Mid-winter break is just around the corner and there's no shortage of snow in the Sierras. It's not too late to make plans for a family getaway to have fun in the snow. Check out our guide to ski, snowboard and snow play locations for North and South Lake Tahoe.
The Lake Tahoe area has a variety of resorts and ski areas to suit anyone's taste and budget. Here's our guide to places to ski, snowboard, tube, sled, and play in the snow around Tahoe. We're tried to focus on spots that offer not only skiing and snowboarding, but tubing, snow play, and other winter activities, too. If we've omitted your favorite, please let us know.
Make sure you check before you head up to the high country, though, as opening dates are tentative and dependent on snowfall and weather; we've included website links and phone numbers.
North Lake Tahoe
Just a few hours away off Interstate 80, North Lake Tahoe and the Truckee area offer a huge concentration of ski resorts and other destinations for fun in the snow.
As December draws to a close and the New Year begins, the time comes bid farewell to your Christmas tree. It's a sad but inevitable fact of life that your tree has to go at some point, unless you have an artificial Christmas tree, in which case you can stop reading right here.
Fortunately, your local disposal agency is usually more than happy to take your dried out old Noble Fir off your hands and do the green thing with the tree by recycling it. If for some reason you can't leave your tree out by the curb with your yard waste, you can drop it off at a number of different locations, including all Marin County Fire Department stations (through January 21), throughout Marin County.
Keep in mind that you need to remove all ornaments, lights, tinsel, and plastic tree bags from the tree before you put it out for pick up. (Don't forget to remove metal or plastic stands, too.) Here's a rundown of Christmas tree disposal details for communities in Marin:
For Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Las Gallinas Valley, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Ross Valley (Sleepy Hollow and Oak Manor): Trees will be collected at the curb on your regular yard waste pickup day during the month of January. One pickup per residence. If trees are greater than 6 feet in length, please cut them in half. Remove all metal stands, plastic tree bags, and ornaments. Flocked trees will not be accepted.
While New Year’s Eve is usually a party for adults (at least those who can still stay up until midnight), it can also be a fun celebration for the whole family. New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate the old and welcome the new, and just about everyone can appreciate that, even children.
We usually like to have some friends and family over to celebrate the old year and cheer in the new one. During the course of the evening we take a moment to go around the room and recount happy and positive things that have happened throughout the year, as well as what our expectations are for the New Year.
We like to serve festive social foods like fondue, and open a bottle or two of sparkling apple cider like Martinelli's, and some bubbly for the grownups, of course. A festive champagne flute of sparkling cider is fun to sip and welcome by children and adults who aren’t drinking alike.
Say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in the New Year at one of these family friendly events taking place in Marin and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Many of these celebrations take place earlier in the day or evening on December 31 so little ones can get a taste of New Year's Eve fun without staying up past their bedtimes.
Noon Year's Eve
Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito Saturday, 9 am–2 pm
Ring in the New Year with your little ones at the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s Noon Year’s Eve! This kid-friendly affair includes music by DJ ManCub, a celebratory ball drop at noon, dancing, and various art activities like crown making. In addition, enjoy access to the museum’s indoor and outdoor exhibits like Lookout Cove and Bay Hall. (Note: Iceless Skating Rink is closed during Noon Year’s Eve.) For more info, visit their website.
Annual Japanese Bell Ringing Ceremony Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
Ring in the New Year by taking a swing at a giant 2,100-pound, 16th-century, Japanese temple bell at the Asian Art Museum. Participants may take turns ringing the museum’s bronze bell to leave behind any unfortunate experiences, regrettable deeds, and ill luck of the previous year. This time slot is exclusive to members. Bell-ringing opens to general admission at 11:30 am. First come, first served. Pick up tickets to ring the bell at the admission desk. Location: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
Every Christmas, the men and women of NORAD take a break from tracking the skies and waterways of North America and instead follow Santa Claus on his annual Christmas trek around the globe. You can check out Saint Nick's progress live online at NORAD's special Santa Tracking website, www.noradsanta.org. You can also track Santa on a mobile app available for iOS,Android, or Windows devices.
One of our must-do family tradions during the holidays is to visit Snoopy's Home Ice, as well as the Charles M. Schulz Museum right next door. The arena was a gift to the North Bay community from the late Santa Rosa resident and Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, and has been going strong since 1969.
I always consider an outing here a holiday tradition, especially since I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas every year, and attended a few holiday ice shows here over the years, too. It was always a treat to see Charles Schulz himself sitting in the audience, enjoying the show and chatting with visitors.
These moist and chewy cookies contain plenty of two iconic holiday ingredients: chocolate and candy canes! They're the perfect addition to a holiday cookie platter, and I bet Santa wouldn't turn his nose up to a couple of them on Christmas Eve. If you really want to supercharge the peppermint flavor, replace the vanilla with peppermint extract. My kids think the crushed candy canes on top of these cookies give them plenty of peppermint flavor, so I usually just leave it at that. These are also great made with whole-wheat pastry flour, but plain old all-purpose flour is fine, too.
Winter Break is almost here! While you'll probably spend plenty of time with family and friends for Christmas, you'll also need to keep the little ones occupied, and there are plenty of fun things to do in and around Marin with the kids during their time off! Check out our list of 10 fun family activities and outings, both indoor and outdoor, for winter break.
Great Dickens Christmas Fair Cow Palace, San Francisco
Friday–Sunday, 10 am–7 pm
Experience Victorian London with hundreds of costumed players, shops offering one-of-a-kind gifts and Christmas treasures, dining, and pubs. Meet Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim, Jules Verne, David Copperfield, Charles Darwin, and 700 costumed characters. Of course, Father Christmas himself will be on hand to join in the fun. Purchase tickets here. For more info, visit their website.
Top of the Mark Children’s Magical Holiday Tea 999 California Street at Mason, San Francisco
Friday & Saturday, noon–4 pm
Magical Holiday Tea is open to kids and adults of all ages. Guests will enjoy a cookie decorating station, Santa's sleigh in the lobby, Raul the Master Baloonatic, and face painting by Fire Pixie, Bri the Magical Holiday Character, plus a tea-time buffet. Santa will visit on Saturdays, too! $70 per person; $66 with toy donation to the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Drive. Advance reservations required: (415) 616-6941. Location: 999 California Street. For more info, visit their website.
San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker
War Memorial Opera House Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2 & 7 pm
San Francisco Ballet’s awe-inspiring production is like no other, with colorful, larger-than-life scenery, over 200 dazzling costumed characters, and of course Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score performed live by the world-class San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Ticket prices start at $65. For more info, call (415) 865-2000 or visit their website.
Marin on Ice
Northgate Mall, San Rafael
Friday, 2–10 pm, Saturday, noon–10 pm, Sunday, noon–9 pm This Saturday, Marin on Ice opens for another season of outdoor ice skating at San Rafael's Northgate Mall, where it runs through January 11. Marin's only holiday ice skating rink features 6,300 square feet of real ice and will be open daily for outdoor skating. Skating is $15 per person, which includes skate rental. Private ice cabanas will also be available for rental and "Skate Buddies" are available for beginners. For more info, visit their website.
The Snowman: A Holiday Film with the San Francisco Symphony
San Francisco Symphony, Davies Hall
Friday, 4 pm, Saturday, 2 pm & Sunday, 11 am & 2 pm
On a cold December night, a young boy builds a snowman that magically comes to life. The two go on an enchanted adventure, soaring through the sky, making new friends, and meeting Santa Claus himself. It all happens in the Academy Award-nominated short film, The Snowman. Take part in this extraordinary tale of friendship as the movie is projected on the big screen and the SF Symphony performs the score live. Also on the program, jazzy Christmas hits with vocalist Ruthie Ann Miles, the Pacific Boychoir, and the Symphony. Tickets $15 and up; 17 and under half-price. For more info, visit their website.
Napa Valley Wine Train Santa Trains
Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 5 & 8 pm
Napa Valley Wine Trains' Santa Express Trains are a magical experience for the whole family. Santa and some special friends will be on board, of course. Tickets do sell out very early, so check for availablity at (800) 427-4124. Tickets start at $55 per person. Refreshments available for purchase on board. More information
In my opinion, peppermint should be the official flavor of the holiday season! This white chocolate peppermint bark candy is a holiday staple in our house, and is quick, delicious, and kid-approved. My kids love the fact that smashing up candy canes is part of this recipe.
Peppermint bark is really easy to make, and doesn't mess the kitchen up nearly as much as making cookies does. Feel free to omit the nuts or mix in something else that you think would be tasty. My mom makes hers with both the almonds and dried cranberries.