Forget about meeting Santa at the mall when you can sit face-to-face with live reindeer.
Festive, educational activities await at “’Tis the Season for Science,” the California Academy of Sciences’ annual holiday exhibit in Golden Gate Park. Through Jan. 4, visitors will find a full-fledged winter wonderland, equipped with indoor snow flurries, interactive reindeer displays, a giant, dome-shaped “Snowman Theater” playing child-friendly shows, live music and, of course, two live reindeer named Yukon and Willow.
Daily at 11 a.m., young children are invited to dance and waddle like penguins. Then at noon, learn all about reindeer’s UV vision, fast-growing antlers and annual epic journeys through forests and tundra. At 1 p.m. there’s a fun, game-style trivia contest. And starting Saturday, enjoy live musical performances every day as well. The Oakland Youth Chorus will start things off Saturday, followed by Chris Bradley’s Jazz Band’s New Orleans-style hot jazz on Sunday. It’s all free with general admission tickets to the museum, which range from $24.95 for children 4 to 11 and $34.95 for adults. Learn more at www.calacademy.org.
What: The last Friday of the month, the Oakland Museum of California showcases local music, food, art, science and culture at a special, nighttime event. Enjoy a holiday trunk show, greeting-card-making, live world music, dance lessons and food trucks. At 7 p.m., artist Lexa Walsh will give a brief talk about her work and the importance of citizen archiving.
When: 5-9 p.m. Friday
Where: 1000 Oak St., Oakland
Cost: $7.50 general, $5 seniors and students, youth free
What: Naturalists will lead two free, one-hour hikes through Spring Lake Regional Park designed for families. That means education about the area’s plants and wildlife as well as nature-themed crafts upon return.
When: 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Environmental Discovery Center of Sonoma County, 5390 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa
Cost: $7 parking
What: Explore downtown Santa Cruz by horse-drawn carriage. Reserve your time slot in advance for a romantic date or festive family outing.
When: 3-6 p.m. Saturday; 1-4 p.m. Dec. 21
Where: Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
What: The first Northern California Chanukah Festival. Expect a giant snow hill, animal shows, face-painting, dreidel, photos with Judah the Maccabee and a Grand Menorah lighting ceremony. There will also be live music, including a choir.
When: 3-9 p.m. Dec. 21
Where: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, 1001 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo
What: Celebrate Hanukkah in one of the sweetest spots around. Free tours of the Jelly Belly factory will include latkes and sufganiyot – Israeli jelly-filled donuts – among the refreshments. At 4:30 p.m., gather for the lighting of a giant Jelly Belly-filled menorah. There will also be an acrobat show, wine-tasting and live performances just for kids.
When: 4-7 p.m. Dec. 23
Where: Jelly Belly Visitor Center, 1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield