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Stop By These San Francisco Spots to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Written By: Carly Salzberg Bay Area Christmas Lights

Most of the time when local people utter the phrase, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, ” they’re referring to the numerous decorative lights that symbolize the beginning of the holiday season. The following six events include some of the hippest spots for families, friends and loved ones to enjoy the best of the Bay Area’s spectacular neighborhood light shows, including plenty of holiday activities.


Embarcadero Center Lighting Ceremony & Carnival

Dates: Nov. 18-Jan. 8, 2017

San Francisco’s splendorous display begins every year on Nov. 18 as the four iconic waterfront buildings at the Embarcadero Center illuminate with 16, 000 holidays lights. This year marks 30 years of the celebrated tradition that continues to attract locals and tourists alike. In the evening, festivities begin at 4 p.m. with a family friendly carnival that includes face painting, cookie decorating, balloon animals, arts and crafts, musical performances as well as visits from Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse. Then around 6 p.m., Disney on Ice presents a show of skating, singing and dancing with familiar characters from Frozen. For only $5 more, guests may rent ice skates before the scheduled activities and head on over to the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square to enjoy a quick skate. The Today Show even voted this rink as one of the top in the US, so be sure to take advantage of the event while it last.

One, Two, Three and Four Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, CA 94111


The Holiday Circle of Lights at the Mountain View Cemetery

Dates: Dec. 1 – Jan. 1, 5-9 p.m.

A giant glowing nutcracker stands tall beside bright reindeers that lead the way to a shiny red lit sleigh with green and white lighting embroidering trains of toys and trees wrapped shimmering in Christmas lights. The month-long holiday light exhibition at the 226-acre Mountain View Cemetery features imaginative scenes from Santa’s workshop and other holiday inspired themes. Families who are recently suffering from the loss of a loved one are especially encouraged to commemorate him or her at the crafts area where clear or colored ornaments offer places to add a photo or a note about the person to hang on the local trees. Best of all, this event is open to the public free of charge with pictures taken with Santa Claus from noon until 3 p.m.!

5000 Piedmont Ave
Oakland, CA 94611


Zoolights at the Oakland Zoo

Dates: Dec. 4 – Jan. 3, 2017 (Closed Dec. 24 & 25)

Sparkling LED lights illuminate the Oakland Zoo beneath the dark night sky every holiday evening with a train ride from 5:30 – 9 p.m. (except on Christmas eve and Christmas day). The train carries passengers through the annual meadow light show as the Zoo’s African Veldt can be seen populated with dozens of colorfully lit animal-themed structures situated throughout the Zoo for families to enjoy. The Zoolights feature kid-friendly glowing multi-colored animal structures and string lights choreographed to familiar holiday beats like “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”

9777 Golf Links Rd
Oakland, CA 94605

“Christmas Tree Lane” a.k.a Thompson Avenue in Alameda

Known colloquially as “Christmas Tree Lane, ” the residents at 3200 Block Thompson Avenue have been decorating their trees every holiday season since the end of the Great Depression in 1938. The story goes that two cousins from the neighborhood began stringing lights from their homes to the small trees on the avenues median strip, adorning them with handmade ornaments and other decorations. Today the trees have grown so tall they require a truck with a crane to string them, and a mailbox for letters to Santa was installed so children who missed Santa’s visits could submit their wishes. During the month of December the avenue quickly becomes a hub of holiday cheer as croning carolers walk by singing classics with brass ensembles and small children wait in line for Santa while eating candy canes.

3200 Block Thompson Ave
Alameda, CA 94501


Picardy Dr, Oakland, CA

Fairytale Storybook houses with shabbily built uneven roofs line the narrow street in half-timbered style resembling houses in Elizabethan England. The area’s most famous decorated block, Picardy Drive, runs between Seminary and 55th avenue homes. Visitors may be seen strolling down the street with thermoses of hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps while taking in the retro Yuletide displays that feature delicate strands of white bulbs gracefully lining the roofs and framing the windows of these homes. Other displays are vibrant with multiple rainbow-hued strings of blinking lights. Some homeowners have even built or purchased elaborate cutouts depicting Santa Claus or Frosty the Snowman.

Picardy Dr
Oakland, CA 94605


Tom & Jerry’s Christmas Display

Dates: Dec. 12 – Dec. 24

A 65-foot Norfolk island pine tree sits next to a colorfully lit up Victorian gingerbread house that sits high on Castro Hill covered in lights and massive ornaments of gift wrapped boxes, stuffed animals and stockings labelled “Tom” and “Jerry.” For over 20 years, Owner’s Tom and Jerome (Jerry) have been delighting visitors with their bright and big sense of Christmas. Santa Claus will be available to all for candy canes and photography until Dec 24 from 6:30 – 10 p.m.

3650 21st St
San Francisco, CA 94114
Hey Bay Area, Here’s Where to go to See Holiday Lights!

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