‘Tis the season for hot cocoa, festive gatherings . . . and theme parks? Believe it or not, taking the family to an amusement park is the perfect way to kick off the holidays. Theme parks around the Bay Area (and beyond) have hauled out the holly and filled up the stockings to bring families the coolest holiday celebrations around. Their special holiday decorations, attractions, and entertainment are sure to warm the coldest grinchy heart. Flip through to see all the holiday happenings at theme parks from Marin to SoCal.

Children’s Fairyland

Get merry at Fairy Winterland! For twelve magical days, Children's Fairyland in Oakland is transformed into a multicultural winter wonderland. With its small size and gentle rides, this Bay Area institution is perfect for very young children. There's no better place to start a family holiday tradition!

Sights of the season

Holiday lights adorn Fairyland's famous storybook sets, featuring scenes from beloved fairy tales. In addition, special holiday displays will feature Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali and Chinese New Year. Insider tip: Stay after sunset, if you can. That's when the fairy lights turn on! Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep once they see Fairy Winterland glow with thousands of twinkling lights.

Holiday entertainment

Holiday entertainment is varied and plentiful. Live performers celebrate a multitude of holiday traditions, including Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali and Chinese New Year. Whimsical characters roam the park, spreading holiday cheer. Other performers tell stories, stage magic shows, sing and dance. Watch out for the tap dancing Christmas trees! Holiday puppet shows alternate among The Snow Queen, The Nutcracker and A Time To Be Jolly. Between 5 and 6 p.m., Santa Claus drops by to collect holiday wish lists and pose for photos. Each of Santa's little visitors receives a free holiday treat! At 6:15 p.m., Santa closes up shop in order to lead guests through the park in the Festival of Lights Parade.

Fairy Winterland runs Dec. 15-23. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. each day.

Children's Fairyland
699 Bellevue Avenue
Oakland, CA
Online: fairyland.org

photo: Children's Fairyland

Do you plan to visit an amusement park this holiday season? Which one? Tell us about your experience in a comment!

—Ana Picazo