It’s that time of year: Holiday light-peeping

Whether you stay in the car and do a “drive-by” or get out to stroll, appreciating the hard work of those who put up holiday light displays is a fun winter tradition. Here are our picks for light-peeping this year.carousel at night

Alameda’s Christmas Tree Lane is a must-see for East Bay families. Get a preview here >

Oakland Zoo’s Zoo Lights event is on every evening from 5:30 to 9 pm except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The light show is set to music in the field, and the entire Zoo is decked out in holiday bling. Members get in free on Mondays, otherwise there is a separate Zoo Lights admission price for everyone, not covered by membership.

Fourth Street in Berkeley is beautifully lit, making even a 6 pm rice and beans dinner at Tacubaya feel special.

Tilden Park Carousel’s Christmas Fantasy in the Woods is another must-do each holiday season. Take a couple of spins on the carousel and admire the display of lights and decorated trees. It runs from 5:30 to 8:30 PM until December 23rd. Bundle up; it’s dark and cold up there at night!

Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland has a beautiful scene called the Holiday Circle of Lights, open from 5 pm to 9 pm everyday. Go out for dinner on nearby Piedmont Avenue afterward.


Morgan Family Christmas Light Show in Newark is a 15-minute music and lights show with 10,000 lights. Pull up and set your radio to 87.9 FM to hear the music. The address is 36811 Gum Ct. Newark, California. The show is 5:30 to 10:00 Sun.-Thu. and 5:30-11:00 Fri. and Sat.

Runners-up in the 510:

  • Monterey Avenue in North Berkeley features a handful of houses with extravagant displays, near Hopkins.
  • 928 The Arlington, also in North Berkeley, is spectacular, but the only house like it on the block.
  • A house on Ralston Court in Hayward is working its way toward becoming a destination for that community and has its own website.

Worth the drive {outside the 510}

A residential home in Clayton, CA (about 45 minutes from Berkeley) offers a state-of-the-art lights and music show. Called A Heart for Christmas, the program runs on Weds-Sat until Dec 21 and then nightly at 1185 Pine Lane, Clayton CA, 94517. The show runs every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour, beginning at 6 pm. You may not use the family’s bathroom, but you can park in front of the house.

Niles Canyon Railroad Train of Lights runs now and sells out fast. Here’s what you get. Buy your tickets in advance. Locating the purchase link is very challenging on the Railroad’s website, so I’m going to go ahead and link you right there. Update: Completely sold out for 2014.

Christmas Tree Lane in San Carlos is the consensus from my South Bay correspondents. The street name is Eucalyptus Lane and you can drive or walk by. Google Maps says it’s forty minutes from Berkeley.

Vasona Park in Los Gatos is a well-loved light and music show among South Bay families. The 2013 Fantasy of Lights show begins November 29 and will run through December 31, 6 – 10pm nightly.  Admission is $10 or $15 per vehicle and the soundtrack pipes into your car radio. Vasona Lake County Park, 333 Blossom Hill Road (near University Avenue), Los Gatos

photos: Vasona Park pirate ship courtesy Santa Clara County; carousel

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  1. Kaila says

    Thanks for the tips, but as a life long Oakland girl turned Mom, you can’t leave out Picardy Street in East Oakland. Right below Mills College between 55th and Seminary has been lighting up the Holidays for as long as I can remember. Drive by or stroll the block, family friendly and in a safe neighborhood. Hit it up on your way to Zoo lights!

  2. Tamar says

    Also, don’t forget the lights at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland! At the top of Piedmont Ave — they have a nice display around the circle, it starts 12/1 and there is even a radio station with holiday music you can listen to!