Nothing can fill you with the holiday spirit like seeing lights, lots and lots of lights, blazing and twinkling in the darkness of winter nights.
That’s the magic of so many festive lights displays around the Bay Area. Some are presented by parks, gardens, churches and historic sites. Others are organized by groups of neighbors and creative homeowners, who turn their streets and their front yards into winter wonderlands with theme-park level, light-and-music-filled extravaganzas.
Here is a selection of the best holiday displays, a list that is likely to grow over the next few weeks as we confirm details about some well-known venues or hear about exciting new displays that deserve attention. Unless otherwise specified, all events are free.
Deacon Dave’s world-famous display, Livermore
Get ready to be dazzled by at least 750,000 lights glowing around the home of Deacon Dave Rezendes. This is the 40th year that Rezendes, a deacon at St. Michael Parish in Livermore, has put on this display at his Casa del Pomba. His extravaganza has been showcased on cable and international TV; only the global COVID-19 pandemic could force Rezendes to skip doing the display in 2020.
Details: Nightly, Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, with an opening night procession at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 1. 352 Hillcrest Ave. in Livermore; http://casadelpomba.com.
Oakland Zoolights “Glowfari”
The Oakland Zoo hosts one of the Bay Area’s most unusual holiday displays, with gorgeous, detailed, larger-than-life animal lanterns arrayed around the zoo’s 525 acres. On a crisp winter eve, visitors can stroll around the zoo and meet magnificent, glowing elephants and giraffes from Africa, pass through a tropical rainforest, time travel back to the age of the dinosaurs, and visit with mountain lions, wolves, polar bears and other iconic North American wildlife.
Details: Open from 5 to 9 p.m. most nights through Jan. 28 (closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day). Admission is $22-$26; www.oaklandzoo.org.
Historic lights in Woodside
Immerse yourself in classic holiday elegance with a visit to Woodside’s century-old Filoli estate. Inside the stately mansion, elaborately decorated trees radiate celebration in the grand dining room and other elegantly appointed spaces. But what’s especially magical about Filoli during the holidays are the 25 miles of twinkling lights arrayed around the extensive garden, as well as a 210-foot-long light tunnel. Santa will be available for selfies on weekends, and visitors can pause their tour to enjoy mulled wine or hot whiskey cider around fire pits on the Dining Room Terrace or the Woodland Terrace.
Details: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Jan. 7 at 86 Cañada Road, Woodside. Filoli will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission is $23-$43; https://filoli.org.
Lights of Livermore
There are still tickets available — though they may not last long — to taste some great Livermore wine and enjoy a one-hour trolley ride around Livermore to see the town’s biggest and brightest holiday displays. This includes a stop at Riesling Circle, where more than two dozen homes are elaborately decked out with lights. The trolley rides start at historic Concannon Vineyard, where you can taste a flight of wines before boarding the trolley. There also are trolley rides nightly for families, at which no alcohol is served.
Bobby and Genee Holiday Lights, San Jose
On this cul-de-sac near Santa Theresa County Park, Bobby and Genee Bimbi present a light and music spectacle that has become a favorite destination for people in their neighborhood and beyond. More than 45,000 lights are arrayed around their front yard, while holiday scenes flash across the front of the house. Visitors can also listen to their music on 99.5 FM and make donations to Toys for Tots.
Alex Dourov’s extravaganza, Livermore
This home show by the founder of the California Christmas Lights website offers a mix of old-school decorations that Dourov has accumulated over the past 30 years and high-tech light and sound effects, as well as a snow machine, a dancing 6-foot-tall “Joy” sign and penguins around a campfire. Kids are invited to make calls to Santa, and guests can listen to music from the sidewalk or on 107.9 FM from their car.
Crippsmas Place, Fremont
For six decades, residents of the 70 homes in this north Fremont neighborhood have illuminated their front yards and raised larger-than-life plywood cutouts of favorite cartoon characters in a representation of community solidarity and goodwill. They’ve also used their displays to raise money for worthy causes. This year, visitors can donate to six local organizations, as well as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Santa and Mrs. Claus will pay visits on the evenings of Dec. 10, 11, 17, 18 and 19, and the Mission Peak Chamber Singers will perform on Dec. 17.
Details: 6 to 10 p.m. Dec. 9 to 31 on Nicolet Avenue, Cripps Place and surrounding streets in Fremont; www.crippsmas place.org.
Lights in the Cacti in Walnut Creek
During the fifth annual “Garden of d’Lights,” visitors can meander along the paths of the 3.5-acre Ruth Bancroft Garden, where its world-famous collection of gorgeous cacti and other succulents and drought-tolerant plants are presented with fantastical and specially-programmed lasers and thousands of LED lights.
The famous Tilden Park carousel in Berkeley becomes a winter wonderland during the holidays, festooned with bright, colorful lights and graced by visits from Santa and his elves and Olaf the Snowman.
Details: 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays and 11a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends, Nov. 24 to Jan. 7. Closed Christmas Eve and Day. Tilden Regional Park, at the intersection of Central Park Drive and Lake Anza Road, Berkeley. Tickets cost $4 each, and reservations are recommended;
Christmas on a Hill, Morgan Hill
Climb the hill at West Hills Community Church in Morgan Hill to watch a synchronized musical light display and explore the dazzling light tunnels, decorated trees and hand-painted, life-sized displays. This is the show’s third year in this distinctive hillside location, and free hot chocolate is poured for everyone.
Christmas in the Park, San Jose
The beloved San Jose tradition offers two ways to see lights and other festive displays. The popular walk-through takes place in the heart of downtown in Plaza de Cesar Chavez with a 65-foot illuminated tree and a forest of pines decorated by San José schools, community groups and businesses. A separate drive-through light show takes place at San Jose’s History Park.
Details: The walk-through opens Nov. 24 in Plaza de Cesar Chavez and is open from noon to 11 p.m. daily at 1 Paseo de San Antonio. The History Park drive-through runs from Nov. 29 to Jan 1, starting at 5 p.m. at 635 Phelan Ave. Tickets are $30-$35 per car, and reservations are recommended; www.christmasinthepark.com
Los Gatos’ Fantasy of Lights
The 25th annual show at Vasona Lake County Park offers one of the Bay Area’s most popular drive-through holiday displays, with a 1.5-mile route taking families through a fantasyland of lights, animated figures and a 90-foot twinkling tree, courtesy of the Santa Clara County Parks Department.
Details: 6 to 10 p.m. Dec. 5 to 30 (closed Christmas Day). The route starts at 333 Blossom Hill Road in Los Gatos. Tickets ($39 per standard vehicle, $50 for oversized) must be purchased ahead online;
Christmas Tree Lane, Alameda
This cooperative effort, put on by more than 50 households, is in its 85th year. Local groups will perform, and kids can drop off letters to Santa in a specially designated mailbox that routes them to the North Pole. Santa also will stop by on certain nights to visit with kids.
Details: 5 to 10 p.m. nightly, Dec. 3 to 31, 3200 block of Thomson Avenue, between High Street and Fernside Boulevard, Alameda; www.facebook.com/christmastreelane.
Christmas Tree Lane, Palo Alto
For the 82nd year, residents along this stretch of Fulton Street, off Embarcadero, will put on a show radiating old-fashioned charm, elegance and history, with front yards decorated with lights and glowing, larger-than-life cutouts of Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men.
Details: 5 to 11 p.m. Dec. 16 to 31, 1700 and 1800 blocks of Fulton Street, Palo Alto; www.christmastreelane.org
Widmer World, Pleasanton
For more than 30 years, the Widmer family of Pleasanton has presented a popular home display that includes a Big Tree of red and green lights, giant “Peace on Earth” sign and a tunnel of decorated trees, displays of popular cartoon characters and elaborate arrangements of life-sized Santas, reindeer and snowpeople.
Foster Family Christmas, Redwood City
Known as the local “holiday guy,” Steven Foster does a display that goes from Halloween to Christmas. As soon as he’s taken down his elaborate Halloween display — a mix of “Haunted Mansion” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” — he begins mounting his North Pole-themed show, which seems to get bigger every year and always includes music, inflatable figures and a “Letters to Santa” box.
Details: 5:30-10:30 p.m. nightly, Nov. 24 to Jan. 5, 411 Topaz St., Redwood City; https://www.instagram.com/fostersholidays/.
Winter Wonderland in Oakley
A 19-foot singing tree, the Grinch doing Grinch things and Mickey and Minnie riding in Santa’s sleigh with the elves helping to pass out packages. These figures, plus more than 10,000 lights, are among the highlights of this popular, computer-controlled display created by homeowner Michael Wright. You can also listen to the music from your car on 93.3 FM.
Friday “Nights of Lights,” Half Moon Bay
This coastal town’s picturesque downtown transforms into a festival of lights on Friday nights, when visitors can stroll by decorated store windows and shop for gifts. The town also hosts four special events: a tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 24, a lighted boat parade with Santa on Dec. 1, an ugly sweater party on Dec. 8 and a holiday movie night with “Elf” on Dec. 15.
Details: 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays from Nov. 24 to Dec. 15, Main Street, Half Moon Bay; www.visithalfmoonbay.org.
Giant Santa in Newark
This Newark home, a contender on the ABC show, “Great Christmas Light Fight,” features a 33-foot inflatable Santa, a 20-foot inflatable snow man, some very large candy canes and singing Christmas trees. You can listen to the music on 88.1 FM.
Have we missed your favorite? Tell us about it: