In my self-appointed role as Santa's helper, I've got some shopping tips for folks in need of a present for the consummate collector. I'll return Dec. 15 with several ideas for last-minute shoppers.
Holiday event in Niles
One of the best places to go antiquing anywhere in the Bay Area is Niles, a district of Fremont. The town was a center for producing silent movies in the first part of the last century, but nowadays it is home to a slew of antiques boutiques.
December is an especially wondrous time to be in Niles. The stores are gussied up in seasonal finery, especially for the Holiday Shopping in Niles weekend Dec. 8-9 (www.niles.org), which will feature discounts, gift drawings and refreshments. For details on participating locations, pick up a directory at Keith's Collectibles, Corrie's Glass, My Friends and I, or Color Me Quilts and More.
At My Friends and I (37521 Niles Blvd., 510-792-0118), scads of reasonably priced stocking stuffers cram the shelves. And be sure you view the exceptional group of vintage Christmas Santas and other décor on parade at Niles Antiques and Collectibles (33359 Niles Blvd., 510-744-1602).
One of the neatest things to do while in this neck of the woods is take a train ride through Niles Canyon. I suggest rounding up the family for what will surely be a memorable outing. You can board the "Train of Lights" from either Sunol or Niles. The trip takes nearly an hour to go the 13-mile distance.
If you'd like to be the ultimate Kris Kringle, rent a caboose for $600 and take up to 24 of your pals on a joyous journey. Otherwise, general seating is $17 on Dec. 5 and 12, $25 on other run dates. Reserved seats cost $40. Details: 510-996-8420, www.ncry.org.
By the way, the income derived from these train rides serves as a fundraiser for the non-profit, volunteer Pacific Locomotive Association -- the people who operate the Niles Canyon Railway.
After you're done shopping, or been on a jaunt in the picturesque canyon, relax with a cup of tea at nearby "Tyme for Tea," 37501 Niles Blvd. For $23, you can indulge in sandwiches, pastries, preserves, etc. I do need to warn you that your shopping adventure may go on at the eatery since it boasts plenty of antiques in addition to the tasty vittles. Phone: 510-790-0944, or take a peek at www.tymefortea.com.
Toy show and sale
December is the busiest month for acquiring new or old toys. So it's only fitting that the San Jose Super Toy and Comic Book Show convenes on the first day of December.
The line for this hugely popular event snakes out the main entrance and winds around the building. Be aware, however, that the queue moves quickly. In short order, showgoers are surrounded by thousands of toys. You'll find 1950s robots, Batman and Barbie, Star Wars memorabilia, old dolls, trucks, video and board games, even lunch boxes and sports memorabilia.
The twice-yearly show always features a pair of pop culture celebs. This go-around it's Judith O'Dea, who portrayed Barbara in the George Romero classic film "Night of the Living Dead." Also on hand will be heavyweight wresting star Big Van Vader.
It may sound like a scary thought, but all my brother wants for Christmas is an autographed photo of O'Dea. I've been told zombies are in vogue all year long.
Join in the fun at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Road, San Jose. Early bird admission (9 a.m.-10:59 a.m.) costs $15. Regular admission (11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) is $6. Information: 408-298-1709.
Throughout the year, wise shoppers snap up good buys at the Thrift Box at 1362 Lincoln Ave. in San Jose. But it seems like some of the best deals happen in December. Christmas merchandise -- some of it vintage -- is put out daily. You can find greeting cards, wrapping paper, ornaments and decorations at bargain prices.
For store hours, ring up 408-294-4490. All funds raised assist families with medical care at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at the Stanford Medical Center.
Contact Steven Yvaska at firstname.lastname@example.org or 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95190.