It’s time to rethink that holiday wish list. Who needs toys when you’ve got the Bay Area? Replace all that stuff with awesome outings like a visit with a boat-riding Santa Claus, hanging with a herd of reindeer, strolling among some carolers and making a date with those beloved Sugar Plum Fairies.

For Nature Lovers: Wave Hill in the Bronx

photo: Wave Hill

San Francisco

Craft a Magical Wreath at the SFBG
Head to the San Francisco Botanical Garden for their annual wreath making workshop. You’ll get to collect unique materials from the garden to build your festive holiday wreaths. Materials provided include a wire frame (14″ for adults, 10″ for kids), paddle wire, ribbons, and green material. Please bring clippers, scissors and any ornaments, ribbon, or other accoutrements you like to enhance your botanical creation. Please note that there are 2 sessions: 9-11:30a.m. and 12:30-3p.m. Sat. Event details.

Grab Your Tutu for this Sweet Nutcracker Performance
The San Francisco Youth Ballet is presenting the 16th Annual Performance of The Nutcracker for one weekend this season. This magical, full-length version of The Nutcracker features Bay Area guest artists and the wonderful talents from the San Francisco Youth Ballet Academy. The dance tells the story of young Clara, who dreams that her gift of a toy nutcracker soldier comes to life. Together they experience a grand adventure that takes them through an epic battle with the Mouse King to the Sugar Plum Fairy’s magical Kingdom of Sweets. Sat.-Sun. Event details.


Join a Presidio Stargazing Party
It’s a bird, it’s a plane! Actually, it’s a star! The San Francisco Amateur Astronomers bring their giant telescopes to the Presidio and help guests see the night sky’s most interesting astronomical beauties. Dress warm and get ready to see the coolest stars yet. Bad weather cancels. Sat. Event details.

East Bay

Winter Cooking Class for Special Needs Kids
This class is designed to meet the needs pf children with special needs. Kids will learn to make buttery cornbread and hearty, vegetable soup — perfect for making at home during the winter months. Alongside a Sprouts chef, kids will learn about knife skills as they chop up seasonal veggies for this delectable dish. Kids will watch as the soup simmers down and begins to take shape, learning how to flavor and texture our meal as they go. Sat. Event details.

Snuggle Up for Tea Time with Teddy
The winter holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to grab spots for parents, grandparents and kids at The Gardens at Heather Farm’s ever-popular, annual tradition, Teddy Bear Tea. Enjoy fancy tea service, tea-time treats, holiday crafts, festive music, raffle prizes, a holiday boutique and of course, lots and lots of teddy bears. During Teddy Bear Tea, guests will enjoy a variety of savories, sandwiches and sweet treats, as well as a visit to “Bearland” for story time, crafts and a special holiday-themed photo opportunity. Kids can wear their fancy dress, practice party etiquette and drink real (decaffeinated) tea or juice in china cups. Sat.-Sun. Event details.


Shop the Holiday Faire at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula
For one day, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula Los Altos campus transforms into a magical winter wonderland for its holiday boutique. The joyous mood, creative activities, and beauty are an antidote to the pervasive commercialism that can surround us during the holiday season. The magic includes a gnome adventure, beeswax candle dipping, wreath making, handcraft workshops, a puppet show and more. The Oaxacan Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat. Event details.

Celebrate First Fridays with Free Admission to this Museum
Put away that hard-earned allowance because it’s time for Free First Fridays at the San Mateo County History Museum. Not only is admission free the entire day there are always fun music and craft learning experiences and activities for kids to participate in throughout the day. The San Mateo County History Museum is located within the 106-year-old “Old Courthouse” in Redwood City. It features exhibits related to the use of natural resources, suburban development, ethnic experience and entrepreneurial achievement on the Peninsula from the time of the Costanoan Indian through today. Activities vary by month, check the museum’s website for details. Fri. Event details.

South Bay

Hang With Santa at History Park
The annual Children’s Holiday Festival at History Park features Santa arriving by historic trolley, music, caroling, and so much more. There will be crafting: making holiday gifts, decorations, and ornaments, and all the historic buildings decorated for the holidays. Bring your camera! Sat. Event details.

Bring Your Little Sugar Plums to the Nutcracker
The San Jose Dance Theatre celebrates its 51th production of The Nutcracker! Featuring a live orchestra, the kids will be enchanted by the Sugar Plum Fairy and all the characters as they dance across the stage. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

North Bay

DIY a Holiday Ornament
At Studio 4 Art kids can learn to pound clay and create ornaments for the holidays. One pound of clay can create 5-8 ornaments, depending on the size of each and it is recommended to have one pound of clay per person. Cost includes the use of all of tools, glazes, and kiln firing. the workshop is available at the Novato and Mill Valley locations. Children under 5 must be accompanied by an adult. Sat. Event details.

Santa is Arriving at Nick’s Cove (By Boat)!
Santa Claus arrives at Nick’s Cove by way of his trusty water sleigh (i.e. boat). He’ll set up shop in the Boat Shack with hot chocolate, treats and a free professional photographer so children and adults alike can pose for a photo with Santa overlooking Tomales Bay. Every guest who brings a donation of canned food for the Marin Food Bank will receive 15% off any food or beverage purchase at Nick’s Cove throughout the day. Santa arrives at 3 p.m. and departs at 5 p.m., the restaurant is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. Event details.

What warms your heart during the holidays? Tell us in the comments below!

–Chantal Lamers