Fun Holiday Experiences


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The holidays are here, and that means kids are home from school, guests are coming for a visit, and you need some ideas for outdoor fun during this festive season. Whether you want to get some exercise, breathe some fresh air, or experience nature, the East Bay has plenty of options for you and your family to enjoy. In this article, we’ll share some festive holiday events, outdoor light displays, ice skating rinks, nature walks, and animal activities to enjoy this month. A shared experience is among the best gifts you can give your loved ones.


Holiday Events

Photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash

Holiday festivities commenced right after Thanksgiving with tree lightings, parades, and festivals in numerous towns. Here are some upcoming events for the remainder of December:

  • Dec 9: Pittsburg Holiday Parade - Join the community for a colorful and lively parade featuring floats, bands, dancers, and more. The parade starts at 11 a.m. at Railroad Avenue and 10th Street and ends at City Hall. For more information, click here.
  • Dec 9: Merry Makers Winter Faire in Concord - Celebrate the season with arts and crafts, music, and food at this family-friendly event. The faire runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the at Todos Santos Plaza in Downtown Concord. For more information, click here.
  • Dec 9: Heer’s Sip n’ Shop Holiday Family Fun Day in Oakley -- Take a picture with Santa, enjoy live music and tasty food, as well as holiday crafts and shopping. The event runs from 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Brownstone Gardens in Oakley. For more information, click here.
  • Dec 10: Hanukkah Festival & Menorah Lighting -Celebrate the Festival of Lights with two events in Contra Costa County:
    • East Contra Costa Hanukkah Festival. This event features crafts, games, music, and a giant menorah lighting. The festival starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Brentwood Community Center. For more information, click here.
    • Grand Menorah Lighting. This event features live music, latkes, doughnuts, and spectacular menorah lighting. The event starts at 4 p.m. at 1275 Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. For more information, click here.
    • Dec 31: Kwanzaa & Noon Year’s Eve, Chase Center SF. Celebrate Kwanzaa, and ring in the new year with this cultural and educational event featuring music, dance, storytelling, and crafts. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Chase Center in San Francisco. For more information, click here.

Check Contra Costa News Event page for more upcoming events.



 Outdoor Light Displays

Nothing says holiday cheer like a dazzling display of lights. East Bay has an array of brilliant and creative light shows. Here are two much loved light shows that the whole family will enjoy:

  • Garden D’Lights at Ruth Bancroft Gardens. This botanical wonderland transforms into a magical LED light show across three acres of cacti and other plants that will transport you to a realm of wonder and awe. The show runs in the evenings, four to six days a week, until January 6th. For more information, click here.

 Photo: Ruth Bancroft Gardens 

  • Glowfari at Oakland Zoo. This wildly popular, family-friendly experience is back with hundreds of all new, larger-than-life animal lanterns throughout the Zoo. Each lantern tells the story of the ongoing journey of wildlife, the importance of every species on our planet, and Oakland Zoo’s commitment to conservation. The show runs every evening until Jan 28. For more information, click here.



Ice Skating Rinks

If you’re looking for some cool, winter fun, here are some of the ice-skating rinks to try:

  • Ice at the Veranda (Concord). This outdoor ice rink in Concord is open daily until Feb 14. For more information, click here.
  • Brentwood on Ice. This outdoor rink is located near Brentwood City Hall. It is open daily through January 8th. For more information, click here.
  • Walnut Creek on Ice. This outdoor ice rink in Walnut Creek is in downtown Walnut Creek. The rink is open from daily from December 15 through January 15. For more information, visit click here.
  • Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink   in City Center Bishop Ranch, San Ramon. The rink is open from daily through Jan 7. For more information, visit click here.
  • 3Crosses Christmas Village. This seasonal festival in Castro Valley includes a large, beautifully lit ice-skating rink, Santa photos, train rides, food trucks, and live music. The rink opens in the afternoons on select dates until January  7. For more information, click here.

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash






Nature Walks and Exploring

Photo by Robin S on Unsplash

For more fresh air and natural beauty, try hiking, birdwatching, stargazing, or playing in the snow. Here are some of the fun activities and exploring that you can do:

  • Bay Nature’s 2023 Holiday Activity Guide. This guide features twelve activities that you can do in the Bay Area during the holiday season, such as visiting a redwood forest, exploring a salt marsh, or watching the winter solstice. The guide also includes tips, maps, and resources to help you plan your adventure. For more information, click here.
  • East Bay Parks December Activities. This calendar features a variety of activities that you can do in the East Bay Regional Parks during December, such as hiking, biking, birding, fishing, or stargazing. The calendar also includes special events, such as holiday crafts, scavenger hunts, or winter survival skills. For more information, click here.
  • Hiking and Snow Play – Check out this article for East Bay hiking suggestions at Briones Regional Park and Mount Diablo State Park. While Mount Diablo may receive the occasional snow dusting, it may be easier sledding to head out to one of these nearby snow play areas.

 We hope you enjoyed this article and found some inspiration for your family holiday fun. Have a wonderful and safe holiday season! Leave a comment below with additional suggestions for fun holiday experiences.

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  • My spouse and I enjoyed the Ruth Bancroft lights display last year (or the year before?) and it was fantastic. If you can try out one or two of the many events listed here it can make your holiday feel complete.
    • Thank you for sharing your fabulous experience. Happy Holidays!!
  • You're welcome! Happy Holidays!!
  • SO many wonderful activities to choose from here! Thank you for an excellent resource!
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