There’s nothing like a holiday light display to bring the twinkle to a child’s eyes (and boy do we need that for 2020)! Add a cup of hot cocoa and you’ve created a holiday tradition that they’ll never forget. Check out our favorite spots to see holiday lights in the Bay Area and check them off your holiday list!

San Francisco

photo: HYBYCOZO

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: redtri.com

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. 10-Feb. 28. 

More info: redtri.com

Tom & Jerry’s Christmas Display

Editor's Note: With the passing of Tom Taylor, a fixture in the SF LGBTQ community, the status of this iconic display is TBD for 2020. Check their FB page for current info. 

You need to see it to believe it: a 65-foot tree in front of a Noe Valley Victorian, covered in lights and ginormous ornaments. Owner's Tom and Jerome (Jerry) have been delighting visitors with their big, bold and bright display for more than twenty years now. Santa makes a nightly appearance for the kiddos December 1 through Christmas Eve, 6:30–9:30 p.m.

3650 21st St.
Noe Valley, San Francisco
When: Dec. 1-Jan. 1
Cost: Free
Online: Tom and Jerry Christmas Tree

Other Houses & Streets in San Francisco to Visit

68 Castro Street (shown above)

Rainbow Christmas tree at 18th & Castro in the Castro District

1960 10th Avenue

1929 7th Avenue

363 Wawona Street

515 Crestlake Drive

488 Gallert Drive

 

East Bay

photo: Ruth Bancroft Garden

Garden of D'Lights

Experience the Ruth Bancroft Garden in a whole new way at this year’s Garden of d’Lights. With more lights and more lasers, this year’s Garden of d’Lights is set to be better than ever. Guests of all ages are in for a holiday treat as they meander through the Garden’s 3.5 acres of mature cacti, succulents and trees that are transformed into magical colorful botanical sculptures by thousands of lights. Fri.-Sun. Nov. 20-Dec. 20. 

More info: redtri.com

Temple Hill - Oakland

Come and enjoy a wonderful night of peace and Christmas enchantment at Temple Hill. The Oakland Temple Christmas Lights will shine every evening from dusk to 9:15 p.m., Nov. 27-Dec. 31, 2020. This activity practices social distancing, and we invite all families and individuals to come to witness the wonder of Christmas.

4766 Lincoln Ave.
Oakland, CA
Online: templehill.org/christmas

Christmas Tree Lane - Alameda

The Christmas spirit comes to life on this lively, lit-up block in Alameda that has the whole package: beautiful lights, friendly neighbors and people strolling galore—and it's been going on since 1938! Decades later, the street is now known as Christmas Tree Lane and draws people from all over the Bay Area with its extravagant light displays and loads of holiday spirit. Things will be a little different for 2020, but the Christmas spirit remains! Dec. 1-31. 

More info: redtri.com

Crippsmas Place - Fremont

The 80+ homes of Crippsmas Place are on Cripps Place, Asquith Place, Nicolet Court, Wellington Place, Perkins Street, and the stretch of Nicolet Avenue between Gibraltar Drive and Perkins Street in Fremont. They are open for 2020 from Dec. 12-25, 6-10 p.m. and will be drive through only. 

Online: crippsmasplace.org

photo: Mountain View Cemetery

Holiday Circle of Lights

Editor's Note: Details for 2020 have not yet been released. Check back for updates. 

Don't let the fact this display is in a cemetery spook you, though it will take your breath away in a good way! Thousands of lights adorn the main buildings at Mountain View Cemetery. This year's show also includes a train full of toys, giant nutcracker and a beautiful arch of lights. 

More info: mountainviewcemetery.org

Other Houses & Streets in the East Bay to Visit

These houses are known for their amazing decorations so be sure to check them out!

Livermore:
467 Knottingham Circle

Brentwood: 
Tunnels of Joy—La Costa Drive and nearby houses are all decked out this year. This display is a fundraiser for a child with cancer. More info

Newark: 
6716 Fontaine Ave. 

Hercules: 
145 Onxy Court

Suisun City: 
VnA's Gingy House, 340 Shoveller Drive, @vnasgingyhouse

Concord: 
219 Rock Oak Rd.

Union City:
32247 Valiant Way

Fairfiled: 
Disney-inspired musical house: 2132 Calder Place

Peninsula/South Bay

photo: istock

Holiday Lights Drive-Through at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds

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. Weekends through Dec. 27. Event details

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: Kate Loweth

Fantasy of Lights Drive-Thru

Buy your ticket in advance (required) and enjoy your slow cruise through 1.5 miles of lights. Dinosaurs, pirate ships and all sorts of animals join Santa and his crew in the many light displays. Dec. 4-30 (except Dec. 25), 6-10 p.m. 

More info: redtri.com

photo: Ruth Ann Groves

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: redtri.com

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: redtri.com

Emerald Hills Golfland—San Jose

If you are looking for an activity to go with your holiday lights this year, we love this option. Emerald Hills Golfland is all decked out in Christmas lights and running Christmas music. You book a time online in advance to keep groups separated for everyone's safety. There are two courses available and we personally like the course that's closer to Blossom Hill Rd. as you can hear the music better. 

976 Blossom Hill Rd.
San Jose, CA
Online
: golfland.com/sanjose

Mattos Orchard Lights - San Jose

Mattos Orchard Lights span over 30,000 Square feet of apricot trees. The display includes over 90,000 LED lights, which includes a 20-foot mega tree with a full light show, over 100 blow molds, and 9 inflatables. Lights are on from 5-10 p.m. through Jan. 1.

1545 Stone Creek Dr
San Jose, CA
Online: facebook.com

photo: iStock

4454 Moran Dr. - San Jose

You'll love this San Jose house that has over 1,000 RGB lights that are all programmed by computer and synchronized to music. This year there are three songs. 

4454 Moran Dr. 
San Jose, CA

Dave's Christmas House Benefiting Make-a-Wish

For many years this Willow Glen house has been decked out in thousands of lights, all in the name of sick children. Swing by to visit and leave a donation to support the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The San Jose neighborhood of Willow Glen is well known for its lights displays and Christmas trees in the front yard so make a night of it and drive around with a cup of cocoa. 

1851 Cherry Ave.
San Jose, CA
Dates: Dec. 1-25, 6 p.m.
Cost: Free
Onlinefacebook.com

Christmas Tree Lane - Palo Alto

Christmas Tree Lane (or Fulton Street in the off-season) has been putting visitors in the Christmas spirit with their holiday lights display since the 1940s. This year they celebrate their 80th year! For the two weeks leading up to Christmas you can drive or walk through this display to see carolers, vintage lawn displays and lights, lights and more lights.

Fulton Street between Embarcadero Ave. and Seale Rd.
Palo Alto, CA
Dates: Dec. 12-31. 5-11 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: redtri.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Lamore Drive in San Jose

We love this house for the epic amount of lights in its display (they even extend over the street!) and also the two different light shows that happen every 15 minutes. Don't miss the penguins playing hockey with candy canes!

1419 Lamore Dr. in San Jose
More info: californiachristmaslights.com

Other Houses & Streets in the South Bay/Peninsula to Visit

San Carlos: 
1900 Eucalyptus Ave.

San Jose: 
Santana Row

Santa Clara:
Cathedral of Faith—They have a live show on weekends from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 1-27 except on Christmas. More info

Campbell: 
750 Harriet Ave. Tune your car radio to 92.9 for the music to go along with the show. More info.

Los Altos: 
Estate Drive at Grant Road

Marin

Holidays in Sausalito

It is a thinly-veiled secret that the best time to visit Sausalito is during the holiday season. Anchored by the famed Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade & Fireworks (canceled for 2020), Sausalito is also the perfect venue from which to view the Lighted City Skyline and the Bay Lights installation on the Bay Bridge which is easier to see in the winter courtesy of earlier nightfall.

Marinwood’s Mickey Mouse Christmas House

Editor's note: This display is on a much smaller scale for 2020. 

When you take the most wonderful time of the year and combine it with the happiest place on Earth, you get this: The Mickey Mouse Christmas House. The Mize family started collecting Disney memorabilia in the 70's and since then their collection has grown and grown. More than 10,000 visitors stop by their San Rafael home to gaze at the brilliant lights, beautiful decorations and unique displays.

417 Blackstone Dr.
San Rafael, CA
When: Nov. 27-Dec. 25
Cost: Free
OnlineMickey Mouse House

Rombeiro House

Not only is this house decorated to the nines on the outside, but they also welcome visitors inside to see all the rooms decked out in different Christmas themes—trains, angels, candy canes and more. How many Santas can you spot? You may even get to see Santa and Mrs. Claus at the end of your tour! 

34 Devonshire Dr.
Novato, CA
When: 6-10 p.m. daily, Dec. 1-Jan. 3
Cost: Free
OnlineRombeiro Christmas House

Tam Valley MegaTree

This tree performs a lovely musical show every night and is a great spot to visit this holiday season. A 30-foot tree of lights with over 3000 individually controlled LED lights, synchronized to your favorite holiday music. Operating daily from 5-10 p.m. through New Years Day.

340 Jean St.
Mill Valley, CA
Online: facebook.com

—Kate Loweth, Melissa Bouse, Mae Respicio & Erin Feher

 

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