Tripping the Light Pandemic

NorCal's spectacular holiday celebrations, driving tours and socially distanced strolls
Fridays on the Homefront
There are plenty of ways during this super-crazy December of 2020 to seek solace in pretty holiday lights. One of them is the annual 'Christmas in the Park' in San Jose, among our top picks for family holiday lighting attractions in Northern California. This year, in response to the pandemic, the event is a socially distant 'drive thru,' as above. Photo: Rich Earthdog

What's an American Christmas holiday season without lights, even in a global health crisis?

If you're not scrambling up a ladder to hang lights of your own in this super-crazy 2020, there are plenty of other ways to seek solace in pretty holiday glows.

Fortunately for the Bay Area, numerous venues have adapted their holiday light shows to pandemic prevention this year, inviting families to step outside to take in the sights.

"We want people to kind of get somewhat of a return to normalcy," Jason Minskey, executive director of San Jose's 'Christmas in the Park,' told a KTVU reporter, pitching safety modifications of the half-century-old celebration to "remember the good times past."

Fridays on the Homefront
'Fairy Winterland' at Children's Fairyland, Oakland

Relocated from Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park downtown to a 14-acre site in History Park, Christmas in the Park highlights our top picks for holiday lighting attractions in Northern California.

"It brings cheer to a time when things are uncertain and disappointing," Cynthia Perez of San Jose told the TV station of this year's event, a drive-through tour, which costs $10 to $20 a car. The San Jose woman added happily, "It really lit up the city."

Skies will be lit in special ways from Vallejo to Paso Robles, Woodside to Walnut Creek, if you know where to look. Christmas in the Park may be the most 'lit' attraction around the Bay, but Children's Fairyland and the zoo in Oakland hold up their end as usual.

A mid-century creation that first opened in 1950, Children's Fairyland has made its annual transformation into a glittering Fairy Winterland with twinkling lights, culturally diverse displays, and a socially distanced parade led by Santa. The event continues through December 30. Tickets range from $6 to $13 and reservations are required.

Fridays on the Homefront
'Glowfari' at the Oakland Zoo

Oakland Zoo is decorated with giant animal lanterns for a 'Glowfari' walk through decorated areas like 'Blue Planet,' 'Wild Kingdom,' and 'Land of the Lost.' Tickets are $20 and reservations required, though admission is free for visitors under age 2 or over 76.