Your Holiday Event Guide for the Bay Area!

If you are like us during the holidays, we attempt to take the little ones to all the fun events around the Bay Area during the month of December. We’ve composed a list of some of the best so you can get out and enjoy the season! If you think there are any other events that should make this list, let us know!

South Bay

Christmas in the Park

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Running now until January 7, this yearly event draws thousands of visitors every year and features holiday lights displays, musical perfermances, free visits with Santa, carnival rides and even an ice skating rink! Entrance is free and rides and skating are paid.Located in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, Downtown San Jose. www.christmasinthepark.com

Fantasy of Lights 

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Take the drive to Los Gatos to check out the annual fantasy of Lights event which features a 1.5 mile drive around Vasona Park with huge holiday light displays – some even set to music! Open December 5 – 30 (closed December 25). $20 per vehicle must be purchased in advance.Located at 333 Blossom Hill road, Los Gatos, CA 95030 https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/fol/Pages/AnnualFoL.aspx

Winterfest 

California's Great America is decorated for WinterFest, an event at the Santa Clara amusement park through Dec. 30, 2016. It includes a 60-foot lighted tree and an ice skating rink on either side of the double-decker Columbia Carousel. (Sal Pizarro/Staff)
California’s Great America is decorated for WinterFest, an event at the
Santa Clara amusement park through Dec. 30, 2016. It includes a 60-foot
lighted tree and an ice skating rink on either side of the double-decker
Columbia Carousel. (Sal Pizarro/Staff)

For the love of all things Winter, head to Great America in Santa Clara for ice skating, rides, a visit to Santa’s workshop, nightly tree-lighting, themed character performances and light displays. Takes place weekends in December. Located at 4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara www.cagreatamerica.com

San Francisco & The Peninsula 

Union Square 

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Check out the beautiful lit Macy’s tree in the heart of union square while you sip hot chocolate  and visit the decked out stores! Be sure to sit with Santa while you are there and enjoy some ice skating. Don’t forget to head into the Westin St. Francis to view their festive Sugar Castles.Located at Union Square, San Francisco www.visitunionsquaresf.com

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair 

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MirroringVictorian London, this holiday fair features music, theater, characters and charming shops overflowing with hand-made holiday treasures. Even roasted chestnuts and festive themed holiday food. Runs December 16 and 17th.Located at Cow Palace Exhibition Halls – 2500 Geneva Avenue, Daly City www.dickensfair.com

A Charlie Brown Christmas – LIVE 

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Your favorite characters dance and sing to bring A Charlie Brown Christmas to life! Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the whole peanuts gang will be there while the San Francisco Symphony performs Vince Guaraldi’s timeless music. Come early and enjoy a family-friendly reception featuring a host of activities to keep kids entertained. Runs December 21 – 24. Located at Davies Symphony Hall – 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. www.sfsymphony.org

EastBay
Fairy Winterland 

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Children fairyland transforms into a holiday wonderland with holiday stories, crafts, lights displays, a nightly parade and a celebration of all cultures – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali and Chinese New Year. Runs December 15 – 23 Located at 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland www.failryland.org

Zoo Lights at the Oakland Zoo 

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Check out some holiday light displays, light shows, candy cane ride theme area and a nighttime train through the zoo all while checking out some of the animals at night! Runs December 1-31 (closed December 24/25) Located at 97777 Golf Links Road, Oakland www.oaklandzoo.org

 

Home Inspections – Specialists You May Want to Check Out

While most folks settle for a home inspection, pest (termite) inspection and possibly a roof inspection, there are a myriad of specialists you can hire to investigate just about anything home-related when you are purchasing a home. The California Association of Realtors put together this short list of the most popular, but some common inspections we see  also include:

Pool & Spa – If the home has a pool and spa, its a must to get it inspected. This is often an overlooked item and failing pool pumps and heaters can be very expensive.

Arborist – Does the home have a huge tree in the front yard? Is one of the trees looking overgrown? Sometimes, it makes sense to call an arborist to make sure the trees on the property are healthy and not in danger of falling limbs or needing to be uprooted (all of which can be rather costly).

Contractors – Are you considering doing some renovating to a home after purchase? Its smart to have a contractor walk the home before you purchase to ensure you can do all the items you want. Sometimes structural modifications might not work or will be very expensive due to the placement of load-bearing walls and foundations so its something you might want to know up front if you are planning on adding on to a home or re-arranging.

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How to Know if a Neighborhood is Right for You

Before you buy a home and make what’s likely to be one of the biggest investments of your life, you owe it to yourself to receive quality information on your new neighborhood. Getting a deal on your dream home can quickly turn sour if the neighborhood doesn’t meet your expectations. Here’s how to research a neighborhood before you buy a home.

Before you buy a home and make what’s likely to be one of the biggest investments of your life, you owe it to yourself to receive quality information on your new neighborhood. Getting a deal on your dream home can quickly turn sour if the neighborhood doesn’t meet your expectations. Here’s how to research a neighborhood before you buy a home. Continue reading “How to Know if a Neighborhood is Right for You”

Top 10 Websites for Home Buyers, Sellers & Owners

Want to search for your next home without ever getting out of your pajamas? There’s a site for that. How much will the mortgage and taxes cost you each month? There’s a site for that. Or do you want to know approximately what your home is worth today? Yes, there’s a site for that, too. And once you move into that new home, there’s a site to help you find local schools, restaurants, even your next dentist.

Okay, with apologies to the iPhone app commercials, I thought it might be helpful to list 10 of my favorite websites for people interested in buying or selling a home, remodeling their existing residence, or just looking for local information on their new neighborhood. There are countless websites, of course, and I don’t claim to have the ultimate list – just ones that have good value for homeowners and those looking to become owners.

Here are 10 of my favorites:
• CaliforniaMoves.com. Okay, I admit I’m biased. But Coldwell Banker’s consumer website offers a myriad of tools for home buyers and sellers, including advanced search engines, tips on
buying and selling, relocation information, and even community facts, figures and links. • Realtor.com. In that same vein, Realtor.com is also a good consumer website, especially for those thinking about relocating to other regions or want advice on buying or selling, as well as hiring an agent. There are articles on the market, consumer tips, and even suggestions on gardening and remodeling.
• CaliforniaHome.me. This new blog, powered by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, is a non-stop feast of all things California. From luxury home features and design ideas, to California events and celebrations, the blog if filled with everything that makes the Golden State such an incredible place to live.
• Zillow.com. Who isn’t interested in what their home might be worth, or even better, their neighbors? This website offers property valuations. While I’m not convinced that their estimates are always on target, they do give homeowners some general idea of its value, as well as tax records and other useful info.
• Bankrate.com. Now that you’ve decided where you’re going to buy, this site will help you figure out how much you can afford. This is one of my favorite financial websites because it offers mortgage rate comparisons, links to lenders, and literally dozens of different types of calculators to figure it all out.
• Local.Yahoo.com. So you’re ready to move into your new home. Now what? Go to this site to find a plethora of useful links and information on everything from local restaurants and coffee shops to city offices and police departments to public utilities to get the water and gas turned on.
• Yelp.com. Another great site for newcomers to an area is Yelp, which features customer reviews and ratings on every imaginable local business. Sure there’s the usual restaurant ratings, but you’ll come here to find favorite dentists, veterinarians, gardeners and yes, even real estate agents.
• ServiceMagic.com. For those homeowners planning to remodel or just looking for a contractor to do some routine work, this website can be quite useful. Service Magic prescreens a wide variety of contractors and also incorporates customer ratings in order to provide a list of recommended businesses.
• HomeTips.com. Run by Don Vandervort, a host on HGTV and well-known author of do-it-yourself books, this site – as you might guess – specializes in articles on how to maintain and remodel your home. One of the favorite search engines helps the weekend warrior figure out how to do a wide variety of repairs and save money.
• SFGate.com, MercuryNews.com and SacBee.com. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include our local newspaper websites. Not only do they offer the latest news, sports and business, but also good restaurant and movie reviews, job search engines, and valuable community information and links for all homeowners.