ODC/Dance's adaptation of the classic children's story The Velveteen Rabbit has been a holiday tradition in the Bay Area for 26 years. With music, dance, and powerful narrative, ODC/Dance tells this classic tale of a well-worn stuffed rabbit who become real, and the little boy who loves him.
This popular production brims with wit, festive costumes, colorful characters—including the 10-foot-tall Nana, a skin-horse, toy soldiers, a crocodile, dolls, and a pack of "real" rabbits, and, of course, plenty of holiday cheer. The Velveteen Rabbit features ODC's renowned company of dancers, 10 young dancers from the ODC school, a score by Benjamin Britten, and narration by legendary actor Geoff Hoyle. This production is suitable for children ages 3 and up. Running time is 90 minutes, including one intermission.
Performances of The Velveteen Rabbit take place November 23 through December 9 in the Lam Research Theater at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard Street (at Third Street). Tickets are $15 for 11 am weekday performances, $17 for
side balcony seats, $32 for orchestra/balcony center, and $47 for center orchestra. The Milk and Cookies Party on Sunday, November 25 requires an additional $12 ticket.
One of our first holiday outings is to the famous Christmas House at San Rafael's West End Nursery. We just checked out this season's edition yesterday, and it's a spectacular as ever. As a matter of fact, I think it might be their best effort to date!
The venerable West End Nursery has been operating in San Rafael's Sun Valley neighborhood since 1909. The Christmas House is located on the grounds of the nursery in a Victorian house that's over a century old. It's filled to the brim with Christmas trees and decorations, and it's pretty amazing.
There are 50 lavishly decorated and lighted trees throughout several rooms, as well as candles, Santas, nutcrackers, angels, snowmen, and just about every seasonal decorative item imaginable. Each room has a different theme, including kitchen (located in the house's kitchen, naturally), baby's room, outdoors, music, sports, pets, food, international, and more.
Even though it's an activity that you can do year-round, ice skating seems to be something that's especially appealing around the holidays. In the past you had to go elsewhere in the Bay Area to skate, but this season Marin on Ice brings outdoor ice skating to Northgate in San Rafael this holiday season. Here's our list of places in the Bay Area where you can hit the ice this holiday season.
Marin on Ice
The new Marin on Ice outdoor skating rink in San Rafael's Northgate Mall offers al fresco skating from November 10 through January 13. Marin's only holiday ice skating rink features 5,000 square feet of real ice and will be open daily for outdoor skating. Special sessions at Marin on Ice include Wednesday "Mommy and Me" skating time geared toward young children and their parents, "Family Night" on Tuesday, and "Rock the Rink" on Friday evenings.
Skating is $15 per person, which includes skate rental. Private ice cabanas will also be available for rental, and "Skate Buddies" will be on hand to assist beginners. Skating hours are noon–10 pm on weekends and holidays and 2–10 pm on weekdays. Marin on Ice also offers birthday parties and private rentals. For more information, visit www.marinonice.com or call (707) 738-8496. Northgate Mall is located off Highway 101 in San Rafael's Terra Linda area, between Northgate Drive and Las Gallinas Avenue.
Snoopy's Home Ice
In Santa Rosa you can find Snoopy's Home Ice at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena.Opened by the late Santa Rosa resident and Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz in 1969, the Redwood Empire Ice Arena offers daily public skating hours (check their schedule for details), skating lessons, birthday parties, and special events. The entire place is decorated with a Swiss theme and offers a charming alpine ambience. The Redwood Empire Ice Arena is also home to Snoopy's Warm Puppy Cafe, where you can sit by the fire and eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or just have a hot chocolate and watch the action on the Snoopy's Home Ice.
Want to tour Novato's spectacular holiday lights the old fashioned way this winter? Book a trip via horse-drawn carriage or wagon from Gary Sello and Indian Valley Carriage. Novato residents have probably seen Gary and his team cruising the streets at Christmas time, especially near the famous Rombeiro Christmas House on Devonshire Drive.
50-minute tours start at Center Road and Wilson Avenue (across from Miss Sandie's School) at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 pm, and include a pass by the Rombeiro house, or maybe even a stop to tour the inside, depending on schedule and how busy the house is. Gary's carriage seats six average size adults, and his large covered wagon seats twelve. The wagon also has rain protection, although tours will be canceled in the event of heavy rain or wind. Reservations are required, and tours do sell out during the holiday season, so reserve your spot early!
We've ridden in the covered wagon before, and it's spacious and comfortable with plenty of room, and a lot of fun. So get together your friends and family and book a tour before they're sold out. (By the way, babies, infants, and small children riding on laps don't count toward the total number of riders.)
Come mark the beginning of Kwanzaa,the African-American celebration of family and community, at Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum on Monday, December 26 from 10 am–4 pm, with art projects inspired by the African continent, live performances, and a Kwanzaa altar in the museum’s Entry Pavilion.
Also, enjoy a performance by renowned jazz drummer E. W. Wainwright and his ensemble: The African Roots of Jazz, takes you on a musical journey that traces African-American musical forms, such as jazz, gospel, and spirituals, from their earliest beginnings in African cultures to today at 11 am and 1 pm in the Discovery Theatre. The program features instrumental music, songs, theater, and audience participation. Seating for The African Roots of Jazz is limited; pick up free tickets at the front desk when you arrive at the museum.
If you haven't had a chance to visit Novato's Rolling Hills Club lately, you might want to this holiday season. This month, this family-oriented fitness club in Novato's San Marin neighborhood offers fun events and programs for the entire family.
This Saturday from 11 am to 12:30 pm, Santa Claus arrives at the club by sleigh, and little ones can climb aboard and tell him their Christmas wishes. Cookies and hot cocoa will be provided and the San Marin High School Choir will entertain with Christmas carols. This festive community event is free to everyone, and all ages are welcome.
Rolling Hills is also offering a holiday Polar Bear Camp for children ages 5–10 during the weeks of December 19–22 (Monday–Thursday) and 27–30 (Tuesday–Friday). Kids can spend their winter break with fun, active, and exciting activities, including tennis, racquetball, swimming, basketball, and arts and crafts. Make some new friends and have a great time before heading back to school.
Let your children's’ imaginations run wild as they create the ultimate gingerbread house, complete with candy canes, gumdrops, frosting, and other treats at the Bay Area Discovery Museum this holiday season. The museum's 14th Annual Gingerbread Architecture Extravaganza runs through December 23, 2011.
The cost is $30 per gingerbread kit for Bay Area Discovery Museum members and $40 per kit for non-members, which includes museum admission for one adult and one child per kit purchased. Pre-registration is required, so register online at the Bay Area Discovery Museum's website.
Make sure to reserve your spot as soon as possible, because this extremely popular event often does sell out.
Gingerbread house sessions are on the following dates:
Weekdays: 9:30, 10:30 & 11:30 am
December 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23
If you haven't already done so, it's time to start thinking of getting that must-have of the holiday season—the Christmas tree. There are those practical people who merely unpack the artificial tree from its storage boxes, and assemble it in the living room, pre-wired, perfectly shaped and sized, and flame-resistant. Then there are those of us who have to have the real deal, despite the inconvenience. For the hopeless romantics among us, nothing beats the experience of going to a honest-to-goodness genuine Christmas tree farm, getting our hands dirty, and cutting a tree down ourselves. Of course it's a great family photo op and usually a lot of fun, too, and those annual trip to the Christmas tree farm remain some of my fondest childhood memories.
Unfortunately, there aren't any Christmas tree farms in Marin County anymore (the last one—in Olema—closed down years ago). To get the real Christmas tree farm experience within close proximity to Marin, you have to head north to rural Sonoma County. Most tree farms seem to be clustered around Sebastopol and Petaluma, with a few near Sonoma and Santa Rosa. We recently checked out three Christmas tree farms sited in the rolling hills southwest of Sebastopol: Garlock Tree Farm, Reindeer Ridge Tree Farm, and Frosty Mountain Tree Farm. Christmas tree farming is definitely a family business—all the farms are operated by branches of the same family.
In case you miss out on one of the gingerbread house workshops (at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, for example) this Holiday season and still want to get in on the action, you can head down to your local Trader Joes and pick up one of their bargain priced gingerbread house kits.
For $7.99 you get a nice quality, German-made gingerbread house kit that includes the house parts, base, a tree, and enough chocolate buttons, gumdrops, and pink and white candy sprinkles to decorate a house worthy of being devoured by Hansel and Gretel. Speaking of them, the kit also comes with a little sugar Hansel and Gretel and a witch, as well as a little candy cat (or is it a pig?) that sits on the rooftop or anywhere else you like.
They also throw in a half-pound box of powdered sugar with which to make the royal icing that glues the thing together. You supply an egg white, lemon juice, and imagination. It's also helpful to have a pastry bag to pipe the icing, although a garden-variety ziplock bag with one of the edges snipped off makes a dandy substitute. It's not the most architecturally complex gingerbread house we've seen—it looks kind of like a Tahoe A-frame—but it's a lot of fun to put together. Just watch out for little nibblers who try to eat the candy and cookies before they have a chance to go on the house!