This guide to the most magical Christmas lights in the East Bay is sponsored by Fourth Street in Berkeley. We are a huge fan of holiday light displays because, so often, they are a free and lovely way to enjoy time together for mixed generations. Yes, please!
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 that is totally low cost or even FREE. Here are our picks for light-peeping this year, sponsored by Berkeley's Fourth Street shopping district.
Best Christmas Lights in Berkeley and North
Fourth Street in Berkeley
You only have to see them once and you’ll fall in love! The holiday lights on Fourth Street are entertaining and are inspiring – on every night at dusk for the season – making even a 6 pm rice and beans dinner at Tacubaya feel special. This year, they'll light up on Friday, November 22 at dusk. It really is a sight to be seen, three blocks worth of sparkling color! Shops will be open until 7pm and you can enjoy complimentary hot beverages at Artís Coffee, Market Hall Foods Berkeley, Peet's Coffee, Sur La Table, or Tacubaya.
Starting in December, visit with Santa and his red sleigh in a forest of snowy trees, hot cocoa, marionette shows, caroling and more! Visit the Fourth Street website for all the details.
Tilden Park Carousel Christmastime (Berkeley)
Another must-do each holiday season! For less than $20, take a couple of spins on the carousel and admire the display of lights and decorated trees. The Christmas merry-go-round runs from 4 pm to 8:30 pm from Nov. 29 – Dec. 24th. Bundle up; it's dark and cold up there at night! More about the Tilden Merry-go-round at Christmas >
Sundar Shadi Holiday Display (El Cerrito)
El Cerrito is home to this life-sized nativity scene on Moeser Lane. With more sheep than a Bethlehem-based shepherd can shake a stick at, this Christmas display is an East Bay tradition. In its 70th year, the display goes up on Saturday, Dec 14th through Dec 26th with lights on from 5pm to 10 pm. More details about the Shadi Holiday Display >
Christmas lights in North Berkeley
A walk or drive through different parts of North Berkeley will reward you with some pretty impressive Christmas light displays. Here are just a few we love.
Photo: Monterey Avenue in North Berkeley features a handful of houses – 4 or 5 on one block – with extravagant displays, near Hopkins. Grab a hot chocolate from Cafe Roma on the corner of Monterey and Hopkins and walk up the block.
Photos above: 928 The Arlington, also in North Berkeley, is spectacular, but the only house like it on the block. Visitors can walk on the short path from the sidewalk towards the home to feel more immersed in the display.
Best Christmas Lights in Alameda
Parts of Alameda are so fabulous that we flock from all around to enjoy a stroll.
Alameda's Christmas Tree Lane
A must-see for East Bay families, dates have not yet been announced. In 2018, this dedicated block of homes came to life from Dec 2nd through New Year's Eve. Learn more about Alameda's Christmas Tree Lane here >
Best Christmas Lights in Oakland
Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland
The beautiful Holiday Circle of Lights is free to visit, and it's open Dec 1st – Jan 1st from 5 pm to 9 pm every day. Pictures with Santa Claus on Sunday, Dec 1st from 12pm to 3pm. See more about the Circle of Lights >
If you're willing to pay admission prices for a glorious display of lights, you can't go wrong with Oakland Zoo's ZooLights (Dec. 6 – Jan. 5) or Fairyland's Fairy Winterland (Dec. 13 – Dec. 30 with some breaks). Both are about $10 per person with some discounted events.
In Newark, the house at 6716 Fountaine Ave includes a synchronized light show to a radio program on 88.1 FM. Look for dancing Christmas trees atop the garage and a lot of movement! (Not yet confirmed)
Lighted yachts and boats on parade (Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley)
On December 7, bundle up and bring a picnic dinner to the waterfront in Oakland or Alameda and watch boats of all sizes, decked out in holiday lights, move through the estuary. It's fun to see the quirky DIY watercraft folks put together. You can see the parade from both Jack London Square and the Alameda side of the water.
On December 14, you can do it all again in Berkeley. The marina creates a winter wonderland festival before the boat parade, so arrive early enough to enjoy.
Picardy Drive in Oakland
In the Mills College neighborhood on Picardy Drive between Seminary and 55th Ave., you can visit storybook-style houses all decked out in twinkling lights, and the whole neighborhood gets in on the holiday decorating tradition. Like Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda, you commit to participating when you buy a home on this street.
Best Christmas lights in the Bay Area (Worth the drive)
The Christmas House in Vallejo
Spectacular enough to have competed on the ABC television show The Great Christmas Light Fight.
Where: 817 Old Glen Cove Road, Vallejo
When: Throughout December from 5 to 10 pm Sunday thru Thursday and 5 to 11 pm Friday and Saturday. Santa visits Friday and Saturday from 6-8 pm, arriving on a fire truck. Learn more about the Christmas House in Vallejo.
Christmas Tree Lane (San Carlos)
Our South Bay friends cannot believe you haven't visited their Christmas Tree Lane yet. Point your GPS to the 1900 block of Eucalyptus Ave. and you can drive by or walk through. Google Maps says it's forty minutes from Berkeley.
Where: 1900-2000 Eucalyptus Ave, San Carlos
When: December 1-25
Magical Holiday Moments (Fairfield)
Magical Holiday Moments is presented by a home at 2132 Calder Place in Fairfield that puts on a Disney-themed lights-and-music show. Tune your radio to 88.3 FM to enjoy the full experience. It looks worth the drive! See pics and the address on their Facebook page.
Where: 2132 Calder Place, Fairfield
When: From Thanksgiving through Christmas from 6 pm to 10 pm
Rombeiro House (Novato)
We hear that a family in Novato goes all out with a number of complex light displays that you have to see to believe. MarinMommies.com has the low-down on those.
Where: 34 Devonshire Drive, off of Center Road, in Novato
Find more to do this holiday season in our East Bay Holiday Activities and Events Guide.
Thanks to Fourth Street in Berkeley for sponsoring our holiday light guide this year. We look forward to spending evenings on your magical street.