Christmas time is here! While we may not have one-horse open sleighs through snow-covered lanes, the Bay Area offers plenty of things to do and see to get in the holiday spirit and celebrate the season. So don your gay apparel and venture out for a slice of Christmas Norcal style.
Union Square in downtown is holiday central in San Francisco each year, with a 40-foot Christmas tree, an ice rink, random carolers and a café serving up hot cocoa and coffee. Macy’s and the other stores that surround the block have their windows festooned in the best displays of the season, while hotels have their own elaborate lobby displays, like the Westin St. Francis 12-foot-tall enchanted sugar castle. For the past several years, two blocks of nearby Stockton Street have been blocked off for pedestrians with food vendors, live performances, appearances by the Macy’s SPCA window puppies, amongst other attractions.
Christmas in the Park
Not to be overlooked by its neighbor to the north, San Jose’s downtown Cesar de Chavez Plaza park has a holiday attraction of its own. Walk through a field of Christmas trees sponsored and trimmed by local organizations as a path winds past animatronic dioramas, such as elves busy in their workshop. Visit with Santa in his house, or catch one of the full schedule of performances on the stage next to the 40-foot tree. Ice skate at a rink across the street, then warm up with the insanely decadent special hot chocolate.
Fantasy of Lights
Down south in Los Gatos, Vasona Park is decked out each December in a panoply of lights. Something of a Christmas tradition for folks in these parts, drive through the very large county park past 50-plus light displays with music accompanying through your car radio. Stop for hot chocolate and carolers at the end of the drive. The event has become a bit of a victim of its popularity, so you’ll need to buy tickets ahead of time and be patient as you wait for the line of cars to move through.
24 Holidays on 24th
Noe Valley’s merchants have teamed up to offer a full month of holiday events on and around 24th Street. Check their schedule for specific events, but you can see live reindeer, listen to live music, visit with Santa or enjoy a hayride. And of course, you know, shop.
Christmas Tree Farms
I’m not talking about the parking lot variety near the entrance at Home Depot. Whether or not you’re in the market for a tree, head to the Santa Cruz mountains or the wilds of Marin for some fresh pine-scented air and a gulp of Christmas cheer. Many of these farms host various activities and a chance to meet Santa, as well as bonfires, hot cider and a world far removed from concrete and shopping malls.