Even though December brings chilly weather, there are just too many fun holiday celebrations around the Bay Area for families to stay home and warm their hands around the fireplace. From holiday parades to winter festivals to nighttime light displays, every day brings something festive and merry that's guaranteed to get the whole family into the holiday spirit. Here are five ways Bay Area families love to celebrate the season:
San Francisco: Go ice skating at Union Square
At San Francisco's Union Square, families can shop till they drop -- and this winter, they can skate till they drop, at the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink. The palm trees fringing the rink add a fun, tropical contrast as you glide across the ice to holiday tunes, and the majestic Macy's Christmas tree gives the place a real holiday atmosphere. Make sure you leave some time to take a close look at the tree (it stands a whopping 80 feet tall, with a gazillion lights and thousands of ornaments), as well as the festive window displays at Macy's.
Oakland: Celebrate the holidays at the zoo
Turn on your holiday spirit as the Oakland Zoo turns on the lights! Every night in December, after they tuck the animals into bed, the Oakland Zoo will morph into a magical wonderland with towering toy soldiers, larger-than-life lollipops, giant gingerbread cookies, colossal candy canes and lots and lots of LED lights. This family friendly event is filled with festive music, a meadow light show, a holiday train and festive Christmas trees. There won't be any humbugs in the zoo's bug house this holiday season, only fun and merriment for the entire family.
Los Gatos: Drive through the Fantasy of Lights
When the sky grows dark, it's time to pack the kiddos into the car and head over to Vasona Lake County Park, where a winter wonderland of twinkling lights awaits. As you drive through the park, you'll be greeted by animated, larger-than-life holiday light displays, all set to the sounds of holiday music piped through your own car radio. You'll see an erupting volcano, roaring dinosaurs, blazing cannons, tunnels of lights, playful penguins, and other amazing displays, all from the warmth and comfort of your own car. This 1.5 mile holiday lights show will have you oohing and ahhing and itching to get your own holiday lights up!
San Jose: Stroll through Christmas in the Park
Now on its 32nd year, Christmas in the Park has become a South Bay family holiday tradition. Every year, the Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown San Jose is transformed into a winter wonderland, with over 60 musical and animated exhibits. Children will delight at seeing a melting snowman, caroling mice, parachuting penguins, dancing dolls, busy elves and more. See their eyes light up as they visit Santa's workshop, hop aboard the Santa Claus Railroad, listen to holiday carolers and take in the dazzling displays! Don't miss the Sugar Plum Forest and Holiday Tree Gallery, home to hundreds of trees decorated by various non-profit groups, local schools, community service agencies and corporate sponsors.
Santa Cruz: Hop aboard Thomas the Tank Engine
The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train is a fun holiday event that families flock to year after year, but this year the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Roaring Camp Railroads have teamed up to bring little railroad fans something even more special: Thomas the Tank Engine is coming to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for the holidays! Fans of the little blue engine can celebrate the holidays by riding on a special holiday train pulled by everyone's favorite Number 1 engine, with Santa and his elves coming along for the ride to sing holiday carols and spread holiday cheer. Tickets also include photo opps with Sir Topham Hatt and Thomas the Tank Engine, holiday face painting, make-and-take Thomas holiday ornaments, a bounce house, a ride on the Boardwalk's historic Looff Carousel and more fun activities, so plan to spend the day in the company of Thomas and his friends!
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