While we may not get a white Christmas here in the Bay Area, there are opportunities to see snow fall from the sky and they don’t involve a long drive to Tahoe. Kids can hop aboard sleds and snow tubes, meet real-life reindeer and enjoy all the festive fun without having to pop on the snow pants, scarves, hats and gloves. Plan your snow day today!
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: Dec. 15-17, 19-23 & 26-30, 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
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. Learn how animals and plants adapt to life on ice. New for 2017—add a 55-minute ice skating session to your Academy visit for just $12.
Good to Know: The holiday exhibit runs through January 7, 2018. Look for San Francisco quarterly Free Sundays, with next Free Sunday December 10, 2017—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/$35.95, Youth (ages 12–17)/$30.95; Child (ages 4–11)/$25.95; 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: 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. Read all about their holiday festivities here.
When: weekends Nov. 24-Dec. 17 and daily Dec. 22-31.
Cost: $67.99, $47.99 children under 48 inches. Free with season pass.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
1001 Fairgrounds Drive
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: Sun., Dec. 3, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto
1450-1500 Shattuck Ave.
photo: Bishop Ranch
Bishop Ranch Tree Lighting and Snow Play
Come see the lighting of the 70-foot White Fir holiday tree and stay for photo opportunities with Santa Claus, a petting zoo with live reindeer, a snow play area for children ages 12 and under, strolling entertainers and live music and dancing. Food trucks and restaurants will also be selling food and beverages.
Good to Know: All activities are free!
When: Fri., Dec. 1. 5:30-7:30 p.m.
6111 Bollinger Canyon Road
San Ramon, CA
photo: Sheldon Chang of DowntownCampbell.com
Campbell Carol of Lights
This 32nd annual community-supported free event will include a snow play area for kids, petting zoo, visits with Santa and bounce houses. If you enjoy this event with you family, consider making a donation to keep it going for next year!
When: Saturday, December 2, 5-8 p.m.
Winterfest at California’s Great America
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. Check out more information here on what rides will be open and what other activities are planned for Winterfest.
When: Fri.-Sun. through Dec. 17, Dec. 19-23 & 26-30
Cost: $25/person when purchased online, $34/person at the gate. Free with gold and platinum season passes.
4701 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA
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: Sun., Dec. 3, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Depot Plaza, Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA
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: Sat., Dec. 2, 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 1. 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: Fri., Dec. 1. 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.
When: Dec. 16, 2017-Jan. 6, 2018
Dell’Osso Family Farm
501 Manthey Road
Where to you go to play in the snow? Tell us below!
—Kate Loweth, Yannina Pacis & Heather Rodgers