Observing the spectacle of Christmas lights is one of my favorite holiday traditions. I love seeing what all holiday light displays have to offer, whether they’re festively lit neighborhoods or individual homes or entire zoos that are decked out in glimmering decorations. Please enjoy this informational list of dazzling holiday lights in the Bay Area that I’ll happily be visiting again or exploring for the first time this year!
Zoo Lights at the San Francisco Zoo
What it is: For 3 weekends, the San Francisco Zoo transforms into a twinkling Winter Wonderland. The lights can be enjoyed by walking around the zoo, which I like to do along with taking a ride on the Little Puffer Train. Tickets for the Little Puffer Train do cost extra, but not much, tickets are $6.00 for anyone over 3 years old. In addition to the lights, the zoo has flurries of man-made snow and 2 adorable reindeer! The zoo is easy to get to and has onsite parking that is available on a first come, first served basis. If the parking lot is full there is plenty of street parking surrounding the zoo. Being directly across from the ocean, evenings at the zoo tend to be very chilly so dress warm when seeing these lights. Also know that the zoo animals will be in their night houses and not visible during Zoo Lights hours, only the reindeer will be out and about saying hello.
- Adults $10.00, Youth 4-14 $8.00, Kids 3 and Under and Members are Free
- Save $2.00 by purchasing your tickets online
- Parking is an additional $5.00
Hours: December 15th-17th, 19th-23rd, and 26th-20th – 5:00pm to 8:00pm
Tom and Jerry’s House in Dolores Heights
What it is: This city home is decorated with two larger than life stockings stuffed with loads of large stuffed animals. There is an enormous tree in front of this house decorated with lights and giant ornaments. Some of the ornaments are beach balls made to look like ornaments, which I think is a really clever idea. There are also 2 large K’Nex coasters running for the kids to watch go around and around. While my husband and I were in awe of the tree and stockings, our toddler had her eyes glued to the K’Nex sets. We didn’t see Santa during our visit, but he is know to visit this display. Since this is in a quiet residential area, please be respectful visiting this house. Don’t be excessively loud and don’t block driveways when parking. Also, try to park at the top or the bottom of the street or just around the corner on an adjacent street. Parking shouldn’t be difficult to find.
Hours: Every evening throughout December – 6:00pm to 10:00pm
Chestnut Christmas Lit Houses in South San Francisco
What it is: A little bit outside of the city, in South San Francisco, are the Chestnut Christmas Lit Houses. There are tons of lights, window displays, and holiday characters. I hear parking can be hectic so I’d recommend checking this out earlier in the month and evening rather than later. We went the 2nd weekend of December this year and while it was crowded, we were easily able to find street parking. The Star Wars window display (pictured above) at one of the houses is incredible. It looks like it’s completely made up of Legos, which must have taken the owners of this display a lot of time and dedication. It was worth it whoever’s house this is, it was worth it!!! Other houses feature a snow machine floating snow flakes down on their driveway that kids can play and dance in, a very detailed Christmas village (pictured above), and many beautifully decorated Christmas trees (one is pictured above).
Hours: Every evening throughout December.
Christmas Tree Lane in Palo Alto
What it is: A decorated street, Fulton Street, that actually has pipe stands built right into the street for the purpose of displaying Christmas trees! This display started in 1940 and to this day you can slowly drive down this one way street to see the lights. That being said, I’d recommend parking on an adjacent street and walking up and down the sidewalks to look at the lights and details of each display closer. Walking will also allow you to pose with displays and take pictures, just don’t climb on anything. This street gets very crowded, to make your life easier plan on parking a block or two away to try and avoid some of the chaos.
Hours: December 16th-31st – 5:00pm to 11:00pm
Fantasy of Lights Drive-thru in Los Gatos
What it is: A 1.5 mile drive of lights, moving displays, and a 90-foot Christmas Tree. My favorite part of the drive-thru is the Dinosaur Den with an erupting volcano. The first two nights that the Fantasy of Lights is open, they allow visitors to walk through the display instead of drive. These two nights sell out, so I’d recommend researching and purchasing tickets in November. On walk-thru nights you can see the lights by parking at Netflix where shuttles are provided to and from the Fantasy of Lights. The wait for the shuttle can be long, especially with a little one in tow, but it’s worth it. We did the walk-thru last year and enjoyed some snacks from the food trucks in the middle of the park. I don’t think the food trucks are there for drive-thru nights, so stop and get some hot cocoa and cookies on the way or bring refreshments in the car with you.
Cost: You must purchase pre-paid tickets online. $20.00 per vehicle (up to 12 passengers), $50.00 for oversize vehicles (13+ passengers)
Hours: Walk-thru Nights: December 2nd and 3rd, Drive-thru Nights: December 5th-30th (Closed Christmas) – 6:00pm to 10:00pm
Christmas in the Park in San Jose
What it is: A collection of decorated Christmas trees, musical and animated exhibits, lights, and a 60-foot tree. Expanding upon Christmas in the Park, there is also Downtown for the Holidays which includes Winter Wonderland (full of carnival rides) and Downtown Ice (a skating rink). There is plenty to see and do here, so plan on coming in the early evening to enjoy everything it has to offer including the lights. If you are bringing a little one and would rather visit in the morning or afternoon, you absolutely can, you won’t see the lights but there is still a lot you’ll love seeing and doing while you’re there.
Hours: The day after Thanksgiving through New Years Day – 9:00am to Midnight
Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda
What it is: Similar to Christmas Tree Lane in Palo Alto, this is a decorated block in Alameda. It’s on the 3200 Block of Thompson between High and Fernside. Weather permitting the little ones will have an opportunity to snap a pic with Santa starting on December 9th. As you may have suspected, the earlier in the month of December you can visit this display, the less crowded it will be. Whenever you plan on visiting, park on an adjacent street and walk up and down Thompson to fully enjoy the lights. You can drive down Christmas Tree Lane, but getting up close to the lights is so much better!
Hours: December 2nd through New Year’s Eve, Starting December 9th Santa will be present (again, weather permitting) 6:30pm to 8:00pm
ZooLights at the Oakland Zoo
What it is: As much as I love the San Francisco Zoo, Oakland’s ZooLights have a bit more going for them. First of all, to experience this glittering sight you can hop aboard a festively-lit gondola that soars over the Oakland Hills giving you views of the lights and the Bay Area. This year the zoo has added laser light shows and hundreds of thousands of holiday lights and structures. There is also the candy cane-lane themed Adventure Landing with kiddie rides, the Outback Express train, and plenty of hot cocoa and homemade s’mores! The Oakland Zoo has its own dedicated parking lots.
- Adults: $10.00
- Children (2-14) and Seniors (65-75): $9.00
- Children under 2 and Adults 76+: FREE
- Members: $1.00 off regular ticket prices
Hours: December 1st-23rd, 26th-31st, January 1st – 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Widmer World in Pleasanton
What it is: Are you a fan of the Great Christmas Light Fight on abc? I am! If you are too, you must check out this display! Widmer World was featured on an episode of the Great Christmas Light Fight in 2015. This house has lights, moving characters, a Christmas Village, and more. They hold a new scavenger hunt every Friday and Santa is available for pictures December 15th, 16th, 22nd, and 23rd. Since this is put on by a resident in a quiet neighborhood, please be respectful. Keep the noise down and don’t block any driveways. Enjoy the display and spread some holiday cheer! 🙂
Hours: December 1st-31st – 6:00pm to 9:00pm
What’s your favorite local holiday light display? Please scroll down and let me know in the comments below!
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