WIth Thanksgiving leftovers mostly consumed and many of the Bay Area Christmas decorations already up, the holiday season has arrived as we turn the last of the 2012 calendar pages to December this weekend. With a less than brilliant weather forecast for the Bay Area, head for outdoor events with an umbrella in one hand and fingers crossed on the other.
Every weekend through December 23, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Cow Palace Exhibition Halls
2600 Geneva Ave., San Francisco
$25 adults, $21 student/senior/military, $12 children (5-11), children under 5 free. $10 parking.
Bring a new, unwrapped donation for Toys for Tots for a $3 discount on adult admission.
While the Victorians would be flabbergasted, modern folks can take a free shuttle to The Great Dickens Fair from the Glen Park BART. Come in your Victorian finery, if you like. The 34th annual party features hundreds of folks in Dickensian duds for a fully staged recreation of Ye Olde London Towne, complete with pubs pouring ales, gift shoppes with wares, and street hawkers roasting chestnuts. Punch & Judy puppet shows, Father Christmas, Victorian fairies, Tiny Tim, and Bob Cratchit are among the cast of characters providing entertainment on seven stages.
Friday, Nov. 30, 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m
Jack London Square, Oakland
Have you heard of the famous tap-dancing Christmas tree act? Check it out here. Photos with Santa start at 4:30 p.m. at the annual lighting ceremony, and the tree will feature over 5,000 lights. The reindeer will be real, but the snow flurries will be of the fake variety. There will be a "Holiday Pop Up!" craft fair for early-bird shoppers, and Miss California 2012, a strolling puppet theater, Radio Disney performers, and more will be on hand.
601 Nelson Road, Stanford
Stanford will host UCLA in the second annual Pac-12 Football Championship Game. If Stanford wins the Pac-12 title game, the Cardinals will play in the Rose Bowl on January 1 against the winner of the Big Ten championship game between Nebraska and Wisconsin, which takes place on Saturday. If you can't get tickets to the game, check it out in sports bars around the Bay Area with fellow college football fans.
BART Plaza, Berkeley
Downtown Berkeley is hosting a tree-lighting event that's not on a school night, so bring the kids along for cookies and hot chocolate, too. Santa is coming and so is the mayor, so there will be photo opportunities all around. The Cal Jazz Choir will provide the carols that make any tree-lighting ceremony complete. Tents will be available in case of rain.
9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland
$8 adults, $6 children general admission, free parking
Hundreds of thousands of LED lights create the Bay Area's largest display. Oakland Zoo transforms the night skies over the city for the holidays. Kids love the themed rides on Candy Cane Lane and the Christmas trees in the children's zoo. It's a special adventure to ride the Outback Express train or take Santa's sleigh ride at night. Winter-warmer Ghirardelli hot chocolates will be available at the cafe. Evenings through December 31, except December 24 and 25. Santa visits the zoo daily in December from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
Five-time Grammy Award nominee Chris Botti and his trumpet will deliver cool, sophisticated evenings of jazz and holiday classics this weekend, with Richard Kaufman conducting the San Francisco Symphony. Meet Botti at his CD signing after the show.
Union Street from Van Ness to Steiner, Fillmore Street between Union and Lombard, San Francisco
Union Street dresses up in twinkling white lights, and jugglers, face painters, balloon artists, costumed singers, and entertainers appear for this annual holiday event. Ponies dressed like reindeer delight the younger set. Activities include a new hay ride, cupcake decorating at the Cudworth Mansion (2040 Union St.) from 3 p.m.-5:30 p.m., a sidewalk prance with the Snow Queen, and photos with Santa, who appears at 5:30 p.m. New toys will be collected by the San Francisco Firefighters' Toy Program. The festival will go on rain or shine.