You don’t have to make the hike to Tahoe to find tons of the white stuff all across the Bay Area. Head to Half Moon Bay or Golden Gate Park or even Great America and you can sled, make snow angels and catch some white flakes on your tongue. So break out your scarves and mittens and head out to celebrate the holiday season with some snow!
Photo: Lesley Simmons
Zoo Lights at the San Francisco Zoo
Leave your warm, heated habitat for some wintery fun at the SF Zoo. Take a moonlight meander through the Zoo as it sparkles with cheer, stop by to see Santa Claus to put in some last-minute requests then grab some hot apple cider or cocoa and head over to the Playfield Lawn to pay a visit to Santa’s special reindeer Belle, Holly and Peppermint. And did we mention there will be snow? Yes, it will be snowing at Zoo Lights, so bundle up!
Hours: December 18-30 (closed Dec. 24 and 25), 5–8 p.m.
Cost: Adults/$8; Kids 4-14/$6; Kids 3 and under/free. No charge for members.
Sloat Blvd. at the Great Highway
San Francisco, Ca
McLaren Lodge Tree Lighting and Snow Play
Carols, lights and a snow play area are just part of the fun at this 87th annual event at McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park. Live entertainment and carnival rides pump up the fun for all.
Good to Know: This free event gets crowded so arrive early to get in on all the fun.
When: Thursday, December 1, 4-8 p.m.
501 Stanyan Street
Photo: Kathryn Whitney
California Academy of Sciences – ‘Tis the Season for Science
Enter the immersive digital dome of the Snowman Theater and watch a short, kid friendly show exploring the science and beauty of aurora borealis. Step outside the theater to revel in delightful indoor snow flurries. Then swing by the East Garden to meet Velvet and Tinsel – a pair of real-life reindeer.
Good to Know: The holiday exhibit runs through January 8, 2017. Look for San Francisco quarterly Free Sundays, with next Free Sunday December 11, 2016—early arrival is highly advised due to high demand.
55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Cost: Adult/$34.95, Youth (ages 12–17)/$29.95; Child (ages 4–11)/$24.95; Children ages 3 and under, free
Photo: Kate Loweth
Broadway Plaza Holiday Parade of Lights, Open House, and Tree Lighting
After knocking out some of your holiday shopping, celebrate the season with a night of festivity and fa-la-la’s at the annual holiday tradition at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. There will be a Retailer Open House at 6 p.m., followed by the Parade of Lights at 7 p.m. along Broadway Plaza Street. You and the kids will ooh and ahh as St. Nick himself lights the tree, and after all his “HO, HO, HO” Santa will make it snow, snow, SNOW!
Good to Know: Free admission. Be sure get there early to secure your spot for the tree lighting.
When: December 1, 6-9 p.m.
1275 Broadway Plaza
Walnut Creek, CA
Photo courtesy of Six Flags
Holiday in the Park
Six Flags hosts this annual event that includes dancing lights set to holiday tunes, Blitzen’s Wonderland Mountain where kids of all ages can sled down a snow hill and holiday shows that will make even the coldest Grinch smile.
When: weekends Nov. 25-Dec. 11, daily Dec. 17-Jan. 1
Cost: $67.99, $47.99 children under 48 inches. Free with season pass.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
1001 Fairgrounds Drive
Photo: Another Bullwinkel Show
Snow Day in the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto
Don your boots and mittens to play in the snow at the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto! For one day only, enjoy a snow day in Berkeley and partake in this free event for children of all ages. This event will also feature other holiday fun as visits with the Snow Queen, holiday arts-and-crafts, pony rides, and for one lucky person, it will be the ultimate present if they find the “ice” in a snowball—containing a real diamond ring!
Good to Know: Free admission. The event is along Shattuck Avenue between Rose and Vine Streets. Gourmet Ghetto is just six blocks north of Downtown Berkeley BART station.
When: December 4, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto
1450-1500 Shattuck Ave.
Photo: Kate Loweth
Winterfest at California’s Great America
New this year, Great America will be celebrating all things winter with ice skating in front of the famous carousel, millions of LED lights and snow, snow, SNOW! Check out Santa’s Workshop, holiday shows and ride some of the park’s best rides.
When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting Nov. 25 and daily operation Dec. 19-23 and 26-60. 5-11 p.m.
Cost: $24.95/person when purchased online, $29.95 at the gate. Free with gold and platinum season passes.
4701 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, Ca
Campbell Carol of Lights
This 31st annual community-supported free event will include a snow play area for kids, petting zoo, visits with Santa and bounce houses.
When: Saturday, December 3, 5-8 p.m.
Winterfest at Avaya Stadium
Ten tons of snow will arrive to kick off Winterfest at Avaya Stadium. A huge inflatible snow globe, food trucks, holiday beverages and a toy and food drive will be a part of this brand-new free community event.
When: Saturday, December 10, 12-5 p.m.
San Jose, Ca
Photo: Gary Ferber
The Enjoy Mill Valley Winterfest
Snow, sledding, Santa… oh my! Everything that we love about the holidays can be found at Mill Valley’s Winterfest. You and the kids will especially enjoy their famous snow slide, plus games, and the tree lighting ceremony. And because this is winter fun – Cali-style – there will even be a Ukulele Jubilee.
Good to Know: It’s a free event, but there is a suggested donation of $2 per run on the slow slide, or $5 for 3 runs.
When: December 4, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Depot Plaza, Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, Ca
Tam Valley’s Winter Magic
Grab your gloves and head to the Snowstorm in Tam Valley where 20 tons of fresh snow will soon be falling. And, this festival is hillside, so be prepared for a slippery ride down a snow slide. Don’t worry, sleds are provided! Game booths, music, a bounce house and food round out this wonderful winter wonderland adventure. Reserve your spot for a special breakfast with Santa that morning!
When: Sat., Dec. 10, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Cost: $8 (breakfast extra)
203 Marin Ave.
Mill Valley, Ca
Photo: Nathan Proudlove via Flick
It’s going to snow in the 650! Dash to Redwood City’s annual event, Hometown Holiday—a free event to ring in the holiday season. Santa Claus, all dressed in fur, will visit with the kids. And if St. Nick and the snow aren’t enough, there’s also the holiday parade, live ice sculpture carving, and special-effects light show that will make everyone jolly.
Good to Know: Free admission. This event is rain or shine.
When: December 3, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Hamilton St. btwn Broadway and Marshall
Redwood City, Ca
Half Moon Bay’s Night of Lights
Old-fashioned fun and tons of the white stuff will make Half Moon Bay the place to be on December 2. This event kicks off with a tree lighting and parade. Kids can then head over to the Winter Wonderland to enjoy piles of snow, carriage rides, food vendors and games.
Good to know: Free admission.
When: Friday, December 2, 6-9 p.m.
Downtown Half Moon Bay
Photo: Dell’Osso Family Farm
Worth the Drive
Holidays on The Farm at Dell’Osso Family Farm
Pack your family and head on a roadtrip to visit Dell’Osso Family Farm in Lathrop, which for a few weeks transforms into a winter escape. Whisk away down Snow Tube Mountain for sessions of up to 90 minutes long, strap on some ice skates and glide along the outdoor ice skating rink, or stay comfy cozy in your car and drive through Lights on the Farm, Northern California’s largest ever farm light show. And if it’s a beautiful winter’s eve, the little ones will especially enjoy a ride in the Express Train. After all that fun, you and your minis will be settled in for a long winter’s nap.
Good to Know: A 90-minute tubing session is $20/person of all ages, but note height requirement of at least 36″ tall. Booking your tickets ahead is strongly recommended as slots fill up. Don’t have plans Christmas Eve? They’re open until 5pm that day!
When: December 17, 2016–January 2, 2017
Dell’Osso Family Farm
501 Manthey Road
Where do you go to make snow angels in the Bay Area? Let us know in the comments below!
–Kate Loweth, Yannina Pacis and Heather Rodgers