Now that Halloween stores have shuttered for another year, the holiday season is undeniably upon us — that grab-bag season of joy, anxiety, togetherness, consumer frenzy and every state of emotion in between. Whether this is your favorite season or your most challenging, the brilliant milieu of Oakland’s holiday-time cultural offerings stand to make these next couple of months much brighter and shinier.

So, as a follow-up to our summer list of 50 great things to do in Oakland, we present this list of 50 great things to do in (and around!) Oakland to celebrate the holiday season, Oakland-style.


  1. Raise a pint of local craft beer and nosh on Pizzaiolo’s sausages at Temescal Alley’s Novemberfest. For a good cause, no less.
  2. Get down to the most basic instrument imaginable — your own voice and body — at the International Body Music Festival’s workshops, open mics and performances, and don’t miss the closing night party at Duende.
  3. Listen to the likes of Daniel Alarcón and Sholeh Wolpé share their wisdom at in-store events at Diesel, A Bookstore.
  4. Revel in East Bay bike culture at Biketopia, the East Bay Bike Coalition’s annual member party and fundraiser. Expect beer, Afghan food, a silent auction and lots of bike love.
  5. Speaking of bikes, get back in the Halloween spirit and don a costume for the East Bay Bike Party. November’s edition is themed “Super Mario Bros.”
  6. Shave the date: Movember is here, y’all. Join the movement to support men’s health by getting ye to a local barbershop — say, the Temescal Alley Barber Shop — and getting clean-shaven so that you can spend the rest of November growing the greatest ‘stache of all time.
  7. Not a fan and/or grower of mustaches? How about novels? November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a beloved annual challenge to write a novel in 30 days. Find fellow Oakland NaNoWriMo’ers and get writing.
  8. Let Miette help you get a head start on Martha Stewart-caliber holiday cookies with its sugar cookie decorating class.
  9. Eat your heart out at DISPLAY, a pop-up concept with a rotating theme. DISPLAY: Food runs through November at the Public Market in Emeryville, and will be followed by DISPLAY: Holiday in December.
  10. Help SoleSpace celebrate its one-year anniversary this month by participating in Dignidad Rebelde’s FUTURE ANCESTORS show, which calls on each of us to think about what kind of ancestors we ourselves will be. And buy some fly shoes while you’re there.
  11. Take home a painting on a cleaver courtesy of Actual Cafe’s annual affordable art show, where 80% of the works on exhibit can be acquired for $50 or less.
  12. Celebrate some of the brightest lights and finest voices coming out of Oakland’s music scene, as the Oaktown Music Festival features Lila Rose, Bells Atlas, The Seshen, Emily Moldy, Hotel Eden and more at the 2013 Winners’ Party.
  13. Trip out to the 40th anniversary limited engagement of the Laserium show at Chabot Space & Science Center. Set to a soundtrack of either the Beatles or Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Laserium is billed as the ultimate “cosmic laser concert.”
  14. Join Oakland Local and the Kapor Center for Social Impact at the Oaktown Tech event, where we’ll launch the Oakland Tech Ecosystem Map & Database, a list of nearly 300 Oakland-based tech groups, companies, spaces, bloggers and affiliates who represent the diversity of tech in Oakland.
  15. Shop for vintage, antique and handmade items at Jack London Square’s monthly Jack of All Trades market.
  16. Attend a performance by the masterful Oakland East Bay Symphony, which opens its 25th season with Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
  17. Bring the kids to Zoovie Night at the Oakland Zoo. The zoo provides the hot chocolate and popcorn, but you can bring your own blankets, pillows and movie treats for extra comfiness.
  18. Immerse yourself in the intricate dioramas of artist Rex May’s The Smallest of Worlds exhibit at the Oakland Museum.
  19. Go on a night hike with a Chabot Space & Science educator and take in the majesty of the bright autumn moon above the redwood trees.
  20. Honor Native American Heritage Month with music, speakers, film screenings, a special dinner and more, all courtesy of Mills College’s Ethnic Studies department.
  21. Run the Berkeley Half Marathon, 10-Mile or 10K, and help our neighboring town celebrate their inaugural running event.
  22. Delve into the narrative histories of African-American Oakland residents at What I Hear I Keep: Stories from Oakland’s Griots, an interactive audiovisual art installation. Then add your own story.
  23. Sweeten your holiday dinner table by learning to make conserves (i.e., jams incorporating spices, dried fruit or, best of all, liqueur) with Blue Chair Fruit.
  24. Dig into a hearty, piping hot meat pie served up by The Pie Shop pop-up shop. Wash it down with a beer served up by CommonWealth.
  25. Sit down with a perfect mug of hot chocolate at Bittersweet Café.
  26. Fight the holiday doldrums with the madcap, never-know-what-you’re-gonna-get monthly freakfest called Tourettes Without Regrets.
  27. Learn to silkscreen your way to DIY holiday gifting with Silk Screen Open Studios at The Grease Diner.
  28. Or learn to cook your way to DIY holiday gifting with foodie workshops at Happy Girl Kitchen.
  29. Take a stroll through an Oakland farmer’s market, since we’re lucky enough to enjoy fresh, local produce year-round.
  30. Lend your voice, your ears and your mind to the ongoing anti-fracking campaign in California.
  31. Hole up at the watering hole known as Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, where you can pay homage to Jack London and be glad that you’re not the protagonist of “To Build a Fire.”
  32. Browse the rare book room at Walden Pond Books for extra rare gifts.
  33. Then browse the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest for a hand-drawn zine or two. The festival was founded in 2010 by local luminary Tomas Moniz, who produces Rad Dad, a highly acclaimed parent-centric zine in which Moniz tackles such subjects as “Talking with our kids about politics and hope.”
  34. Invest in Oakland and shop local on Plaid Friday.
  35. Wave to the giant inflatable Nutcrackers as they make their way through downtown Oakland at the festive America’s Children’s Holiday Parade.
  36. Immerse yourself in childhood magic as Children’s Fairyland reveals this year’s Fairy Winterland.
  37. Taste homemade goods, celebrate the bounty and go shopping at the Institute for Urban Homesteading’s year-end Winter Open House, December 14–15.
  38. Make a collective sound of awe as Jack London Square, as per tradition, lights a 55-foot-tall tree in its annual family tree lighting ceremony.
  39. Chase away the dark winter hours at the Oakland Zoo’s ZooLights, where the zoo becomes a visually spectacular world illuminated by LED lights.
  40. Go ice skating at Oakland Ice Center.
  41. Root for Comet ISON to appear in our night sky rather than get sizzled by the sun. If conditions are favorable, we’ll be treated to an exceedingly rare sighting this winter.
  42. Pay a visit to Hodo Soy and find yourself making the tastiest vegetarian/vegan-friendly holiday meal in the world.
  43. Spend a morning or afternoon volunteering with a local organization during a season when help is often most needed.
  44. Revisit, or discover for the first time, the Oakland Ballet Company’s acclaimed production of Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker.
  45. Catch homegrown faves like Goapele, En Vogue and Tony! Toni! Toné! playing at Yoshi’s Oakland.
  46. Throw a different vibe into the holiday season and go shopping for stocking stuffers at the Oakland Good Vibes store.
  47. Support local artisans by making the rounds of the annual holiday craft fairs, which include the beloved Telegraph Avenue Holiday Fair, the Patchwork Show at Jack London Square, and The Crucible’s Holiday Gifty Art Sale & Open House.
  48. Pay a visit to Creative Growth’s Holiday Show 2013 and stay tuned for information about CG’s annual holiday sale.
  49. Buy affordable original artwork ($200 and under) as Warehouse416 hosts its annual Small Art Show.
  50. Indulge in burlesque with the Hubba Hubba Revue, angst and mortification with Mortified, dance parties with Hella Gay Dance Party and more at the Uptown Nightclub… because the holidays aren’t just about turkey and bad sweaters.


Any other not-to-miss holiday activities you would add to the list? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!


Oakland Social is a weekly arts and culture column devoted to upcoming events, new places, and narratives about going out in Oakland. Have ideas for what to cover? Contact

One Response

  1. Catherine

    For next year; What about Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir’s Annual Holiday Concert at the Paramount?
    Its always the first Saturday in December and for our family its an annual not to be missed tradition.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.