Best Things to Do in December With Kids - 510 Families

Best Things to Do in December With Kids

So much fun all December long — find Santa, play in the snow, listen to stories, see lights, get crafty, winter camps, light the Menorah, take in a show, phew! We know the holidays can get expensive, so we tried to highlight some extra FREE events this month. Find even more free and hecka cheap events for families over here.

Thank you to our sponsor The Oakland Ballet Company, which presents Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker this December 16 and 17. This magical performance is sure to be the highlight of your holiday season! Sweeten the experience with an additional ticket to the Sweet Dreams Party – a sweet-filled, meet-and-greet with the dancers.

Nutcracker performance
See the leaping snowflake dancers in The Nutcracker | Photo: John Hefti for OBC

Save the Date for These Exciting Community Events

Kids ice skate at Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink
Kids of all skill levels can ice skate thanks to skating aids. | Photo: Sunset Development Company

Ice Skating In East Bay

Glide and twirl at a local ice skating rink. There are many outdoor rinks in the East Bay and San Francisco this holiday season. Of course, there are also a few indoor options for when the weather is less than perfect for skating. This is a great activity for a range of age groups, especially because many rinks have skating aids available for rent. Check schedules for special performances or themed nights, too!

Holiday Happenings

Celebrate the Festival of Lights at a Community Menorah Lighting or Hanukkah celebration; get all the details in our Hanukkah Guide for Families. ‘Tis the season for Tree Lighting events and Christmastime events. We rounded them up in our huge Christmas Guide. Looking for a free, anytime outing? See dazzling lights along Berkeley’s Fourth Street, stunning displays in the gardens of Temple Hill in Oakland, or cheerful decorations at Alameda’s Christmas Tree Lane. There are also wonderful light-filled paid options that are worth the admission cost, like Glowfari. Snap a photo with the big guy from the North Pole at a local Santa visit.

Oakland Ballet Company Nutcracker
The Nutcracker performing with The Oakland Symphony | Photo by John Hefti for OBC

Reserve Tickets to Shows & Performances

From The Oakland Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker to the San Francisco Symphony’s live performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas, we’re loving all the holiday shows this season. Enjoying a performance together is a lovely holiday tradition for many families. We also recommend Cinderella Enchanted at Berkeley Playhouse for elementary-aged kids, or purchasing tickets for when Bluey comes to SF in January

Gettin’ Outside

Looking for a break from all the lights, gifts, and holiday events? Head outside! Your family (and even visiting guests) can explore the caves at Mount Diablo State Park, hike around Lake Anza or Lake Temescal,  stroll along tot-friendly paths, trek under the towering trees at Joaquin Miller Park or Redwood Regional Park, bike along the paved trails along Alameda’s waterfront, scramble up North Berkeley’s rock parks, build sandcastles or fly a kite at a Bay Area beach, stomp through the local streams or other fun spots for wet weather play, and even drive to the mountains for a little snow play. All to say, there are so many beautiful, free outdoor options this winter.

Toddler Hike Tilden Park
It’s all about the journey when hiking with toddlers | Photo: Maureen Burke

Playing & Learning Indoors

Visit a new-to-you indoor play area or museum exhibit this month. Kids can swing, slide and bounce off the walls inside these indoor play spaces across the East Bay. We’re big fans of Habitot’s Space Exploration Pop-Up or OMCA’s Nature Playspace for the 5 and under crowd. Animal lovers may enjoy visiting with creatures of all sizes at The Lawrence’s Animal Discovery Center, Lindsay Wildlife Experience, or Sulphur Creek Nature Center (admission is free!). Dinosaur fans will enjoy the “World Largest Dinosaur” exhibit at Cal Academy (Bonus: the museum is open every day). Older kids — or kids at heart — may enjoy a visit to the Pacific Pinball Museum, bowling, or indoor mini-golfing. Take advantage of Discover and Go: a program for Bay Area library card holders that offers free or discounted admission to local museums. Plan ahead and reserve tickets in advance; offerings are typically available at the beginning of the month. Learn more about Discover and Go >

Cut Down A Christmas Tree

Seeking a tree this holiday season? Check out our Christmas Tree guide filled with local and worth-the-drive destinations for picking out the perfect centerpiece for your home. Visiting a Christmas Tree lot or farm is a simple way to get in the holiday spirit. Add in some holiday music and hot chocolate, and your family is sure to feel the holiday vibes.

tree on car at farm
Tie a fresh-cut fir or pine tree to your car (they’ll help!) | Photo: Rancho Siempre Verde

Favorite Free & Cheap Happenings

Need some planning inspiration? We’ve got you covered! We gathered up our favorite free and inexpensive activities in the East Bay to serve as a go-to, weekday itinerary when you’re in a pinch. Find more free & cheap events this month >

Plus, plan an outing to one of the world-class museums in the Bay Area; take advantage of free admission on certain days. Learn more about ways to get into museums for free >

  • December 1: Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco
  • December 2-3: Bank of America Free Museum Days
  • December 3: Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and First Sunday at OMCA (nearly free!)
  • December 5: de Young Museum in San Francisco and Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco
  • December 7: BAMPFA in Berkeley & SFMOMA in San Francisco
  • December 9: Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco
  • December 10: SFMOMA Free Community Day
  • December 12 and 25: San Francisco Botanical Garden

Find more holiday activities in our East Bay Christmas Events Guide!

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We appreciate The Oakland Ballet Company for sponsoring our December round-up of great activities for families. Purchase tickets to see The Nutcracker

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