12 festive ways to celebrate the holiday season with the whole family

Photo courtesy of the Sacramento Ballet

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, with yuletide events spreading holiday cheer around the region. Here are 12 ways for you and your family to have a holly, jolly Christmas in and around Sacramento.

PJs in the Park (Dec. 6)
You and your little ones can just roll out of bed and head straight to Raley Field for the annual PJs in the Park event, which will be festooned with Christmas trees and feature games and holiday crafts. There will also be a chance to show off your bunny pajamas in a picture with Santa. Bring a toy donation for the CHiPs for Kids Toy Drive and receive 10 percent off at the Raley Field store. Free. 9 a.m.-12 p.m. 376-4891. 400 Ballpark Drive. West Sacramento. 376-4700. raleyfield.com

Christmas Memories (Dec. 6 and 13)
The historic Victorian mansion that California’s governors called home for decades will once again be festooned with lavish decorations for this annual event, during which period-attired docents will describe to visitors how the state’s first families celebrated the holidays in years past. Other activities include performances of holiday carols by youth vocal groups and a meet-and-greet with Santa Claus. $6 ($4 for ages 6 to 17; free for children ages 5 and under). 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park. 1526 H St. 323-3047. historicgovernorsmansion.org

Holiday in the Hills (Dec. 6-23)
Have yourself a merry little Christmas up in the foothills, where every year Sutter Street Theatre presents its holiday show delving into regional history as it paints a picture of how Christmas was celebrated by miners, outlaws and other townsfolk back in the late 1800s. The stage will be studded with a host of characters based on real historical figures, ranging from former Folsom Telegraph editor Peter J. Hopper, to treacherous bandit Tom Bell and madam Emma Spencer. $15-$23. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 4 p.m. (Dec. 18, 22 & 23 at 7 p.m.) Sutter Street Theatre. 717 Sutter St. Folsom. 353-1001. sutterstreettheatre.com

The Nutcracker (Dec. 6-21)
Featuring choreography by Sacramento Ballet co-artistic director Ron Cunningham, this beloved production, in which approximately 500 local children dance alongside company members every year, will be presented for the 27th time this season. The classic tale of young Clara and her vivid dreams features a spectacular score by Tchaikovsky, which will be presented live by the musicians of the Sacramento region performing arts alliance at select performances. $19-$65 ($14 extra for shows with live music). Fridays at 7 p.m. Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m. (Dec. 7 at 3 p.m.; Dec. 14 & 21 at 1 and 5:30 p.m. Community Center Theater. 1301 L St. 552-5800. sacballet.org

Victorian Christmas (Dec. 7-21)
Twinkling lights and decorations will light up the streets of downtown Nevada City for this Christmastime celebration. On Wednesdays and Sundays in December, the historic Gold Rush-era town will host strolling minstrels, bagpipers and a live nativity scene, and offer everything from rides on a horse-drawn carriage to old-fashioned goodies like mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. Free. Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Downtown Nevada City. 530-265-2692. nevadacitychamber.com

Winter Wonderland at Fairytale Town (Dec. 11-21)
You’d better not pout and you’d better not cry, because Santa Claus is coming to Fairytale Town for its yearly holiday celebration. Visitors will find the park bedecked in Christmas regalia and offering seasonal hands-on crafts, opportunities to meet reindeer (on select days), and, for the first time, manmade snow flurries every evening. $4.50-$5.50. Thursday through Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m. Fairytale Town. 3901 Land Park Dr. 808-7462. fairytaletown.org

A Simple Emigrant Christmas (Dec. 13)
In the 1800s, emigrants flocked from around the world to Sutter’s Fort in search of economic prosperity and a new life in the West, bringing with them a variety of Christmas customs and traditions from their homelands. That heritage will be demonstrated at this annual event featuring period vignettes that illustrate holiday scenes and the cultural diversity that could be found at the historic settlement during its heyday. Visitors will have opportunities to try various hands-on activities, ranging from dipping candles to making Christmas ornaments, and sample treats such as braided sweet bread. $7 ($5 for ages 6-17; free for ages 5 and under). 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. 2701 L St. 445-4422. suttersfort.org

Holiday Magic (Dec. 13)
Tis the season to be jolly, so watch as Sacramento Zoo residents partake in holiday merriment at this annual affair where visitors can watch as the animals receive and unwrap specially decorated, edible Christmas treats. Zookeepers will be on hand to provide insightful information about the critters’ diets and habits as they enjoy their festively wrapped goodies. Spread holiday cheer by bringing a nonperishable food item for the River City Food Bank and receive a $1 discount on admission to the park. $11.25 ($7.25 for ages 2-11). 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sacramento Zoo. 3930 West Land Park Dr. 808-5888. saczoo.org

Sacramento Santa Run (Dec. 20)
Thousands of racers dressed like Santa will sprint down Capitol Mall and out to Old Sacramento, the riverfront and back for this Christmas fun run (a shorter “Merry Mile” race is also available). Carolers and candy cane stations along the course, as well as cookies and milk at the finish line, will be sure to make spirits bright throughout the morning. $25-$45. 9 a.m. Race begins at California State Capitol. 530-346-3881. sacramentosantarun.com

PJ Party Christmas Eve (Dec. 24)
The stockings are hung by your chimney with care, in the hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there—but in the meantime, head over to the Sacramento Zoo for its Xmas Eve pajama party where guests will get free admission to the park before it closes early for the holiday and be greeted by zoo staff singing jolly carols. Free. 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sacramento Zoo. 3930 West Land Park Dr. 808-5888. saczoo.org

Macy's Theatre of Lights (Through Dec. 31)
Oh come, all ye faithful to Old Sacramento, the buildings and rooftops of which will be filled with light, color and sound for this annual holiday program featuring the poem “The Night Before Christmas” recited by onetime Sacramento Union reporter Mark Twain (voiced by Bill Farmer, who has also voiced Disney characters like Goofy and Pluto). Free. Thursday through Saturday at 6:15 and 7:45 p.m. (Dec. 24 at 6:15 p.m.; Dec. 31 at 7 and 8:30 p.m.) K St. between Front and Second streets. Old Sacramento. 442-8575. oldsacramento.com

Global Winter Wonderland (through Jan. 4)
All the world’s a stage at the Global Winter Wonderland, a luminous multicultural theme park and massive display of glowing structures filling 17 acres of Cal Expo this Christmas season. Inspired by China’s lantern festivals and executed by about 60 artisans and engineers from that country, the spectacle features lanterns as tall as seven stories that depict iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal in the park’s “Global Village,” as well as Yuletide scenes, and utilizes 100 tons of steel and more than two million LED lights. The traveling exhibition, which launched in 2011, visits just one city per year (Atlanta hosted it last year), and this year Sacramento was selected—in part because of its diverse population—bringing with it carnival rides, food from around the world, and other attractions to spread holiday cheer. Light it up! $12-$25 per ticket. Times vary by day. Cal Expo. 1600 Exposition Blvd. globalwonderland.org