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12 Days of Kid-Friendly Christmas Activities in the Davis and Sacramento Areas

Christmas time. White winter. Snow. Snuggled up by the fire drinking hot chocolate. Well, we do have some fun Christmas activities here in Northern California even if we don't all get the snow. Here in Sacramento and Davis it gets quite chilly, but the snow is a once-in-a-decade treat in the Sacramento Valley. There are nonetheless, so many fun Christmas activities to do with kids in the Davis and Sacramento areas.

My toddler loves Christmas so much, we start watching Elf in July. Well, not so much start watching in July, as more like round the corner of watching it since December. Oh well. At least we take the Christmas lights down by February.

The holidays are simply magical with children. Yes they are stressful too. But there's just something special about seeing the magic of the season through a child's eyes. From the twinkling lights that are popping up around town, to the endless supply of sugar cookies, to the full size real tree in our house! (You have to admit it's kind of a strange tradition).

Slowing down to enjoy the fun of the holidays with children is a nice reprieve from the stress of coordinating family visits, making sure you've done all your Christmas shopping (and adequately hidden the gifts), among all the other stresses there are to worry about.

So I've put together a simple list of 12 kid-friendly local activities in the Davis and Sacramento area to do with your family this year.

Davis Sacramento Christmas Activities with Kids

This list is by no means exhaustive, but is a fun smattering of events in the area (Davis, Winters, Sacramento, Folsom) to experience with your kids. I've tried to keep it down to a manageable 12 activities.  

I haven't included generic holiday activities like watching a favorite Christmas movie, donating toys to the local crisis nursery, or sipping hot chocolate. These are all fabulous holiday activities that can be done anywhere and that we definitely plan on doing in December as a family.

This list is simply a few fun Davis and Sacramento area kid-friendly holiday activities that can become family traditions, and that are local favorites.

We are after all, in love with Northern California. And Christmas in Northern California is a special time. 

12 Days of Davis (and Sacramento) Kid-Friendly Christmas Activities

Davis Christmas Activities with Children Sacramento Kids Holiday Fun

1.  The tree lighting in downtown Davis: Thursday, November 30th (it's always the Thursday after Thanksgiving). A candlelight children's parade kicks off the evening, which features a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus and lighting of the giant tree in Downtown Davis.

2.  The tractor parade and tree lighting in downtown WintersSaturday, December 2nd. Winters is a cute little town about 20 minutes west of Davis, featuring a quaint downtown, a lively dining and wine-tasting scene, and surrounding by gorgeous orchards, farms and fields. The local farmers decorate their tractors with Christmas lights -- a fun festive sight to see!

Winters California Christmas Tractor Parade and Tree Lighting

3.  Global Winter Wonderland at Cal Expofrom November 11th through January 7th. A massive holiday light show that also includes entertainment and carnival rides.

4.  Madrigal DinnerFriday and Saturday evenings, December 1st and 2nd. The Davis Madrigal Singers (a singing group featuring Davis High School students dressed in Renaissance garb and singing chamber choir music) puts on a festive traditional olde English Christmas dinner. Where else can you eat figgy pudding while being serenaded by songs about figgy pudding?

5.  Wild Nights and Holiday Lights at the Folsom Zoostaring December 1. Visiting zoo animals after dark and viewing Christmas lights? My toddler's dream date right there folks. (Note that the Oakland Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo also do Zoo Lights displays during December.)

6.  The Polar Express or the Magical Christmas TrainSo my toddler may love one thing more than the zoo, and it's the California State Railroad Museum. And the Railroad Museum's Polar Express is legendary. People get museum memberships just so they have early access to the Polar Express tickets. Come in matching family pajamas, drink hot cocoa and travel to the North Pole. This is some serious holiday enchantment folks. No wonder the tickets are so hot. Pair with a stroll through the decorated Old Town Sacramento (see #11 below).

So if you haven't grabbed tickets for the Polar Express by now, another local option is the Sacramento River Train's Magical Christmas Train, which features an in-car visit from Santa!

Old Sacramento Steam Train Polar Express Christmas Visit with Santa

7.  Fairytale Town's Winter WonderlandEnjoy a stroll through Whoville as you partake in Dr. Suess and Grinch-themed activities. Saturday and Sunday evenings, December 8th through December 17th.

8. Davis Odd Fellow's Breakfast with SantaJoin the largest Odd Fellows lodges in California for breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 16th. There are three seatings and you are encouraged to bring your own camera for pictures with Santa (there's also a professional photographer).

Davis Odd Fellows Breakfast with Santa Christmas

9.  Ice Skating in Downtown Sacramento: Stop by the ice skating rink before dinner or after a day of shopping in midtown or downtown Sacramento. The ice rink is adjacent to K Street and features several throwback nights (70s and 80s nights) and photos with Santa.

10. Christmas Lights in the Fabulous 40s: The grand houses of the Fabulous 40s (as the Sacramento neighborhood located between 40th and 48th Streets, and J Street and Folsom Boulevard, is called) are beautiful on any regular day. But dressed up in their holiday best, they are spectacular. Residents take decorating seriously. Last year transportation ranged from horse drawn carts, to party limos, to people walking around sipping hot cocoa. But everyone was there to take in the sights.

11. Old Sacramento's Theater of LightsEnjoy a live-action retelling of the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas story (whose actual title is A Visit from St. Nicholas, who knew?) while strolling through a decorated Old Sacramento. This is great to pair with a visit to the Polar Express (see #6).

Christmas lights Sacramento California

12. The Nutcracker Ballet: There are several local productions of the Nutcracker Ballet, including the Davis Children's Nutcracker, which is put on entirely by local children, or the Sacramento Ballet's Nutcracker, which features a combination of professional dancers and local children. 

What is your favorite local holiday tradition? Leave me a comment and I may add yours to my 2018 list!


  • Your blog is very informative, pretty, simple, and well maintained! Thanks for leaving such insightful comments in the California thread on Facebook. I love how passionate you are about your town and it makes me want to move there even more ?

  • Can i come without kids and do the Sacramento kid-friendly Christmas activities? this all looks like so much fun! Even better with kids lol i just dont have any lol

  • I may have to visit Sacramento JUST to visit some of these places! Looks like a lot of fun things to do!

  • Wow! These are some wonderful ideas. I am sharing this with my friends who has kids.

  • Wow what a great list of Sacramento kid friendly Christmas activities. We aren’t from Northern California, but our nanny is and now I’m super jealous we aren’t going home with her lol! I am so jealous of the candlelight children’s parade and the polar express! My kids would LOVE THOSE!

    Lacey Fincher

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