by Beverly Lane:
If you’re looking for family-friendly winter break activities this holiday season, the East Bay Regional Park District has some pretty unique places to explore, close to home.
A trip to Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont is a journey back in time to a 19th-century country estate including a beautiful mansion and its elaborate Victorian Gardens decorated in holiday style. The Christmas event includes an abundance of holiday crafts, live musical performances, and country kitchen treats. Since Ardenwood is a working farm, the daily activities change from season to season so no two visits will be exactly alike.
Even if you miss the holiday event, winter is an excellent time to visit since this is one of only a handful of East Bay locations where the monarch butterflies spend the winter. Nearly every weekend from mid-December through early January the staff leads interpretive walks and talks to better understand the amazing migration habits of these tiny creatures and how they survive the long cold winter in the farm’s eucalyptus trees. Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd. in Fremont. A special event fee does apply to some activities at the farm so please check our website at www.ebparks.org for details.
Another popular destination to celebrate the season is Tilden’s historic carousel for the annual Christmas Fantasy. Even on cold winter days, the attraction is warm and dry, thanks to a recent renovation. The Merry-Go-Round will be open every evening from 5:30pm to 8:30pm from November 23 until December 23. Visitors can also enjoy the holiday lights, and handcrafted ornaments and gifts are for sale too. Rides on the merry-go-round cost $2, or get a seven-ride booklet for $10. Hot chocolate, apple cider and coffee drinks are available at the Carousel Café, which is also open for dinner. Parking is free. For information and driving directions call 510-524-6773 or visit www.tildenparkmerrygoround.com.
Crab Cove Visitor Center is one of those “hidden gems” that is well worth a trip. Located on Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda, the visitor center houses a large saltwater aquarium that displays fish from the Bay waters. There are also hands-on displays and activities for kids relating to animals of the Bay. After a visit to the aquarium, hike along the Bay and if the tide is out, explore the rocky shores and mudflats. The interpretive staff offers many weekend exploration programs. Crab Cove Visitor Center is located at 1252 McKay Avenue in Alameda.
East Bay Regional Park District Visitor Centers will be closed Christmas Day and New Years’ Day with the exception of Ardenwood, which is open during regular business hours on New Year’s Day. Directions, operating hours, and any entrance fees can be found at www.ebparks.org.
And finally, do get out and enjoy all that the parks have to offer with one of our interpretive hikes. There are dozens of organized hikes to choose from throughout the month including our regular Wednesday Walks. Find out more online at www.ebparks.org.
Beverly Lane is a member of the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors. Her ward includes Central Contra Costa County from San Ramon through Concord.