Sunday, 21 December 2014

Alameda Christmas Tree Lane

A few weekends back we took a stroll down Alameda's "Christmas Tree Lane".

The 3200 block of Thompson Ave in Alameda is one of the East Bay's best spots to check out houses decked out for the holidays. Almost every house on this section of the street is covered in lights with displays covering the front lawn.

Many of the houses have a particular theme and feature beloved characters both from Christmas stories and popular movies. There are snowmen, reindeer, Santa, elves, candy canes, and characters from Marvel comics, Peanuts, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Grinch who stole Christmas and Frozen. Snoopy, Jack Skellington and Elsa all on one street? Lola was in heaven!

Here's a look at some of my favourite displays on the street.

If you're in the East Bay and looking for a spot of Christmas cheer I definitely recommend a visit to Alameda's Christmas Tree Lane. The lights will be on display each evening from 5:30pm - 10pm through New Year's Eve. Weather permitting Santa will be on hand to meet kids through December 23rd from 6:30pm - 8pm. We arrived a little later in the evening so we missed seeing Santa this time.

A definite Christmas must see!

Gingerbread House & Sugar Tree

Last weekend I took the girls into the city to visit two of San Francisco's finest hotels and their festive Christmas displays: the Giant Gingerbread House at the Fairmont Hotel and the Sugar Tree at the Westin St Francis Hotel.

Visiting these two amazing confectionery pieces makes up two of the vouchers on our advent calendar and it has become a tradition for us to visit them every year.

We started our day of sugary delight with a visit to the Fairmont Hotel and the Giant Gingerbread House. As always, it was pretty busy there being a weekend day so close to Christmas. The lobby was full of children running around in their finest Christmas attire (so many big poufy dresses on little girls in one place!) and adults congregating around the lobby's Christmas tree drinking and chatting. Elsa from Frozen was on hand for photos with the kids which suited Lola perfectly as she's a little obsessed right now - and we were actually heading to the Disney store afterwards so she could buy an Elsa doll with her birthday money!


I tried to take some nice shots of the girls with the giant Christmas tree in the lobby but a certain little someone was quite distracted by all of the shiny baubles and made it her mission to try and eat them!

Back outside I had a little more luck getting Mathilde to look at the camera. No shiny ornaments to distract her! Ava and Lola had fun playing on the ornate lamp posts in front of the hotel for a while and then we made our way back down the hill toward the Westin Hotel in Union Square. I love how steep these streets in San Francisco are. And yes, we did actually walk up the hill too!


When we arrived at the Westin St Francis we were in for a surprise. In the past the Westin  has displayed an amazing sugar castle in their lobby however this year they started a new tradition with a sugar Christmas tree. We were not aware that the castle had been changed up for a tree this year so we were all surprised when we entered the hotel lobby. The girls were pretty excited to see something completely different from what they expected.

Just looking at all that sugar is making my teeth hurt!

Both the Giant Gingerbread House and the Sugar Tree are on display for a little longer. If you're in San Francisco make sure to check them out.

Nevada City Victorian Christmas 2014

Last Sunday we traveled to Nevada City high in the Sierra Nevada ranges to attend the Victorian Christmas Festival.

Every year Nevada City plays hosts to thousands of visitors who flock to the beautiful little gold rush town for the festival. The town's many Victorian era buildings and the surrounding pine forests, make the perfect backdrop for the event.

Being high in the Sierra Nevada it gets rather chilly in Nevada City. Last year when we attended the festival (which you can see here) there was snow on the ground in many places left over from a snowfall a few days earlier. This year there had been no snow however it was still rather chilly. We had all just come down with colds (which are still holding on strong a week later) so unfortunately we were not able to spend as much time outside in the cold mountain air as we had hoped.

We strolled along the main street with its many market stalls taking in the atmosphere and enjoying the entertainment along the way. There were many carolers, people in Victorian dress handing out candy canes, buskers, and of course, Santa and Mrs Claus. The girls were excited to meet Santa and Mrs Claus but it was only after I had taken their photo that I realised just how much candy cane Ava and Lola had around their mouths!

Ava and Lola were excited when we came across a bouncy castle with a big slide and spent a good fifteen minutes jumping, bouncing and sliding. While they bounced Mathilde watched a busker with a double bass - and became the focus of many visitor's photos as she bounced along standing against the curb.

Unfortunately all of that bouncing in the bouncy castle combined with the cold air was too much for Ava and she spent quite some time coughing and feeling sick. This coincided with Lola having a meltdown over a lost candy cane (exacerbated by her also feeling sick) and the temperature dropping substantially as the sun started to set. Time to head home.

The Victorian Christmas Fair in Nevada City is a great event to visit, just maybe not with sick kids as we discovered this year.

The festival is held on selected Wednesdays and Sundays throughout December and finishes up today. You can find more information here.