There are a lot of creative ways to celebrate the holiday season! Kids will like walking around after dark spotting illuminated animal shapes at San Francisco Zoo Lights. They can decorate a giant home with sweets and treats at the Free Gingerbread House Party. And they can make their own beeswax candles at Winter Crafts & Fun.

San Francisco

San Francisco Zoo Lights
This glowing winter wonderland will be filled with animal excitement as families walk by luminescent trees and topiaries, and holiday lights in animal shapes. Santa’s reindeer will be there too! Sat., 4:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Sun., 4:30 pm – 8:00 pm.  San Francisco. See website for pricing. All ages. Event details.

Mark Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets
Kids will love this unique version of this classic ballet, with a contemporary twist. Nutcracker Sweets is an affordable, fun and zany rendition of this popular holiday tradition, in a fantastical and dreamlike world. Sat., 11:00 am, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm. Sun., 11:00 am & 2:00 pm. San Francisco. $25 per person at the door. All ages. Event details.

East Bay

Free Gingerbread House Party
Families can decorate a giant gingerbread house with tons of treats, including candies, cookies and sprinkles. After the event, the completed house will be donated to a local family shelter. Sat, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. Berkeley. Free. Ages 6 & under. Event details.

Oakland Ballet’s The Nutcracker
This version of the classic ballet is set in early 20th century Vienna, with plenty of dancing, color and playfulness. Kids will be wide awake while watching dancers tell the story of the dreamy adventures of a young girl’s visit to the Kingdom of Sweets. Sat., 2:00 pm. Sun., 2:00 pm. Mon., 11:00 am. Oakland. $20-$59 per person. All ages. Event details.


Winter Fest!
Kids will enjoy taking photos with Santa, creating arts and crafts, getting their faces painted and jumping in the bounce house! Everyone will like the live music and holiday treats! Fri., 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm. San Rafael. $10 per child in advance. $12 per child at the door. Adults, free. Ages 12 & under. Event details.

Create Orange Pomanders
Kids can create all-natural festive and fragrant room fresheners from an orange and some cloves! All materials will be provided to create these beautiful and useful gifts! Sat., 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Novato. Free. Ages 4 & up. Event details.


Bethlehem A.D.
Families can wander through this recreation of the ancient village of Bethlehem on the night of the first Christmas. Everyone can interact with Roman soldiers, Wise Men, townspeople and even camels! Fri., 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm. Sat., 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm. Sun., 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm. Redwood City. Free. All ages. Event details.

Winter Crafts & Fun
Kids can join in this festive afternoon and learn all about the Winter Solstice through stories, games, music and crafts. Kids will make a beeswax candle, a Hopi “snake chaser” and an Icelandic troll charm. Sat., 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Los Altos Hills. $10 per child. 2 & under, free. Ages 4 & up. Event details.

What will your family be doing to get ready for the upcoming holidays? Are there any traditions that are a prerequisite for the holidays this week?

— Rachel Teichman

photo courtesy of Habitot Children’s Museum