November 18, 2012

Escapes: Victorian Christmas Fair promises a Dickens of a good time

Though Charles "A Christmas Carol" Dickens likely would not be impressed by a fair named after him, we sure are. Especially since it's in celebration of the novelist's 200th birthday anniversary.


A Dickens of a good time at the Cow Palace

Though Charles "A Christmas Carol" Dickens likely would not be impressed by a fair named after him, we sure are. Especially since it's in celebration of the novelist's 200th birthday anniversary.

The 34th annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party will open Friday in San Francisco's Cow Palace and run every weekend from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Dec. 23.

The indoor sporting arena will be turned into a lamp-lit 3-acre Victorian-era London filled with feasting, merriment and shopping. Visitors can explore shops, pubs, tea rooms, lecture halls, a Victorian sideshow, seven theaters, a music hall and Mad Sal's Dockside Ale House, while being entertained by 700 costumed players on six stages and in the streets.

Keep an eye out for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Jules Verne, Lewis Carroll, Ebenezer Scrooge, Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, the Mad Hatter and Dickens himself.

Food and drink will abound – roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, goose, quail, duck, fish 'n' chips, meat pies, plum pudding, mulled cider, champagne, hot chocolate, hot buttered rum, and pints of stout and ale.

More than 100 costumed vendors will sell artisan wares, clothing, jewelry and antiquarian books. Plus: hands-on activities for children, a parade with Mother Goose, and visits from Father Christmas.

The Cow Palace is at 2600 Geneva Ave., San Francisco. General admission is $25; $21 for students, seniors and military; $12 for children 5 through 12. Print-at-home discount tickets are at Parking is $10.

Information: (800) 510-1558 ext. 114 or visit, where you can download a map of the fair and entertainment schedules.


Mountain Thanksgiving

The Lake Tahoe basin is filling with skiers and boarders just in time for Thanksgiving. Holiday feasts await them in restaurants at ski resorts, hotels and casinos.

One unusual offering is the mountaintop Thanksgiving dinner at High Camp at Squaw Valley ski resort, where diners can enjoy their repast – and spectacular views – at 8,200 feet.

The menu includes turkey and gravy, ham, garlic mashed potatoes, bacon-apple stuffing, butternut squash bisque, salads and dessert, accompanied by live piano music.

Seatings will be at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Cost is $39 for adults, $29 for 12 and younger. Tram tickets are $22 for adults (a $7 saving), $10 for children.

For reservations:, (530) 452-7278.


Mavericks festival

Each year, the Mavericks Surf Contest is at the mercy of the weather. Will there be waves, or won't there? When will the surf get rowdy, or will it ever?

The world-renowned surf contest can happen any time between now through March 31, "depending upon wave patterns." It brings 24 of the world's greatest big-wave surfers to Half Moon Bay on 24 hours' notice. Mavericks itself is a half-mile off the coast by Pillar Point Harbor. Last year was a bust.

Whether the contest happens this year or not, there's always the Mavericks Invitational Festival, where you can meet surfers, listen to music, eat and drink, and watch the awards ceremony – if there is one.

The festival will be 8 a.m. to sunset at the Oceano Hotel & Spa, 280 Capistrano Road. Just which day is anyone's guess right now.

For updates on the contest and the festival, go to or call Mavericks Surf Shop at (650) 560-8088.

– Allen Pierleoni


Janet Vitt, section editor

(916) 321-1056,

To submit events or news about travel and recreation activities, travel talks as well as organized day trips with costs up to $100, please send information at least three weeks in advance to Traveler, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852, fax (916) 556-5625 or email: Priority will be given to events free to the public.

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