Wherever you plan to celebrate your holidays, remember to schedule some time with family and friends to enjoy the season, locally. Here, we share some of the Bay Area’s most exciting events as well as great places to volunteer to help those in need.

Oakland Turkey Trot
Thursday, November 23, 2017 | 7 am | Lake Merritt Pergola

More than just a healthy start to the holiday, the Oakland Turkey Trot 5K is a fun way to give back while you give thanks. Join a passionate group of Oakland residents with a mission to raise impactful funds for the Alameda County Community Food Bank and Oakland Education Fund. In partnership with the Mayor’s Office, Alameda County Community Food Bank and local sponsors and charities.

Oakland Zoolights
Oakland Zoo Lights
December 1 – 23, 26 – 31, 2017 – January 1, 2018 | 5:30 – 9 pm | Oakland Zoo

Experience an all-new Zoolights this year! Soar over the Oakland hills in festively-lit gondolas and see the entire Bay Area like never before! Other highlights include a candy cane lane-themed Adventure Landing with rides your kids will love, an adventure on the Outback Express train, rocking around the Christmas trees and a music-themed light show that’s sure to blow out any bah-hum-bugs!

Great Dickens Christmas Fair
November 18 – December 17, 2017 | 10 am – 7 pm
Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, SF

Visit London — at the historic Cow Palace Exhibition Halls! Enter the winding lanes of Victorian London and immerse yourself in a world of music halls, theatres, pubs, dance parties, and charming shops overflowing with hand-made holiday treasures. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air. Discover holiday revelry in this lamp-lit city brimming with over 800 lively and colorful characters from the imagination of Charles Dickens, the pages of history, and the sometimes saucy world of the Victorian stage.

ODC Dance Velveteen Rabbit 2009The Velveteen Rabbit
November 25 – December 10, 2017 | daytime shows, times vary
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard Street, SF

ODC/Dance enlivens Margery Williams’ classic tale of a well-worn nursery rabbit that becomes real. Told through music, dance and a powerful narrative, The Velveteen Rabbit celebrates the unique relationship between a little boy and his stuffed rabbit, and the enduring power of love.

Brimming with wit, festive costumes, madcap characters and the perfect amount of holiday cheer, ODC/Dance, one of America’s most exciting and acclaimed contemporary dance companies, returns to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to present their 31st season of the beloved Bay Area production!

41st Annual Lighted Yacht Parade

Saturday, December 2, 2017 | Alameda, starts between Wind River & the Fortman Marina pier | Sunset

This year the parade will follow a longer route passing by Fortman and Grand Marina to include the Alameda and Island Yacht Clubs. Staging between Wind River and the Fortman Marina’s public pier as the sun goes down. Starting about 5:30pm the boats will proceed down the Alameda side past Encinal and Oakland Yacht Clubs, where they judges are.

Proceeding down the Alameda side past the Rusty Pelican where the boats will cross to the Oakland side and pass by the Port of Oakland, Scott’s and Kincaids continuing down the Grand Marina where the parade will turn and make its way past Grand Marina and Fortman Marina back to the staging area at Wind River.

California Revels

December 11 – 20, 2017  |   Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland

In its thirtieth anniversary of Oakland productions, performing arts group California Revels offers another great family-friendly holiday show this winter. This year’s Christmas Revels musical production takes place in Renaissance Venice, with a story centered on a troupe of Commedia dell’arte players hoping to find work at an annual solstice festival and masked ball. Christmas Revels blends traditional music, dance, rituals, and folk plays from a wide variety of cultures — and typically involves audience participation. This year’s production will feature a chorus of more than sixty adult and youth singers. If you’re searching for a festive, energetic show that can engage kids and parents alike, Christmas Revels won’t disappoint.

Winter Fairyland

December 15 – 23, 2017, noon – 7 pm  | Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland

Children’s Fairyland gets into spirit of the holidays of many cultures with this annual event. There will be stories, magic, crafts, a festival of lights and more, all celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali and Chinese New Year.


Graham Lustig’s Nutcracker, Oakland Ballet Company
Saturday, December 23 – 24, 2017 | 1 and 5 pm
Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland

Dancers will bring to life the story of one girl’s enchanted winter evening when the Oakland Ballet Company and Oakland Symphony present this holiday classic.

Christmas Tree Lane
3200 block of Thompson Avenue between High Street and Fernside, Alameda

This block of Thompson Avenue is full of lights and Christmas characters throughout December. If you come between 6 and 8:30 pm, your children can have their picture taken with Santa (for free). There is a donation box. There is also a mailbox. If you post your letter to Santa, you will receive a response to your letter.

Volunteer Opportunities

Glide Thanksgiving Dinner
Glide Memorial Church | 330 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 674-6000

Aprons at the ready — volunteers are needed to prep and help serve 5,000 Thanksgiving meals with all of the trimmings to thousands of needy people. Thanksgiving is special, but it all happens again on Christmas Day. Glide provides three hot meals a day, all through the year, so donations and volunteers are always welcome.

MathTutorHandsOn Bay Area

HandsOn Bay Area is a nonprofit that connects you to “done in a day” volunteer projects for all of the wonderful causes in our community. All you have to do is sign up and show up.

Alameda Food Bank
Multiple volunteer locations

Alameda Food Bank’s annual Safeway “End Hunger Now” food drive kicks off on Saturday, November 23. Volunteers are needed to encourage shoppers to donate food to the Food Drive barrels.

Oakland Animal Shelter
1101 29th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601

Volunteers are absolutely essential to Oakland Animal Services. Not only do OAS volunteers benefit from a fun and rewarding experience, they also significantly improve the lives of the animals at the shelter. Spending time with the animals, increasing adoptions by helping citizens find the right animal to join their family and making new friends along the way, volunteers remain the driving force behind OAS.

Dorothy Day House of Berkeley
1931 Center Street

Dorothy Day House, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing breakfast and emergency shelter to those in need, seeks volunteers to work two shifts at 5 and 6:30 am.

Youth Engagement Advocacy Housing
1744 University Ave, Berkeley

Volunteers are sought by YEAH to help with a variety of positions from preparing the meals to interacting with youth. Volunteers learn from youth, from their fellow volunteers, and from the trainings provided by YEAH. In turn, youth have a warm bed, hot meals and a way of making connections with people from the wider community.

Categories: December 2016, Headlines, November 2015, November 2017
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About Andy Sohn

Andy is the Assistant Director of Communications and Events for the Berkeley Graduate Division.