Gifts, who needs them? The best kind of present is living in the Bay Area where fun is a plenty year-round but especially festive this time of year. See reindeer, stay up late for sparkly zoo lights, giant gingerbread homes and more. This time of year is pretty sweet so bundle up make the most of these weekend must-dos.

Photo: Momsla


San Francisco

It’s the Season for Science!
It’s snowing at the California Academy of Sciences. Explore the holidays through the lens of science, whether the interactive reindeer UV vision, learn why African penguins special bods are designed to live in their rocky, ocean home, they’ll be slow flurries and wild winter trivia, too. For an extra $12, add a magical hour on the new seasonal ice rink outside. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

Visit the Biggest Baddest Gingerbread House
Are you ready for a tasty holiday outing? The Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread house tradition has grown to new heights this year, with a whopping two-story gingerbread Victorian in the hotel’s Grand Lobby. The house, designed by the hotel’s culinary team, is made up of 1,650 pounds of candy, 3,300 pounds of royal icing and thousands of gingerbread bricks for a 25 feet high by 35 feet wide treat to the eyes. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

Make It Merry and Bright at SF Zoo Lights
ead to the zoo at night and experience the magical holiday lights, romp in the playground, and drink hot cocoa while you visit with Santa and his reindeer. Hop onboard the Little Puffer Steam Train ($5/person) and see the dazzling display, do a little holiday shopping and roam the grounds with live entertainment and costumed characters. Different activities are scheduled for each night. And don’t forget your winter coat because, who know, there could very well be snow! Sat.-Sun. Event details.

East Bay

This Festival is Very, Very Merry
Join Children’s Fairyland for its magical winter festival!. Families will enjoy live performances celebrating holidays from many cultures, appearances by Santa Claus, special decorations and thousands of twinkling lights, rides, puppet shows, arts and crafts, free holiday treats, cider and hot cocoa, and more surprises. Sat.-Sun. Event details.

Celebrate Winter Weeks at Lawrence Hall of Science
The Hall’s annual Winter Weeks celebration is back. Celebrate the holiday season with two weeks of scientific exploration at UC Berkeley’s Public Science Center. Enjoy exhibits, activities, and labs like the Animal Discovery Room, Ingenuity Lab, and Planetarium every day during Winter Weeks. During your visit, experience everything that is new at the Hall, including two new films in the National Geographic 3D Theater, and three special screenings of The Polar Express. Sat.-Sun. Event details.

South Bay

Drive Through This Fantasy of Lights
Rev up the engine and head to Vassona Lake County Park for Fantasy of Lights. This 1-1/2 mile drive-thru festival is full of bright holiday lights and displays sure to delight every little member of the family. Lights and sounds include a volcano erupting, Santa shooting hooting hoops and watching pirates shoot off cannons. Dec. 5-30, except on Christmas Day. Fri.-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). Departure times vary. Sat.-Sun. Event details.


Barn Dance and Work Day at Pie Ranch
Give back and live it up at Pie Ranch in Pescadero! Grab your work gloves, gardening tools if you have them, and sturdy shoes and work on the farm tilling soil, pulling weeds, and cutting plants (at noon.). At 3 p.m. you can join a farm tour ($12-$20/person) to learn about the agriculture of the 27-acre ranch. Visit with cows, goats, chickens, and pigs, too. Then at 5 p.m. trade your work boots for dancing shoes! Bring a dish to share at the potluck dinner and and kick up your heels at the barn dance that follows featuring the Country Line Pickers. Sat. Event details.

Get Crafty at this Winter Solstice Celebration
Learn about Solstice through stories, game, music and crafts at Hidden Villa Farm. Kids can make a beeswax candle, contribute to a wish chain and help decorate the oak tree. Kids will learn how people celebrate the longest night and the warm promise of spring ahead. Sat. Event details.

North Bay

Make a Natural Wreath in Nature
Join rangers at McNears Beach Park for a festive day of crafting and merriment. You’ll sip hot cocoa to holiday tunes while you craft a holiday wreath. All of the makings will be provided from fresh greens to pinecones and more. You can also bring your own items to decorate your wreath, too. Sat. Event details.

Hang With Santa at Marin Country Mart
Meet Santa Claus at the Mart each Saturday in December before Christmas! Be sure to bring your list to ask Santa for the present you want – and put your best smile on for the complimentary photo. Sat. Event details.

What are you up to this weekend? Tell us in the comments below!

–Chantal Lamers