As the Bay Area reels under new shelter-at-home restrictions, most holiday activities that you and your family have been used to for years have profoundly changed. However, you don’t have to be house bound, you can still enjoy some of the long-standing Christmas traditions and get into the holiday spirit by embracing the best of winter.
We’ve got you covered with Covid safe activities you can enjoy with your whole family and spread the holiday cheer!
Union Square’s Great Tree
Over 83 feet tall and is decorated with more than 33,000 energy-efficient LED lights, the Great Tree will be lit throughout the holiday season.
Thru Dec. 31, 2020
Location: 170 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco
Westfield Shopping Center’s Upside Down 50-ft Crystal Tree
San Francisco’s famous Inverted Christmas Tree, the 50-foot chandelier-like tree, covered in crystals.
Thru Dec. 31, 2020
Location: Westfield Center, 865 Market St., Level 4 Under the Dome, SF
Whimsical Wonderland of Lights at Golden Gate Park
The Entwined art installation transforms Peacock Meadow into an enchanted forest of otherworldly shapes and ever-changing light creating a whimsical wonderland where visitors can explore paths and sit under a grove of three entwined sculptural trees while practicing social distancing.
December 10, 2020 to February 28, 2021 (Possible extension to June 1, 2021)
Sundown to 9:45pm
Location: Peacock Meadow (between McLaren Lodge & Conservatory of Flowers)
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
SF’s 20-Ft. “Star” Light Sculpture
The Kilroy Star is a stellated dodecahedron installation of light and movement. It spans 20 feet in diameter and is outfitted with more than 30,000 individually programmable LED bulbs. The sparkling structures may be seen from miles away and will be configured to oscillate in various rhythms and patterns of dynamic light.
Dec 15- January 31, 2021
Location: The Exchange on Sixteenth (SoMA), 1800 Owens St., San Francisco
San Francisco’s New Floating Fire Station
Fireboat Station 35, a two-story, 14,900-square-foot facility sitting on a massive steel float is the first of its kind in the world. SF’s new station, berthed at Pier 22½, will also have a new observation deck.
Location: Pier 22 right by the Bay Bridge.
Illuminate SF Festival of Lights
Observe 43 striking public light art installations across San Francisco’s 17 neighborhoods through New Year’s Eve.
Visit this website for public art locations.
Times vary, though best visited after 6 p.m.
San Jose’s Christmas in the Park Drive-Thru
Features your favorite annual displays plus some new immersive features dreamed up for 2020 like a tunnel of lights.
Nov. 27, 2020 – Jan. 3, 2021
Location: History Park, 635 Phelan Ave, San Jose
$10 from 4-5 pm; $20 from 5-10 pm
Tickets required in advance
Garden of d’Lights at the Ruth Bancroft Garden
Using thousands of lights and lasers, the illuminated Ruth Bancroft Garden will come alive at night, as colorful sculptures are created from hundreds of illuminated cacti, succulents and trees.
5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Through Dec. 20. $8-$20, free for children under 5.
Location: Ruth Bancroft Garden, 1552 Bancroft Road, Walnut Creek. ruthbancroftgarden.org
Alameda’s Christmas Tree Lane
Each house has a different theme, drive through and listen to Christmas music on spotify.
Through New Year’s Eve. 5:30 – 10 pm
Location: 3200 block of Thompson Ave., Alameda
“Snow” Showers at Santana Row in San Jose
Snow is coming to San Jose, so make the most of this winter wonderland.
Starting Nov. 28, Santana Row will be covered by “snow” showers, as holiday music plays to
6-8 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday. Through Dec. 23; 6-8 p.m. nightly Dec. 20-23.
Location: Park Valencia, 377 Santana Row, San Jose.
“Crippsmas Place” Festive Fremont Neighborhood Lights
Continuing the tradition since 1967, over 80 homes participate in a cheerful neighborhood holiday display of Christmas lights and unique handmade plywood decorations. 2020’s event will be drive-thru only.
Dec. 12 – 25, 2020
Cripps Place (and surrounding streets), Fremont
Lesher Center Visit To The North Pole – Walnut Creek
An immersive visit to the North Pole home and workshop of Mr & Mrs Claus. Reserved timeslots of 10-15 minutes are being offered for families up to 6 people.
Dec. 15-23 (times vary.)
Location: Lesher Center For The Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
$45 General Admission
Holidays at Filoli Gardens
Follow the one-way route to stroll and enjoy the beauty of the winter garden adorned with lights and colorful decor. Cozy up to a fire pit under twinkling lights and sip on hot cider or mulled wine. Socially-distanced Santa visits will also be available on select Saturdays in December from 10 am to 4 pm, and themed visits will be held on Monday nights.
Through Jan. 3, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday
Location: Filoli, 86 Cañada Road, Woodside
$28 from 10 am – 4 pm; $38 from 4 pm – 8 pm
Tickets required in advance
Mattos Orchard Lights
Spans over 1/3 acre of apricot trees. Its display includes over 20,000 LED lights including thirty-two blow molds and 10 inflatables. The decorations make up 8 lands, a nativity scene, and candy cane lane.
5-10 p.m. Through January 12
Location: 1545 Stone Creek Dr, San Jose
Christmas Tree Lane
Drive through beautifully decorated homes each night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Location: 1700-1800 Fulton Street, Palo Alto
A Virtual Chanticleer Christmas: From Darkness to Light
Featuring a candle-lit procession to the dawn of Christmas morning, featuring works by Antoine Brumel, Josquin Dez Prez, and holiday repertoire, including Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” and “Oh Jerusalem in the Morning” by Music Director Emeritus Joseph H. Jennings.
Available to stream starting noon, Dec. 15. Through noon, Jan. 1.
$25-$42. 415 252-8589. chanticleer.org
Zoom Sing-Along Messiah
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley’s fifty-year traditional sing-along. The Handel masterwork will be performed with live soloists, an orchestra and chorus.
You can get a free score to follow online at messiahcelebration.com.
4 p.m. Dec. 20, 4 p.m.
Berkeley Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker Celebration
The live-streamed event includes interviews, a ballet watch party with many generations of dancers included and a Zoom happy hour celebration following the performance at 7 p.m.
5 p.m. Dec. 20. Free.
Viewing available on their YouTube channel. berkeleyballet.org
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus: (At) Home for the Holidays
Celebrate three decades of the group’s traditional holiday performance, presented in 2020 as a virtual live-streamed showcase. Programming includes performances by Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, comedian and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” champion Bianca Del Rio, India’s first openly gay royal Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, members of the San Francisco Philharmonic, the SFGMC Homophonics and Lollipop Guild ensembles and others. Home delivery of wine and treats to Bay Area homes is included with VIP tickets.
5 p.m. Dec. 24.
San Francisco Ballet: Nutcracker Online
Newly mastered recording of a previous year’s performance and a digital tour of the War Memorial Opera House including interactive activities to enjoy. Send downloadable holiday pictures to friends, enjoy historical highlights from the S.F. Ballet “Nutcracker’s” long history and learn steps from the choreography.
Through Dec. 31.
$49, includes 48 hour access to the programming.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair at Home
In lieu of an in person event, the organizers plan to add a section on their website with new content each weekend. It will include access to videos of “A Christmas Carol” presented as a serialized reading, performances of traditional Victorian songs from the Coventry Carolers and the Bangers & Mash Band, era-appropriate craft projects and a virtual party on Christmas Eve.
Through Dec. 24.
Some off the beaten path options. For trail directions and parking info visit All Trails or the park website.
Impeccably maintained trails and stunning views, this trail may appear intimidating at first glance from the parking lot, but it is easier than it looks. The wide, swooping North Rim Trail leaves from the Eagle Rock parking area and slowly works its way uphill toward the ridge.
At the top of the hike, Eagle Rock provides a wealth of different viewpoints among the many large rocks. Find your own spot away from the crowd and soak in the sweeping views before you.
Distance: 3.3 miles
Berry Creek Falls Loop
Numerous redwood groves and breathtaking waterfalls grace this long trek. The length may be too difficult for some people to endure, but the overall difficulty of this trail is moderate as it is gently graded, well-shaded and the waterfalls provide cooling mists.
Distance: 10.2 miles
Mcnee Ranch State Park
Great options for any level of walk or hike that you would like. From a gentle walk on Gray Whale Cove Trail to the rigorous 1800 feet ascent to the top of the mountain where on a clear day you can see the tops of Mount Tamalpais and Mount Diablo and everything in between.
Distance: 8.04 miles
San Pedro Valley Park: Hazelnut Trail Loop
Great views of the ocean and Montara Mountain. With a huge variety of plant’s you’re likely to see something blooming or fruiting almost all year round.
Distance: 4.25 mile
Matt Davis-Steep Ravine Loop
Hike a loop on Mt. Tamalpais covering two of the most famous bay area trails: Dipsea and Steep Ravine. Experience amazing views of Pt. Reyes, the Pacific Ocean, waterfalls, and wildflowers.
Distance: 7.5 miles
Enjoy a sweeping panorama 923 feet above the Pacific, and a great spot for raptor observing. The bare Headlands hilltop also offers eye-popping views of the surrounding Marin hills, the Golden Gate, and San Francisco.
Distance: 0.7 mile
Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park
Perfect for the holidays, this loop through the East Bay’s Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park is brimming with a holiday staple: mistletoe.
Springhill Loop, Briones Regional Park, Berkeley
This loop is a series of trails with some uphill sections and is mostly unshaded. Be prepared to climb and work up a sweat, but the steep inclines are well worth it for the views. Once you get to the ridge, you’ll be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Walnut Creek and the surrounding areas, as well as unparalleled views of Mt. Diablo.
Distance: 3.9 miles
Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations.
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