Christmas events bring holiday cheer

December 2, 2010 

It's the season for celebrating and the Fresno area definitely has a lot of spirit.

From old favorites like Christmas Tree Lane to new holiday festivities like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, there are a number of ways to get out and celebrate the holidays this month.

This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas event mania -- with Christmas Tree Lane opening, the City of Fresno lighting its tree, TubaChristmas, the Clovis Christmas Parade and the Tower District turning into a Winter Wonderland.

After that, there are a number of notable holiday adventures to enjoy up until Santa coming down the chimney.

Here's a look at 12 good ones -- almost like our own little 12 Days of Christmas.

Christmas Tree Lane

There is no local Christmas tradition more popular or well-known than Christmas Tree Lane.

The stretch of decorated houses along Van Ness Boulevard is a family tradition that's recognized far and near.

The 88th year of Christmas Tree Lane begins Dec. 3 and runs through Dec. 26. The first of the two popular walk nights is Dec. 3.

The other is Dec. 14.

The lights are on until 10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Holiday Fun in the Tower

There's a full-on Christmas takeover in the Tower District this year.

Fresno's hip entertainment district is offering three nights of Christmas-themed celebrations that include carolers, Santa station in front of the Tower Theatre and pedicab rides around the various area restaurants and shops.

The first celebration is Dec. 4, and then continuing on Dec. 10 and Dec. 18. The fun starts at 6 p.m. each night.

Details: (559) 497-8362.

TubaChristmas

TubaChristmas is as self-explanatory as an event can come. It's a tuba-tooting celebration of Christmas.

What's cool about it, though, is that anyone with a tuba can participate in this annual tradition.

This year's concert is Dec. 4 at Manchester Shopping Center, with performances at noon and 1 p.m. Each performance is 30 minutes.

Any interested players can show up at 9 a.m. for registration. Practice follows at 10 a.m. Then it's performance time. Performing and watching is free.

TubaChristmas is not just a Fresno tradition. This year, 240 cities are having TubaChristmas celebrations.

Details: (559) 356-9064.

Cindy Lane

Many people call it Cindy Lane, others call it Candy Cane Lane. Some people know it simply as Wawona Estates.

Whatever you call it, it's established itself as a solid contender for best Christmas display in the Valley.

Sure, it doesn't get the same national attention as Christmas Tree Lane, but its voltage is equally impressive.

The neighborhood is tucked away in Clovis, on Alluvial Avenue, between Willow and Peach avenues.

Most people park their cars and walk the neighborhood. There are no official days or hours, but this weekend should be a good first look.

Zoo Lights

Chaffee Zoo gets into the holiday spirit with its annual Zoo Lights celebration.

It's a special evening event (5-8 p.m.), where two miles' worth of lights give you a new view of the zoo. The lights are shaped into animals and other familiar holiday scenes.

Zoo Lights is running Dec. 3-5, Dec. 10-12, Dec. 17-23 and Dec. 26. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids, with a $1 discount for zoo members.

You can also get a dollar off by donating two cans of food that will be given to Community Food Bank.

Details: (559) 498-5910.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Fresno gets a new holiday treat this year, with the first Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Save Mart Center.

Those famous high-kicking Rockettes will hit the stage, as will Santa, in a family-friendly show that's been running in New York City since 1933.

A touring version of the show debuted in 1994, with this particular arena show starting in 2008.

This is its first time in Fresno.

There are two performances on Dec. 14, at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $27-$87 for adults and $14.50-$87 for kids.

Details: ticketmaster.com.

The Christmas concert circuit

Each year, you can count on a few touring music acts stopping in the Fresno area to perform Christmas-themed concerts.

This week, a few to put on your calendar include:

Gary Hoey: Guitar hero Gary Hoey returns Dec. 14 to a popular tour stop for him, Exeter's Orange Blossom Junction, for one of his Ho-Ho-Hoey holiday shows. Tickets cost $75 and include dinner. Details: (559) 592-6726.

Wilson Phillips: This vocal trio, famous in the '90s for songs such as "Hold On," perform Dec. 17 at Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino. Tickets cost $15-$35 via Ticketmaster.

Peter White & Friends: Like long lines at the mall, you can count on a smooth jazz Christmas concert at the Tower Theatre each year. This year, it's Dec. 17 with guitarist Peter White, saxophonist Mindi Abair and trumpeter Rick Braun. Tickets cost $38.50, $53.50 and $68.50. Details: (559) 485-9050.

Sons of the San Joaquin

One of our local holiday music traditions is the annual Christmas concerts put on by beloved local group Sons of the San Joaquin.

The Sons -- brothers Joe and Jack Hannah, and Joe's son, Lon -- have a long history in the world of Western music. But they call the Valley home, so each year you can count on a Christmas concert from them.

Or, in the case of this year, two concerts. They're playing at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 at the Visalia Fox Theatre. Tickets cost $19, $21 and $23.

Details: (559) 625-1369.

Music-synced home light displays

Adventurous Christmas-light chasers might have heard about the local houses that synchronize their light displays to music.

They use low-power FM transmitters to stream music to a radio station. Then passers-by tune in to listen to Christmas music while watching the light show.

The eager decorators find their inspiration from an Ohio house whose Trans-Siberian Orchestra-fueled Christmas display made it into a Miller Lite commercial.

It's happening here in Fresno and Clovis, enough to make your own tour out of it. There could be more, but these are the houses we know about:

1150 E. Sierra Ave.

1189 Citadel Ave., Clovis, myclovischristmas.com.

699 E. Blue Ridge Road.

3026 San Gabriel Ave., Clovis

6047 N. Winchester Ave. (begins Sunday night)

There's also a light and video display on the Palm Bluffs water tower near Palm and Alluvial.

Fresno Christmas Parade & Winter Wonderland

Saturday, Dec. 11 brings the 81st installment of the Fresno Christmas Parade, happening at 10 a.m. in downtown Fresno.

The parade starts at Van Ness Avenue and Tulare Street and passes downtown landmarks such as the Water Tower and City Hall, before ending at O and Inyo streets.

Expect this year's parade to pay special tribute to the city's 125th anniversary, which was celebrated earlier in the year.

Something new this year is the Winter Wonderland celebration on the Fulton Mall after the parade. It runs 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes pictures with Santa, cocoa and cookies and other activities for kids. The event is free.

The city is also having its Christmas Tree lighting at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 in front of City Hall.

Clovis Children's Christmas Parade

An Old Town Clovis tradition is the annual Children's Electric Christmas Parade.

This year's parade is Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. Expect a variety of floats, decorated cars and marching bands participating in the parade.

Another Clovis tradition is the annual Christmas tree lighting at City Hall. That's happening at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6.

Candlelight Christmas

Another Christmas tradition for light-lookers is Candlelight Christmas on Huntington Boulevard.

Houses on the historic Fresno street are decorated, and the street lights are made to look like candles.

There's also a choir and a nightly appearance by Santa from 6 to 10 p.m.

Candlelight Christmas opens at 6 p.m. Sunday. It's open for walkers and vehicles until Dec. 24.

The reporter can be reached at mosegueda @fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6479. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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