Experience Memories of Christmas’ Past At The Governor’s Mansion

By Alyssa Green

With so many events going on in Sacramento this holiday season, it would be easy to overlook “Christmas Memories” at the California Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park.  But that would be a mistake! 

Decked out for the holidays on the first two Saturdays in December, the mansion will be donned in period decor, with entertainment, live music, storytellers in period costume and visits by Santa and Mrs. Claus who will gladly sit for photos with your little ones.

From 10am to 4pm on December 3rd and 10th, the mansion is welcoming visitors of all ages to share the splendor of magnificent Christmas’ past.  Thirteen of California’s first families enjoyed the holidays in the mansion.  Visitors will now be transported back in time to experience the the splendor of the season and share the holiday traditions of the state’s past governors.


Adults are $6, children 6-17 are $4, and children under 5 are FREE.


Don’t Miss Dr. Gladstone’s Wonderlab At The Crocker

By Alyssa Green

I just love  the Crocker.  The folks over at our fabulous Sacramento art museum invited me to bring my kids to Clayton Bailey’s World of Wonders, currently on exhibit now through January 15, 2012.

This was a fun exhibit (albeit a little strange at times) for the kids to peruse.  Artist Clayton Bailey (self-proclaimed mad scientist)  has several robots on display, which of course were of great intrigue to the 3 boys I had in tow.  The robots, in a large range of sizes, including life size, are made of metal and/or ceramics.

In addition to the much loved robots, his inventions (artwork) include several other interesting  “machines.”  The boys loved running from one piece to the next…taking in the interactive contraptions.  Their favorite?  The Burp Pot.  That’s right, a pot with a “burping” creature inside.  If I tell you any more than that, it’ll ruin the experience.  You’ll just have to go see if for yourself.  You might even want to take one home…

The only drawback to the exhibit for my boys?  Not being able to touch things that were clearly begging to be touched.  Take for instance the wall of pop guns.  Now, I am not a gun enthusiast by any means, but I do know that guns naturally draw boys’ attention.  So…a whole wall of them?  Wow!

Luckily, their “itching” hands were set free in the extremely kid friendly creativity lab.  Named after the artist’s alter ego, Dr. Gladstone’s Wonderlab was just what the doctor ordered for busy hands not being able to hold back a minute longer.

Inside the lab, the kids were free to don lab coats and goggles, gather art materials and set their imaginations free to make whatever their little hearts desired…inspired of course, by the mad scientist himself.  When their creations were complete, they filled out a “patent” card, placed it in a mail box and will receive an official patent on their creation from Clayton Bailey himself.

Also inside the wonderlab is a magnetic wall, with all kinds magnetic items of which one can place together any which way to create a unique robot, machine or contraption.

The  most clever idea in the lab?  Unnamed artwork for which the artist invites the kids to name.  With sticky notes and pencils handy, anyone can study the artwork, come up with a name, write it on a sticky note and add it to the other clever name ideas from previous visitors.  It was fun to read the different suggested names and see how each piece is interpreted so differently, yet so pointedly by the children.

As with every visit, this one ended in the gift shop where there is no shortage of robot inspired items for sale.  Robot games, playing cards, pencils, wallets, keychains…etc.  The two 11 year olds I had with me?  They each chose miniature wind-up toy robots (go figure) to take home.

This visit to the Crocker was definitely the most interesting one yet for my kids.  I encourage you all to drop by with your future little inventors.  They’ll love it and so will you!

Holiday joy at the State Capitol- Free fun for the entire family!

By Heather Crivellone

A visit to Sacramento just wouldn’t be complete without a trip to our Golden State’s Capitol. Even if you are a life-long resident to the area- if you haven’t visited the State Capitol since you were on an elementary school field trip, then you should plan an outing to visit the capitol’s gardens and museum.

This time of year is especially a great time to visit.  Not only can you brush up on your California legislative history, but starting December 1st through the 23rd, enjoy a festive backdrop, vintage holiday decorations and amazing live holiday musical performances in the Capitol Rotunda every day.

Visitors will enjoy live musical entertainment that includes a Salvation Army brass quintet, a Cal-Trans choir (made up of a spirited group of state workers), trombone jazz, world and baroque music, bell-ringers, a harp circle, a youth violinist, a number of talented school choirs and much more.  Entrance into the museum is free, so this is a wonderful holiday experience for your family (that won’t break into your gift-giving budget!).

Along with the musical programs at the capitol, on Wednesday, December 7th at 4:45, join Governor Brown as he lights the 40 ft. tall Christmas tree at the 80th annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  The tree will be decorated with 900 hand-crafted ornaments created by children and adults with developmental disabilities who receive services and support from the state’s development centers and 21 nonprofit regional centers.

This is also a free family fun event. Donations of non-perishable food items will be collected to help support the California Emergency Foodlink.

Happy Holidays!

Nimbus Fish Hatchery- an educational experience for the kids and a fun/free outing for the family!

 By, Heather Crivellone   

Looking for a fun, free and “non-holiday” event for the family? Then check out the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Rancho Cordova and catch the last few weeks of the famous “Salmon Run”.

With the powerful swish of its tail, a brightly colored salmon jumps more than 20 steps – one at a time – to the top of theNimbus Fish Hatchery ladder as the annual migration takes place each fall.

Each fall, families gather to the hatchery to experience this natural wonder. November through the first part of December you can witness the events that are vital to the survival of salmon and steelhead in the lower American River.

The Nimbus Fish Hatchery is open year round, even though the fish ladder is quiet during other times of the year, there are hands on activities for families and educational opportunities throughout the year.  My children especially love feeding the fish in the “nursery” tanks and viewing the exhibits in the visitors center.
With the beautiful fall weather, this is a perfect time to visit the hatchery and let your children learn about the life cycles of fish and how we impact their development.

Also, the American River Bike Trail runs adjacent to the hatchery- so, bring along your bikes or just go for a stroll along the River trail. Bring a picnic and a sweater and enjoy the Sacramento Fall at it’s finest!


Santa Visits Sacramento

By Alyssa Green

If your kids are looking for Santa this Christmas season, they are sure to find him around town.  From parades, to festivals to breakfast, there is no shortage of the popular holiday fellow.  Below is a list of Santa appearances in the area.

Arden Fair Mall – now through December 24th.  Visits and photo ops in Santa’s Magical Village, Center Court.

Downtown Plaza – December 10th, Santa Parade, ice skating, snow in Playtown.  Now through December 24th, photos with Santa inside the mall.

Elk Grove Regional Park – Saturday, December 3rd.  Breakfast with Santa.  Meet, breakfast with, and take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 9am to 11:30am.  Holiday Bazaar to follow.

Fairytale Town – December 10th, Winter Wonderland.  Hands on arts and crafts, visits and photo ops with Father Christmas in Santa’s Workshop.

Folsom Zoo Sanctuary – December 3, 8-10, 15-23.  Wild Nights, Holiday Lights.  Enchanted Forest, carolers, starlight express train, and of course santa.

Hagan Park – December 4-5, 11-12 Santa Train; December 10th Breakfast with Santa.

Old Sacramento – November 25-26, meet Santa Claus and pose for photos at the Eagle Theater from 2:30pm to 8:30pm.

Plaza Park, Old Fair Oaks Village – December 3rd, Christmas in the Village.  Arts and crafts, Christmas parade, Winnie-the-pooh show, tree lighting.

Roseville Galleria – now through December 24th – Meet and take pictures with Santa Claus.

Sacramento River Train – Beginning on November 26th and running each weekend through Christmas.  Train trip, story telling, caroling, hot chocolate, cookies and Santa.

Sunrise Mall – now through December 24th, photo ops with Santa.  Visit the website to sign up online and avoid standing in line.

West Sacramento Community Center – December 10th, Breakfast with Santa.  Hot chocolate, pancake decorating, activities and photos with Santa.

Christmas Tree Farms At Apple Hill

By Alyssa Green

If you have been following our Fall Apple Hill series, you are no doubt aware that the area is a beloved destination for Sacramentans wanting to take a break from the city.  Each fall, farms with fresh produce, yummy apple pies and pastries, and bright orange pumpkins draw crowds aplenty.

What you may not know however, is that from the day after Thanksgiving, all the way through Christmas, Apple Hill and it’s surrounding areas are packed full of Christmas tree farms.  If you want to cut down your very own live tree this year, this is the place to go.  We have put together a list of kid-friendly tree farms that are welcoming visitors for the holidays.  What a wonderful way to begin celebrating the Christmas season!

Ardencaple Forest Christmas Tree Farm, Placerville – candy canes and picnic areas. 

Crystal Cree Tree Farm, Camino – wooded setting with trout farm.

Deutch Union Mine Pines, El Dorado – Cedar antique farm equipment, gold mining tools, nativity scene and life-size santa.  Open weekends only.

Fudge Factory Farm, Placerville – candy factory, candy making shop, children’s play area. 

Harris Tree Farm, Pollock Pines – picnic area, apple cider, pies and pastries.

Hillside Tree Farm , Camino – FREE apple cider, picnic area, pony rides and FREE train ride with the purchase of a tree.  Please note that the train can only run when the tracks are dry…so if it’s been raining, don’t expect a ride.  Click here for a $10 off coupon for any tree.

Kenny, Harry and Heidi’s Tree Farm, Garden Valley – FREE candy canes, hot chocolate, cider, coffee.  On site pond and life-size wooden train for the kids.  Open weekends only.

Kids Inc., Placerville – Bake shop, picnic area, hot sandwhiches, cider and coffee.  Open weekends only

Marvin Larson Tree Farm, Camino – picnic tables, easy walking trails and apple pie. 

Ponderosa Tree Farm, El Dorado – warm fire, music, refreshments, and gifts. 

Poverty Hill Tree Farm, Placerville – next to Gold Bug Park and Gold Bug Mine.  Open weekends only.

Silver Forest Tree Farm, Somerset – picnic area, easy walking trails, boughs, coffee and “kiddie treats.”

Old Sacramento Tree Lighting Ceremony- Wednesday November 23rd

 By Heather Crivellone     

 Take a break from the holiday cooking and start the festive season with the annual tree lighting ceremony in Old Sacramento!
On Wednesday, November 23rd, join others in Old Sacramento at Front and K Streets to watch as Mayor Kevin Johnson flips the switch to light the Christmas tree. Music and festivities begin and 5:30 and the lighting of the tree will take place at 6:30pm.
Along with the tree lighting, there will be live performances, a visit from Father Christmas and much more!

Following the tree lighting, Old Sacramento’s Theatre of Lights will premiere at 7:00pm.
The Theatre of Lights is a unique state-of-the-art live staging of the classic ’Twas The Night Before Christmas. The show blends a symphony of lights, sounds and visual effects which will take the audience back to a time when the beloved poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas was first introduced in Sacramento in 1857 in The Sacramento Bee.  The beloved poem comes to life on the balconies and rooftops of Old Sacramento’s historic buildings on K Street between Front and 2nd Street.

The Theatre of Lights will take place through the holiday season with two 20-minute light shows at 6:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday until December 18. Dec 19-23 the show will run every night at the same times.

This is a FREE family fun event… so wrap up the kids in their cozy sweaters, grab some hot cocoa and enjoy an evening in Old Sacramento. This is a great way to get into the holiday spirit (and escape the kitchen from all the pre-Thanksgiving baking and prep work!).

Happy Holidays!