One of our favorite parts of the holidays is spending time with family and friends, but after inhaling (er, we mean baking) holiday cookies and binging on Hallmark Christmas movies together, we could all use a little outside entertainment…not to mention the excuse to walk off all those calories. That’s why we’ve rounded up 15 places to see festive light shows if you’re staying local this holiday season. From a Christmas tree tunnel to a house featured on “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” here’s where to find the coolest Christmas lights in SF and the Bay Area this year.

Editor’s Note: Unless otherwise indicated, you can visit most of these displays nightly, after sundown. Be prepared to wear masks and practice social distancing.

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Magical Holiday Moments / Facebook

1. MAGICAL HOLIDAY MOMENTS IN FAIRFIELD

Fans of ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” will want to make a beeline to Fairfield for this over-the-top, Disney-themed light and music extravaganza (you can tune in through your radio), which was featured on the popular TV show’s premiere episode this season.

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Filoli / Facebook

2. HOLIDAYS AT FILOLI IN WOODSIDE

If you’ve never been to this grand, century-old estate and gardens in Woodside, the holidays are the perfect time for an inaugural visit. Inside the stately mansion you’ll find 20 elegantly decorated trees, plus an impressive array of light installations in the gardens—including a twinkling yew tree rainbow. Santa’s around on weekends for selfies with the kiddos, and there’s mulled wine and hot whiskey cider for the adults. It’s all on through January 2. Closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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San Francisco Recreation and Park Department / Facebook

3. WINTER LIGHTS IN GOLDEN GATE PARK

Here’s a reason to take a walk (or drive) through the park after dark. From sundown until 10 p.m. every night, you’ll find six illuminating experiences at different locations throughout Golden Gate PArk. Start at Uncle John’s Tree—the huge Monterey Cypress adorned with hundreds of old-school colored lights and a charming holiday train display—at the beginning of the park and then wind your way down JFK Drive to the Skystar Wheel and Golden Gate Bandshell, where there’s poetry, live music and lights installations every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday through the end of December. The best part? It’s all free and open to the public.

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Christmas Tree Lane, Alameda / Facebook

4. CHRISTMAS TREE LANE IN ALAMEDA

Alameda’s Christmas Tree Lane knows all about the holiday spirit. Get in a festive mood by walking (or driving) by the fifty homes on Thomsen Avenue (between High Street and Fernside Boulevard) that are seriously lit. The kids can even drop off letters for Santa at a special mailbox that routes them straight to the North Pole. Open through New Year’s Day.

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Oakland Zoo / Facebook

5. GLOWFARI AT THE OAKLAND ZOO

Looking for a light show that’s really outside of the box? This year, the Oakland Zoo brings back Glowfari, a collection of gorgeously detailed, larger-than-life animal lanterns sprinkled throughout the zoo’s 525 acres—including a 15-foot-tall penguin! Pick up a hot chocolate on your way in and prepare to be enchanted as you wind your way through the magical display. Open 5 to 10 p.m. through January 30. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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Fourth Street Shops / Facebook

6. HOLIDAYS ON FOURTH STREET IN BERKELEY

We never need an excuse to wander Berkeley’s posh stretch of upscale shops and restaurants, and now is an especially enchanting time to visit Fourth Street. The main drag twinkles with bright lights every night through the holidays. And on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Artists & Fleas hosts a holiday market with work from local artisans and vintage curators, where we bet you’ll find something special for everyone on your list.

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Six Flags Discovery Kingdom / Facebook

7. HOLIDAY IN THE PARK AT SIX FLAGS IN VALLEJO

If you like your holiday lights with a side of thrill-seeking adventure, then Holiday in the Park at Six Flags is for you. Ride your favorite coaster and then warm up by the fire pit where you can make ooey-gooey s’mores before you meander through the park’s winter wonderland of light displays and dazzlingly decorated Christmas trees. Did we mention the special IG-worthy holiday backdrops perfect for cheesy holiday photo opps? Open through January 2.

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Kelley Lotosky and Earl Ruby / Courtesy of Ruth Bancroft Garden

8. GARDEN OF D’LIGHTS IN WALNUT CREEK

In California, we light up more than just Christmas trees. For the annual Garden of D’Lights tradition at Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, 3.5 acres of succulents and cacti are tricked out with fantastically colorful lasers and LED lights that any non-traditionalist will love. Get ready to glow your mind. Open Thursday through Sunday nights until December 23.

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V Smoothe / Flickr

9. PICARDY DRIVE IN OAKLAND

If architecture, beautiful homes and Christmas lights are all your jam, take a spin along Picardy Drive (off Seminary Avenue near Mills College) in East Oakland and experience the neighborhood’s 90-year-old tradition. Each year, 70 families hang lights from the turrets, gables and decorative timber of their 1920s-era, Tudor-styles homes. Pack mugs of hot chocolate to sip as you walk (or drive) down the street and feel transported back to simpler times.

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Christmas in the Park / Facebook

10. CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK IN SAN JOSE

After a pandemic closure in 2020, San Jose’s popular in-person display of elaborately decorated Christmas trees returns to downtown’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez this year with a 65-foot walk-through pine featuring…wait for it…a music-synchronized light show. Free and open to the public through January 2.

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Visit Half Moon Bay Coastside / Facebook

11. FRIDAY NIGHTS OF LIGHTS IN HALF MOON BAY

Mark your calendars this Friday for the final installment of Half Moon Bay’s annual “Nights of Lights” extravaganza. Carolers will sing as they stroll down Main Street, where trees twinkle with holiday lights and festively decorated shops stay open late. Before you call it a night, check out the live music at Mac Dutra Park nearby. From 6 to 8 p.m. through December 17.

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City of Sonoma / Facebook

12. Sonoma Plaza Christmas Lights

Make your next Wine Country trip even more magical with a stop at Sonoma’s historic town square. The 8-acre plaza is awash in thousands of sparkling lights. Looking for some adventure? Book a festive flight and enjoy a silent night above the redwoods with Sonoma Canopy zipline tours. You’ll fly across seven zips with elf guides and land at Santa’s Workshop, where hot cocoa and carols await.

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Casa del Pomba Christmas / Facebook

13. DEACON DAVE’S CHRISTMAS DISPLAY IN LIVERMORE

Get ready for some wow factor: HGTV has ranked Deacon Dave’s as one of the largest home displays in the country! Walk through the jaw-dropping display of more than 600,000 lights and consider this Christmas miracle. Open through January 1.

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Christmas in the Park / Facebook

14. BLINKY’S ILLUMINATED HOLIDAY IN SAN JOSE

For those of us still a little wary of crowds, there’s Blinky’s Illuminated Holiday at Lake Cunningham Park. With this fun drive-thru light experience, where you’ll pass through displays featuring more than 200,000 lights, you never leave your car. Splurge on VIP tickets for a Christmas “swag” bag and entry at the front of the line for every 30-minute slot. Open through January 9.

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h2hotel / Facebook

15. PLAZA LIGHTS IN HEALDSBURG

Healdsburg gets festive with Light Up the Plaza, featuring shimmering lights around the historic square and on a bedazzled holiday tree. Don’t miss “Light Archway,” a magical tree tunnel where you can add a free LED candle to the display with a personalized note. Afterwards, make a stop at Hotel Healdsburg for holiday tea—with custom tea blends, classic cocktails and housemade finger sandwiches and pastries. Open through January.

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