Snow you say? Even in December in the Bay Area snow is not the norm but this weekend you can go sledding in Downtown Mill Valley, have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head in San Jose, take a horse-drawn carriage ride in Downtown San Leandro and do some Elf Hunting in the Marina. Welcome, December, Bay Area style.

mill valley winterfestphoto: Kirke Wench courtesy Mill Valley Winterfest 

San Francisco

Zoo Lights at the SF Zoo
Kick off the inaugural weekend of Zoo Lights. Visit 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 and roam the grounds with live entertainment and costumed characters. And don’t forget your winter coat because there will be snow! Fri., Sat. & Sun., 5-8 p.m. Outer Sunset. $8/adult; $6/child 4-14; children 3 and under are free; $5/parking. All ages. Event details

Presidio Tree Lighting Ceremony
The Presidio will be merrier and brighter after tonight’s tree lighting, which will be followed by holiday crafting and refreshments at the YMCA gym. Don’t miss the 20-minute lantern-lit evening forest walk, starting at 6:15 p.m.  Food will be for sale, and be sure and warm up those vocal chords with some hot chocolate so you can join the Golden Gate Carolers with some holiday tunes. Fri., 5:30-8:30 p.m. Presidio. Free. All ages. Event details

SF Symphony’s Music for Families 
Meet the four instrument families of the orchestra—the strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion—and get the inside story on how buzzing, blowing, plucking and thwacking can create incredible music.  Demos from the Exploratorium will help examine how different instruments of the orchestra make their unique sounds. Sat., 2 p.m. Civic Center. $15-$64. All ages. Event details

Italian Christmas Market
Experience the tradition of the famous Northern Italian Christmas markets on the shore of the SF Bay. Check out handmade goods like Italian jewelry and crafts; purchase fine Italian foods, and an array of Italian language children’s books. Sat, Dec.5, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 6, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Fort Mason. Free. All ages. Event details

Union Street Festival of Lights
Thousands of holiday lights set off the Victorians along Union Street making the perfect magical backdrop for Santa and his team of elves. Celebrate the holidays with an Elf Hunt, jugglers, live ponies dressed as reindeer, face painting, costumed characters, live entertainment, and horse drawn carriage rides! Decorate a cupcake from 3-5:30 p.m., Santa will be there from 5:30-7 p.m. Bring toys to donate to the SF Firefighter’s Toy Program. Sat., 3-7 p.m. Marina. Free. All ages. Event details

East Bay

It’s a Wonderful Night
Head to downtown San Leandro for a tree lighting ceremony and holiday affair with live music, entertainment, horse-drawn carriage rides, make-and-take arts & crafts for kids including cookie decorating, an outdoor holiday movie screening and more. The tree lighting is at 5:30 p.m. is at Estudillo Plaza, where kids can also stop and visit with Santa Claus. The festivities will extend along Juana St. from Joaquin Plaza to Estudillo Plaza. All attendees are encouraged to bring a new unwrapped toy to the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots collection. Every toy donated gets a free bag of popcorn! Fri., 5:30-9 p.m. Downtown San Leandro. Free. All ages. Event details.  

El Sobrante Art Guild Winter Arts & Crafts Fair
This weekend marks the opening of this local fair that helps fund art classes at West Contra Costa Schools. Do some holiday shopping and feel extra-good about it, as you browse an array of handmade holiday gifts, decorations and more. Fri., Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Richmond. Free. All ages. Event details

Will It Float? at the Hayward Shoreline
What floats in fresh water? Will it float in salt water too? Experiment with different floats and make some boats to set loose on the outgoing tide. Sat., 11 a.m.-noon. Hayward. $7/child. 3-5 (with parents). Event details

Alameda Antiques Fair
Jumpstart your holiday shopping with a treasure hunt! Commonly know as the Alameda Flea Market, the Alameda Point Antiques Fair is the largest of its kind in No. Cal. Join hundreds of other treasure seekers to the island to browse over 800 antique dealer booths. See what baubles or collectibles you’ll score for some seriously unique gifts this year. Sun., 6 a.m.–3 p.m. Alameda. $5/adult; children 15 and under are free. All ages. Event details


Holidays at Filoli
Filoli’s nine day holiday event ends this this weekend, so get on down there to see the fancy-pants decorations at this gorgeous estate. Buffet lunches and evening bistro dining are available at select times during the weekend with advance reservations. *Note: children’s party is sold out. Fri. & Sat., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Woodside. Prices vary. All ages. Event details

Half Moon Bay’s Night of Lights 
Enjoy the charm of historic Half Moon Bay’s Main Street with a tree lighting at 6 p.m. followed by the annual Parade of Lights (7 p.m.) featuring hundreds of children adorned in twinkling lights. Stroll the streets after listening to Christmas carols while enjoying roasted chestnuts and eggnog. Fri., 6-9 p.m. Downtown Half Moon Bay. Free. All ages. Event details

Sumo Wrestling, Robotic Style Workshop
Yes, you read that right. Kids will love learning how to program and maneuver a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robot in this fun workshop that culminates in a robotic sumo match (which parents and siblings are invited to attend). Sat., 9-11 a.m. Belmont. $50. 8-18. Event details.

Secrets of the Pescadero Marsh 
Discover the secrets of this 243-acre reserve, with guided walks led by State Park docents. The marsh is home to more than 200 species of birds, as well as plants and other animals like foxes, raccoons, and deer. The walk is two-hours, so wear good walking shoes, pack snacks and water, and don’t forget your binoculars! Meet at the Pescadero State Beach Parking Lot. Sun., 10 a.m. Pescadero. Free. All ages. Event details

South Bay

The Nutcracker
The San Jose Dance Theatre celebrates its 50th production of The Nutcracker! Featuring a live orchestra, the kids will be enchanted by the Sugar Plum Fairy and all the characters as they dance across the stage. Fri., 7:30 p.m., Sat., 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. and Sun., 1 p.m. San Jose. $28-$60. All ages. Event details

Marin County

Winter Market (and Circus) at the Mart
Visit the Marin Country Mart for a festive shopping experience including mulled wine and spiced cider, holiday treats, Christmas music, glass-blowing demos, ornaments and wreaths and lots of pop-up shops. And as an added bonus, on Dec. 5  Le Petit Cirque de Noel, featuring “Rue des Roses” will perform. Sat., 5-8 p.m. Larkspur. Market is free. Circus is $20/adult; $10/child. All ages. Event details.

Pixie Park Bake Sale with Santa
Pixie Park’s annual Holiday Bake Sale offers delicious and beautifully presented homemade goodies for sale. Purchase some festively wrapped treats as gifts and a few to enjoy at home. Cookies, cakes, brownies, and even gingerbread houses will be on sale. And where there’s cookies, there’s Santa: kids can visit and get their photos taken with Santa as well and do some holiday cookie decorating themselves. Sat., 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Ross. Free. All ages. Event details

Santa at Nick’s Cove
Santa Claus arrives at Nick’s Cove by way of his trusty water sleigh (i.e. boat). He’ll set up shop in the Boat Shack with hot chocolate, treats and a free professional photographer so children and adults alike can pose for a photo with Santa overlooking Tomales Bay. Every guest who brings a donation of canned food for the Marin Food Bank will receive 15% off any food or beverage purchase at Nick’s Cove throughout the day. Santa arrives at 3 p.m. and departs at 5 p.m., the restaurant is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun., 3-5 p.m. Marshall. Free. All ages. Event details

Mill Valley Winterfest
Winter has arrived! Enjoy snow, sledding, Santa, a craft fair and live music. Plus the famous snow slide, games, and the the tree lighting ceremony. The event is free, but there is a suggested donation of $2/run on the snow slide, or 3 runs for $5. And there’s even a Ukulele Jubilee, because this is winter fun, Cali-style. Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mill Valley. Free. All ages. Event details

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—Amber Guetebier