Escapes: A short and satistfying hike at Mount Diablo on the year's shortest day


Winter Solstice saunter

Saturday is the shortest day of the year. A hike makes for an excellent way to celebrate, especially if it’s up Twin Peaks, one of the shortest satellite spurs in Mount Diablo State Park.

You’ll find mistletoe – a true sign of the winter season – and learn why Mount Diablo’s pines aren’t suitable for ornaments in your living room.

Meet at the Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center at 96 Mitchell Canyon Road in Clayton at 9:30 a.m. and expect to return around 2 p.m. The hike is free, but it costs $6 to park. It’s a 5-mile journey, so wear good hiking shoes, dress in layers and pack a lunch and plenty of water.

Register by emailing and find more information at


Airport music festival

What: You’ve heard of elevator music, but what about tunes to get you in the mood for takeoff? For three days, hear live contemporary jazz, folk, chamber, rock and more in the airport’s four terminals for the “You Are Hear” holiday celebration.

When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Dec. 22.

Where: San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco

Cost: Free



Crab feed

What: Endless chilled Dungeness crab, people! Yes, there’s also endless clam chowder, pasta, salad, bread and sauces. But endless crab! Reservations are strongly recommended for this annual feast.

When: 5-9 p.m. Friday

Where: The Tides Wharf Restaurant & Bar, 835 Coast Highway One, Bodega Bay

Cost: $49.95

Information: (707) 875-3652;


Tap-dancing trees

What: Oakland’s storybook theme park is full of family-friendly, festive events around the holidays. There are regular puppet shows, dreidel spins, parades and Santa appearances. But the Tap Dancing Christmas Trees – a chorus line of joy from an Alameda dance center – only perform twice.

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Saturday

Where: Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland

Cost: $8 park admission



Mandarin orchards

What: Join Placer County ranches in celebrating Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days. Family activities, artists, wine tasting and mandarin-based products, including olive oils, marinades and marmalades.

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Various orchards in Penryn, Newcastle, Loomis, Lincoln and Auburn

Cost: Free



Cooking class

What: In France, Bûche de Nöel is the Christmas dessert. A sponge cake is filled, rolled and shaped into a yule log, then decorated with frosting and meringue mushrooms for the full effect. Spread the holiday cheer by taking it home to your loved ones.

When: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Ramekins, 450 West Spain St., Sonoma

Cost: $105


— Janelle Bitker