This guide to the most magical holiday lights in the East Bay is sponsored by Fourth Street in Berkeley.
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, sponsored by Berkeley's Fourth Street shopping district.
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. If you are there during the day, visit with Santa in his pop-up shop this year at 1815 Fourth Street, make a fused glass ornament, decorate a stocking or sing carols! Visit the Fourth Street website for all the details, including hours for the new Maker's Row.
Best Christmas Lights in the East Bay
Oakland Zoo's ZooLights 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. Except for the first few days, there is a separate Zoo Lights admission price for everyone, not covered by membership. Free Zoo Lights admission to members December 4-7 for those who register in advance.
Tilden Park Carousel's Christmas Celebration 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 December 1 to January 1, 2017, from 5 pm to 9 pm every day. Go out for dinner on nearby Piedmont Avenue afterward.
Picardy Drive in Oakland, in the Mills College neighborhood, features storybook-style houses, 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.
El Cerrito is home to the Shadi Holiday Display on Moeser Lane. A life-size nativity scene with more sheep than a Bethlehem-based shepherd can shake a stick at, this Christmas display is an East Bay tradition. It goes up on Sunday, December 10. More details >
The annual Lighted Yacht Parade at Jack London Square is one night only. December 2 this year.
Runners-up in the 510:
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 the Greater Bay Area (Worth the drive)
The Christmas House in Vallejo is spectacular enough to have competed on the ABC television show The Great Christmas Light Fight. Where: 817 Old Glen Cove Road, Vallejo. When: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday thru Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Santa visits Friday and Saturday from 6-8 p.m., arriving on a fire truck.
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.
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.
Magical Holiday Moments is presented by a home in Fairfield (an hour from the 510) that puts on a Disney-themed lights and music show. It looks worth the drive! See pics and the address on their Facebook page.
Novato in Marin County is home to a number of complex displays. MarinMommies.com has the low-down on those.
Thanks to Fourth Street in Berkeley for sponsoring our holiday light guide this year. We look forward to spending evenings on your magical street.