The Best Neighborhood of Christmas Lights

As you might have expected, after our visit to the Autumn Lights Festival, we were pretty excited to see what Christmas might bring around. We’ve just begun to join in the tradition of visiting Bay Area neighborhoods to check out the various displays, but we’ve had such mixed experiences, we thought we’d share them with you so you could avoid any disappointment.

Last year, we headed inland and visited the Widmer World in Pleasanton. It’s definitely impressive, but it is mainly the one house. You’ll walk through their backyard and peruse their immense collection of themed figurines and toys. There’s typically a wait to get in, we waited at least 20 minutes. There was also a Santa outside to take photos with for the kiddos.

This year, we wanted to see what was closer to home, so we did a quick search (this map by SF Curbed is great!) and decided to drive down the peninsula to knock out a couple spots in one go. So we started in San Carlos, went to Palo Alto, and then ended in Willow Glen, and managed to finish in a couple hours, most of it was driving.

Eucalyptus Ave, San Carlos

Eucalyptus Ave was a pleasant surprise – the website that came up for it made it seem like only a handful of houses would be decorated, so when we got there we were unprepared. It turns out it’s the entire street, both sides and many of them go all out (like houses and front yards encased in lights).

Plan to park a couple blocks away, it’s definitely a walking experience, though some did try to drive through it. There will be a crowd with you, but it was manageable. A couple houses even had hot chocolate stands.

Christmas Tree Lane, Palo Alto

After visiting Eucalyptus Ave, this year’s Christmas Tree Lane was very disappointing. Only a couple houses really decorated with lights, otherwise the main decoration was just the tiny Christmas trees in front of each house. It was pretty dark and no one was around, so we just drove through the street and headed onward to Willow Glen.

Willow Glen, San Jose

This one is supposed to be an entire neighborhood, which is why we planned to hit this one last. Unfortunately I think these spots are unpredictable because it depends on the participation of the residents, which can vary a lot, especially given the scope.

You’ll know you’re in the right area when you start to see the lit arches that will span the sidewalk, but this year there didn’t seem to be many houses with lights. The more impressive houses were scattered about, so we also wound up just cruising through a couple streets and then heading home.

Check out our photos of Eucalyptus Ave (all shot on a Pixel 2!) from the evening, see what you think. Do you have a different favorite Christmas lights display? Let us know!

Insider tip: If you’re a big fan of (hot) chocolate, you have to try drinking chocolate (ciocolatta in tazza). My favorite spot is CafĂ© Venetia, in Palo Alto off University. It’s decadent and hits just the spot. Be aware that it can change your life: you may never settle for a hot chocolate at Starbucks again.

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