12 festive holiday events in and around Sacramento

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Photo by Keith Sutter
A herd of tiny antlered dancers perform the role of reindeer in Ron Cunningham's "The Nutcracker," which premieres Dec. 9 at Community Center Theater.

CLICK HERE to see the 2019 guide to the Sacramento holiday season!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Sacramento. Join in the spirit of the season at these holiday events—from a 17-acre light display at Cal Expo to a celebrated Victorian festival in Nevada City. 

Elf the Musical Jr.

Through Dec. 16 Young thespians for the Roseville Theatre Arts Academy will present this humorous, feel-good holiday musical, based on the 2003 film starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, an orphaned human raised as an elf in the North Pole. The show features songs like the peppy “World’s Greatest Dad,” the brassy “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” and the ballad “Never Fall in Love (with an Elf),” as Buddy finds his biological father in Manhattan, only to learn he’s on the naughty list. It’s up to Buddy to spread holiday cheer by singing loud for all to hear and save Christmas for his family and the city. $9. Sat. 11 a.m. Sun. 2 p.m. Roseville Theatre Arts Academy. 241 Vernon St. Roseville. 772-2777. rosevilletheatreartsacademy.com

Victorian Christmas

Through Dec. 20 Thousands of twinkling lights, holly boughs and gas lamps will line the historic main thoroughfare of downtown Nevada City for its 40th annual holiday extravaganza. Celebrated in Fodor’s Travel as one of “10 U.S. Towns with Incredible Christmas Celebrations,” carolers dress in Victorian garb while bagpipers and street minstrels provide Yuletide ambience. Visitors can view the living nativity or take horse-drawn carriage rides in between feasting on hand-held goodies like roasted chestnuts, turkey legs and Louisiana meat pies or drinking some belly-warming libations like hot cider, mulled wine and hot buttered rum. Free. Wed. 5-9 p.m. Sun. 1:30-6 p.m. Downtown Nevada City. 530-265-2692. nevadacitychamber.com

Theatre of Lights

Through Dec. 24 On the rooftops and balconies of K Street in Old Sacramento, Santa Claus and Jack Frost act out the 19th-century Christmas poem The Night Before Christmas as it’s read by Mark Twain (aka Emmy winner Bill Farmer, who’s been the voice of Disney’s Goofy and Pluto since 1986). Folks can expect to see projections of falling snowflakes and Santa’s reindeer taking flight into the night sky, as well as the nightly lighting of a 60-foot Christmas tree. Free. Days and times vary. K Street between Front and Second streets. Old Sacramento. 970-5226. oldsacramento.com

Find carolers, carriage rides and chestnuts roasting on open fires at Nevada City's Victorian Christmas.

A Christmas Carol

Through Dec. 24 After a five-year hiatus from this holiday classic, Sacramento Theatre Company once again presents its production of A Christmas Carol. Commissioned by the troupe in 1987, this musical rendition by local playwright Richard Hellese adapts Charles Dickens' 1843 tale about the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who is shown the error of his ways by four ghosts on Christmas Eve. Original songs written by David de Berry include “Home at Christmastide,” “Fezziwig’s Carol” and “Gift of the Heart.” $30-$40. Times vary by day. Sacramento Theatre Company. 1419 H St. 443-6722. sactheatre.org

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley

Through Dec. 30 This play—written by Lauren Gunderson (the nation’s most produced living playwright, according to American Theatre Magazine) and Margot Melcon—picks up two years after Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy have gotten married, and the Darcys are hosting the holidays at their estate. Among the guests is one of Elizabeth’s younger sisters, the bookish Mary, and Fitzwilliam’s own academically inclined cousin Arthur, who recently inherited his aunt’s estate and seeks the counsel of the other gentlemen present regarding his newfound wealth. Arthur and Mary soon take notice of one another to present a sweet and comical ode to nerd love that the San Francisco Chronicle says “is driven by effervescent wit.” $25-$42. Times vary by day. Capital Stage. 2215 J St. 995-5464. capstage.org

Global Winter Wonderland

Through Jan. 7 Grab your passport and book a ticket for this multicultural holiday celebration. Global Winter Wonderland’s 17-acre fantasy land features more than 80 glowing LED lanterns, including those depicting landmarks like Mount Fuji, the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the White House and the Taj Mahal in keeping with this year’s theme, “Holidays Around the World.” Folks can visit Santa’s workshop and the Elves’ Clubhouse, or walk through an indoor Toyland exhibit with oversized glow-in-the-dark figurines (such as nutcrackers that could play in the NBA). Meanwhile, Circus of Light performances will feature fire dancing and contortion, and local groups like South Sacramento’s Diplomatz Dance Team and Vacaville’s Hālau `o Ku`ulei will also take center stage. $18 ($16 for ages 4-12; free for ages 3 and under). Times vary by day. Cal Expo. 1600 Exposition Blvd. 510-962-8586. globalwonderland.com

Sacramento Theatre Company's production of "A Christmas Carol" (Photo by Charr Crail Photography)

Holiday Magic

Dec. 9 Christmas comes early for the critters at the Sacramento Zoo. Edible treats will get gussied up to resemble wrapped gifts, ornaments, snowmen and wreaths, and they’ll be presented to furry residents like the snow leopard, lemurs, lions, giraffes and orangutans (including a new female named Indah). Docents will divulge details about the animals’ eating and living habits, and visitors can take a gander at the zoo’s newest additions: an Eastern bongo calf and a baby Wolf’s guenon monkey, who were both born in September. $14.95 ($9.95 for ages 2-11; free for ages 1 and under). 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 3930 W. Land Park Dr. 808-5888. saczoo.org

The Directory Holiday Pop-Up Boutique and Fashion Show

Dec. 9 &10 This holiday shopping event will showcase apparel and accessories from 13 local fashion designers and artisans inside a loft at 16th and H streets across from the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Sacramento. Browse gifts like SnapSkull’s embroidered snapback caps and beanies (which have been spotted on celebs like Rihanna and 50 Cent), minimalist jewelry like gold teardrop rings by Tula in Bloom, retro baby onesies by Maisha Bahati, and triple-neck T-shirts and upside-down hoodies by Sacramento’s own fashion designer Richard Hallmarq, who competed on Project Runway in 2011. San Francisco native and America’s Next Top Model alum Lluvy Gomez will also be on hand to take selfies with fans and walk in The Directory ’s runway fashion show on Saturday, during which five Sacramento designers, like Hallmarq, Bahati and Anastasia Kryukova, will tout their newest collections and country-pop trio Auburn Road will perform. Free. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Fashion show on Saturday at 7 p.m.) 807 16th St. 

Historic Holiday Houses

Dec. 9 & 10 Travel back to Christmas past at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, where 13 of the park’s buildings—including four residences, the schoolhouse, a  blacksmith shop, Bekeart’s Gun Shop and a  church—will be decorated in the holiday finery of the eras in which they were built. (Think homespun ornaments of the 1850s for the Weller residence, and glass and beads for the turn-of-the-century schoolhouse.) You can meet James Marshall and Father Christmas, or get hands-on with wreath-making demos while the kiddos partake in period games like hoop rolling. All the while, a brass band and Christmas carolers will fill the winter air with music. $5. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. 310 Back St. Coloma. 530-622-3470. marshallgold.com

Global Winter Wonderland will set Cal Expo aglow this holiday season with 17 acres of light displays. (Photo courtesy of Global Winter Wonderland)

Winter Wonderland

Dec. 9-17 Just hear those sleigh bells jingling and ring-ting-tingling at Fairytale Town, where the annual holiday festivities include hundreds of lights strewn about the park, strolling carolers in Victorian dress and a market where parents can take care of holiday shopping. Little ones can also make ornaments, play Grinch-themed toss games and, on select nights, meet Santa. Also, don’t miss the swirl of nightly snow flurries and the new giant snow globe for selfies. $7 (free for ages 1 and under). Sat. & Sun. 1-7 p.m. Fairytale Town. 3901 Land Park Dr. 808-7462. fairytaletown.org

The Nutcracker

Dec. 9-23 The 30th anniversary of the Sacramento Ballet’s annual rendition of The Nutcracker coincides with the final time Ron Cunningham will helm the production as co-artistic director of the company. Five hundred child dancers help tell the tale of young Clara, who befriends the Nutcracker Prince on Christmas Eve and travels to the Land of Sweets, where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy and other dessert-themed characters. The Sacramento Philharmonic will play Tchaikovsky’s timeless score live at select performances. $25-$99. Times vary by day. Community Center Theater. 1301 L St. 552-5810. sacballet.org

Madeline’s Christmas

Dec. 9-30 Based on the holiday installment of the popular Madeline book series by writer Ludwig Bemelmans, this musical was adapted for the stage by Jennifer Kirkeby and Shirley Mier. The show begins as the books do, with “12 little girls in two straight lines” being led by their Parisian boarding school teacher Miss Clavel. All of the girls—except for little Madeline—along with Miss Clavel come down with the flu right before they’re supposed to leave for the holidays, leaving our red-headed heroine to care for everybody and find a Christmas miracle (in the form of magic carpets) to get her classmates home to their families for the holiday. The play is peppered with sweet songs like “Achoo!” and “We’re Flying.” $17 ($13 for ages 12 and under). Times vary by day. Sutter Street Theatre. 717 Sutter St. Folsom. 353-1001. sutterstreettheatre.com

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