for our annual holiday light display nightly
through December 30, weather permitting. Fee.
For more info check out:
(link updated Nov 2003)
Don't miss ZooLights at the Oakland Zoo!
My daughter and I still have fond memories of ODC Dance's performance
of The Velveteen Rabbit. I highly recommend it, and it was the perfect
length for my then-three year old. A very nice combination of both
storytelling, dance and theater. Tickets by phone can be purchased at
(415) 978-2787 or online: www.yerbabuenaarts.org.
For two years now the merry-go-round at Tilden Park has
been open in the evenings between Thanksgiving and
Christmas. I expect they will do so again this year. It
is a bit chilly and they do like to sell a lot of Christmas
stuff, but it is also a lot of fun. Lights everywhere.
The Santa who roams around the place is a very sweet guy.
this page was last updated: Mar 10, 2013
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network