In the San Francisco Bay Area, Thanksgiving weekend heralds the starts of the holiday light displays. Here are my suggestions for not-to-be-missed light shows, events and neighborhood celebrations:
In the South Bay, starting Friday, November 28 and running through December 31st, Vasona Park Fantasy of Lights in Los Gatos, part of the Santa Clara County Park system, transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with twinkling lights and animated displays. Christmas in the Park, an annual celebration in Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose, showcases trees decorated by non-profits from the South Bay, along with holiday events through December, including the San Jose Holiday Parade on December 7th.
On the Peninsula, The Festival of Lights Parade in Los Altos starts off the holiday season the Sunday after Thanksgiving. In Palo Alto, residents like to drive down Christmas Tree Lane, on Fulton Avenue off of Embarcadero. Redwood City boasts a great neighborhood display on Dewey Street, better known as Candy Cane Lane, while San Carlos welcomes visitors to Eucalyptus Street, off of Brittan, for a great display of holiday glitter.
In San Francisco, Union Square gets all dolled up for the holidays with a huge California White Fir tree. The day after Thanksgiving, at 6:00 p.m., is the Macy’s Tree Lighting Ceremony to benefit UCSF Children’s Hospital. And the shops around the square decorate for the season and are worth a look. Embarcadero Center also puts on a fabulous light display, using almost 17,000 lights!
In the East Bay, don’t miss Thompson Ave between High and Fernside in Alameda. This community-oriented street is decorated to the hilt, and you can even bring your letter to Santa to drop in the mailbox. I have heard that he might even respond! The Oakland Yacht Club will host the 33nd annual Lighted Yacht Parade on December 6, with viewing locations at Wind River Park in Alameda and Jack London Square in Oakland.
Marin and North Bay
In the North Bay, the water comes alive with lighted boat parades. Our favorite is the Sausalito Lighted Yacht Parade on December 13, 2008 starting at 6:00 p.m. Just an hour long, it is enough to keep the kids entertained and justify copious amounts of hot chocolate. Grab a seat inside the Spinnaker restaurant, or view the show from the dock just north.
Petaluma hosts the Petaluma Holiday Lighted Boat Parade on December 6, 2008, starting at 5:30 p.m. from the harbor. Even if you miss the grand entrance of the boats, never fear – they remain in the harbor for the evening, allowing visitors to view the sparkling lights while dining at one of the many restaurants in the downtown area.
The Yountville Festival of Lights kicks off a month long holiday celebration on Friday, November 28th, starting at 2:00 p.m. The festival features a visit from Santa Claus, holiday carolers and even expert ice carvings. Lights go on at dusk and you can then take a tour of the lighted streets in a horse drawn carriage. A great experience for adults and kids.
Don’t see something that is close to you? Check out Lights of the Valley, which lists homes in the Bay Area with light displays. Started by a mom in Livermore in 1999, the site takes nominations from members of the community and includes lots of photos.