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 22, 2018 | 8:30 am | Between Lakeshore Ave and Grand Ave in front of the 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 7 – 23, 26 – 31, 2018; January 1 – 6, 2019 | 5:30 – 9 pm | Oakland Zoo

Celebrate the holidays at Oakland Zoo amidst a million glowing lights! Soar over the Oakland hills in our festively-lit gondolas and see the Bay Area skyline like never before. Enjoy swirling snowfalls over a dazzling Winter Wonderland attraction featuring Santa in his decked-out workshop.

See the Music in Motion laser light shows and stroll through twinkling holiday lights, animal structures and a candy cane lane-themed Adventure Landing with rides your kids will love. Hop on the illuminated Outback Express Train!

Great Dickens Christmas Fair
November 17 – December 23, 2018 | 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 24 – December 9, 2018 | 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 32nd season of the beloved Bay Area production!

Estuary Lighted Yacht Parade

Saturday, December 1, 2018 | Alameda, starts between Wind River & the Fortman Marina pier | Sunset

Starting about 5:30 pm the boats will proceed down the Alameda side past Encinal and Oakland Yacht Clubs, where the judges are.

Proceeding down the Alameda side past the Rusty Pelican, 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 8 – 16, 2018, see website for times & dates  |  Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland

Ancient Mysteries of Andalusian Spain

The Revels story begins in 1600 in that part of Spain called Andalusia. Three individuals — a young Moorish woman, a Sephardic Jew, and a Castilian scullery maid — happen to meet, each armed with a mysterious clue that is guiding them on a quest. They are all hoping to find their way back through time to the era of La Convivencia, a time when, as they understand it, all three cultures — Muslim, Jewish, and Christian — lived in a spirit of tolerance and peace.

Directed to pay attention to the celestial bodies, and swept up in the Revels celebration of the Solstice, they learn how each culture celebrates the Sun, the Moon, and the stars in song, dance, poetry and story. By looking to the heavens, they learn the secret of finding the Convivencia. They come to realize that despite the things that make each of us different and unique, in the end, we all live under the same sky.

Winter Fairyland

December 14 – 23, 2018, noon – 7 pm  | Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland

In December, Fairy Winterland celebrates the winter holidays of many cultures: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali, and Chinese New Year. Enjoy stories, crafts, a festival of lights, and a visit from Santa.


Graham Lustig’s Nutcracker, Oakland Ballet Company
Saturday, December 22 – 23, 2018 | see website for times
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.

Check out this article on the best places to see holiday lights in the Bay Area.

Volunteer Opportunities

Whether you want to simply spend the holidays giving back, or start a new holiday tradition that is the start of a year-long volunteer commitment, there are numerous opportunities to get involved. VolunteerMatch.org is one website, specific to neighborhoods and targeted interests, where everyone is sure to find something that fits their schedule and volunteer needs.

Glide Memorial Church
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 meals. 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

The Saturday before Thanksgiving is one of the year’s biggest grocery shopping days — and it also kicks off one of our biggest food drives. How do we pull it off? Volunteers!

On Saturday, November 17, NBC and Safeway will kick off their “Feed the Need” campaign, during which customers can purchase and donate special grocery bags filled with healthy, high-quality, nonperishable foods for families in our community.

Volunteers’ energy and helping hands are absolutely critical to making this day a success. Last year, volunteers helped encourage food donations equaling 300,000 meals in Alameda County alone!

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.

Berkeley Food & Housing Project

Meal prep and dinner services for both the women’s shelter and the men’s shelter are big needs for this group working to support people who are homeless or who are living on the verge of homelessness. With an array of shifts and positions involving everything from food prep to setup to serving to cleanup, it’s an excellent way to give back to your local community.

Meals on Wheels

Prepare and/or deliver meals to homebound seniors throughout the East Bay. Stay to visit, sing Christmas carols, or just be a friendly momentary visitor. For some you may be the only other person they see all day. There are currently over five East Bay locations.

Categories: December 2016, Headlines, November 2015, November 2017, November 2018
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About Andy Sohn

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