Join tens of thousands of volunteers and make a difference for bird conservation by participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count. The National Audubon Society, a Sacramento-based environmental nonprofit, organizes the effort, which has gone on from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 for more than 100 years.
Armed with guides and checklists, citizen scientists leave their cozy homes and brave the cold to observe and tally species in nature. Anyone can participate so long as they make advance arrangements – and counting opportunities take place all over California. Last year, groups set out in Mount Shasta, Lassen National Forest, Mendocino County, Lake Tahoe, the Sacramento Valley and all around the San Francisco Bay Area. No fee nor experience required. Learn more at birds.audubon.org.
What: Experience Christmas as if it were the 1800s. The Patterson House at Ardenwood Historic Farm is offering docent-led tours while it’s decked out with Victorian-inspired holiday decorations.
When: Various times, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 21
Where: 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
Cost: $3-$4 plus $2-$3 Ardenwood admission
Information: www.ebparks.org/parks/ardenwood; (510) 544-2797
Holiday farm faire
What: Shop for hand-carved ornaments, pottery, quilts, jams and more in two packed barns at Harley Farms Christmas Faire. Listen to live music, sip on hot mulled cider and nibble on homemade cookies while you contemplate the farm’s cheeses and goat-milk body treats. For an additional fee, join a wreath-making, block-printing or felting workshop.
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Harley Farms, 205 North St., Pescadero
What: The 12th annual Parol Lantern Festival will feature more than 25 local organizations gathering for live music, art and games. The highlight? The parade of parols – traditional, brightly lit and star-shaped Christmas lanterns from the Philippines.
When: 5-9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Jessie Square, 736 Mission St., San Francisco
What: Take your holiday shopping to the quirky, multicultural Telegraph business district for the 31st annual Holiday Street Fair. Artists will hawk jewelry, hats, leather work, tie-dyed clothing, wood crafts, henna art, sculptures and more amid festive décor, music and food.
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; Dec. 20, 21, 23, 24
Where: Telegraph Avenue between Dwight and Bancroft ways, Berkeley
What: For one night only, charming downtown Santa Cruz will transform into a full-blown winter festival, with choirs, carolers, wagon rides, Santa Claus, open houses and a free outdoor movie.
When: 5-9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz