The Bay Area's historic homes are getting all dressed up for the holidays. From the Victorians of Santa Clara and Alameda to the grand estates of Oakland and Woodside, they are throwing open their doors to the public for tours, teas and more. But the tour season arrives early, and many events will be over by mid-December. So make your reservations before your holiday calendar fills up. Proceeds from these events benefit a variety of community, historic preservation and educational causes.
A Holiday Tradition at Dunsmuir-Hellman House
When: 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16
What: Tours, teas, entertainment and holiday shopping at a historic Oakland estate.
The home: The 37-room Neoclassical Revival mansion, built in 1899, was commissioned as a wedding gift by Alexander Dunsmuir. He died on the honeymoon; his bride died just two years later. The Hellman family bought and lived at the estate for several decades.
Extras: Adult and children's teas, breakfast with Santa. Decorated horse-driven carriages will ferry visitors around the 50-acre grounds. On Dec. 9, the Oakland Ballet will perform an excerpt from "The Nutcracker."
Details: Prices and hours vary; check website for specifics. 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland. Tickets, 510-238-3052; www.dunsmuirhellman.org.
Finishing Touches Holiday Home Tour
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 1; tour hours vary
What: Annual fundraising event hosted by the Junior League of Palo Alto/Mid-Peninsula benefits community programs.
The homes: Both shuttle-driven and self-driven tours of Atherton homes decked out for the holidays.
Extras: Holiday boutique and luncheon at the Rosewood Sand Hill, 2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, where participants will park. Other events: "Mistletoe & Martinis" on Nov. 30 and "Home for the Holidays" floral/tablescape event on Dec. 1.
Details: Tour tickets, $40-$65, available at www.thejuniorleague.org or at the Rosewood on tour days. Other events, $45-$125.
Summit League: Homes for the Holidays
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 29-30
What: The Summit League's biennial tour will benefit Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence.
The homes: Featured on the tour are three Los Gatos/Saratoga area homes decorated for the holidays by local designers and florists: an 1890s home with a grand ballroom that hosted Harry Truman and other dignitaries; a Mexican colonial casa built of materials imported from Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende; and an Arts and Crafts home with a guest house decorated in contemporary style.
Extras: Boutique offering jewelry, gifts and original artwork. Free shuttle to the homes available from the Latter-day Saints Church, 15985 Rose Ave., Los Gatos.
Details: Tickets: $45 advance, $50 day of tour. 408-494-9226; www.summit-league.org.
Holiday Faire at Shadelands
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 24-Dec. 9
What: Boutique with handcrafted gifts and Victorian tea luncheons at this 30th annual holiday event hosted by the Walnut Creek Historical Society.
The home: Now the Shadelands Ranch Museum, this redwood-framed Colonial Revival mansion was built in 1903 by Walnut Creek pioneer Hiram Penniman.
Extras: Tea luncheons, $30, served daily at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Reservations: 925-935-7871.
Details: Admission, parking are free. 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek. http://walnutcreekhistory.info.
Christmas at McConaghy House
When: Nov. 24-Dec. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. Sundays
What: This year, every room of the Hayward Area Historical Society's McConaghy House will be decorated for one of the "Stories of the Season" -- the tales of Charles Dickens, Clement Moore, Dr. Seuss and others.
The home: John McConaghy, youngest son of the namesake family, lived in this 1886 Stick/Eastlake-style Victorian for more than 85 years, until his death at age 100.
Extras: On Dec. 8, 15 and 22, actors and singers will perform "A Christmas Carol" for tourgoers. Reserve tickets, $25, at 510-581-0223. Also, Santa Claus visit and crafts planned for Dec. 8; free with admission.
Details: Admission: $5 general, $3 seniors/students, free for kids 10 and younger. 18701 Hesperian Blvd., next to Kennedy Park. 510-581-0223; www.haywardareahistory.org.
AAUW Holiday Home Tour
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 7-8
What: The eighth annual tour sponsored by the Danville-Alamo-Walnut Creek chapter of the American Association of University Women. Proceeds go to scholarships and Tech Trek, a math-science camp for middle school girls.
The homes: Six homes decked out in their holiday finery, including rooms devoted to model trains and one home with trees decorated entirely in glass ornaments made in Poland.
Extras: Light refreshments, quilt raffle.
Details: Tickets, $30 general admission and $25 seniors if purchased before Dec. 1; after that, $35 and $30, respectively. Purchase at the East Bay Flower Co. in the Danville Livery. Or mail a check and a self-addressed stamped envelope to AAUW Holiday Home Tour, P.O. Box 996, Alamo, CA 94507. A limited number of tickets may be available at East Bay Flower on tour days. Email questions to email@example.com.
Heritage Holiday at Fallon House
When: Dec. 1
What: Traditional holiday tea and Champagne served by costumed members of the Shady Shakespeare Theater Company, followed by tours of the historic San Jose property.
The home: The Fallon House was built in 1855 by Thomas Fallon, one of San Jose's earliest mayors and a frontiersman in the John C. Fremont expedition, and his wife, Carmel, daughter of one of early California's prominent landowners.
Extras: Champagne and live entertainment.
Details: Tickets, $45, include validated parking near the house, 175 W. St. John St. To reserve seating, call 408-918-1045 or email JLara@historysanjose.org.
Santa Clara Historic Home Tour
When: 6-10 p.m. Dec. 7, noon-5 p.m. Dec. 8
What: Annual tour of historic homes sponsored by the Historic Preservation Society of Santa Clara, with the Old Quad Residents' Association. All will be decorated for the holidays.
The homes: Visitors can tour a circa-1906 Colonial Revival with a hipped roof, which is now owned by Santa Clara University; an 1891 Stick/Eastlake Victorian built by carpenter Zibeon O. Field for himself (he also built the Morse Mansion in town); and two 1912 Craftsman bungalows, including one designed by Wolfe & McKenzie.
Extras: Refreshments will be served at a fifth site, the St. Clare Parish Rectory, a Spanish Ecclesiastical-style building constructed in 1952.
Details: Advance tickets: $30 general, $25 seniors, teens and kids ages 5-18, available online, by mail (postmark by Nov. 30) or at City Lights Espresso, 1171 Homestead Road. If day-of-event tickets remain, they will be sold for $35 at St. Clare Parish Rectory, 725 Washington St. For more information, go to www.sc-hometour.com.
Alameda Holiday Home Tour
When: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 8
What: Annual fundraising tour presented by the Alameda Family Services League is now in its 42nd year.
The homes: An array of festively decorated Victorians and other homes in this architecturally rich island city.
Extras: Gift boutique and gourmet shop will be open to the public all day long (free admission) at the Alameda Elks Lodge, 2255 Santa Clara Ave. Tourgoers with tickets are invited to Holiday Dessert Tea, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at the First Presbyterian Church, 2001 Santa Clara Ave.
Details: Tickets, $35 in advance online or at merchants listed at www.alamedaholidayhometour.info (click on "tickets"). Tour-day tickets, $40, at the Elks Lodge. 510-629-6208.
Christmas at the Ainsley House
When: Now through Dec. 20
What: A boutique and an array of tours, teas and receptions at this historic Campbell home, with 15 rooms decorated for the theme "Glittering and Gold Christmas."
The home: Constructed in 1925 for fruit-canning pioneer J.C. Ainsley and his family, the Tudor Revival mansion features a distinctive thatched roof in the style of Ainsley's native England.
Extras: Bring your camera to take photos with Santa ($10 per family), 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. Holiday teas with guided tours, daily Dec. 1-11. Nighttime open houses, Dec. 16 and Dec. 20.
Details: Admission for tours alone, $8 general, $6 seniors, $2.50 children; teas, $35; open houses, $10. 300 Grant St., Campbell. 408-866-2758; www.cityofcampbell.com/museum.
Christmas at Our House
When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 7-8 for tours; see below for other events
What: "A Visit to the North Pole" is the theme of the 24th annual tour hosted by the Women's Club of St. Francis High School in Mountain View.
The homes: Three decorated homes in the Los Gatos hills, including a French-style residence that blends traditional and contemporary decor; a brick home set along a grove of redwoods; and a California Mediterranean with horticultural elements by Michael Bonfante of Bonfante Gardens.
Extras: Boutique, luncheon, live entertainment, complimentary tea at West Valley College, 14000 Fruitvale Ave., Saratoga. New this year is a "Wine, Women & Shopping" event, 4-7 p.m. Dec. 7.
Details: Tour tickets, $40; luncheon, $30; Dec. 6 twilight tour and preview party, $125. Purchase tickets online at www.sfhs.com or call 650-968-1213, ext. 701.
Clayton Christmas Home Tour
When: Noon-7 p.m. Dec. 16
What: This is the third annual tour of homes in this quaint town located in the foothills of Mount Diablo. It benefits the Clayton Historical Society.
The homes: Self-guided tour of five festive homes, including one with an impressive collection of nutcrackers; one with tropical flair; one that features ornaments from around the world and a Disney room; and a rustic hilltop home with views of Mount Diablo.
Extras: Refreshments will be served at one of the homes. Tourgoers also are invited to visit the Clayton Museum, 6101 Main St., which will be decorated in Victorian style.
Details: Tickets, $20, may be purchased online at www.claytonhistory.org or on tour day at the Clayton Museum.
Christmas at Ardenwood
When: Dec. 1-2 for parkwide family event; home tours Dec. 6-9 and 13-16
What: Victorian-inspired activities at Fremont's Ardenwood Historic Farm and Patterson House.
The home: Patterson House, the centerpiece of Ardenwood, was originally a family farmhouse built in 1857. The Queen Anne expansion came later.
Extras: Father Christmas, yule log hunts, crafts, caroling, plus tours of the decorated Patterson House, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 1-2. To enter cookie contest, bring holiday cookies and recipe at 11 a.m. The home tours continue on other dates in December, with an evening open house Dec. 7.
Details: Tickets, $3-$8, plus park admission in some cases. 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont. 510-544-2797, 510-791-4196; www.ebparks.org/features (click on "Christmas at Ardenwood," then download PDF for full details).
Holiday Traditions at Filoli
When: Nov. 24-Dec. 1
What: Boutique, plus lunch buffets, dinner party at a mansion decorated in a "Discover the Magic" fantasy theme for the holidays.
The home: Set on 654 acres, this circa-1917 country estate is the grande dame of Bay Area historic properties. The 36,000-square-foot mansion was designed by San Francisco architect Willis Polk.
Extras: Bay Area musicians and local choral groups will perform at many of the events.
Details: Prices vary by event, $30-$150; order at www.filoli.org. The estate is at 86 Cañada Road, Woodside. 650-364-8300.
Palo Alto Stanford Heritage Holiday Home Tour
When: 1-4 p.m. Dec. 9
What: The 25th annual holiday tour by Palo Alto Stanford Heritage, a nonprofit preservation group.
The homes: An eclectic mix of architectural styles (from Colonial Revival to English Manor to Prairie) will be featured in this tour of several storied Crescent Park homes built between 1904 and 1929. One home has 39 roof ridges; another was the site of Palo Alto's first weather station; one features a picturesque setting and garden bordering San Francisquito Creek.
Details: Tickets $25 in advance by mail (send a check and a self-addressed stamped envelope to P.O. Box 308, Palo Alto, CA 94302) or $30 on tour day at 860 University Ave. www.pastheritage.org.
A Victorian Christmas at Camron-Stanford House
When: 1-4 p.m. Dec. 2
What: Victorian-themed open house and docent tours by the Camron-Stanford House Preservation Association.
The home: Oakland's Lake Merritt once was lined with impressive mansions such as this 1876 Italianate Victorian, home to William Walker Camron and later, Josiah Stanford (Leland's oldest brother). Saved from the wrecking ball in 1971, the restored Camron-Stanford House has been open to the public since 1978.
Details: Free admission for this event. 1418 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. 510-874-7802; www.cshouse.org.
Victorian Yuletide at Ravenswood
When: Noon-4 p.m. Dec. 9
What: A Victorian-style celebration with vintage buggy rides and live entertainment at a historic Livermore site. The event is presented by the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District and the Ravenswood Progress League.
The home: Ravenswood's main house, cottage and tank house were built from 1885 to 1891 as the summer retreat for a San Francisco political boss and his family. Even back then, the estate occupied prime space in the vineyards of the Livermore Valley.
Extras: Buggy rides, a visit from St. Nicholas, live entertainment, a gift shop, plus desserts and beverages for sale.
Details: Admission is free. 2647 Arroyo Road, Livermore. 925-443-0238; www.larpd.dst.ca.us.
Contact Linda Zavoral at firstname.lastname@example.org.