Christmas lights in the San Francisco Bay Area will light you up with delight this winter. Not just San Francisco – a timeless urban retreat, but the cities like San Jose, San Carlos, Fremont, Palo Alto, Monterey, and Oakland, offer magical wonderlands of Christmas lights and decorations and exude a cheering warmth. Stroll the mile-long stretches of streets decked with sparkling lights and see the houses beautifully and creatively festooned with decorations and soak up all the festive spirit. Christmas is a perfect time to make new memories together with family and loved ones. Here is a list of fabulous places to see Christmas Lights in the San Francisco Bay Area where you can bask in the glow of holiday light displays. A magical ambiance awaits you at each of these places. Plan your December weekends ahead and enjoy.
Happy holidays 🎅!Christmas Lights in the San Francisco Bay Area #Christmas #SanFrancisco #California #BayArea #Travel Click To Tweet
Map to see Christmas Lights in the San Francisco Bay Area
When the nights are long and frost sparkles in the cold morning air, my thoughts turn to Christmas and I pine to see illuminated streets which come alive with strings of twinkling lights. Like everyone else, Christmas lights fill my heart with warmth and joy. I enjoy exploring Christmas lights and traditions in different parts of the world. Diverse and unique ways of Christmas celebrations in different countries entice me to witness all. While living in Switzerland, I enjoyed visiting fairy-tale Christmas markets and mountain Christmas villages. I explored the cathedral complex of Pisa or the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy on a Christmas day. I loved drinking mulled wine at the Christmas market in Strasbourg – the oldest and biggest in Europe. Once, during Christmas, I visited Magdeburg which lits up with more than a million LEDs and has the most extensive Christmas and winter lighting in central Germany. Now I am a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area for many years and I have explored its beautiful corners during the holidays. Christmas in the Bay Area brings together many customs from other countries and cultures. I love how the whole family comes togther to decorate the Christmas tree and home with bright lights, wreaths, candles, holly, mistletoe, and ornaments. Here I present some of the best places in the San Francisco Bay Area for you to enjoy Christmas lights. But first a map – it always comes in handy. No matter where I go, the spirit of Christmas and joy among people remained the same everywhere in the world.
1. Gorgeous Christmas Lights and decor at Eucalyptus street, San Carlos
I was completely in awe while walking on Eucalyptus street in San Carlos. It was an experience like no other. All the residents in the neighborhood decorate their houses and keep them illuminated for visitors to see. Needless to say, this is a completely free event. I loved walking with the crowd brimming with Christmas spirit. The concept of such an event is different from the Christmas markets widespread in Europe but the triumph of togetherness can be felt both in Europe and here in the Bay area. Let me inspire you with some photographs of the event.
Practical tips: Park your car a few blocks away and walk the street for a fulfilling experience.
The very first house with the address 1900 Eucalyptus Avenue was adorned with beautiful Poinsettias – the flowers of the holy night. I first saw the bright red-hued Poinsettias on a snowy night at a Christmas party in Switzerland. Beautiful poinsettias instantly won my heart and luckily, one of the hosts gave me a pot of Poinsettias. I cared for the vibrant plant throughout the winter. The decor of this house reminded me of how I came across Poinsettias for the first time.
Interesting facts about Poinsettias
Poinsettias have become synonymous with Christmas and for this to happen, all credit goes to some brilliant marketing by a German immigrant named Albert Ecke. In 1902, Albert Ecke arrived in the United States from Germany with his wife, Henrietta, and their four children. Before moving, Ecke owned and operated a vegetarian health spa, which was a part of Henrietta’s inheritance. He was planning to move his family to Fiji to establish a similar business. But they decided to cut their journey short when they stumbled upon Los Angeles – a budding agricultural oasis. They fell in love with the beautiful sights found in Los Angeles—specifically, the wild-growing poinsettia, which was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the U.S.-Mexican ambassador who first brought it to the States in 1828. Poinsettia plants are native to Central America, especially in an area of southern Mexico known as Taxco del Alarcon where they flower during the winter. Ecke saw the appeal of the plant’s bright red leaves that blossomed in winter (it’s not actually a flower, despite the common assumption) and began marketing it from roadside stands to local growers as “the Christmas plant”. By 1918, the Eckes established a successful business selling Poinsettias and began shipping to New York, Chicago, and St. Louis.Poinsettias have become synonymous with Christmas and for this to happen, all credit goes to some brilliant marketing by a German immigrant named Albert Ecke. #Christmas Click To Tweet
There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together. The story goes like this: There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up. ‘Pepita’, he said, “I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy.” Pepita picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them was sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.
While taking a stroll, I stumbled upon another house whose decoration gave me a feeling of falling snow on a wintry night. Nostalgia struck and I was flooded with memories of snowy Christmas nights I spent in Europe.
2. Christmas Lights at Crippsmas Place in Fremont
Crippsmas Place is a cheerful neighborhood display in north Fremont, a holiday tradition since the late 1960s. More than 70 houses participate in Crippsmas Place and display around 300 unique painted plywood decorations. My daughter loved seeing her favorite cartoon and movie characters displayed through life-size plywood cutouts. Winnie The Pooh train, Disney characters, Super Mario, the nativity scene, Santa Claus with Elves, snowman, and many more such decorations won our hearts.
Practical tips: Decorations will be up, and lit in the evenings 6-10 pm from December 11 to 31. Address : [35900 – 36099] Wellington Pl, Fremont, CA 94536
My daughter Chirantana was born in Lausanne, the French part of Switzerland. During the holidays I used to see big led displays everywhere with the words “joyeuses fêtes” which means happy holidays in French. On Christmas day I used to say Joyeux Noel to wish someone Merry Christmas. While exploring Crippsmas Place in Fremont, when I saw Noel, all the memories came rushing back. Christmas is not only about celebrating childhood but also about reminiscing old Christmas memories from youth or later years that bring smiles to our faces.
After writing a letter to Santa and dropping it inside a post box at Crippsmas Place, she was happy to say “Hi!” to the snowman. This time, she reminded us how she enjoyed making a snowman at the shores of Lake Tahoe – the largest alpine lake in North America! Crippsmas place gifted us many memorable moments to cherish forever.
3. Christmas lights of Christmas Tree Lane at Fulton Street, Palo Alto
Christmas Tree Lane is located in the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Fulton Street in Palo Alto. The row of houses on Fulton Street off Embarcadero Road was the last street in Palo Alto in 1940 when four residents there gathered around a bridge table one day and discussed the upcoming holiday season. It was during that game at the home of Judge Edward E. Hardy that one of Palo Alto’s longest-standing traditions was born. The row of lighted trees and decorated homes are unrivaled on the Peninsula. Each house depicts a story related to Christmas. It was fun reading or inferring the story from the decorations.
Practical Tips: From December 11, 2021, through December 31st, Christmas Tree Lane will be lit each night from 5 PM to 11 PM
I and my daughter had a burst of hearty laughter when we recognized the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moor depicted through the decoration of one house. Later after coming back home, both of us read the poem aloud and the joy lingered long. She slept dreaming of toys, St. Nicholas, his miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
I loved the multi-hued light decoration in one house on the dark winter night. The fallen leaves were drifting slowly with the soft breeze and the rain-drenched street was reflecting the colored lights; the vivid greens, the royal flaunting purples, the warm yellow, and the bright orange. It was a kind of ambiance that inspires a person to write a cheerful letter to herself. Happiness, after all, doesn’t come nowadays easily in this world of relentless pursuit.
4. Holiday lights at Oakland Temple
I can add hundreds of photographs of the illuminated Oakland temple but none will do justice to its beauty. Against a backdrop of the white granite of the temple, the Christmas lights illuminate the fountains, bushes, and lush flowers. The Christmas lights on 60 feet high palm trees and the five golden spires that crown the temple look spectacular all together. When I visited the Oakland Temple on an evening in December, I saw an overspill of enthusiastic people walking in all sorts of directions and enjoying the bright and beautiful temple grounds shining with the holiday lights. The Christmas spirit in me awoke from its year-long peaceful slumber in this place. Temple ground at Christmas-time is more than magical. The spirit of Christmas can be felt. You need to see the beautiful Christmas lights at Oakland Temple through your own eyes and feel the happy and peaceful vibes.
Practical Tips: The lights illuminate the temple grounds every night beginning at dusk and remain on until 9:15 p.m. The grounds are open to the public and the nightly display lasts until December 31st.
While exploring the Oakland temple, I remembered my visit to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah on my way to Yellowstone National Park. When I stumbled upon the beautiful statue of Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus, my daughter stood beside me too. Both of us fell in love with the serene sculpture. I don’t know what she felt but she held my hand firmly and gave me a beautiful smile. The true magic Christmas conjures is love!The true magic Christmas conjures is love! #Christmas Click To Tweet
5. Zoolights at the Oakland Zoo
Visit the Oakland Zoo to see the holiday lights with your kid and revel in the joy while strolling the starlit pathways. My daughter loved the colorfully lit animal-themed structures throughout the zoo. While watching the laser-light show both me and my daughter danced with the accompanying popular Christmas songs. I also enjoyed riding the festively-lit gondolas up to the Landing Café and the spectacular Bay Area views at 650 feet above sea level. Make merry memories at Oakland zoo during the holidays.
Travel Tip: Visit the Oakland Zoo and see the Wildly Illuminating Lantern Festival named Glowfari from November 12-24, and 26-30
6. Garden of D’Lights at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek
Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek transforms itself with lights and lasers to a garden of delights. Beautiful cacti, succulents, and trees are transformed into magical and colorful botanical sculptures by thousands of lights! Art, nature, and lights all commingle under the evening sky in winter.
Practical tips: Lights will be up, in the evenings 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm from November 11 to December 23rd
While meandering through the garden, I came across a beautiful and bright Christmas star on a bench.
An interesting biblical story about the Christmas Star: The Christmas star symbolizes the star of Bethlehem, which guided the three kings, or wise men, to the baby Jesus. The star is also the heavenly sign of a prophecy fulfilled long ago and the shining hope for humanity.
7. Holiday Lights at the Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park’s beloved holiday light installations are a must-see if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Illuminated Conservatory of Flowers, a luminous light installation in Golden Gate Park’s Peacock Meadow, and the celebration of lights in the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park are my favorites.
Night bloom at the Conservatory of Flowers
Light and sound infuse the Conservatory of Flowers’ beautiful plant collection and its iconic facade and mesmerize visitors. I was completely immersed in the experience when I saw the Conservatory of Flowers burst with vibrant and luminous displays.
Entwined at Peacock Meadow
After seeing the Night Bloom at the Conservatory of Flowers, walk for a few minutes to Peacock Meadow and see the beautiful light installation named Entwined – an enchanted forest of otherworldly shapes and ever-changing light.
Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park
Do you love taking pictures like me? Then click and let the shutter open! You must capture Music Concourse – the huge, open-air plaza within Golden Gate Park with the holiday lights with your camera. I remember it was a foggy, cold December night when I arrived in the Golden Gate Park to see the colorful holiday lights. After a while, the fog started evaporating like details of dreams. And almost like magic, a gentle euphoria washed over me when I saw the changing colors of Spreckels Temple of Music, also called the “Bandshell,” – the focal point of the plaza. My daughter quickly went up on the stage of the Bandshell and recited a beautiful poem. I took a stroll and captured the moment, the ambiance, and feeling like a poem with my camera instead of a pen. Nestled right between the majestic buildings that housed art and nature, I sat on the bench for some time.
At the opposite side of the Bandshell, I saw the Skystar wheel. At my daughter’s request, we stepped inside one of the gondolas and marveled at the unparalleled views from downtown San Francisco to the Pacific Ocean.
8. Christmas lights at Union Square, San Francisco
Not just the beautiful Christmas tree but the bright and beautiful red heart reflecting lights from the Palm trees stole my heart at Union Square. Needless to say, you must checkmark this square if you want to see Christmas Lights in San Francisco.
The moment I bent my neck, took position to capture the beautiful Christmas tree, a person in torn clothes asked me to give him a dollar. I clicked the pic and gave him the dollar and then sat down thinking that this city has another side too which no one wants to see. I felt a grain of sadness amidst all the Christmas happiness.
THE RICH city of San Francisco at Christmas. From a vantage point on Telegraph Hill it’s a magnificent sight – the Bay Bridge a mammoth Meccano set, the Ferry Building tower a beloved toy, the reasonably mundane buildings of Embarcadero Center transformed into dreams by thousands of lights that out-twinkle the stars. Ah, the magic of oil-driven energy! There are carols in the streets, trees in the windows, enticing packages festooned with bows. … But there is everlasting guilt among the gilt, the most egregious conflict of the blessed and the damned season: the haves and have nots, the winners and the losers, the Scrooges and the scrooged. The charities have done their best and millions have been raised but it is still not enough, it is never enough, it never will be, and that is the shame of the richest country.Herb Caen
9. Christmas lights at Pier 15, San Francisco
At the entrance of the Exploratorium, one of the top 10 science museums in the United States, you can see the BuckyBall – a towering 25-foot illuminated sculpture. Composed of 4,500 LED nodes arranged along with a series of pentagons and hexagons, Buckyball is animated by special software to display over 16 million colors. The lights dynamically shift and fade in both sequential and random orders, generating vibrant hues that pour life into Exploratorium’s public space all day. At night feel the breeze by the bay and get immersed in the surrounding lights and colors.
Walk towards the waterfront port of San Francisco and see the clock tower aglow with white lights. When I visited the last lap of autumn was still visible on the trees, despite the chill in the air.
Look at the Bay Bridge lights from the waterfront port of San Francisco. The Bay Lights is an iconic San Francisco light sculpture!
Don’t miss seeing the illuminated Embarcadero Center with 17,000-holiday lights!
10. Christmas Lights at City Hall, San Francisco
Every year, the San Francisco City Hall gets lit up in festive green and red in order to celebrate the holiday season. Although I did not get time, but you can also visit the city hall with family and look at the beautifully lit large Christmas tree in front.
11. Christmas lights in San Jose
In the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose surprises its city dwellers and visitors with its glittering and shimmering holiday lights. There are various events and display throughout the city. San Jose is one of the best places to see Christmas lights in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Christmas lights at Santana Row, San Jose
Santana Row is one of my favorite places and more so during the holidays. I love walking the street at my own pace and seeing the lights. If you are someone who wants to enjoy sights and bites then Satana Row is the place to be. It has lots of good restaurants too!
Christmas Lights at Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose
I fell in love with the light and sound projection at the façade of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, 80 S. Market Street in San Jose.
Holiday lights in San Jose Downtown
Plaza de Cesar Chavez features LED wrapped trees, archways, and a contemporary Christmas tree on the stage.
Mattos Orchard Lights
Mattos Orchard Lights is located at 1545 Stone Creek Dr, San Jose, CA 95132. Here the magic is in the details. Look for the nativity scene, North Pole post office, and ornament factory, Santa’s candy factory, overflowing with candy canes, and lollipops, reindeer barn, Christmas tree farm, Santa’s snow factory, and many more. Take a stroll and enjoy the synchronized music/light display.
12. Christmas Lights at Pebble Beach Resorts
A drive through the scenic 17-mile drive during Christmas is a must for all Bay Area residents. You will not only get to see some beautiful Christmas decorations along the way but also a gorgeous illuminated tree at Pebble Beach Resorts. Did I say that the soft breeze, sound of the waves, and a beautiful sunset come free with the drive?
Christmas decor on the 17-mile drive
Beautiful Christmas decorations await you at the houses along the 17-mile drive.
Explore other Bay Area Christmas Lights Spots
13. Filoli Gardens
Dripping with festive finery and sparkling with garden lights, Filoli Gardens look beautiful during the holidays. Take a stroll and enjoy the beauty of the garden adorned with lights and colorful decor. Also, enjoy new shopping and sensory experiences.
Timings: Everyday 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm from 20th November to January 2nd
How about an enchanting holiday excursion? The Train of Lights offers a rare opportunity to experience a train ride through Niles Canyon at night.
15. Magical Christmas Train, Sacramento – Jingle all the way 💖
The Magical Christmas train will transport you to a holiday wonderland. Take a 1-hour train ride with hot cocoa in a souvenir mug, and a sweet treat.
Stroll through the park while enjoying the sights, scents, and sounds of the holidays, with Santa Claus, food trucks, hot cocoa, special performances by the Los Gatos Ballet, photo opportunities, music, and so much more!
A Mile of smiles for you. See a display of over 200,000 lights and enjoy a synchronized light show with some of the holiday favorite tunes.
Create wonderful memories at Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf! Christmas on the Wharf features free weekend live entertainment including holiday choirs, youth dancers, singers, magic shows, Santa’s visits, and beautiful holiday decorations. The majestic 23-foot Christmas tree will be surrounded by illuminated sea creatures and lots of festive decorations down the Wharf.
Timings: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Christmas Markets in Europe are unique, beautiful, and traditional, and more so in Germany, where it all began. Join the jovial atmosphere of a traditional open-air, European winter market in Mountain View’s Caltrain Station for a day. Don’t forget to taste the mug of Glühwein (warm mulled wine), the hallmark of these winter markets.
Timing: December 11, 2021, from 11 am to 9 pm.
A spectacular light display of decorated yachts and boats. It’s a visual feast and a must-see event if you live or visit San Francisco during the holidays.
Timing: December 11, 2021, from 6 -7:15 pm at Sausalito Waterfront – Gabrielson Park
Get transported to 1 AD with a crowded marketplace, live animals, and Roman soldiers. This is a fun and enriching experience for children and adults alike.
Timings: December 1st – December 23rd, from 6:00 PM-8:30 PM Address: Attend this free event at Santa Clara First Baptist Church – 3111 Benton Street.
22. A few more places to see beautiful Christmas lights in San Francisco
- Inverted Christmas tree at Westfield – Address: 3650 21st St, San Francisco, CA 94114
- Tom and Jerry’s House – Address: 3650 21st St, San Francisco, CA 94114
- Beautiful Christmas lights at 49 Eagle Street
- The house near Duboce Park at 68 Castro Street
How about ice skating under the stars and amid the trees twinkling with joyful little lights? If this sounds exciting then visit Gilroy Gardens at 3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy CA
Timings: November 26th to December 31st
A taste of the Dicken’s Christmas Fair. Enjoy street scenes and enchanting tableaus from ‘A Christmas Carol’, lively music, an enticing selection of hearty English foods, and handcrafted holiday gifts available for purchase.
Timings: December – 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
Watch Festival of Lights Parade at Los Altos. The theme “A Child’s Holiday Fantasy” comes to life with colorful floats, local high school marching bands, costumed characters and of course Santa and his reindeer.
Timing: November 28 at 6pm
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The cities of the San Francisco Bay Area, being close to the ocean, may lack in the conventional Christmas atmosphere – snow, sleigh-bells, wooden huts in Christmas market, mulled wine, and the like but they more than makeup with light and color. Christmas cheer fills the cold winter air. So get inside the car with a steaming travel mug of hot chocolate to explore the richness of Christmas lights in the San Francisco Bay area. The glow of twinkling lights is one of the earliest and easiest ways to get into the holiday spirit. I hope this list of sights will come in handy in your explorations and of course, don’t forget to visit your own neighborhood too! I wish a MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all, dear readers! The air is crisp, the vistas endless and hope eternal. Leave a comment below if you have any questions or DM me on Instagram @travelrealizationsI wish a very MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all, dear readers! The air is crisp, the vistas endless and hope eternal. #Christmas #Travel #Explore Click To Tweet