Big & Bright: Where to See Christmas Lights in the East Bay in 2021
It is time to bundle up, pour hot cocoa into a thermos, and head out to see the most beautiful Christmas lights in the East Bay. Rain or moon-shine, ’tis the season for the sparkling light shows created by bulb-happy residents and businesses.
First, some sage advice for you twinkle-eyed adventurers searching for holiday lights in the Bay Area:
- Map the sites you want to hit before you leave home so you aren’t zigzagging around town or backtracking.
- Bring festive car snacks and no-spill thermoses.
- Have a little cash on hand in case the homeowner who is footing the massive electricity bill (for your enjoyment) provides a donation jar.
- As always these days, mask up and keep your distance from other revelers.
Now, on with the light show!
Top 10 Christmas Light Sights in the East Bay
1. Christmas Tree Lane – Alameda
This illuminated neighborhood effort typically involves more than 50 homes! Look for homemade decorations, timed light shows, and themed houses. Winter 2021 updates from the Lane’s Facebook page: “The only thing we’ll be missing this year is Santa himself because the North Pole wants to keep all kids safe and kids are not yet fully vaccinated. We will have Santa’s mailbox, lots of lights and displays, and some performing groups we’ll announce on this page as the season goes on.” 3200 block of Thompson Ave., between High Street and Fernside, Alameda. (Photo from #ChristmasTreeLane)
2. Oakland Mormon Temple
The extensive grounds of this hilltop temple include tall palm trees wrapped in lights so bright they can be seen from the freeway. The grounds glow every evening from dusk to 9 p.m. through Jan. 3, 2022. 4766 Lincoln Ave., Oakland
3. Glowfari at Oakland Zoo
Oakland Zoo has gone wild with Glowfari, featuring larger-than-life glowing animal lanterns throughout the zoo. Take a mile-long illuminated stroll and visit the desert with camels and bighorn sheep, have an African safari adventure with elephants, giraffes, and an 8-foot crocodile head, walk through the forests of Asia to meet red and giant pandas – and, of course, ride the gondola to the land of bugs featuring a 65-foot Queen Ant Tunnel! Finish the evening with a visit to Santa and ride the Express Train through a Winter Wonderland. The zoo lights up from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. throughout January. Get details and buy tickets here. 9777 Golf Links Rd., Oakland
4. Picardy Drive – Oakland
The entire block of storybook-style houses on Picardy Drive is aglow in this Mills College neighborhood. In fact, when residents buy homes here, they commit to participating and stringing twinkly lights along their rooftops. Picardy Drive is located between Seminary and 55th avenues, Oakland
5. Tilden Park Merry Go Round – Berkeley
Tilden’s historic merry-go-round is celebrating its 110th birthday with appearances by St. Nick (reserve your spot to breakfast with Santa!), photo stations, hot chocolate, classic movies, and more. Take a nighttime spin on this very special carousel on weekends 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and weekdays 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Details and tickets. Central Park Drive and Lake Anza Road, Berkeley
6. Holidays on Fourth Street – Berkeley
Fourth Street sparkles with cheer every night, beginning at dusk. Special events include a fantasy parade on Dec. 11 from 5-7 p.m. and visits from Santa in his big red sleigh (find him across from Peet’s Coffee on Dec. 11, 12, 18, 19 from 12-4 p.m.). An artists and flea market takes place on Dec. 11 and 18 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Details
7. 928 The Arlington – Berkeley
Located in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood of north Berkeley, 928 The Arlington has a spectacular display. Walk down a candy-cane pathway and see every tree and shrub lit in different colors.
8. Tunnels of Joy – Brentwood
This beautiful display is a Christmas-time tribute to a friend and neighbor, Joy Bursch. Joy lost her fight against breast cancer in 2009 and left behind three young children. The bright tunnels are meant to reflect Joy’s kindness, and they attract holiday sightseers from all over the county. Drive or walk through from 5-9 p.m. The neighborhood hosts special events throughout December. Get updates on their Facebook page. One way on La Costa Dr, open on Torrey Pines Dr.
9. 6716 Fountaine Ave. – Newark
You literally can’t miss the 30-foot inflatable Santa and 20-foot Frosty the Snowman that tower over this magnificently glowing house at 6716 Fountaine Ave. (If you do miss it, you obviously had too much bourbon in your nog – and shouldn’t be driving!) A synchronized light show runs from 5-10 p.m. and is broadcast on 88.1 FM.
10. Shadi Holiday Display – El Cerrito
The annual creation of a life-size nativity scene is a 68-year-old tradition begun by resident Sundar Shadi. On Dec. 12, the Shadi family and volunteers will transform a hillside lot into a picturesque Bethlehem with many sheep and shepherds. The display lights stay on from 5-10 p.m. Check out this cool time-lapse video from a previous year’s setup. Details 7501 Moeser Ln., near Seaview, El Cerrito