The holiday season is upon us, and Northern California is filled with a plethora of family-friendly activities. Whether you’re soaring with Santa above San Francisco in the world’s largest airship, waving at surfing Santa from the shores of Capitola, or meandering through the historic Christmas Villages of Nevada City, Northern California offers something for everyone. Here are our favorite Yuletide events for NorCal families.
Ride the Rails with Santa
Northern California Christmas trains are popular events that sell out quick. During the months of November and December, numerous train companies offer young guests the opportunity to meet Santa in vintage passenger cars decked with dazzling lights and holiday swag. Napa Valley Wine Train’s Santa Trains, pictured above, combines the best of worlds, a mother’s love of wine and a child’s love of Santa. The Polar Express in Sacramento (should you be lucky enough to have already secured tickets for the often sold-out event) gives out the “first gift of Christmas” — a sleigh bell — to each passenger. On the return trip, all join in and sing Christmas carols when pulling into the station at the California State Railroad Museum. Sacramento & Sierra Christmas Trains carry not just Santa, but elves, storytellers, musicians, hot cocoa, and cookies. The Niles Canyon Railway Train of Lights features 15 train cars draped in holiday lights. The Christmas Train to Willits is a 90 minute merry treat for pajama clad passengers. Roaring Camp Railroads offers the children of Santa Cruz not just one, but two holiday trains departing directly from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk: Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train and Chanukah Train.
Explore where to catch the Polar Express.
Recapture the Spirit of Christmas Past
Evoke the spirit of Christmas past amidst the delightful backdrop of historic downtown Grass Valley during their yearly Cornish Christmas Celebration. Mill and West Main Streets are blocked to traffic and packed with the resonances of an old-fashioned Christmas while the Grass Valley Cornish Carol Choir croons Christmas carols on the steps of the historic Union Building. Delight your senses with the aromas of your favorite foods while you stroll down the bustling historic streets of Downtown Grass Valley. Listen to musicians play Christmas music as shops bathed in Christmas lights twinkle in the night air. In Nevada City, at the Victorian Christmas, you’ll see kids and adults dressed in period costumes and Santa Claus. Delicious food and drink can be purchased from a number of specialty food vendors.
On two special Saturday’s in Sacramento, attend Christmas Memories at the Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park to delight in elaborate festive decor, live holiday music, family activities, and docent storytellers in period attire sharing holiday-related stories of past governors and their families. To add to the festive activities, Santa and Mrs. Claus will make special visits to the Mansion to meet your little ones and be available for holiday photographs.
In Paso Robles, Vine Street Victorian Showcase features Ebenezer Scrooge, the Snow Queen, and Mr. & Mrs. Claus. Bring the kids to Vine Street for the festive sounds of caroling, illuminated floats, entertainers, live music, cotton candy, and free cookies and hot chocolate!
On special days in December, Fairytale Town in Sacramento is decorated with festive trimmings and lit up with dazzling lights, starting at dusk. This holiday event features hands-on craft activities and holiday vendors. Two of Santa’s reindeer will visit in December, and children can visit with Santa in his workshop. December 24 is free admission day!
Through Jan. 8, 2017, Sacramento’s Global Winter Wonderland is a multi-cultural celebration at Cal Expo will feature illuminated landscapes, ice-skating, thrill rides, international cuisine and a photo op with Santa.
In nearby Old Sacramento, celebrate the annual Theatre of Lights performance with state-of-the-art sound and lighting technology on Wednesdays, and Thursdays through Sundays at 6:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Special performances on Christmas Eve at 6:15 p.m. and New Year’s Eve at 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
In Oakland, Children’s Fairyland celebrates the winter holidays for 11 exciting days with a salute to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali, and Chinese New Year! Enjoy crafts, a festival of lights, and a visit from Santa in December.
Visit Oakland Zoo for their annual holiday event, ZooLights. Dazzling LED lights light up the Zoo and night sky to celebrate the holiday season. This year’s festive display features a merry music-themed light show illuminating the Zoo’s African Veldt.
In Alameda, South Shore Center’s Little Ice Rink is open every day until 10:00 p.m., through mid-January. Panera Bread will be serving treats and hot chocolate. Families can meet Santa and have pictures taken at The Santa House, that is to say, when he’s not busy ice skating.
In Copperopolis, the community will light its Holiday Tree, traditionally a 40-foot fir with more than 1,000 lights, in Town Square in November. Festivities will include music, an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus, and carriage rides.
Take a snow day in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto! Bring your boots and mittens to play in the snow that will be gently falling on Shattuck Avenue between Rose and Vine Streets in Berkeley. Visit with the Snow Queen who will listen to all of your holiday wishes, ride the decorated live ponies, make holiday crafts, warm up with hot cider, and find one-of-a-kind holiday gifts from local craft vendors. This is a free event for children of all ages. The Gourmet Ghetto is just 6 blocks north of the Downtown Berkeley BART station and has festive lights in over 50 trees.
Also in Berkeley, The Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley makes the last day of the year one to remember at their New Year’s Eve Day Party! Count down in the Science on a Sphere exhibit while observing what happens as the clock strikes midnight in different time zones around the world. No need to worry about forcing the kids to stay up until midnight — at 2:00 p.m. cheer with fellow families as hundreds of balloons mark the celebration of the New Year. December 31, 12:00–2:00 p.m.
In Windsor, stroll through Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Grove, a joyful and inspiring grove of decorative Charlie Brown Christmas Trees on Windsor Town Green. Snow falls each evening at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p..m., the end of November through early January.
In Big Trees State Park, take a horse drawn carriage ride through the giant sequoias and warm up with hot cocoa, hot apple cider and cookies, hot dogs and chili plus many more surprises!
Be sure to check Trekaroo’s lists for Fun Holiday Activities for Kids in Sacramento, CA.
Break for the Slopes
Magical Memories at Resort at Squaw Creek
Thanksgiving weekend brings the much-anticipated start to Resort at Squaw Creek‘s Magical Memories holiday celebration. The event begins with the Gingerbread Village Unveiling and Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony. Magical Memories include a turkey hunt, snow fort building contest, caroling, ice rink games, winter wonderland stories with Mrs. Claus, elf tuck-ins, family movies, breakfast with Santa, or Hanukkah menorah lighting.
The Village at Squaw Valley will transform into Olde World Christmas through Dec. 17 to 31st, complete with frosted vignette windows, horse drawn sleigh rides, storytelling with Santa, and farm-to-table dinners with Olympians and legends. They’ll also have an ice garden, train rides, orchestra performances and Grinch look-alike contests.
Northern Lights at Northstar California
Experience the two-day Northern Lights Festival, during which kids and families take part in a day and evening of illuminated merriment with a torch light procession and snow cat light parade, glow-in-the-dark face painting, balloon twisting and games along with DJ’s and live music on the Village Stage. Finish the evening with spectacular fireworks!
Celebrate nearly two weeks of Christmas at Heavenly Holidays. This elaborate 13-day family-friendly festival at the Heavenly Village features professional ice skating shows, ice sculptors, and carolers. Santa’s Workshop will be recreated inside of a 16-foot interactive snow globe where families can get their photos taken with Santa! Festivities conclude on December 31 with A Heavenly New Year’s Celebration featuring a 9 p.m. ball drop and fireworks show!
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe
Enjoy a Gingerbread Workshop under the expert teachings of a Ritz-Carlton pastry chef, guests are invited to experience the wonder of creating a personalized gingerbread house decorated with all the trimmings. Holiday beverages included. Advance reservations are required. $125 per family.
Café Chocolat served daily on select dates. Families can sip a variety of house-made chocolate sweets, confections, and fondue treats throughout the holiday season. A hot chocolate bar complete with freshly-made marshmallows will also be served. Prices are à la carte.
Holiday Dinner on Wednesday, December 24 and Thursday, December 25 – 4 to 10 p.m. Enjoy a holiday meal with family in the resort’s signature restaurant, Manzanita. A unique menu developed by Chef de Cuisine Jeremy Grossman will include holiday-inspired dishes. Advance reservations are required.
Holiday Buffet served Thursday, December 25 – 2 to 7 p.m. A traditional holiday feast featuring a grand buffet of winter favorites for the whole family, seatings take place throughout the afternoon and early evening in The Ritz-Carlton Ballroom. Advance reservations are required. $95 adults, $35 kids (ages 4 to 10).
Family Movie Night occurs daily on select December days. This event created a reason for guests to leave their luxurious suites. Families are invited to get comfortable in The Pines Ballroom during complimentary screenings of family favorites on the big screen.
Kids’ Crafts & Creations offered daily. From creating picture frames to designing cookies and making holiday sock monkey dolls, each day offers a new activity to stir creative juices at the Kids Crafts & Creations Workshop. These free projects are an amenity of the resort’s Ritz Kids program, which provides year-round entertainment specially designed for children.
New Year’s Eve Family Buffet begins with dinner in The Ballroom where sumptuous delights get the New Year started. Afterwards, visitors can visit the Village at Northstar for live music, ice skating and a fireworks show at 9 p.m. Advance reservations required. $95 adults, $35 kids (ages 4 to 10).
Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe
Sierra Café Thanksgiving Buffet from 2 p.m. – 9 p.m. Enjoy casual all day dining at the breakfast buffet, a la carte lunch, and Thanksgiving dinner buffet. Dinner features a classic carving station and a large selection of entrees with all the fixings and a West Coast Cheese Bar. For dessert, Chef Guido Landolt offers a selection of desserts such as pies and cakes. Advance reservations are recommended 775-832-1234.
Thanksgiving Weekend Activities are scheduled. Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe hosts a series of merry games and activities for every member of the family, such as scavenger hunts, pine cone decorating, horseshoes, and ping pong tournaments. Each night, the hotel will also offer “Tahoe Cinema,” a family-friendly movie on the silver screen.
Christmas Buffet at Sierra Café on December 25 at 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. Yuletide feasts are offered throughout the day. Dinner highlights include fennel and apple martini with Dungeness crab and shrimp cocktail with lemon and cocktail sauce; two carving stations with glazed bone-ham and slow roasted prime rib beef. Advance reservations are recommended 775-832-1234.
A giant cottage-inspired Gingerbread House will take over the lobby of Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe for the holiday season. This 8’ x 11’ display will be created with over 360 pounds of homemade gingerbread dough, creating 91 square feet of gingerbread brick walls and over 78 square feet of gingerbread roof shingles. The Chef used over 120 pounds of icing to frost the delicious masterpiece, in addition to homemade candy decorations, candy canes, red and green gum drops, and Boston Baked Beans.
Granlibakken Conference Center & Lodge offers a hearty Thanksgiving feast that celebrates family and friends around the dinner table. Join the group celebration for $40 ($20 for children 12 years and younger). Before dinner, work up an appetite outdoors at Granlibakken’s Treetop Adventure Park. Set 30 feet off the ground, the ropes course and zip line will be open Thanksgiving week (weather permitting) and throughout the winter season.
Camp Richardson Historic Resort and Marina is an all season resort with lodging in cabins and hotel rooms. The Beacon Bar and Grill, situated on the scenic shore of Lake Tahoe, is offering special menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
In December, the annual Trek to the Nation’s Christmas Tree (the General Grant Tree), is a tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces who have sacrificed their lives for their country. A memorial wreath placed is placed at the base, and an NPS representative will speak on the tree’s role as a national shrine. Attendees can park at the Grant Tree Trail entrance lot, take a free shuttle from the Kings Canyon Visitors Center, or a paid shuttle from the Sanger Chamber of Commerce offices. In addition, Kings Canyon Park admission is free from 2 to 4 p.m. on the day of the event.
Tenaya Lodge and Yosemite National Park
This is not your ordinary competition! Hundreds of families gather at Tenaya Lodge in November for a gingerbread decorating contest and go through 1,000 pounds of candy to duke it out for the top house in 5 categories—Traditional, Wackiest, Kids Only, Outside Influence (i.e., bringing in their own lights and décor), and Most Creative. This is a really fun spectacle, even if you’re not competing. Additional holiday activities include a kids dinner with Santa.
El Dorado County
Historic Holiday Houses
Dec 10 -11, from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Thirteen of the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park buildings that are normally closed will be open and decorated for the holidays. Docents will be at each house to tell the history of the building, and refreshments will be served at certain houses to get you in the holiday mood! Wristbands to visit the houses will be sold for $5.00 per person (5 and under is free). Enjoy wreath making, wagon rides, music, and of course Santa. There is a parking/park day use fee of $8.00 per car. For more information please call (530) 622-3470.
Free Stagecoach Rides
Dec 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Davy “Doc” Wiser and his crew will be providing FREE stagecoach rides in good weather. If you’ve never taken a ride in a real stagecoach, this is a treat for the whole family! Holiday entertainment is featured at the Bell Tower on weekends in December, in good weather too.
Every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., The El Dorado Western Railroad, a living history program of the El Dorado County Historical Museum, offers rides on restored Fairmont track inspection cars, weather permitting, with the last ride departing at 2:30 p.m. Rides depart on the 1st and 3rd Sundays from the El Dorado Station, located on Oriental Street in El Dorado. Rides depart on the 2nd and 4th Sundays from the Shingle Springs Depot, located at 4241 Mother Lode Dr. Call (530) 409-8473 for departure times. The rides are round trip, take about 30-40 minutes, and a donation of $7 per person is requested (ages 9 and up) and a $3 donation for ages 3 – 8.
A Christmas Story a Musical
Based on the classic 1983 movie, A Christmas Story, this musical captures holiday wonder with funny and heartfelt songs, show stopping dancing, delicious wit and a heart of gold. After triumphant sold-out seasons on Broadway this hilarious show, directed by Brenda Lindley, makes its Placerville debut. Show times are 7:00 p.m. on weeknight shows and at 2 or 7 p.m. on weekends.
Christmas in Cool
On December 11th, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., enjoy a kids parade, craft and food booths, face painting, pictures with Santa, games and fun activities, a live band, the choir singing Christmas carols and a tree lighting. Canned food donations gladly accepted for the Share program sponsored by the Cool Community Church.
All Aboard for Toyland
The historical Healdsburg Museum presents its annual holiday display of antique toys. Embrace the nostalgia and familiarize yourself with local history.
Healdsburg Downtown Holiday Party
The downtown merchants will provide savory treats and musical entertainment. Santa swings by the Plaza from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. for pictures and wish list requests.
Fine Wine and Foodie Walking Tour
Through January, this four-hour guided Fine Wine and Foodie Walking Tour is your opportunity to sip, savor, stroll, and shop Healdsburg. Discover the holiday swagger of Healdsburg with its sparkling lights and holiday window displays. Tour available daily.
View in the Healdsburg Tree Lighting in November in pretty Healdsburg Plaza.
Breakfast with Santa
On select dates in December, Costeaux Bakery presents baked goods and photos with Santa.
Holiday Home Tour
Beginning at the Healdsburg Museum, tour beautifully decorated homes around town.
Holiday Treats Workshop
Spend a holiday-filled night decorating a gingerbread house at Relish Culinary Center. Craft a beautiful and delicious design with frosting and oodles of candy, cookies, cereal, and candy canes. You can look forward to holiday music and hot chocolate during this family-friendly gathering.
Dickens Dinners at Madrona Manor
Step back in time at Madrona Manor, this charming, historic wine country inn will be decorated in Victorian Splendor for the holiday season. Enjoy an evening of fine dining along with carols. Insider Tip: Many children attend this dinner, but keep in mind that the price is the same for adults and children and the dinner service lasts a little over two hours.
Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony
Lights will illuminate the way to this year’s holiday festivities in City Park. Mrs. Claus will arrive and light the downtown, sharing her merriment with all. Enjoy music, candlelight caroling, free cookies, and hot chocolate. Admission is free.
Christmas Light Parade
Relish the sights of the holiday spirit with a brilliant parade featuring an array of lighted spectacles from local businesses. Awards will be given for best in show. Join Santa and Mrs. Claus and witness downtown light up with holiday spirit!
Zoo to You Education lights up after dark with thousands of festive holiday lights. Visit with Santa and enjoy hot cider, cookies, and hot chocolate while composing letters to Santa. Holiday craft booths will also be available for holiday shopping. You don’t want to miss the bears, lemurs, and parrots opening their Christmas presents from Santa early! BBQ dinner available for $5.
Teddy Bear Tea
The Downtown Paso Robles’ Annual Teddy Bear Tea invites kids to bring their teddy bear for tea, stories, gingerbread cookie decorating, arts and crafts, and visits with the Snow Queen and King, Mrs. Claus, Santa Claus, lovable elves and Victorian friends.
New Year’s Eve “Glow In the Park”
Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Paso Robles City Park. This family-friendly event in the park will be filled with free activities. A sampling of glow in the dark activities include croquet, horseshoes, and hula hoops. There will also be food trucks, face painting, and an exciting choreographed light show.
Santa’s Riverboat Arrival
Rudolph and his reindeer pals get the day off when Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in Petaluma on a Jerico tugboat. Their trusty tug chugs up the Petaluma River and arrives at noon at River Plaza shopping center where the waiting crowd has been entertained by a variety of festive performers at this free event. After Santa and Mrs. Claus disembark, they are greeted by costumed dancers from Petaluma City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” and are escorted to a Santa’s workshop for photos with children and lots of Christmas wishes.
Lighted Boat Parade
A flotilla of lighted boats makes a dramatic arrival at the Petaluma River Turning Basin. This free event is an annual favorite for amateur and professional photographers alike; the reflection of the lights off the water creates a magical effect. After the parade, spectators can keep the festive mood going by shopping and dining in historic downtown Petaluma, just steps from the Turning Basin.
City of Lights Driving Tour
Take a self-guided tour of spectacularly decorated homes and businesses throughout Petaluma. Maps are available at the Petaluma Visitors Center or online by the end of November. The tour runs through December.
Holiday Open House
In Historic Downtown Petaluma, join the Downtown Merchants for a festive day. Snag shopping deals, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, horse and carriage rides, hot apple cider, face painting, balloon art, sweets, and more.
San Luis Obispo County
Holidays at the Apple Farm
The Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant in San Luis Obispo welcomes you to its annual “Holidays at the Apple Farm” from November 12 through Christmas Day, a classic celebration of the season’s most time-honored traditions, with several free activities for families.
Madonna Inn, a historic landmark hotel with themed rooms, offers a succulent holiday meal and New Year’s Eve Celebration.
Hearst Castle is an unforgettable experience on any given day, but during the holidays you’ll be awestruck. From December 1-31 (except Dec. 25), the Castle decks the halls generously, giving guests the sense they’ve traveled back through time and are celebrating the holidays with Hearst’s iconic roisterers.
The Great American Melodrama
For 40 years residents have looked forward to The Holiday Extravaganza, presented by The Great American Melodrama. The show features a matchless holiday performance, including an uplifting one-act rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a heartwarming splintered fairy tale opera and a well-known Holiday Vaudeville Revue.
Music enthusiasts can enjoy the annual Cal Poly Presents, A Christmas Celebration, taking place December 3. This year the classical musical feature will include the debut of Cal Poly Professor Antonio G. Barata’s new Spanish carol and an audience sing-a-long.
For more than thirty years, both residents and guests have appreciated the Civic Ballet’s Annual Nutcracker performance, taking place at the San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center, starring the Opera San Luis Obispo Orchestra conducted by Brian Asher Alhadeff. The holiday season will conclude with a new production: “Oz with Orchestra,” featuring a live orchestra playing music from “The Wizard of Oz” to scenes from the movie. A Ruby Slippers Champagne Reception will be held during the intermission.
Enjoy SLO Little Theatre’s “A Christmas Story.” The play chronicles the story of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker in his mission to acquire the perfect gift under the tree for Christmas.
Downtown San Luis Obispo’s Annual Holiday Parade dazzles partygoers with nearly 100 decorative floats, jammin’ musical acts, and dancers. The next day, Mr. and Mrs. Claus will ride a train to the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum, which will be outfitted in holiday cheer.
Morro Bay sponsors a free Lighted Boat Parade, where spectators can peer out into the bay at ornamented Christmas skiffs, yachts, fishing boats, cutters, sailboats, and kayaks.
Tree Lighting’s and Santa
Every tot who takes a picture with St. Nick at Santa’s House in the historic Mission Plaza gets a gratis candy cane, toy, and coloring book. Guests are invited to take in an old-fashioned Holiday Lighting Ceremony in Atascadero, where revelers can drink hot chocolate and listen to live holiday music at the Sunken Gardens Park and City Hall steps.
If you prefer a more coastal Christmas, Pismo Beach is hosting a “Holiday Harmony & Tree Lighting Ceremony” in December, including fresh snow, pictures with Santa, cookie decorating, and bounce houses.
In SLO County, locals don’t take themselves too seriously, and they’ll make sure you don’t either. A fun way to stay fit is the Reindeer Run 5K Run/Walk at Mitchell Park, a 5K route run/walk featuring witty holiday costumes and pancakes with Santa.
Downtown Atascadero becomes a winter wonderland where every member of the family can ice skate and play in over 50 tons of fresh snow, placed over five blocks!
Santa and his reindeer surf into Capitola Beach. Bring your Christmas list to discuss with Santa at Capitola Village. Candy Canes for everyone! This event is free.
Lighted Boat Parade
Enjoy 50 decorated boats parading throughout Santa Cruz Harbor, rain or shine. This family-oriented festival is free and held from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Harbor. Also in December, attend the Scotts Valley Christmas Tree Lighting Festival with music and Santa at 5:00 p.m.
Jingle Shells Art and Craft Festival
Ocean-inspired gifts from local artists, live musical performances, kids crafts, and other festivities from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center.
Strike Out Hunger & Bowl for Free
From November 1 – December 31, bowl a game for free when you bring a can of food to the Boardwalk Bowl for Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County. This is a fun and easy way to help feed needy families this holiday season. The Boardwalk Bowl is across the street from the Boardwalk’s Casino Arcade.
Le Cirque de Boheme
A 1920’s style Circus based on the French tradition Le Cirque de Boheme will transport you into a surreal dream filled with enchantment, wonder, and discovery. A Magician, Contortionist, Hat Juggling, Ball Spinning, Unicycle, Mime, an eccentric Clown, Knife-Thrower and other assorted performers of Paris of the 1920’s can be seen.
Lighting of the Snowmen Festival
See what the snowmen are up to this year at Cornerstone Sonoma! Music and entertainment, pictures with Santa on the big blue chair, and the annual lighting of the snowmen around the Cornerstone Gardens. Available to view through December.
Christmas at the Mission
Join in a candlelight procession from Sonoma Barracks to Mission San Francisco Solano followed by a non-denominational service.
Christmas Tree Lighting
Rejoice at the return of Walnut Creek’s Christmas Tree Lighting event after a three-year pause with sweet treats and merry carolers at Civic Park.
Walnut Creek On Ice
Eight thousand square feet of ice are set in a charming winter wonderland scene in Civic Park through mid-January.
Walnut Creek Wednesdays
Walnut Creek Wednesdays offers leisurely strolls downtown for visits with Santa, sweet treats, horse and carriage rides ($5/ride), and carolers throughout November and December. It’s held every Wednesday till mid-December.
Shadelands Ranch Museum offers Victorian Teas and its 32nd Annual Holiday Faire.
The Gardens at Heather Farm presents its 18th Annual Teddy Bear Tea.
Whistle Stop Holiday Shows
The Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society lets families ‘ride’ the Diablo Valley Lines during their whistle stop holiday shows, featuring model trains traveling over one of the world’s most mountainous model railroad layouts.
The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
At The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, bring the children in to enjoy breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The breakfast buffet will feature traditional morning fare with Christmas selections and a Christmas candy table for $54 per person.
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
The legendary Teddy Bear Tea at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco runs from November through December, with seatings at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Children and their beloved stuffed animals are invited to assemble in The Terrace Courtyard Tent for a glamorous tea service featuring the giant Ritz-Carlton Teddy Bear. Holiday entertainment is dished along with hot chocolate, holiday confections, and assorted sandwiches. Tickets are $110 per guest.
Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco invites children and their families to Ho-Ho-Homes for the Holidays for two delightful hours of gingerbread house decorating fun with Christmas elves. This afternoon of sugary delights takes place at the hotel from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Adults and children alike will learn how to decorate gingerbread houses and holiday themed sugar cookies using an array of sweets including icing of all colors, sprinkles, candy canes, gum drops, and licorice. Children will receive their very own chef’s apron, chef’s hat, and boxes to take home their finished houses and cookies. The event is $60 per child, reservations are required.
Rosewood Sand Hill, Menlo Park
See Santa and share classic holiday stories such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Nutcracker as children gather in the Library lounge by the Christmas tree for Afternoon Tea and hot cocoa at Rosewood Sand Hill. Kids will take home a special teddy bear and write handwritten Christmas cards for children of The Ronald McDonald House at the Children’s Holiday Tea with Santa on Saturday’s in December.
Carmel Valley Ranch, Carmel
Set amidst the beautiful Santa Lucia Mountains in Carmel, Carmel Valley Ranch is hosting a large lineup of holiday activities and attractions on their 500-acre resort on the Monterey Peninsula. On December 23, families hunt for Santa while enjoying a lighthearted scavenger hunt around the property, clues lead from Elf to Elf and on to Old St. Nicholas himself! Other great activities throughout the season include a Nutcracker Holiday Tea, 12 Days of Holiday Cookies, and holiday family portraits.
While you are in the city, learn Where to Enjoy Holiday Lights in San Francisco
Stunning Apple Hill
Apple Hill, located just northeast of Placerville, is a beautiful destination to pick and chop a Christmas tree. Currently, seven full-sized Christmas tree farms open the day after Thanksgiving and remain open until Christmas Eve. Visiting Apple Hill is a memorable experience any time of year, especially over Christmas! Some of the more popular Christmas Tree Farms include: High Sierra Iris Gardens, Hillside Tree Farm, and McGee Christmas Tree Farm. Christmas at Apple Hill isn’t just about picking a Christmas tree; many farms offer great family oriented activities for the kids and have steaming cups of hot chocolate or homemade apple cider waiting for you.
Be sure to check Trekaroo’s list for Apple Hill Christmas Tree Farms.
Holidays with an Ocean View
Monterey’s signature holiday event is Christmas in Adobes. Stroll thought the streets of Historic Downtown Monterey and enjoy live performances as volunteers in period attire welcome you into 19th Century homes decorated in historical style. Refreshments, games, history, and merriment await the entire family.
First Night Monterey celebrates the active arts scene in Monterey County with its family-friendly celebration on December 31. Over thirty venues hold simultaneous performances and activities for every member of the family, concluding on Custom House Plaza, Monterey State Historic Park to welcome in the New Year.
Welcome the New Year with the entire family (ages 5 and older) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium! The evening will feature a sparkling cider toast at 9:00 p.m. and a Pinkberry sundae bar to celebrate the countdown to the New Year on East Coast time. Fun family oriented activities and programs are planned for this unique night of celebration. Rise with the fishes on New Year’s Day and enjoy a continental breakfast, then join the aquarium’s naturalists in admiring marine and wildlife from the Great Tide Pool Deck.
Direct from the North Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus fly in by helicopter to Carmel Valley Village Airfield on December 13 at 10:30 am! There they’ll board their sleigh and lead a parade through Carmel Valley Village. The parade is filled with horses, a train, vintage cars, and more! Afterwards, kids can take a photo with Old Saint Nick at the Carmel Valley Youth Center.
The Holiday Parade of Lights is an annual tradition in Pacific Grove and includes floats, marching bands, dance troupes, performing horses, and Santa Claus. Afterwards, carolers will walk through the streets of downtown as local shops stay open well into the evening for the holiday celebration.
The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company in Half Moon Bay offers a family friendly New Year’s Eve celebration from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. On December 31, the Brewing Company will celebrate an “Early Bird New Year’s Eve” with local favorite Bruce Guynn and Big Rain. When the ball drops on the East Coast (9:00 p.m. PST) the TVs in the bar will televise it, and everyone will celebrate.
Santa Claus arrives by boat at Tomales Bay with treats and holiday wishes. Santa will dock at the Boat Shack at Nick’s Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar & Cottages for his annual visit. Children can sit and chat with Santa in the Boat Shack, which is illuminated for the holiday season, and enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and sweets.
Mendocino’s 5th Annual Festival of Lights at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens promises to impress visitors with thousands of glittering lights to create a fantastical coastal garden full of sparkling whimsy.
Read Trekaroo’s reviews on Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Pin this to bookmark all the holiday fun; we update it yearly:
Find holiday activities and events in your neck of the woods. We’ve got the inside scoop on cities across North America.