The Bay Area has tons of family-friendly activities and the holidays are no different! There are many activities in the winter all over the Bay Area, and the Mom Squad has given you a great start, right here at home and farther afield!
We’ve listed some of the great family friendly activities for this holiday season.
Holiday Festivals and Parades:
Los Altos Holiday Sing-Along with TACO, Nov. 25, 4-7 p.m.
The Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra (TACO) invites the community to a free holiday sing-along, scheduled 4-5 p.m. Sunday at the Los Altos Youth Center, 97 Hillview Ave. TACO musicians plan to play tunes including “Silver Bells,” a Hannukah medley and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Participants are welcome to sing along. Lyrics will be provided. For more information, contact TACO directors Cathy Humphers Smith and Vivian McNulty through the orchestra website, www.tacosv.com, or call (650) 793-2218.
Festival of Lights, Nov. 25, 6 p.m.
Los Altos' beloved nightime parade is back, better than ever, thanks to the Boy Scouts newly refurbishing many floats, including Mouse with Candle Float, Snowman, Jack in the Box, with Teddy Bear and Rocking Horse floats going up the the wire on parade night. Volunteers will be selling glow necklaces and toys with all proceeds going to the Los Altos Festival of Lights. Viewers may set up lawn chairs beginning at noon, only, and no chalk or tape is permitted.
The parade steps off at 6 p.m., along First Street and Main streets. www.losaltosparade.org
Campbell Carol of Lights
Campbell's annual Carol of Lights, held Dec. 1 from 4 to 8 p.m. is a fun, wonderful, and free community event for kids of all ages! Downtown Campbell will be all lit up and store windows decorated with holiday themes. There will be carolers, a petting zoo, jumpy castle, fire trucks, police motorcycles and a classic police car, a visit from Santa and more importantly, SNOW!
This event is put on every year in beautiful Downtown Campbell and is hosted by the Carol of Lights Committee (a non-profit organization). The event is funded entirely by donations and is always in need of help from volunteers willing to help out.
Christmas in the Park
San Jose’s very own Christmas in the Park begins Nov. 23 with a tree lighting at 5:30pm right in downtown San Jose. After that it runs from 9am to midnight until Jan. 1, 2013.
Santana Row Holiday Events
On Dec. 11 at 10am, Santana Row's Mommy and Me Event, Celebrate the Season will have a special appearance from Mrs. Claus. Bring new or gently used coat to donate to One Warm Coat! Plus join us for educational activities designed for parents and their pre-school aged children.
Families will enjoy arts and crafts, face painting, music, balloon art, story time, and much more. On Dec. 4, 11, and 18 there will be a Holiday Wine Walk benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank from 6pm to 8pm. And we can’t forget our furry children with the Santa Paws event! Bring your favorite dog or cat to take pictures with Santa! And Santana Row Celebrates Hannukah on Dec. 9. There will be holiday story reading, crafts and much more!
Children’s Holiday Festival San Jose
Come to History Park in San Jose on Dec. 8 from 11am to 4pm for the Children's Holiday Festival! Sip hot cocoa, take a trolley ride with Santa and make crafts!
Global Winter Wonderland
Located in the Great America parking lot, Global Winter Wonderland offers a look into the way other cultures celebrate the holidays plus much more! It will open Nov. 23 and runs until Jan. 1, 2013 (the hours vary).
Christmas at Ardenwood
Ring in the holiday season at Ardenwood Farm in Fremont! On Dec. 1 and 2, visit the beautifully decorated Patterson House, sing Christmas carols, find the Yule Log and make crafts!
Los Gatos Childrens Christmas/Holiday Parade
The Los Gatos Childrens Holiday Parade will be held on Dec. 1 at 11am (rain or shine) will be held right in downtown Los Gatos.
Holiday Traditions From Around the World
This free day at the Museum will feature children’s craft activities such as making a German bauble (tree ornament), a Filipino parol (star lantern), an English cracker (party favor), an Italian Le Befana (doll), a Japanese hagoita (New Year’s game) and a Mexican rattle (New Year’s noise maker). This event is held in conjunction with Redwood City’s “Hometown Holidays.” Free photos of children with Santa Claus in the Museum’s rotunda will be part of the fun.
Gilroy Gardens Holiday Lights
Gilroy Gardens will be lit up for the holidays! The Holiday Lights will run on various days throughout December. Visit the website for more details.
Come down to downtown Redwood City for their Hometown Holidays on Dec. 1 at 10am. This free event will be held rain or shine and will include arts, crafts, fireworks, Santa and snow!
Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Every weekend from Nov. 23 to Dec. 23 the Cow Palace will be transformed into Victorian London, complete with period holiday decorations and costumed actors. There will be food, shopping, and entertainment - all in keeping with the spirit of the Victorian era. This year is the 34th annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair, and also happens to be the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.
Breakfast with Santa
Campbell Church of Christ is hosting their annual Breakfast with Santa event on Saturday, Dec 1. There are various times open from 7:20am - 10:30am. While you wait for your turn, Elves will have crafts for the children and you can enjoy some hot cocoa or cider.
Each family will be seated and will have the chance to enjoy a breakfast buffet as well as have their photo taken with Santa. After the photos are done, Santa even walks around to the table to meet and talk to the children! Reservations are needed, and the last day to make a reservation is Nov. 23 (but they fill up fast, so call asap!).
Photos With Santa at The Ainsley House
Santa Claus will be making a very special appearance at the Ainsley House in Downtown Campbell on Friday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 25, 10am-1pm. Don't miss the chance to take your photo with him and give him your Christmas wish list! Be sure to bring your own camera.
Admission for this event is $5 for Museum members, $10 for the general public. For more information, please phone 408-866-2119.
Tiny Tots Photos with Santa Event
Each family will have 15 minutes to spend with Santa to allow the children to “warm up” to him, share letters or drawings, and take photos.
The event is fully booked this year, but they are taking names for the official wait list. If you would like to be on the waitlist, please contact Tiny Tots and they will notify you if a time opens up.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa Claus is coming to town … Surfin’ Santa that is! Santa and his reindeer will arrive on the shores of Capitola Beach by outrigger canoe at 12PM. Santa will then settle in his beach chair for a nice long visit with all the kids. Be sure to bring your camera to capture Santa’s wave-riding arrival. Could be your best Christmas photo yet…and a happy memory for sure!
Santa Arrives at Hiller Aviation Museum
What’s cooler than Santa arriving by helicopter? Not much, we think! Visit Hiller Aviation Museum on December 1st at 10am to see just that!
Holiday Train / Carriage Rides:
CalTrain Holiday Train, Dec. 1 & 2
CalTrain will have one of their trains beautifully decorated with 60,000 glittering lights for their Holiday Train! Enjoy fun festive activities and decorations on the train running Dec. 1 and 2 at various times. This event also benefits local children, collecting toys and donations for charity!
VTA's Historic Trolleys Downtown, Dec. 8 and onward
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's historic trolley will begin offering weekend rides beginning Dec. 8. The trolley will transport riders to holiday events in downtown San Jose. Weekend service continues throughout December on an hourly schedule. The rides begin at 6:30 p.m. between the Civic Center and San Jose Diridon stations in San Jose. Free.
Los Altos Carriage Rides
Los Altos Carriage Rides in downtown begin Dec. 9 and end Dec. 27, on weekend nights, 5 to 9 p.m., in half-hour slots. The $80 rides accomodate four adults and two children Call (650) 949-5282 for reservations
Los Gatos Carriage Rides
The Los Gatos Carriage Rides begin Nov. 30 and run until Dec. 23. These lovely horse drawn carriages will take you on a 15 minute ride through the festively decorated Los Gatos on North Santa Cruz Avenue.
Vasona Park Fantasy of Lights/Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
The Fantasy of Lights begins Nov. 23 and runs through Dec. 31 nightly from 6 to 10pm. There are many ways to view these beautiful decorations but one of the most fun way is from a decorated train on the Billy Wildcat Jones Railroad which run on most Thursdays through Sundays in December.
Roaring Camp Railroad
Roaring Camp Railroad offers so many activities for the holidays! The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train offers a beautiful ride through downtown Santa Cruz to admire the decorated houses (and a visit from Santa!). They also have the Holiday Out with Thomas which offers train ride on everyone’s favorite train through Santa Cruz. And right in Felton, take one of Roaring Camps steam trains to Bear Mountain for the Holiday Tree Walk. Sip on hot cider and enjoy the lovely trees!
Niles Canyon Train of Lights
Niles Canyon Railroad offers two options for their Train of Lights. One train departs Niles at 4:30pm and another departs from Sunol at 7:30pm. Each offers beautiful views of holiday lights!
Tree Lighting Events:
Join the Los Altos Hills community for a special holiday celebration. Spend the afternoon in the fresh air at Westwind Community Barn, sampling home baked cookies and hot cider and/or wine tasting with local vintners while kids participate in seasonal games, craft tables, face painting, pony rides and a petting zoo. Local student groups will perform traditional carols and holiday music. Bring your camera as Santa will be available for last minute holiday wish lists and a tasty candy cane treat. Local Pony Club and 4-H students will demonstrate horse grooming and horse management skills and answer questions on how you can participate in their programs. The Barn will light up at 4:00 pm and Santa will ride off into the sunset in true Hills style!
Saratoga Holiday Tree Lighting and Wine Stroll
Come down to Saratoga on Nov. 23 for a Holiday Tree Lighting and Wine Stroll! The fun begins at 5pm and includes a wine stroll, a tree lighting, horse drawn carriage ride, photos with Santa and much much more!
Ghirardelli Square Tree Lighting
Nov. 23 from 2:30 - 7pm there will be free live entertainment and music, give-a-ways, and of course the lighting of the tree in Ghirardelli Square.
Campbell Holiday Tree Lighting
On Friday, Nov. 30 at starting at 6pm, there will be a reception complete with a “birthday” cake to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Campbell Community Center. At the reception “Rescue 25”, the city's 1st paramedic vehicle which has been beautifully restored, will be officially unveiled as a gift to the City of Campbell.
After the anniversary reception, gather outside for the lighting of the CCC tree! The tree lighting event is very special to the city of Campbell, and also has quite a history!
Holiday Ice Rinks:
There are quite a few ice rinks around the bay area, and we’ve made a list for you!
- Embarcadero Rink (San Francisco)
- Union Square Ice Rink (San Francisco)
- Walnut Creek on Ice (Walnut Creek)
- Oakland Ice (Oakland)
- Downtown Ice at Circle of the Palms (San Jose)
- Winter Lodge (Palo Alto)
- Ice Center (Cupertino and San Mateo)
- Yerba Buena (San Francisco)
- Dublin Iceland (Dublin)
- Ice Oasis (Redwood City)
Other Holiday Events:
Residents compete in different categories to build the best gingerbread houses, which go on display, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dec. 3 to 7 in Room 2 of the Hillview Community Center.
Help Make Holiday Cards for Seniors
Children grades K - 5 are invited to come and make Holiday cards Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 3:30 - 4:30pm at the Campbell Library. You can make one for yourself, and make another for a local senior citizen. What a great way to spread the Holiday cheer!
Hot Cocoa Family Storytime
Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7:15pm the Campbell Library will be hosting their weekly Family Story Time with a special holiday theme complete with hot cocoa!
Holiday Puppet Shows at Gamble Gardens
Visit Gamble Gardens for some wonderful Holiday Puppet shows! There are three showings on Dec. 8; 9:30am, 11am, and 12:30pm.
Small Business Saturday Shopping Soiree
Simply Smashing! is celebrating Small Business Saturday in style! They will have many many local/indie art, clothing, and jewelry designs carried in the boutique full time, and will also be featuring some of their favorite local vendors:
All things babylicious from Artsy Fartsy Baby, Custom Origami Owl lockets designed by you, with Christina Chapman, Coffee tasting and gifts from Tico Coffee Roasters, Vintage place settings, photo cards and hand-crafted gifts from Justine Creations, Amazing artwork by John Cloud, Organic, non-toxic body products and candles by Hip E Chick, Sweet & Savory Waffles from Waffle Amore, Live DJ Entertainment by Mr. Chip DeVille, and more ... They will also have many special offers, sales, and of course champagne on hand to celebrate!
—Los Altos Patch contributed to this report
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Do you have know of any other holiday events or activities not mentioned above? We’d love to hear from you all! Please share with us in the comments below.