The Rombeiro Christmas House in Novato: You Have to See It to Believe It!
December 5, 2012Posted by andrew |
Every December, Marin's power grid is yet again put to the test by the annual unveiling of the Rombeiro Christmas House on Devonshire Drive in Novato. Sure, every neighborhood has its decorated houses, but the Rombeiro house is a different thing altogether. Edmundo Rombeiro and his family have been putting together this Christmas house to end all Christmas houses for the past two decades, and every year it gets bigger and more outrageous.
Their home is something that truly has to be seen to be believed, and photos don't really do it justice. There are something like 120,000 lights and countless figurines, dioramas, and decorations adorning the front and side yards, walls, and roof of the Rombeiro house. Apparently they start setting the whole thing up in August.
When you visit, you'll notice that there's a glowing neon "open" sign in the window near the front door. Yes, the Rombeiros, who do live here, open their house to thousands of complete strangers every year, allowing them to wander through the house and check out the decorations inside. Last year they welcomed over 41,000 visitors (that's right—41 thousand) and even nine tour buses! We visited the house, which happens to be in our neighborhood, on opening night last Saturday, and were greeted by Mr. Rombeiro in his Santa Suit at the front door.
If you think the outside is over the top, you need to go on inside and get a healthy dose of Christmas spirit. You'll find model trains, more figurines, Christmas trees, and the biggest lighted holiday village you've ever seen. Proceed down the hallway to check out the displays in two of the bedrooms, one of which includes a lighted miniature reconstruction of a festival at family patriarch Edmundo Rombeiro's hometown in the Azores. Topping it off, the Rombeiro family is super nice and welcoming, and are there to greet and hand out candy canes to all visitors.
Sadly, "Elfis," the elf/Elvis impersonator otherwise known as "The King," (I can't make up this kind of stuff—it's all real) no longer performs at the house. That's too bad, because the sight of this elfin singer with his red-and-green jumpsuit and prosthetic pointy ears belting out holiday classics, Elvis-style, was really the frosting on the cake, so to speak—even if my kids were terrified of him. Elfis continues to perform around the Bay Area, though, so there's a chance you might run into him this holiday season.
On your way out, you might want to put a couple bills on the donation box. All that holiday cheer doesn't come cheap, and if you're getting some enjoyment out of it the least you can do is help with the Rombeiros' PG&E bill, which rumor has it tops out around $4,000 in December. If you're going to make a special trip to one Christmas house this year, make it this one. The Rombeiro's neighbors, well most of them, anyhow, seem to take all the commotion in stride, even with the cars, and the occasionally brass band and searchlights, all of which we've seen out in front of the house at different times. In fact, there are a number of attractively decorated houses in and around Devonshire Drive, so it's worth touring the neighborhood during the holidays.
If you go
The Christmas House is located at 34 Devonshire Drive, off of Center Road, in Novato. At night, I'd be willing to wager that you can see the place from outer space. Get there by taking 101 to the Delong Avenue exit. Take Delong, which turns into Diablo Avenue, to Center Road, then turn right on Center. Follow Center to Devonshire, which will be on the right. You literally can't miss it.
When we stopped by last Saturday—the opening night—it was already pretty busy, but in a fun sort of way, with a number of families ogling the lights, touring the house, and chatting with the Rombeiros. Closer to Christmas, weekend nights can be pretty chaotic, with difficult parking on neighborhood streets. The house is open nightly from the first Saturday in December through January 6 from 6 to 10 pm, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.
There are a few other nicely decorated houses on or just off the stretch of Center Road from Eucalyptus Avenue to Sutro, too, so it's definitely a worthwhile outing.
If you want to visit the Rombeiro house and other amazing Christmas lights in old-fashioned horse-drawn style, Indian Valley Carriages, located in Novato, stops by during their popular Holiday lights tours.