Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy holidays from Frisco Kids

Wishing all who celebrate, a Happy Hanukkah!



Wishing all who celebrate Christmas, a Merry Christmas.


And wishing everyone a happy, healthy New Year! (Here's the Frisco Kids list of what to do with kids in the Bay Area on New Year's Eve?

We'll be posting again in January. Enjoy the break!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Touring the White House with Kids

This is part of a series on Washington D.C. with kidsLet’s just say that preparing to go to the White House is worse than flying a plane these days. Not that our president should be unsafe, but…

If you’re planning a trip to Washington D.C., you probably want to go to the White House. It’s free, historical and exclusive! It’s hard to get in.

The Front? The Back? Nah, just one side.
I thought my kids would be SO excited to go into the White House. In the end, they were bored. BORED! What’s wrong with them? When we entered, they gave us a Junior Ranger activity guide, which the kids promptly handed to me and made me hold. But there's lots of good stuff in there, including things they can look for inside the White House, and lots of trivia. And puzzles where you need the pencil/pen you're not allowed to bring in.

Tour: When I was a kid, we took an actual tour. Now it’s self-guided. You walk through the ground floor, peeking into the library, Vermeilrom and China room (which holds…White House china designed for the various presidents). 

You then go upstairs into the East Room, the largest in the White House. It was used to hang laundry during the Adams administration, but has held weddings (Alice Roosevelt, Luci Johnson). This room holds performances and a painting of George Washington that was saved from the fire that burned down the White House in 1814.

We went through the GreenBlue and Red room, so creatively named. If you look at those links you can see that President Obama has actually spent time in the rooms, though he's allowed to walk on the rugs and sit on the furniture, and you're not. Though there are no tour guides, the guards are quite informed and share their knowledge with you. About the wallpaper. About who redecorated, when and who paid for it. About furniture that was sold and then repurchased later from across the country.

The last major room is the State Dining Room, where they can seat 140, at round tables. According to this map, the family dining room is just behind it! Lots of famous people have eaten here. From there it’s into two halls, and out the door you go.

after exiting the White House we were allowed to take photos
What the kids thought: they thought they’d get see the president’s bowling alley and movie theater. They thought everything was really old and not interesting. They were bummed they didn’t get to see Bo the dog. They didn't really care that famous people they've never heard of had eaten in the State Dining Room.

Bo - not available for our petting pleasure
 I tried to get them interested in White House facts, like:
-it has 26 fireplaces and 3 elevators. I think we saw an elevator and maybe a few fireplaces.
-there are 15 bedrooms and 35 restrooms. None of which you get to see.
-There’s even a dental office and medical clinic. That you don't get to see.
-There are 4 dining rooms (state, family, president and staff). You get to see one.
-There’s no front or back to the White House, only a north and south side.

I told the kids there were snipers on the White House roof, but they didn't believe me. I started to doubt myself (I didn't tell the kids that) but did see snipers on the White House roof on YouTube, so it must be true.

White House Visitor’s Center: This is located across the street in the National Press Building, not in the park area. I went in without the kids. The kids would have been BORED. There is a coloring area and some kid books on the White House. They have a fun little gift shop.

Souvenir photos: There’s a souvenir store across the street from the White House called White House Gifts, where you can get your picture taken for free in a fake Oval office or at a presidential podium used for press conferences. That's free with a $5 purchase. It's at 701 15th Street NW.

Getting tickets: Check the White House site here. You should contact your senator or member of congress for tickets the second you book your flight or trip. We went in November and managed to get tickets in less than 2 months. But in the summer? You’re looking at 6 months. Our senator said he needed a minimum of 40 days. Be prepared to provide social security numbers and other information.

Details: there’s a lengthy list of what you cannot bring into the White House – or even into the security area. That includes food, water, pens, backpacks, fanny packs, purses, (handbags/pocketbooks included), cameras, explosive devices, firearms, strollers, etc. You can bring a phone that takes pictures, but if you take a picture or answer the phone, they will kill you. Just kidding. They may take your phone away, which to some is akin to death. They have no lockers, so be prepared to go without much that day (other than a wallet that fits in your pocket and a phone). I ended up making a trip back to the hotel to get my backpack for the rest of the day - sending the rest of the family off to the Smithsonian.

Security: you will go through hefty security, reminiscent of getting into the Statue of Liberty. Which if you haven't been, is worse than the airport. Though leave your shoes on.

Check out my other posts on Washington D.C. with kids including:
Join Frisco Kids on Facebook.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Coming Up: Holiday Celebration for Special Needs Kids

Habitot, a hands-on toddler museum in Berkeley, has a free holiday event for special needs kids and their family. The kids will have the museum to themselves during that time.

WHEN: Wednesday, December 28 from 3-7 p.m.
WHERE: Habitot (2065 Kittredge Street, Berkeley)
COST: Free

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Favorite Treats

At holiday time it's fun to sample the seasonal foods. By seasonal, I mean variations on chocolate, cookies and peppermint. So here are a few of my favorites. I do hope you'll weigh in (pun intended) with your favorites!

We just got a few sample bags of Pretzel Crisp's new dark chocolate and peppermint snacks. Yum! We also got to try the white chocolate version. I prefer dark chocolate, but the kids prefer the white. They dark chocolate bag is now hidden in my pantry where only I can find it. The downside is the bag only contains 4 official servings, so it's not very big. They're only out this time of year.
Trader Joe's. So many wonderful holiday foods at Trader Joe's. My favorites:

Trader Joe's chocolate-covered shortbread star cookies. Love these. Also hidden from my family. My TJs was sold out very early this year - I'm expecting a mailed shipment from a friend.

Trader Joe's chocolate-covered candy cane Joe-Os. So imagine a candy cane cream Oreo, covered in chocolate. Yep, that's it. They have their own Facebook page.
And this year, a box of 4 favorite seasonal covered Joe-Os. Includes ginger, peanut butter and double chocolate, in addition to peppermint. Yep, you guessed it. Hidden from the family.


Melting Moment Cookies with Icing - these have neither chocolate or peppermint, but I associate them with Hanukkah. I haven't made them as an adult, but I remember them from growing up. I can't guarantee this is the same Melting Moment recipe but it looked close. Make the icing with a cup of powdered sugar and a little bit of lemon juice (if you like tart) or milk. Add food coloring to the icing. It's just not the same if you use powdered sugar and no icing. They look more like these, but use color.

Check out these really cute North Pole cupcakes and peppermint popcorn from Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons. Her stuff always looks amazing!

And last, but certainly not least, we got some homemade Irish Cream from my dear friend Cheryl. It's so delicious. I don't have her recipe, but this homemade Irish Cream recipe has similar ingredients that she mentioned to me (she didn't say anything about almond extract).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: Suite Hotels near Washington D.C.

This is part of a series on Washington D.C. with kids. Most of the attractions in Washington D.C. are free, making a trip like this much less expensive than trips elsewhere (after factoring in hotel costs!).

After two trips to Washington D.C. in two years, I feel like a hotel search expert. I spent hours trying to find the right combination of things I wanted for our meager budget. If you can get a hotel that works for you in Washington D.C., by all means go for it. When we went the rates were too high (not to mention parking costs). We opted for Arlington, VA, which is very easy (and quick) to get to on the Metro system.
Here was our criteria for a hotel:

Deals of the Day: Old Navy, $1 Restaurant.com, AMC Movie Program, Oprah, Mini Golf, Kirkwood, World Food Program matching

Just a few quick deals today

OLD NAVY
Get $20 in Old Navy clothing for $10 over the next three days at Groupon. Valid 12/22/11-1/28/12 (for full $20 credit, after that you still get your $10).
If you're new to Groupon, click here. It's on the San Jose page, under Grouponicus deals
If you're already a Groupon user, click here.


WORLD FOOD PROGRAM
It's a matching grant. Donate $10, $25 or $50 and Groupon's donor will double it. And you can donate easily and without hassle. I just did it. 100% of the funds raised go to the World Food Program.
If you're new to Groupon, click here. It's on the San Jose page, under Grouponicus deals
If you're already a Groupon user, click here. It's on the San Jose page under Groupononicus deals.

PLUM DISTRICT
A bunch of deals at Plum District - see them here.
-$20 for $40 in Merey Arnett handbags. I just received mine in the mail - lightweight and perfect for travel. Stylish too. Free shipping
-$6 for $10 in Powell's Sweet Shoppe in Novato
-$12 for O, the Oprah Mag subscription (you won't get a better discount than this - trust me).
-2 rounds of indoor mini golf in East Bay for $7
-yes this is a big ticket item, but you deserve it! One week at the famed Rancho La Puerta spa in Baja California for $2500 (normally $4000)
-plus lots more - shoes, glitter make-up, massages, facials, nails, art class, clothing
Get the deals here.


KIRKWOOD
Get $40 ski tickets to Kirkwood, ($79 for 2-day tickets) and in doing so 20% of the funds will be donated to the San Mateo/Foster City Educational Foundation. On the same site, $79 buys your 7-12 year old a complete ski or snowboard package (lesson, lift ticket, rentals, lunch and snack). More about the Kirkwood discounts here. 

RESTAURANT.COM
The best sale of the year is back - get $25 restaurant.com certificates for $1. Use code JOY at checkout. Good through 12/24.

AMC STUBS
My friend Joy just sent this in (thanks, Joy!). You can join AMC Stubs reward program for half price ($6) through the end of the year. It's good if you see a lot of AMC movies. It's a reward program that includes upgraded concessions every time, and no fees on online ticket purchases. You collect $10 in rewards for every $100 you spend. Get into the program for $6 (normally $12) through the end of the year, using code HOLSTUBS6.

AMAZON
Do your last minute shopping from here. Use this Amazon link - costs you nothing but supports your favorite blogger (yeah, that's us).

You support Frisco Kids when you purchase using some of the links above. You support the San Mateo/Foster City Ed fund when you purchase using the Kirkwood links.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

14 Things to Do Over Winter Break

Are you crawling the walls yet? Here are 14 things to do over winter break in the Bay Area. Add your own favorites in the comments section!


1. Visit the Golden Gate Express Train Exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.


2. While you're at Golden Gate Park, check out the Academy of Sciences' Tis the Season for Science, through January 16. Get your fill of snow - indoors, see some live reindeer, learn about how holiday symbols connect with the natural world, see where cinnamon comes from, and find out if partidges really live in pear trees.  


3. Curiodyssey in San Mateo has Winter Explorer Days 12/20-23 from 10-3. Changing drop-in daily science activities - free with admission.

4. Visit the Marine Mammal Center in Marin, and check out the seals and sea lions getting rehabilitated. Open daily except Christmas and New Year's Day. Free admission and no reservations needed.


5. Waste some gas looking at holiday lights. Here’s a list of light displays in the Bay Area.


6. Go to the Oakland Zoo for Zoolights, through January 1nd. Using LED-lights (those are the efficient ones, by the way), you’ll see animals, candy canes and Santa Clause, shaped by lights. There’s a train ride (Snowball Express), Santa’s workshop, and light show in the meadow. 

7. Gilroy Gardens has nightly weekend light shows, ice skating and rides.

8. Make some crafts and homemade treats! A sock-snowman, an edible snowman, easy Hanukkah crafts, caramel chocolate popcornrock candy, or chocolate dipped pretzels 

9. See a show. Xanadu in San Francisco through January 13. Cats in San Jose December 27 through January  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas in SF December 21-31. Get discount tickets on Travelzoo here. A Christmas Carol in San Jose through December 24. Here's a list of other SF shows, not necessarily kid-friendly. There are still a few Nutcracker shows left. The San Francisco Symphony has holiday shows, and Travelzoo has some discounts here.



10. Visit a museum you’ve never been to – look at my museum list on the right side and pick one! Favorites include the newly reopened Childrens Creativity Museum (formerly Zeum), the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Lawrence Hall of Science, the Tech Museum of Innovation, the California Academy of Sciences, the SF Museum of Modern Art & the Randall Museum.

11. Go ice skating. Here are several options for outdoor holiday ice skating in the Bay Area:

12. Kiddie Amusement parks! Try Children’s Fairyland in Oaklandor , Pixieland in Concord

13. These Bay Area birthday party locations often have open hours – especially bounce house places like Bounce U and Pump it Up.

14. Go swimming – indoors at Silliman Aquatic Center. Their indoor play structure, slides and Jacuzzi are just thing for cold days. 



Join Frisco Kids on Facebook.

Deals of the Day: Swim, Ballet, Soccer Class, Oprah Mag, Powell's Candy, Kirkwood, $1 Restaurant.com

Deals for today:

PLUM DISTRICT
Today, you can save an extra 25% on Plum District deals - using code "tuesday25" for local deals.
-$70 for up to 10 weeks of indoor soccer at Pacific Soccer Academy (ages 3-9). Locations include Fremont, Los Gatos, Santa Cruz and San Jose
-$36 for $72 in swim lessons at American Swim Academy in Fremont, Dublin, Livermore & Newark
-$11 for 2 admissions to the Bay Area Discovery Museum ($22 value)
-$80 for $195 in ballet class at Allegro Music & Dance in Foster City (ages 3-teen)
-$6 for $10 in Powell's Sweet Shoppe in Novato
-plus lots more - shoes, glitter make-up, massages, facials, nails, art class, clothing
No extra discount, but everywhere deals include
-$12 for O, the Oprah Mag subscription (you won't get a better discount than this - trust me).
-yes this is a big ticket item, but you deserve it! One week at the famed Rancho La Puerta spa in Baja California for $2500 (normally $4000)
Get the deals here.

KIRKWOOD
Get $40 ski tickets to Kirkwood, ($79 for 2-day tickets) and in doing so 20% of the funds will be donated to the San Mateo/Foster City Educational Foundation. On the same site, $79 buys your 7-12 year old a complete ski or snowboard package (lesson, lift ticket, rentals, lunch and snack). More about the Kirkwood discounts here.

RESTAURANT.COM
The best sale of the year is back - get $25 restaurant.com certificates for $1. Use code JOY at checkout. Good through 12/24.

AMAZON
Do your last minute shopping from here. Use this Amazon link - costs you nothing but supports your favorite blogger (yeah, that's us).

You support Frisco Kids when you purchase using some of the links above. You support the San Mateo/Foster City Ed fund when you purchase using the Kirkwood links.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Link Love Cooking and Holiday Things

This is the season for eating, so here are some great links about cooking and eating - plus some craft ideas.

If you wonder what the campus dining plan is like at the Culinary Institute of America, check it out here. You'll be drooling.

How to host a kid-friendly cookie swap - by a Little Yumminess

Cheese plate play date - also by a Little Yumminess. The title is pure awesomeness, but it's a great idea for kids too!

Last minute homemade gift ideas - by my friend Kris at Attainable Sustainable.

I love all things miniature, so this post by Frog Mom about Leafcutter Designs, about little packages and little letters (and kits to make your own) caught my attention.

Transform recycled jars into holiday art. This one looks awesome - cute and easy from Attainable Sustainable.

Another Frog Mom post...this one on Hakone Gardens in Saratoga.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 New Year's Eve with Kids in San Francisco Bay Area

What to do with the kids on New Year's Eve in the San Francisco Bay Area? Here are some family-friendly options.
(here's the 2012 New Year's Eve with Kids post)

Bay Area Discovery Museu- Sausalito
What: Noon Year's Eve
When: December 31 from 9 a.m. to noon (Museum closes at 2 p.m.)
Details: Count down to New Year's. Celebrate the clock striking 12 noon and create your own noisemakers and party hats as the ball drops.

Cost: $11 for admission. Optional $12 goody bag (order online) with bubbles, sunglasses, necklaces and moreRSVP: Drop-in. 



Asian Art Museum - San Francisco
What: Strike a Japanese temple bell to ring in the new year
When: December 31st. 

9:30-11:30 a.m. bell ringing for museum members. 
11:30 a.m. bell ringing ceremony for nonmembers
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. art activites
Details: Good explanation of Japanese bell ringing tradition here.
RSVP: none. Children 12 and under get in free. Get your numbered tickets at the front desk.
Cost: Free with admission


Hiller Aviation Museum - San Carlos
What: Noon Year's Eve Celebration
When: December 31st, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Details: Face painting, Lizard Lady, For Goodness Snakes, puppets, music, games, bounce house, climbing wall, flight simulation game, live entertainment, balloon drop
RSVP: none. Event free with admission.


What: Balloon Drop
When: December 31, with ball drops between noon at 2:05. Radio Disney will be there from 12:30-2 with games, music and prizes. Museum closes at 4 p.m. that day.
Details: create a noisemaker, a party hat, other crafts and "countdown to noon across the time zones"
RSVP: none.
Cost: free with admission

What: Zoolights - holiday decorations, lights and music - at night!
When: through January 3rd, 2010, 5:30-9 p.m. on 12/31
Details: This isn't a special New Year's Eve program, but if you're looking to do something fun that night, check out the Zoolights.
RSVP: none
Cost: $5.50-$7.50 zoo admission for nonmembers
Embarcadero Fireworks
Bundle up for fireworks near the Ferry Plaza. Head to the Embarcadero and watch outdoors - they start at midnight.

SFkids.org has a list of things to do that day as well.

I'm sure there's more happening - please comment with more ideas!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Candle Making, Restaurant.com, Kirkwood, Global Winter Wonderland

Some deals for today:

GLOBAL WINTER WONDERLAND
Seasonal extravaganza with replicas of world famous buildings, plus live entertainment.
Several pricing options (like $14 for 2 tickets on Mon-Thurs, or $34 for 4 tickets on Fri-Sun)
If you're new to Groupon, get the deal here. It's on the San Francisco page, a Grouponicus deal.
If you're already a Groupon member, get the deal here.


PLUM DISTRICT DEALS
Plum District has a bunch of great deals, and you can save 30% on local deals through Friday (not the everywhere ones) using code "local30," including:
-$11 for two admissions to the Bay Area Children's Museum (half-off!)

-$25 for $50 in Modern Vintage Boutique clothing (Marin)

-$25 for $50 in kids clothing from Mango Street Kids (San Jose) or Oopsie Daisy Baby (San Jose)
-half-off CSA membership plus ground beef (Marin/East Bay)


Or get the regular great deal prices on deals like:
-$29 for $150 beauty basket from Jessica Simpson's BeautyMint.com

-$46 for Starbuck's holiday gift basket (mine arrived yesterday!) with shipping included

-a pound of chocolates (Ghirardelli, Black and White, Lindt) in decorative container for $35 including shipping
-Keurig coffee maker, plus coffee, mug, chocolate, cookies AND shipping for $129 (mine is on its way!)

Find them all here


KIRKWOOD
Get $40 ski tickets to Kirkwood, ($79 for 2-day tickets) and in doing so 20% of the funds will be donated to the San Mateo/Foster City Educational Foundation. On the same site, $79 buys your 7-12 year old a complete ski or snowboard package (lesson, lift ticket, rentals, lunch and snack). More about the Kirkwood discounts here.

SOCCER CAMP
Get a winter session of soccer camp for $36 (value $72) at SoccerKids in San Mateo via Juice in the City.

CANDLES/LOTION/SOAP
Make your own candles and lotion with this fun Groupon from Wix in Los Gatos. For $24 (value $50) you get a candle, soap and lotion making package with holiday gift bag. You choose scents, colors, shapes and more. You can buy 4 per person (great holiday gift for the moms/friends/sisters/aunts/nieces/daughters to do together).

If you're new to Groupon, get the deal here. It's on the San Jose page.



RESTAURANT.COM
Get $25 in restaurant.com credit for as little as $2 (or $25 gift cards for $3.99), using code STOCKING at checkout through 12/14.


AMAZON
Doing any shopping at Amazon these days? If so, use this Amazon link - costs you nothing but supports your favorite blogger (yeah, that's us).

Buying through some of the above links supports Frisco Kids.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dedicated Post: Biscotti Warehouse and Sample Sale - Designer Girl's Apparel

Don't miss the Biscotti Warehouse and Sample Sale this Friday and Saturday, December 16 and 17. Save up to 75% off wholesale - items as low as $10! Doors open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Designer girl's apparel brands include Biscotti, Kate Mack and baby biscotti. The sale is at Biscotti Inc. headquarters, 5601 San Leandro Street (2nd floor) in Oakland, one mile north of the Oakland Coliseum. Cash or credit only. Questions or inquiries? Email info@biscottiinc.com or call (510) 434-9122. Find Biscotti on Facebook.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Deals of the Day: Peet's, Name a Star, CSA, Restaurant.com, Milkshake Werks, Kirkwood

A random assortment of deals for you today:

PEET'S COFFEE
Save $1 today when you buy any beverage and use this coupon.


NAME A STAR
My kids have stars named after them, and they love it! You too can name a star after someone - for a discounted $14.
If you're new to Groupon, get the deal here. It's on the San Jose page.
If you're already a Groupon member, get the deal here.

FARM FRESH TO YOU
Get $31 in local, organic produce delivered to you for $15.

If you're new to Groupon, get the deal here. It's on the San Francisco page.
If you're already a Groupon member, get the deal here.

MILKSHAKE WERKS
Get $10 in ice cream and more at Redwood City's Milkshake Werks, via Juice in the City.

KIRKWOOD
Get $40 ski tickets to Kirkwood, ($79 for 2-day tickets) and in doing so 20% of the funds will be donated to the San Mateo/Foster City Educational Foundation. On the same site, $79 buys your 7-12 year old a complete ski or snowboard package (lesson, lift ticket, rentals, lunch and snack). More about the Kirkwood discounts here.

PLUM DEALS
Plum District has a bunch of great deals, including:
-a pound of chocolates (Ghirardelli, Black and White, Lindt) for $35 including shipping
-$14 for holiday lights tour
-$90 for kids' 12 week dance class
-scrapbooking supplies
-half-off admission to the Bay Area Children's Museum
-half-off CSA membership plus ground beef
-custom-made t-shirt quilt
-guitar and song-writing lessons
-Sonoma hotel retreat
-dining, wine, cake pops, clothing, kids' stuff, massage, birthday party, sports lessons...
Find them all here

RESTAURANT.COM
Get $25 in restaurant.com credit for as little as $2 (or $25 gift cards for $3.99), using code STOCKING at checkout through 12/14.

TRAVELOCITY/RESTAURANT.COM
Get a $50 Travelocity hotel gift card PLUS a $50 restaurant.com e-gift card for $30 here. Make sure to read the fine print.

AMAZON
Doing any shopping at Amazon these days? If so, use this Amazon link - costs you nothing but supports your favorite blogger (yeah, that's us).

Buying through some of the above links supports Frisco Kids.

Great Places to Donate this Holiday Season

Of course there are many many worthy organizations and places to donate this holiday season. I'll highlight a few here:

ONE WARM COAT
One Warm Coat organizes coat drives around the country. You can organize your own or search for one near you.

CHRONICLE SEASON OF SHARING FUND
The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund is an organization I've contributed to yearly. The fund provides one-time donations to families in need for specific purposes. If you read the SF Chronicle, you've probably seen stories they write about some of the recipients. Each year the fund helps more than 5,000 Bay Area families encountering an unexpected crisis. It's one of the largest private sources of emergency financial assistance in the area. The fund is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.



PASSPORTS WITH PURPOSE
If you looked at the right side of my blog lately, you'll notice the large green Passports with Purpose ad. This fundraiser, organized by travel bloggers, is raising $80,000 in small donations to build libraries in Zambia (in past years, the organization built a rural school in Cambodia).

To encourage you to donate, bloggers solicited amazing prizes like hotel stays in Los Cabos, British Columbia or Kauai, Disneyland Park Hopper tickets, grandstand seats for the Tournament of Roses parade, Costa Rica tours, travel gear, Amazon Kindles, Kindle Fires, and gift certificates for all kinds of things. You can see the full list of prizes here along with the blog hosting the prize, and list of participating travel bloggers here (we're one). You can also donate without entering to win a prize.

The fundraising ends on December 16th, with prize winners announced on December 23rd. How to enter? You get one entry for every $10 donation. In the "# of entries" spot on the right, put in how many entries you want for each prize you're interested in, and then give them your email address at the bottom. Easy!

And if you're looking for more ideas (for volunteering as well), check out Marinhood's post.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Light and Other Displays in the Bay Area

The holidays are so well known for dark nights and bright lights, I thought we'd do a round-up of some fun Bay Area light displays.

HOTEL SNOWFALL
The Hyatt Regency San Francisco (Embarcadero) has thrice daily snowfalls in its atrium lobby, along with thousands of holiday lights and a 30 foot tree. Look for it through December 31st. Get there at 1, 6 and 8 p.m. daily for the show. 

ILLUMINIQUE
The Westfield Shopping Centre in San Francisco has a new 3-D holiday light spectacular this year. It starts at 5 p.m. nightly, when the mall's dome turns into a multi-media surround theater, with lights and a holiday story harkening back to a 19th century toy shop. It's call Illuminique Under the Dome and runs for four minutes every half hour from 6 to 8:30 through December 31st (Sundays the mall closes at 8). Get a preview here.

TRAIN OF LIGHTS
The Niles Canyon (East Bay) Train of Lights has holiday runs through December 29th. The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights train runs through December 23rd.

SUGAR CASTLE
When shopping in Union Square, stop by the Westin St. Francis to see their pastry chef's sugar castle resembling a French chateau. It weighs more than 1,200 pounds and is completely edible, with 20 circular towers and 30 rooms. Kids will also love the train that circles around it. Look for it through January 3, 2012.

ZOO LIGHTS
One of my favorite holiday traditions is zoo lights, where the zoos light up at night with themed light displays. The Oakland Zoo has a light show open nightly (except 12/24 and 12/25), train rides, other rides and other activities.

GILROY GARDENS HOLIDAY LIGHTS
The Gilroy Gardens Holiday Lights Symphony of Lasers and fireworks runs through December 30 (see here for dates). It's free with admission and a lot of fun (we've been in the past). Plus, there's outdoor ice skating, a Santa's Workshop, a Charlie Brown Christmas show and rides. Get $30 tickets here that include a buffet dinner. If you buy the same deal at the gate, it's $40. I assume you can buy tickets without the dinner at the gate too, but those prices weren't online.

FISHERMAN'S WHARF AND BOAT PARADE
Check out the holiday displays and lights at Fisherman's Wharf. The Boat Parade is on December 16th starting at 6 p.m., when several of the area's boating clubs have a parade of lighted boats. Details here.

BEST PLACES TO SEE THE LIGHTS

...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Coming Up: Emil of Lonneberga Puppet Musical

Just opening this weekend, Emil of Lonneberga (English-language premiere) at the Bay Area Children's Theatre. By the time this posts, you'll just miss the opening of the show (sorry!). But it's running through December 22, so not to worry. It's the story of an angelic-looking 5 year old farm boy who can't stay out of trouble. It's set in Sweden a century ago by Astrid Lindgren (the name is familiar, yes? Pippi Longstocking). See a clip here. It's done with puppeters who appear on stage, and there are live musicians as well performing music from the Smaland region (familiar? Ikea).

WHERE: Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley.
WHEN: weekends through 12/22
TICKETS: $20/adult, $15/kid