San Francisco, California
Every year, in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the San Francisco Cow Palace Exhibition Hall in San Francisco is transformed into a 19th-century London neighborhood, where entertainers and guests frolick in Victorian holiday splendor. From the dining establishments to the merchant stalls to the live entertainment and strolling carolers, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair charmingly evokes the setting of one of the world’s great Christmas tales. Now over three decades old, it has become an institution of the San Francisco Christmas season and the best Christmas market in America.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is reminiscent of a typical Renaissance Festival with a Victorian holiday twist. In fact, some of the merchants and entertainers work the Renaissance Festival circuit in summers. The fair consists of several large halls in the Cow Palace filled to overflowing with shops and stalls decked out in 19th-century festive décor, like a movie set come to life. Victorian-style stores overflow with toys and gifts of all sorts, while Victorian-style restaurants and pubs overflow with 19th century English delicacies.
The highlight of the fair is the variety of holiday entertainment, from dance performances to wandering entertainers in costume. Among the annual highlights is the ongoing Dickensian Christmas party held at Fezziwig’s Warehouse. There is also the Sugarplum Playhouse, where children can hobnob with a European-style Father Christmas. Meanwhile the streets of the fair are packed with the characters of such popular Dicken’s stories as Oliver Twist and a Christmas Carol, not to mention an abundance of Christmas wassailers strolling around.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair takes place in the Cow Palace Exhibition Hall, about a mile south of downtown San Francisco. It usually occurs every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Opening times were not available as of this writing. The cost of admission is $22.00. Web: www.dickensfair.com (official website of the Great Dickens Christmas Fair).