With the Christmas holiday approaching fast, and mostly mild, pleasant weather forecast, focus in December on both exploring your home town with family and friends, and showing it off to guests. San Joaquin County’s special places and institutions have a long history of spectacular holiday finery and memorable events. Below are some of our favorites, spanning the county from from north to south.
Start in Lodi with the Festival of Trees at the San Joaquin Historical Museum, and make a stop for food and libations in always quaint downtown Lodi, uniquely decorated for the holidays.
● The San Joaquin Historical Society’s Festival of Trees is an annual extravaganza, featuring more than 60 uniquely decorated Christmas trees, children’s crafts and activities, entertainment, food and photos with Santa, intermixed with historical exhibits and handcrafted work demonstration from pioneer times. Entertainment (from various cultural perspectives) is available throughout the weekend and features traditional Christmas music, a barbershop quartet, and dancers performing in the various museum venues.
● Farmer Mike’s Wagon Tour returns again to take visitors for a wagon ride pulled by tractor through the museum grounds. The Festival is the one time of the year when the inside of the Weber Cottage is open to visitors. Docents in period attire welcome guests into the Cottage to see Captain Weber’s original Christmas ornaments. Cookie decorating is back this year and a fully-stocked boutique and the museum’s Swag Ladies and Swag Gentlemen will be busy assembling holiday wreaths for sale.
Adult tickets are $15.00 at the gate. Advanced tickets can be purchased at the museum office, the Music Box and Music Go Round, in Lodi and Stockton. Pre-purchased tickets get you in free to Micke Grove Park. The event takes place 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4, (note Dec. 2, 1 to 4 p.m., is for seniors only). Contact the museum office for tickets or info: (209) 331-2055, or purchase online, sanjoaquinhistory.org/trees.
● Stockton offers a wide variety of choices throughout the holiday season. Visit Meadow Avenue, a.k.a. Christmas Lane, from sundown to 9 p.m. between Dec. 1 and end of the month. This special multi-block section of Meadow Avenue (primarily the 1400 block just west of Pershing), features houses decorated to the nines for the holidays. Take a driving or walking tour and prepare to be mesmerized.
● Nearby Lincoln Center, long a favorite, featuring unique dining and specialty shops offers lots going on over the holidays. Magically, Santa will be chauffeured through Lincoln Center from 1–4 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18. Not to be outdone, Weberstown Mall features photos with Santa from Dec. 1 through Christmas Eve. The Miracle Mile offers a special decorated tree on the Avenue, and a wide variety of vibrant shops and unique restaurants make it a perfect place to “shop local“.
● Add a showing of Lionel Bart’s “Oliver!”, based on the classic Charles Dickens novel, performing on the Stockton Civic Theatre stage through Dec. 18. And, calendar the big screen showing of White Christmas at the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre, Sunday, Dec. 18. Doors open at 1 p.m. with the movie at 2 p.m. at the classic movie venue, dating to 1930.
The Haggin Museum should be on your must-visit list. Every year the Haggin Museum is decked out in festive holiday décor including shimmering trees, joyful Santas and poinsettia. Here are some events at The Haggin:
First and third Thursday evenings offer events varying from special guests to live music and everything in between. Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine as you socialize with friends before the program begins at 7 p.m. The museum and store are open until 9 p.m.
The annual Diversity Mixer, an evening of socializing, food, and drinks, offering networking with local San Joaquin County professionals 5:15– 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12.
The Opus Handbell Ensemble is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, with more than 150 combined years of ringing experience, they perform on five octaves of Malmark handbells, four-plus octaves of Suzuki and Malmark tone chimes and, occasionally, a selection of Whitechapel handbells; this Modesto group began in 1992.
Second Saturdays for Families, 1 - 2:30 p.m., allows families with kids ages 5 – 12 to take part in hands-on fun events, included with museum admission and all materials are provided. Reservations are not required but seating may be limited; first come, first served.
Leyendecker Ornaments are featured 1 – 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. “Golden Age” illustrator J.C. Leyendecker’s images and Haggin logos to make your own ornament that will be cherished for years to come.
The museum will hold a Santa Sunday event noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. Santa's visiting hours will be 1-4 p.m. For insight into the many Haggin special events and hours, call (209) 940.6300 or visit hagginmuseum.org.
● Downtown Stockton kicks off the Christmas season with a Holiday Parade at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, starting on Weber Avenue in front of the Children’s Museum. The parade winds through downtown and concludes at Weber Point Event Center for the lighting of the Holiday tree. Stick around for the always stunning Lighted Boat Parade, as dozens of yachts sail by decorated with lights and piloted by Santa, all sponsored by the Stockton Yacht Club.
● Downtown Tracy is decked out for the holidays and the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts (atthegrand.org) hosts a variety of special artists and shows through the season.
For more information: Festival of Trees and San Joaquin Historical Museum, sanjoaquinhistory.org; Haggin Museum, hagginmuseum.org; Stockton’s variety of activities, visitstockton.org.
Contact Tim Viall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy holidays in your town.
CORRECTION: Dec. 5, 2022
Incorrect information was included in the print and initial online version of this story. The error has been corrected.
This article originally appeared on The Record: Holiday sights to see in San Joaquin County