Christmas Carolers (credit: Randy Yagi)
There may not be much snow, if any in the North Bay this winter. But there will be several delightful events that are certain to create the Bay Area’s own version of a winter wonderland. Some of the most popular events are held the day after Thanksgiving holiday, while others will help ring in the New Year. Here is a brief look at five of the best winter festivals in the North Bay.
6516 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599
Date: Nov. 27, 2015
The Napa Valley community of Yountville will kick of the holiday season the day after Thanksgiving with the 27th Annual Festival of Lights. Although the event is listed for the Yountville Community Center, the holiday event is more of a street party highlighted by an appearance of St. Nick and culminating with the lighting of thousands of holiday lights that will adorn the trees and storefronts along Washington Street. Festival attendees 21 years old or older can purchase tasting bracelets for $25, allowing them to enjoy food from some of Yountville’s most celebrated restaurants and fine wines from the incomparable Napa Valley. Yountville is world-renowned for its luxury hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, such as the French Laundry, twice named the Best Restaurant in the World.
San Rafael Parade Of Lights And Winter Wonderland
San Rafael, CA 94901
Dates: Nov. 27-28, 2015
The City of San Rafael kicks off its holiday season with the 36th Annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland in the heart of the city. The popular admission free event begins at noon the day after Thanksgiving, with free snow sledding on A Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets and the opening of the special holiday market. Later on that day, the Parade of Lights will begin at 5:30 p.m., where up to 10,000 people are expected to attend. Shortly after the conclusion of the parade, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and other costumed characters will accompany the Mayor of San Rafael to light the official holiday tree in the new City Plaza. The following day, snow sledding will again be available, in addition to other kid’s activities. Another local winter event worth seeing is the San Rafael Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, Dec. 12, when boats adorned with holiday lights will parade along the entire length of the San Rafael Canal.
100 Spinnaker Drive
Dates: Dec. 12-14
Beginning Dec. 1, Sausalito will host a number of holiday events, such as a gingerbread house decorating competition, the Christmas tree lighting and a snowman decorating contest. But the premier event of the holiday season is the Sausalito Winterfest, featuring the Holiday Fine Art and Craft Fair and the 26th Annual Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks along the scenic Sausalito Waterfront. Festivities for the Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, Dec. 12 will begin at 5 p.m. when visitors can enjoy food and music, followed by the parade at 6 p.m. and the fireworks at 7:30 p.m. While the boat parade and fireworks is admission free, the Big Tent where food will be served requires a separate ticket for $20. A large crowd is expected to be on hand at the Sausalito Waterfront, so it helps to arrive early and wear suitable clothing for the chilly weather.
Northern Sonoma County
Dates: Jan. 16-17, 2016
More than 130 Northern Sonoma Coutny wineries are expected to participate in the 24th Annual Winter WINEland in January. The first big event of the New Year in the fabulous Sonoma Wine Country, ticket holders will have the unique opportunity to meet with celebrated winemakers, as well as sample limited production wines, new releases or library wines. Additionally, some wineries will be offering food pairings while others will be offering winery tours. The Winter WINEland will also hosting a breakfast with the winemaker event on Saturday, Jan. 16. Tickets for the event went on sale on Nov. 10 and in mid-December, a detailed program of what each winery will offer will be available online. Among the participating wineries from the 23rd Annual Winter WINEland were Alexander Valley Vineyards, Clos du Bois Winery, Dry Creek Vineyard, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Korbel Champagne Cellars and Robert Young Estate Winery.
Sonoma Crab And Wine Fest
1350 Bennett Valley Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Date: Feb. 6, 2016
One of the North Bay’s premier winter events will be the 27th annual Great Sonoma Crab and Wine Fest, benefiting the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s agricultural education program. Held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, the annual event is expected to draw more than 1,400 winery owners, restaurateurs, business and civic leaders and members of the public for a festive evening showcasing the Sonoma Wine Country’s award-winning wines and local cuisine. The event will begin at 5 p.m. with a galley reception where guests can pair celebrated wines with gourmet hors d’oeuvres, or place their bids on items like Wine Country getaways, sports memorabilia and Sonoma County wines from the silent auction. The largest crab feed in Sonoma County will be held at 6:30 p.m., when guests can enjoy fresh crab from the breathtaking Sonoma Coast, clam chowder and other tasty dishes followed by a live auction, when more great items like getaways, bay cruises and sports memorabilia will be available for bidding. Lastly, the 10th Annual Ag Raffle will be held, and among the top prizes are an 11-day Italian tour for two and a 10-day tour of Ireland, along with a very special raffle for a one karat diamond valued at $6,500 retail that will be donated by Santa Rosa’s landmark jeweler — E.R. Sawyer Jewelers.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com