Celebrating the holiday season in Oakland

I love the winter holiday season! I love Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and Christmas music. (In fact, I’m listening to my new Christmas station on Pandora as I type this. I love Christmas parties and I love giving Christmas presents. And in Oakland, the best part of the holiday season is that we get a flurry of great events and community celebrations.

My hands down favorite of all the seasonal Oakland events is the Holiday Parade.


What is not to love about the holiday parade? The parade ranks right up there with Art & Soul and the Laney College Carnival as one of the best things that happen in Oakland all year. Downtown gets just about as crowded as you ever see it and the sidewalk on Broadway from 11th all the way up to 20th is packed with adorable smiling children, jumping up and down and squealing at the balloons and floats with their favorite cartoon characters. All the jubilant energy in the air and happy crowds give me shivers. The floats might not be quite as elaborate as we had in the Mardi Gras parades I used to go to growing up in Louisiana, but the whole thing is just a really fantastic event anyway. You’ve got all the biker clubs riding down Broadway in their santa hats, you’ve got giant balloons of cartoon characters I’m too old to recognize, and all the high school marching bands in the area. And oh yeah, dancing Christmas trees!


If you’ve never been, you are totally missing out and should make sure to get downtown this Saturday, December 6th. The parade starts at 2.

The parade isn’t the only awesome holiday event in town, just the best one. If you, like me, missed last week’s tree lighting in Jack London Square, don’t worry. You’ve got plenty of opportunities left to celebrate in Oakland. Here are a few of them you might want to consider checking out:

  • Montclair Village Holiday Stroll: Tonight! Thursday, December 4, 6-9 PM. I hardly ever go to Montclair, but every time I do, I’m charmed. Their little village really is adorable. So if you haven’t been in a while, why not do it tonight, so you can enjoy it with the crowds and music and a little trolley car to ride around.
  • Jingletown Holiday Art Walk: Another cute part of town I don’t get to nearly often enough. This weekend, Jingletown artists will be opening up their studios, and it’s a great opportunity to do some Christmas shopping or just enjoy this underappreciated neighborhood. Opening reception with drinks, food, and music at 420 Gallery on Friday, December 5, 6-8pm. Art walk Saturday, December 6 and Sunday, December 7, 11am-5:30pm. Event flyer here (PDF).
  • Lighted Yacht Parade This is another great one. All the boats get all done up with Christmas lights and drive up and down the Estuary. And there’s usually a band playing festive music in Jack London Square for the event. Saturday December 6. 5:30 PM.

Is there a holiday event in your neighborhood? Or one anywhere in Oakland you’re particularly fond of? Share it in the comments.

12 thoughts on “Celebrating the holiday season in Oakland

  1. Teresa Hardy

    Is the date wrong? You’ve got the 2nd there but I think you meant the 6th because Saturday is the 6th.

  2. Patrick

    Anyone know of any particularly good (residential) Christmas light displays around these parts? I’m pretty proud of my yearly effort, but it pales in comparison to most. Of course I limit myself to LEDs…

  3. Izzy Ort

    Patrick, Thompson Avenue in Alameda, about half a mile over the High Street Bridge, turn left, always has a good display. It’s a fairly long block with a wide grass median with redwood trees. Nearly every house is lit, and the grass median is lit.

  4. Coolhand Luke

    Patrick, the most famous in Oakland is Picardy Drive in East Oakland by Mills College. My fam has cruised through there every year my entire life. Thompson is nice too, but Picardy is the OG, the most memorable and the Town alternative. Please go see it.

  5. Patrick

    Ummm…there have been 6 murders within half a mile of Picardy Drive in the past 60 days. I want to see lights, not Pearly Gates. Or is it so famous that there are lots of people?

  6. Andy

    Other things to see and do Holiday wise:

    Tilden Park Carousel. Done up in festive display. Open till 8:30 PM. Santa there Monday and Tuesday. http://www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden

    The Zoo lights can be fun.

    The Mormon Temple has a nice out door display as well, if you can get over their support of prop. 8.

  7. Coolhand Luke

    Patrick, Yes there are hella people, but if you would like to contribute to the demonization of East Oakland, we would rather not have you anyway. I didn’t say it was Disneyland, I said it was a place where folks congregate and see great Christmas lights. Have fun in Pleasanton or wherever you would rather visit this Holiday season

  8. Patrick

    Coolhand, I own a home in East Oakland. It is simply that particular area does not seem to be safe at night, as of late.

  9. Coolhand Luke

    Lol. Sorry to be harsh Patrick. I just get easily defensive when people automatically equate Oakland with murder. I shouldn’t be so quick to be hostile tho, and for that i apologize. Ur remark seemed sarcastic, yet also quite serious, and I see similar comments on here every so often and feel a need to retort. But again, i don’t know you. In any case, I have never experienced violence on Picardy. And with so many folks admiring the lights, my guess is that crime would be less likely.