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Best holiday light displays in the Bay Area

On December 5, 2011, the city of San Francisco gathered with Mayor Ed Lee for the Tree of Hope holiday light display celebration. Decorated with origami cranes by local celebrities such as The Sisters of the Perpetual Indulgence, this is not the only festive holiday occasion brought to you by corporations, governments, and regular homeowners in the Bay Area.

Whether you are celebrating Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, there is an event or display especially for you and your family.

Not just Christmas light displays

Some Christmas light displays give a well-deserved nod to other holidays celebrated at the same time. While many are advertised as holiday lights, some specifically ensure that Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are represented. In particular, the Gilroy Gardens Holiday Lights at Bonfante Gardens displays all relevant themes.

For holiday displays that are specific to Kwanzaa, the Bay Area Discovery Museum hosts an annual ongoing celebration with a multitude of activities, including a candle lighting. There is also an upcoming Kwanzaa in San Francisco hosted by The Village Project and the Bayview Y.

Naturally, since Hanukkah is the original “Festival of Lights,” Bay Area locals are ensured events to remember at local Jewish Community Centers like the JCCSF, the Osher Marin JCC , and the East Bay JCC. However, the paramount Hanukkah event for the public is held each year at Union Square in San Francisco. There, a 25-foot-tall menorah is lit to coincide with the Bill Graham Menorah Day. The first day of this celebration will be December 20, and it will end on December 27. Keep in mind that the grand celebration will take place on December 25.

New holiday lighting display interactive maps

Across the nation, cities like Green Bay, Wisconsin, are using the power of Google interactive maps in order to show off the holiday lighting displays of their locals. These kinds of resources allow regular people to invite the public to ride by their displays.

This year, the Santa Cruz Sentinel created a map for surrounding light displays. The Bay Area and all of Northern California have the option of a website created for private lighting displays that want to be public called LightsoftheValley.com.

For the time being, there are numerous suggestions from Bay Area locals about the hot spots for neighborhoods that put on the glitz each year with blinking lights. Although some charge a fee for driving through or offer a bus, most do not charge if you park and walk.

Listed in no particular order, the top five holiday displays to see according to Yelp.com contributors from the past three years are: Deacon Dave’s Christmas lights on Hillcrest Avenue in Livermore, Vasona Park’s Fantasy of Lights in Los Gatos, Christmas Tree Lane on Fulton Street in Palo Alto, the Los Padres and Rosita display in Santa Clara, and the Tangerine and Tilton Street holiday lights display in Sunnyvale.

Paid holiday light displays

San Francisco‘s Cable Car Classic sightseeing tours have a special for the holiday season. In addition, the ZooLights Holiday Light Display at the Oakland Zoo has been called one of the best holiday lights displays for kids in the Bay Area. Many Christmas lovers will be descending upon the annual Winter Wonderland Parade of Lights in San Rafael held on Christmas Day and December 26.

A California snow-less snowman

Once upon a time, about 26 years ago, a man named Hank Provost erected a Peace on Earth holiday lighting display complete with a giant Frosty the Snowman made from a tower of tumbleweed. Unfortunately, in 1990, the display was burned to the ground by Grinch-loving arsonists. Despite this, the tradition of having a snow-less December is one that the Bay Area and Southern California loves.

For this reason, if you are new to the Bay Area, do not despair about decorating due to the lack of snow. As the tumbleweed snow-less snowman proves, a festive holiday light display is never limited as long as you use an unlimited creative license.

Maryam Louise is a former English instructor and materials developer for the Department of Defense Refugee Resettlement and Education Program in Louisville, Kentucky. Since 1997, she has contributed to academic works on the topic of gender. She has been living in the Bay Area since 2009, continuing her 15-year career in media.

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Mystic Maggie

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