The holidays are here and we’ve rounded up all of our favorite festive activities plus some new additions for 2020. Check out some of our favorite holiday theater coming to you at home and then see how your favorite museum has upped their game with new holiday exhibits just for kids. Mark your calendars and buy your tickets now so that you won’t miss out on all these things to do with your kids this holiday season!

photo: Oakland Zoo

Explore GLOWFARI at the Oakland Zoo

This brand-new family-friendly experience features hundreds of larger-than-life animal lanterns throughout the Zoo, storytelling the ongoing journey of wildlife, the importance of every species on our planet, and Oakland Zoo's commitment to conservation. Dozens of towering and even interactive, glowing lanterns of every order await to entertain and enlighten you at every turn. Take a mile-long stroll through these illuminated and dazzling lanterns and ride the brilliantly-lit gondolas to visit California Trail. Nov. 20-Jan. 17. 

More info:

photo: Dickens Fair

Celebrate Dickens Fair at Home

Fans of the Dickens Fair will be able to visit a new section of the Dickens Fair website and be treated to a variety of holiday opportunities to play at home. New content will be added weekly and each weekend brings different delights. Guests will have free access to videos from Fair favorites like Charles Dickens reading A Christmas Carol, traditional Victorian songs from the Coventry Carolers (with downloadable sheet music), Punch & Judy puppet shows, craft projects, children’s stories, and so much more. Other treats include downloadable recipes such as cinnamon roasted almonds, brandied eggnog, and roasted chestnuts. Nov. 21-Dec. 24. Event details

photo: Kathryn Whitney © California Academy of Sciences

'Tis the Season for Science

Make way for reindeer! Revel in the wintery atmosphere of ‘Tis the Season for Science, an annual holiday tradition in the heart of Golden Gate Park. Venture to the Academy’s East Garden to meet two hoofed holiday visitors, Cookie and Peppermint, and learn how this antlered duo is uniquely equipped to migrate vast distances. Reindeer have remarkable adaptations—from hollow hairs for warmth to feet that act like snowshoes—that allow them to thrive in frigid environments. 

While outside, delight in festive decorations and imagine you’re in the Arctic as artificial snow falls overhead. For extra holiday cheer, enjoy cookies and hot cocoa available for purchase from the Academy Café or Terrace Restaurant. 

More info:

photo: Joop Rubens/Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Ice Skate at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Back again for 2020: ice skating at the beach! A covered rink is part of the fun this season at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and this year it's bigger and better. Have a skate and then go enjoy games, snacks and holiday lights. Reservations are recommended. Nov. 14-Jan. 3. Event details

photo: CuriOdyssey

Experience IlluminOdyssey Outdoors at CuriOdyssey

CuriOdyssey has two ways this winter to wander through a colorful illuminated landscape at CuriOdyssey’s IlluminOdyssey Outdoors! During the evening event, enjoy music, a cash bar and food for purchase in a new outdoor environment with subtle blooms of light. Wander through a winter light scape throughout the zoo, the Discovery Field and the Bay View Grove. During the daytime, guests will experience the science of light in our pavilion area and view the Illusions exhibit and Nature of Pattern Rubbings in the Bay View Grove (included with admission). Nov. 20-Dec. 19. Event details.

photo: iStock

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Drive-Through

Picture a 1/2 mile drive through the Fairgrounds enjoying spectacular lighted Holiday displays all around you. Giant Christmas trees twinkling with lights – Santa – reindeer – snowmen – lighted tunnels and many more magical moments. Stay in your warm car and drive through this Holiday Experience. Tune your radio to the Holiday Lights station and enjoy the experience. After your magical journey through the Lights stop at the Holiday Food Stands and pick up your favorites for the drive home. Fri.-Sun. Nov. 27-Dec. 20. Event details

Half Moon Bay's Nights of Lights

This month-long celebration will feature beautiful holiday lights, artisan shopping, and weekly festivities. From locally designed jewelry and stylish accessories to home decor and specialty gift items, Main Street in Downtown Half Moon Bay is a shopper’s paradise for finding the perfect gifts. Stroll amongst twinkling lights while taking in the festive holiday décor at a plethora of shops. Event details

Snag Your Tickets for The Magical Christmas Train

The Sacramento River Train becomes the Magical Christmas train, as it chugs along a storybook wonderland. This year, it will include the story of "Skippy the Traindeer", who helps a child in danger of losing his Christmas spirit. The 90 minute journey includes, cookies, hot chocolate, and a distanced visit from Santa. Select dates Nov. 27-Dec. 23. Event details

photo: iStock

Mill Valley Winterfest Holiday Hunt

The festivities kick off Friday, November 27th with the Winterfest Holiday Hunt, a three-week, scavenger hunt-style contest at more than 40 businesses throughout Mill Valley. The contest centers around Silver Stars, which business owners will place in storefront windows or inside their businesses. Kids accompanied by a parent will take photos of silver stars, as selfies in front of the stars they choose, in at least eight participating businesses, including some amazing local restaurants and retail shops. The Holiday Hunt runs through December 18. Event details

photo: San Francisco Recreation and Park Department

Visit "Entwined" in Golden Gate Park

An art installation coming to Golden Gate Park will transform Peacock Meadow into an enchanted forest of otherworldly shapes and ever-changing light. “Entwined,” by San Francisco artist Charles Gadeken, will honor Golden Gate Park’s 150th Anniversary. Dec. 1-Feb. 28. 

More info:

photo: Ruth Ann Groves

Celebrate the Holidays at Filoli

Head to Woodside to check out Filoli Hisitoric House and Gardens all lit up for the holiday season. Take a stroll and enjoy the beauty of the winter garden adorned with lights and colorful decor. Find tranquility among the redwoods on the Estate Trail and soak in the vast views of Filoli at sundown. Cozy up to a fire pit under twinkling lights and sip on hot cider or mulled wine. Filoli is open daily from Nov. 20-Jan 3 with daytime and evening hours. More info:

In December, you can get tickets for Santa Saturdays and take a selfie with the big man himself. Dec. 5, 12 and 19. More info:

photo: San Francisco Symphony

Celebrate the sounds of the season with the SF Symphony

This year the SF Symphony is coming to you in your own home! You can celebrate the sounds of the season with the Symphony broadcast to your TV on two dates. Enjoy all the holiday music that will get you in the spirit. 

Dec. 5, 3:30 p.m. | NBC Bay Area

Dec. 6, 11:30 a.m. | Telemundo 48

More info: 


Check Out Illuminate SF Festival of Lights

Now in its 8th year, this urban lights festival offers 44 eco-friendly displays that are all accessible by public transportation within San Francisco's 49 square miles. Pick a neighborhood to explore and take the free guided tour to learn more about the artists that have brought these installations to life. Nov. 26-Jan. 3.

More info:

photo: Oona Cooperhill

Drive Through Christmas in the Park

Check out all the holiday lights and decked-out trees at this fun event that will be drive-through this year. History Park will host this year's Christmas in the Park and it's not to be missed! Nov. 27-Jan. 3. Event details

photo: San Francisco Ballet/Erik Tomasson

SF Ballet: Nutcracker Online

Watch SF Ballet’s spectacular Nutcracker stream in HD, tour our virtual opera house full of fun activities, send downloadable holiday snaps to your friends and family, enjoy historical highlights of San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, and learn steps from the choreography. You can even check off items on your gift list with a visit to SF Ballet’s online Holiday Shop! Streaming Nov. 27-Dec. 31. Event details

photo: American Conservatory Theater

Listen In to ACT's A Christmas Carol: On Air

For the first time in its 44-year history, American Conservatory Theater’s (A.C.T.) celebrated production of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, will come to life as A Christmas Carol: On Air, an enthralling radio play that the whole family can enjoy from the comfort of their home.

With radio adaptation and direction by Peter J. Kuo—using the original Dickens text and adaptation by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff—this spirited and uplifting tale of reckoning and redemption will feature the delightful music, deliciously spooky ghosts, and cast that have made it a cornerstone of the A.C.T. repertory and a holiday tradition for families all around the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Stream online from Dec. 4-31. Event details

photo: Marianne Hale

Check Out Joy at the SF Zoo

Joy at SF Zoo is a safe, outdoor holiday where families can enjoy Zoo animals in a festive, and socially distant atmosphere. Advance online reservations are required. Play Skipper’s Elf ‘n’ Go Seek – where guests can stroll around the Zoo and spot the various elves (or at least their hats and shoes) hiding around the Zoo.Find charming holiday festooned village houses and enjoy hot cocoa and other delights. Dec. 5-Jan. 3. Event details

photo: Bricoleur Vineyards

Cooking With Santa from Bricoleur Vineyards

Join Bricoleur Vineyards, California’s newest winery and hospitality retreat, for their special “Cooking with Santa!” series. Santa is coming early this year to host a virtual cooking series featuring recipes straight from the North Pole! Gather around with the kids and make delicious Snowmen Pizzas and festive Holiday Cookies. 4:30 p.m. PST on Dec. 13 and 20. Event details

photo: ODC/Dance

The Velveteen Rabbit On Demand

Brimming with wit, festive costumes, madcap characters and the perfect amount of holiday cheer, ODC/Dance, one of America’s most exciting and acclaimed contemporary dance companies, brings a new, interactive, and special digital presentation of The Velveteen Rabbit to you for a limited period of time. Enjoy 3 weeks of unlimited on-demand access for your whole family to the beloved Bay Area holiday tradition. Dec. 10-31. Event details

Fairy Winterland Is Back

For 10 days in December, Fairyland celebrates the winter holidays of many cultures: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali, and Chinese New Year. Join us for stories, crafts, a festival of lights, and visits from Santa! Fairyland members receive free admission to the opening day of Fairy Winterland. Black Santa will be there. Each evening at 6:45 p.m., he’ll lead the physically-distanced Festival of Lights Parade and, at the end, he’ll give out a treat to all the kids. Dec. 18-23 and 26-30. Event details

photo: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

[At] Home for the Holidays with San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

SFGMC rings in the holiday season with [At] Home for the Holidays, featuring fan favorites that have made this concert one of San Francisco Bay Area’s annual signature treats! At this all-virtual concert, guests can expect plenty of upbeat, show-stopping numbers, stunningly beautiful choral pieces, and updated, modern takes on old favorites—all done with SFGMC’s trademark humor and flair. Haul out the holly and don your gay apparel for this not-to-be-missed holiday extravaganza! Dec. 24, 5 p.m. Event details

photo: Dell'Osso Family Farm

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.

When: TBD for 2020

Dell'Osso Family Farm
501 Manthey Road
Lathrop, CA

—Kate Loweth


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