Where to See Christmas Lights

Archived Q&A and Reviews

November 2007

Hi everyone, We have a 4yo girl, a 3yo boy, and a baby. For the first time since we moved to Kensington 3 years ago, we will not be flying back East for the holidays to be with our families. Although we will miss seeing our relatives, I am excited to be able to decorate our house, have the kids come down from their own bedrooms to discover their gifts, etc. Are there any holiday traditions in the East Bay we shouldn't miss? Cool light displays, festivals, or special holiday events? Any other suggestions for other Christmas-related stuff would be so greatly appreciated!! Merry Christmas!

Definitely visit the Christmas display at the Tilden Park Merry Go Round. The lights are great and carousel is open at night. A trip into San Francisco (Union Square) to see the downtown lights and window displays is a fun thing to do, too. Albany Dad

Some of our favorite holiday adventures are: Going to the Merry go Round in Tilden - right in your neighborhood Seeing the lights and decorations at the Mormon temple in Oakland (no we are not Mormon - the display is impressive! My husband and I do our annual San Francisco walk (sans children) - we love to walk down around Union Square and check out the window dressings - then walk around downtown enjoying the lights and bustle. We usually try to catch a simple dinner as well Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda - a cooky street where everyone decorates their houses. Santa is there and you can deliver your xmas list to santa's mailbox - and you will get a response. There are lots of lovely things to do. Enjoy! Shivaun enjoy xmas around here

Fairyland at night with Christmas lights is tops with my kids! They usually have the later hours (4-7, I think) right around Christmas for about 2 weeks. anon

There are tons of fun things to do in the Bay Area in December. I'm sure you'll get lots of good responses, but here are a few ideas: Carousel in Tilden Park decorated for holidays; Winterland at Fairyland; gingerbread house party at Habitot; driving around looking at xmas lights in one of the over-the-top neighborhoods; California Revels (www.calrevels.org). Keep your eye on the paper and BPN Announcements -- there are tons more.

As for dealing with not having a big family around on Christmas, we've just done our best to make our own traditions and fun -- make a special breakfast, take care picking fun goodies for the stockings, have a fire in the fireplace, get out for a walk later or go skating at one of the outdoor rinks...It gets me down sometimes that our family is flakey, but the kids have a good time regardless of who's there, and you'll find their excitement helps. Sometimes we get together with another family in the same boat and that's fun, too. (Maybe we need to start a club!) Or we go visit our elderly neighbor or have a single friend over for dinner. Hang in there, and I think you'll find being home for the holidays can be pretty fun. Merry By Design

I'm going to answer the ''what to do'' portion. the merry go round at Tilden Park has a wonderful Christmas display with Santa (who is a local grandfather with a real beard) on Tuesdays. You take your own photos with Santa. It starts after Thanksgiving, I think (around 5:30 ish, take a look at Tilden's web site). It has beautiful lights, a ''Santa Village'' and a ton of decorated trees around the merry go round. It is now $2 a ride, even for babes in arms. Also the Embarcadero and Union Square Hyatts have an amazing collection of little lighted villages (I know there was an article in the SF Chronicle last year) including ice skaters, trains, amusement parks, etc. It's free and wonderful. M

December 2006

hi there. i'm looking for the streets w/ the best christmas lights. i'm from l.a. and there were blocks that were famous for putting on a real show. i'd never do it myself (too much work) but whenever i see one of these houses i feel like putting a dollar throught the mail slot. sort of like street musicians, they're performing a community service.

Thompson Street in Alameda has Christmas lights on all the houses. There is a Santa on weekend evenings as well. it's off High Street. mapquest the 3200 block Have a great time

We've always taken our kids to Thompson Ave. in Alameda (off High Street). All the houses on that block have lots of lights and displays to see, the center median has huge trees that have large lights on them, and the residents have Santa there every evening (6:30-8pm) through the 23rd, and a Santa's mailbox to drop your letters to Santa in (and if you're early enough, Santa actually writes back!). It's very cute, very community oriented and friendly -mike

We live in Alameda and enjoy going to see the lights on ''Christmas Tree Lane'', which is Thompson Ave between High street and Fernside. I'm sure many others will recommend it - almost every house on the block is lit up in full swing and the effect is magical. Happy holidays anon

For next year's files -

Near Mills College there are two great places to look at Christmas lights. One is Picardy Lane (between Seminary and Yuba), a whole huge circle of houses that are (almost) all decorated. It's fantastic. And right near there, closer to MacArthur there are three blocks that are wonderful: 56th, 57th and 58th Ave. (between Brann and MacArthur).

We go both places every year to oooh and ahhh.

Also, there are some really good houses off of The Alameda in Berkeley.

(I'd love it if this was archived to the web site, as I'm on an endless search for good holiday lights). Berkelely Mama

December 2004

I am looking for a neighborhood that decorates for the holidays to show my 4 1/2 year old. Am new to the area - are there any such areas between here and Orinda? Fond memories...

Here is a web site (www.lightsofthevalley.com) that has photos and addresses of the best Christmas lights, decorated homes and displays from the Tri Valley (Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton & San Ramon) as well as Alamo, Concord, Danville, Fremont, Tracy, Lathrop, Manteca, Milpitas, Stockton, Hayward and well beyond. Helena

Go to Thompson Street in Alameda, off High Street. Take 880 South, take High Street exit, go over drawbridge to Alameda, go 6-8 blocks and turn left. You'll probably see lots of traffic, and I think you might even be able to see it off the freeway! holiday light lover

The lights at the Mormon Temple in Oakland (off Hwy 13 and Joaquin Miller) are a must! They're beautiful. anon

Nov 1999

Where are some wonderful Christmas light displays? My 4 year old is enthralled by them. We just went to the Tilden Park Merry go round which was lovely and plan on going to the Oakland zoo. I've heard there is one in San Leandro and another in N. Berkeley, but don't know where. Any ideas? Linda

To the mother who is looking for lovely Christmas light displays, don't miss the Mormon Temple on Lincoln Boulevard off Highway 13 in Oakland. It looks like a castle and is all lit up and is just beautiful. You don't have to be Mormon or even Christian to enjoy it. There is a creche in the courtyard, however, with Jesus and Mary and Joseph. Franny

I too, am enthralled by Christmas lights, just like your 4-yr-old--and I'm 33! Every year, I drag my son out to sing Christmas Carols badly and look at the lights...he's a real trooper, because at age 12, he's not into it anymore, he comes along to humor me! I love the lights at the Mormon Temple in the Oakland Hills. Take Hwy 13 and exit at Lincoln/Joquin Miller. It's right there. Last year, we went to the light dislplay at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton. I liked it, but the price was a little steep--$10/carload. I just heard that there will be a similar one in San Rafael, but I don't know the details. Some of the local radio stations also announce where to go for lights (neighborhoods and light shows) I reccommend the KFRC morning show, they did alot of that, unfortunately, I was in my car and couldn't write the addresses down. Good luck and have fun...I can't wait to find out what other people reccommend! patricia

The Tilden Merry Go Round has been decorated and is open nightly, fun and not too hectic but bring a flashlight because the parking lot and bathrooms are dark (see also: