You’ve carved your pumpkins, picked apples from the orchard and now it’s time to gear up for your holiday photos. If you’re not sure where to go to get those fall vibes or are looking for a new place to document your growing family, we’ve done the leg work for you (you’re welcome!). Take a look at our favorite places for holiday photos from all over the Bay Area.
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
Why it’s Great: The Palace of Fine Arts is a unique place to snap your holiday photos with it's interesting architecture and rich San Francisco history. Arrive early to avoid the crowds because it's a popular destination to visit and picnic at.
Elizabeth Gamble Garden, Palo Alto
Why it’s Great: The gardens are beautiful all year long and since it's in a compact area, it's perfect for small kiddos who tire easily, as well as for generational sessions with older family members who need to sit down. There is no permit required for this lovely location, but donations are accepted (and encouraged)!
Stanford University Campus, Stanford
Why it’s Great: If you love leading lines and a throwback to your college days, then photographer Ania Gajda says Stanford is the place for you: “This location offers many different architectural features as well as a little park nearby. It's the best early in the morning before it gets crowded.”
Borges Ranch, Walnut Creek
Why it’s Great: For nature photos that have a mountain range that goes as far as the eye can see, Borges Ranch is the perfect place for holiday photos. Don't forget to stop by and say hi to the farm animals adjacent to the parking lot. The kids can even walk in their pastures!
Why it’s Great: With the spaced out trees in a dirt field with leaves that turn from green to yellow, Portola Valley is as close to capturing the autumn vibes as the Bay Area gets. It can get pretty crowded during the holiday season with families seeking the fall colors so sharpen your elbows and get ready to say cheese!
Markham Arboretum, Concord
Why it’s Great: This park offers so much for photos that families are sure to snap the perfect holiday photo. “Minutes from downtown Concord, this centrally located park is a treasure trove of backdrops for a family photo-session. From manicured walkways and rugged trails and fences to a bridge and plenty of shade it’s a photographer’s playground!” said photographer Nicole diGiorgio.
Baker Beach, San Francisco
Why it’s Great: Baker Beach is the perfect San Francisco iconic backdrop for natives and tourists alike for holiday photos. The Golden Gate Bridge towers in the background surrounded by the ocean and clean sand. Also, there’s a few dirt trails to explore on your walk down to the beach. Bonus, after taking photos you can spend the rest of the day getting your feet wet in the freezing cold water.
San Pedro Valley Park, Pacifica
Why it’s Great: If you have a large family with kids on the younger side this is the park for you! Walk the Weiler Ranch Trail for about 5 minutes and you’ll come to a huge clearing with a meadow. The meadow creates a natural boundary enclosure for the kids to run and play making photo taking a snap. There are also fun wood bridges and dirt trails to explore so bring extra clothes to play in afterwards.
Crissy Field, San Francisco
Why it’s Great: Stretches of green grass with a few coves of sand and surf with the Golden Gate Bridge looming in the background make up this oceanfront stretch. The fog rolls in and out of Crissy Fields as much as the tide changes but if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to capture some holiday photos before the bridge disappears in the thick mist.
Vasona Park, San Jose
Why it’s Great: The park is huge and is filled with nooks and crannies that are photo worthy. Some highlights include a large red drawbridge that goes over the pond; multiple piers that jet out onto the lake; and lastly, the beautiful nature that fills every single place of this park. Photos are best super early in the morning to beat the crowds. Just beware of the speed walkers and runners passing by so you don’t end up with a file of photo-bombers.
Crow Canyon Gardens, San Ramon
Why it’s Great: Photographer Niki Stefanelli said, “This is a fun little local garden on the border of Danville and San Ramon. I love it because something is always in bloom, and there are lovely little fences, benches and gates set up in the gardens providing perfect photo backdrops. There is also an open field with great trees for climbing at the end of a family session. And, for the more adventurous crowd, there is a path leading down to a stream which runs in the rainy season.”
The Discovery Museum in Fort Baker
Why It’s Great: Nestled right on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge is Fort Baker, home to the Discovery Museum and Cavallo Point. This hidden gem features some of the best views of the Golden Gate. Venture towards the water and you have an unparalleled view of the bridge and the ocean beyond as well as the Marin headlands. On clear days you can see the city. Plus, there’s free parking and places to picnic. Need we say more?
Holbrook Palmer Park in Atherton
Why it’s Great: It is only a few minutes off of 101 but it feels really secluded. The leaves on the trees are so beautiful at this time of year and make for gorgeous backdrops for family photos. Also, there are so many different areas to shoot in for variety. It can look like you went to several parks in just one location! There is even a playground for the kids.
Need wardrobe ideas for the kids? Check out this list of our favorite local clothing brands.
—Tarah Beaven & Erin Lem