2018 Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies - Bay Area Guide

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Christmas tree lighting ceremonies are a great way to kickoff the holiday season with family and friends. Enjoy live music and make some special memories. Here is the schedule of events in the Bay Area (In order by date).
If I missed one, please post in the comments or email me at relomomsv@gmail.com.

San Jose
Christmas in the Park - Friday, November 23, 6-8pm
Quinlan Community Center - Friday, November 30, 6-8pm

Menlo Park
Fremont Park - Friday, November 30, 5:30-7pm

Downtown Sunnyvale - Saturday, December 1, 5-7:30pm

Redwood City
Courthouse Square - Saturday, December 1, 5:30-8pm

Main Street - Saturday, December 1, 3:30-8:30pm  

Los Altos
Holiday Barn Lighting at Westwind Community Barn - Sunday, December 2, 2-5pm

Santa Clara
Central Park - Friday, December 7, 5-9pm


Pictures With Santa Around the Bay Area

Friday, November 2, 2018

It’s almost winter and the best way to get into the holiday spirit is with a photo with the big guy in red of course. This list will help you find the Santa that is just right for you! Don't see your favorite Santa on the list? Post in the comments or email me at relomomsv@gmail.com.

Santa at Westfield Valley Fair San Jose
Santa has flown in from the North Pole to visit all his friends. Make sure to reserve your time with Santa online to skip the line! http://bit.ly/SantaValleyFairSanJose
Santa at Bass Pro Shop San Jose
Santa's wonderland is all about holiday magic! Decorate a Santa Stocking, Paint your own Christmas drawstring bag, play with the elfs, lots of games and activities, and take a studio quality picture with Santa! All FREE. We love Bass Pro Shop, and this is going to be such a wonderful event!
November 11-December 24, 2018. http://bit.ly/SantaBassProShop
Santa at Westgate Center San Jose
The Holiday Cheer is here and Santa has arrived to Westgate Center!
November 17-December 24, 2018. http://bit.ly/SantaWestgate
Santa at Christmas in the Park San Jose
Visit Santa Claus inside the North Pole themed Santa Booth. Visits are free with your own camera, or you can also purchase a photo with a professional photographer.
November 23-Decemnber 25, 2018. http://bit.ly/SantaChristmasInThePark
Santa at Westfield Oakridge Mall San Jose
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen,Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen have escorted the Jolly Elf down from the North Pole to Westfield Oakridge. Bring your family to Macy's Court (a.k.a. Santa's Cave) to capture holiday portraits with Santa Claus.
Make sure to reserve your time with Santa online to skip the line! http://bit.ly/SantaOakridge 
Santa at Stanford Shopping Mall Palo Alto
Share wishes and snap pictures with Santa. Make sure to reserve your time with Santa online to skip the line! http://bit.ly/SantaStanford

Holiday Train Rides

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Whether it’s a ride on a diesel train or steam engine, in the city or in the woods, whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah or Christmas - riding a train decked out with lights is a magical holiday excursion. 

These train rides have proven to be very popular—be sure to book early, most of these train rides sell out in advance. Remember, trains don’t wait for anyone. Plan on arriving at the station at least twenty minutes before the scheduled time.

Caltrain Holiday Train
Decorated with 70,000 glittering lights, the dazzling show-train will visit nine Caltrain stations between San Francisco and Santa Clara over two nights in December, providing holiday entertainment and collecting donations of toys for local children who otherwise might not receive a gift during the holidays.
Saturday and Sunday, December 1-2, 2018.

Times: 4pm-9pm, check the schedule here. FREE.

The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train departs from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.  
Vintage excursion cars, adorned with thousands of colorful lights, roll through the streets of Santa Cruz as passengers lend their voices to holiday carols, sip hot spiced cider and listen to musical entertainment while Santa visits the little ones, or the young at heart! Continue the merriment with a $6 MyBoardwalk card good for attractions, arcades and games in Neptune's Kingdom.
November 23-24, December 1-2, 8-9, 15-23, 2018.
Adult - $33, Children - $28, 2 and under - free.

The Roaring Camp also offering Holiday Tree Walk - Get in the holiday spirit by bringing family and friends to ride Roaring Camp’s daytime steam train to Bear Mountain.  At the summit, guests may sip hot cider and delight in viewing a tree-lined walk of beautifully decorated holiday trees.
November 23-24, December 1-2, 8-9, 2018.
Adult - $29, Children - $23, 2 and under - free. 

If you're celebrating Hanukkah, you don't want to miss the Hanukkah Train
Gather at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on the 5th night of Hanukkah for the lighting of the menorah at 6:15 pm, and then set off on an incredible 1-hour train ride on Roaring Camp’s vintage excursion cars adorned with thousands of shining lights and Hanukkah decorations.  
Sharing in Hanukkah traditions and ride the train through the streets of Santa Cruz listening to Hanukkah stories, playing dreidel and enjoying kosher refreshments provided by Chabad by the Sea.
December 3, 2018.
Adult - $33, Children - $27, 2 and under - free.

For details and tickets --> https://www.roaringcamp.com/events

Niles Canyon Railway Train of Lights
The Train of Lights offers a rare opportunity to experience a train ride through Niles Canyon at night. With one departure from Niles at dusk and a second departure from Sunol after dark, you can choose your favorite time to ride.
Trains depart from Niles at 4:30PM and Sunol at 7:30PM every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the holiday season (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).
Tickets are $30. For more information and tickets --> http://www.ncry.org/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=541047&module_id=141791
The Holiday Train at Billy Jones Railroad
Ride aboard the wildcat railroad through the enchanting Fantasy of Lights set up in Vasona Park.
Ride through large animated displays while listening to Holiday music. See the sights and sounds of an erupting volcano in the dangerously fun Dinosaur Den, cheer on Santa shooting hoops, wave at a pen of playful penguins, watch blazing Pirate Cannons and sail through tunnels of moving lights. Over 50 themed displays and a 90-foot twinkling tree will have you “oohing and aahing” throughout your adventure.
The Holiday Train will run Thursdays through Sundays from December 6th to the 23rd. 6:00 to 9:00pm.
Tickets are $5.00. Children 2 and under - free with paid adult. 
For more information and tickets --> https://bjwrr.org/the-holiday-train/
For more holiday events and festivals, check out our calendar --> http://bit.ly/ReloMomNovember18

Weekend Escape: Family Fun in Monterey

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Wild beaches, rich aquatic life, spectacular coastal trails, and lots of tourist attractions make Monterey a perfect location for a family getaway.

Book a family friendly hotel. We love Portola Hotel & Spa and we spent there a few vacations in the last 3 years. The hotel is being renovated and should be done by the beginning of 2017, but it will not effect your stay. 

We usually take the option that include breakfast and tickets to the aquarium. The buffet style breakfast is very good and includes pastries, omelet bar, pancakes and french toast to order, good coffee, and a lot more, but most impotently - bottomless Mimosas! Now that's the way to start off your day. 
The tickets for the aquarium are good for two days, which makes it a great option with kids who still naps. We visited the aquarium in the morning and afternoon, and the afternoon of the following day. This is a great arrangement if you don't have a membership.

The best part about the hotel is the Portola Pirate Kids Program for kids between the ages of 3-12. Upon arrival, Daniel received a hot cookie, a bag and a treasure hunt map with crayons. It was fun (mostly because they gave us a cheat sheet) and we ended up going back to the lobby and finding the buried treasure box, from which Daniel picked a yo-yo. Yes, it's small, but really fun. In the next visits there will be other fun things and the fifth visit includes a pirate party with friends, and I'm going to try and book it for Daniel's birthday :)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is usually our first stop - breathtaking beauty and fascinating wildlife is always a good choice. There are lots of trails that are good for kids, and lots of pebble beaches and tide pools to explore. 
Here are our favorite trails:
Bird Island Trail is a short hike (0.8 mile) to a huge rock where you can spot many birds and seals.
Cypress Grove Trail - 0.8 mile walk through coastal scrub, cypress forest, and cliffs with dramatic and spectacular ocean views. 
Sea Lion Point Trail - 0.6 mile trail takes you to the cove overlook and offers best view of sea lion rocks offshore. 
We also liked Moss Cove and Granite Point Trail.
We spent a lot of time just playing in the water, looking for interesting tide pools and spotting sea lions. 
Always look for volunteers with Binoculars and scopes, as they usually spot whales and otter romps.
At the first parking lot, there's a small shed with some seal skulls, fur and more. Knowledgeable docents would love to explain and answer your questions.
There are many picnic tables, so pack your breakfast and bring it with you. Every table is a table with a view - our favorite is the picnic area near at the last parking lot.
Parking is not easy to find in this reserve, which create traffic at the entrance, so try getting there early in the morning.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is also a favorite, and probably our top reason to visit. We like visiting in the afternoon, after nap, because it's very quiet, so we usually plan to be there for two afternoons, and we stay until closing time. Try planning your visit after checking the daily schedule. We like to avoid the feedings of the otters and penguins for example, since it's very crowded, but like watching the feeding in the Kelp Forest, where you can interact with the divers, and it's big enough for everyone to see everything.
Don't miss the giant octopus, and the flashy fishes (we had a great time watching them play)! 
Of course, what Daniel likes most are the interactive exhibits, like the Rocky Shore touch pools where you can get up-close-and-personal with a bat ray, starfish, abalones, sea urchins, kelp crabs and more.  
The Coral Reef Kingdom offers a playplace for infants and toddlers, and a fun mini aquarium with lots of clown fishes you kids can crawl into.
If you visit often, and want to try something new, take one of the behind-the-scene tours! We plan to do it in one of our next visits. 

We only visited Dennis the Menace Playground because of recommendations from friends. It is a nice park, but not something amazing that we included in our next visits. If you're looking for a fun park to spend an hour - go for it, otherwise there are better things to do. 
Every Year Thousands of Monarchs Overwinter in Pacific Grove. If you're visiting Monterey between October and February - plan a short visit to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. Just look up and look for the Monarch Butterflies cluster together on the pines and eucalyptus trees of the Sanctuary. Entrance is free, and the trail is very short. 

The 17 Mile Drive is widely recognized as one of the most scenic drives in the world. At the entrance, pick up a map, and drive between the stops. You can see some of the famous coastal landmark like the lonely cypress, play with playful squirrels, see the sea lions, spot deer, and enjoy the views.
The inspiring vistas and sites can easily fill your morning.
This picture is from a visit almost four years ago, and still my favorite!

Monterey Zoo in Salinas Valley offers a daily tour (every day except Christmas and thanksgiving, 7 days a week, at 1pm) where you can see lions, tigers, elephants and bears. After the tour, guests are invited to return to the elephant playpen and feed one of the elephants housed in the African elephant sanctuary. I don't really like seeing large animals in zoos, but here they save retired animals from the show biz, and it looks like they really care for them. 

The Monterey County Youth Museum gives children the chance to discover the thrill of learning through unstructured play at its 80 exhibits. Exhibit areas include the Creation Station; the toddler-centric MY Day at the Beach, with a sandbox, a slide, a boat and a walk-through lighthouse; MY Hospital, with a life-size version of the game Operation; MY Theater, where children can perform on stage and even use a TV camera, and more.

If you want to see more seals and otters, stop at the Coast Guard Pier where dozens of full grown sea lions, baby sea lions, and hundreds of pelicans will be hanging out on the rocks. There's a nice trail along the sea you could walk and enjoy (San Carlos Beach Park).

We usually take the breakfast package at the hotel, but at least once stop at the Crepes of Brittany. This is a great location for sweet and savory crepes. For years they were located in a tiny place on the Fisherman's wharf, but now they are right across from the Portola Hotel. My favorite is the brie and caramelized onions crepe, but really, everything we tried was delicious. You can defiantly make it a dessert stop and take one of the sweet crepes, if you don't want to make a meal out of it.

As for dinner - most restaurants on the Cannery Row offers kids meals, coloring pages and crayons. We enjoyed the food and view at Louie's Linguini, and the hot chocolate and ice cream, at Ghiradelli are not to be missed. I wish I remembered the names of the restaurants from our previous visits, but I will sure be back to update after trying new places!