Still recovering from Thanksgiving? Well we’ve got some ideas for working off that second helping of turkey and pumpkin pie. Climb aboard a holiday train, take in a new museum exhibit or see their eyes light up at a Christmas tree lighting. Need more ideas to get moving? Read on and find out what’s on our agenda this weekend.
photo: San Rafael Parade of Lights
Union Square Christmas Tree Lighting
The 29th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting will start with festivities at 6 p.m. followed by the tree lighting at 6:40 p.m. This year’s reusable tree is 83 feet tall and will feature more than 30,000 lights and around 1,100 decorations. After the official ceremony, the tree will be lit each night through the end of the year. Fri. Event details.
Hop to the Velveteen Rabbit
Cuddle up with your favorite toy for this beloved Bay Area holiday tradition. ODC/Dance enlivens Margery Williams’ classic tale of a well-worn nursery rabbit that becomes real. Told through music, dance and a powerful narrative, the Velveteen Rabbit celebrates the unique relationship between a little boy and his stuffed rabbit and the enduring power of love. Sat.-Sun. Event details.
Curious Contraptions at the Exploratorium
Curious Contraptions explores small, surreal worlds through the charming, often hilarious mechanical sculptures known as automata. These whimsical machines are brought to life by intricate arrangements of handmade cams, cranks and other simple mechanisms. Each sculpture performs an absurd miniature drama—sometimes a myth or fairy tale—while also reflecting its maker’s worldview and sense of humor. Exposed inner workings and low-tech mechanisms invite the viewer to understand how each automata comes to life. Fri.-Sun. Event details.
The Nutcracker Sweet with Puppets
This delightful version of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic depicts many of the characters from the familiar ballet, including Clara and the Mouse King in the famous climatic fight scene with the Nutcracker. This 45-minute presentation is designed for young audiences. Sun. Event details.
Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline
Drop back in time to see the natural environment of California in a new way. Discover the connections between art and science through fantastically colorful renderings by artist Ray Troll and the research of paleontologist Kirk Johnson. Learn how fossils teach us about how California’s landscape, plants and animals have evolved over millions of years. With the addition of sculpture, maps, a giant sloth and other fossils and bones from the collections of OMCA and the California Academy of Sciences, and a fun hands-on activity, this exhibition will thrill fossil fans and curious culture-seekers alike. Fri.-Sun. Event details.
Festival of Lights Parade
This annual parade draws crowds to see floats decked in lights, marching bands, performers and Santa himself. Get there early to choose your favorite spot. Sun. Event details.
All Aboard for the Holiday Lights Train
Ride vintage excursion cars, adorned with thousands of colorful lights, as they roll through city streets past homes of Santa Cruz. Sing along to seasonal carols while sipping hot-spiced cider, listen to musical entertainment and enjoy a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Continue the merriment at Santa’s Kingdom at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Trains depart and return in front of Neptune’s Kingdom at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (they do not go to Roaring Camp). Fri.-Sat. Event details.
Christmas in the Park Tree Lighting
This year’s Annual Community Giving Tree Lighting Ceremony includes a festive tree lighting at 6 p.m. with an opening night variety show. Holiday cheer continues throughout the month so be sure to check the event details for a full rundown. Enjoy free photos with Santa all season long. Fri. Event details.
Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland
A day of holiday cheer and activities for all to enjoy, the Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland features a holiday marketplace with unique arts and crafts, live entertainment, children’s activities, the beloved snow-sledding hill, a tree lighting ceremony and the celebrated Parade of Lights with Santa and his friends. Fri.-Sat. Event details.