Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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|Gingerbread living, critter style. Photo by Frog Mom|
When Thanksgiving is only weeks away, I start thinking about all the holiday events I’m going to take my girls to. From Hanukkah to Christmas with winter solstice sprinkled in between, the Bay Area is an incredible showcase of family-friendly events to brighten the shortest days of the year – with cups of hot cocoa, skating afternoons and cookie exchanges. I started taking my girls to holiday celebrations when they were about 1 year old and each year added new ones. Some have become family traditions over the years, others we’re looking forward to discovering, but mostly we’re just looking forward to the joyous spirit and friendly reunions of the holidays. Here’s what I like.
Right after Thanksgiving we usually look into visiting the Great Dickens Fair at the Cow Palace.
With its hundreds of actors and dancers in Victorian costume, its old-fashioned games and sugar-coated warm almonds, the fair is a day my girls look forward to with anticipation – also because they get to encourage their dad at playing darts to blow a balloon and activate the Candy Machine!
When we’ve had our Dickens fix, we look for an afternoon when we go ice skating at the Embarcadero Holiday Ice Skating Rink with friends. When my girls were little, we were happy just going to the Embarcadero and watching skaters glide by before grabbing a hot cocoa. The sight of the palm trees decked up with white lights, the holiday-themed F-trams and Ferry Building, those were all good reasons to get out of the house and feel the kiss of winter. Then when darkness falls, we enter the warm atrium of the Hyatt Regency and hit the second floor bar for drinks – I always have a maitai.
Tea and gingerbread men, now that is something we’re not giving up any time soon. My girls have too much fun doing that! We’ve done the
Nutcracker Tea at the Fairmont Hotel, the Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz, the Gingerbread Tea at the Secret Garden Tea House, the Holiday Afternoon Tea at the Palace Hotel and the holiday tea at the Burlingame library with author book reading. All are nice and this year we’ll be trying the Gingerbread Tea at Crown & Crumpet!
Strolling through neighborhoods we also like to admire street decorations and as dorky as it sounds, we love going to Fisherman’s Wharf around early December. For a total experience, we board the F-tram in the Castro and go all the way to the end of the line. If we’re lucky, we catch a free show on the Pier 39 boardwalk, otherwise we just do a little people-watching, tree-watching and we always end up bread-watching at the window of the flagship store of Boudin Bakery where skilled bakers shape lobster breads in 10 minutes flat.
At home we don’t have TV so we can’t really partake in the holiday screenings but we read a different holiday-themed book every evening.
On our list of favorites are Eric Carle’s Dream Snow, Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Allen Say’s Tree of Cranes, Lemony Snicket’s The
Lump of Coal or Chris Van Allsburgh’s Polar Express.
Did I mention my girls are train nuts? So of course, there’s a holiday train somewhere in our holiday planning, Sacramento winning our votes on par with Felton’s Roaring Camp.
Eventually the holiday craze gets too much and we feel the need to escape to quieter shores such as the majestic redwoods of Muir Woods National Monument.Decembers can be rainy in these woods but I like the hushed sound of shoes on the pine needle ground, the hazy quality of the light, the stark green foliage and rugged red bark of the trees. Muir Woods is always a good place to wind down and sometimes you can get the canyon by yourself in the winter. Now that is a great holiday
This blog posting was written for the Fog Blog, the blog of the Golden Gate Mothers Group where it was published on November 9, 2011.