By Allie Castro
Dec. 1 Kern County Museum Holiday Lamplight Tours
While the museum is open year-round for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse into the lives of the early Kern County settlers, the museum really turns on the charm for the holidays with a warm, authentic atmosphere. Visitors can tour the grounds by lamplight, hear stories told by costumed interpreters, purchase goods from street vendors or listen to carolers. Other highlights include a Victorian tea, Santa's Workshop and theatrical performances.
Dec. 6 Bakersfield Christmas Parade
With 20,000 spectators expected this year, we know you don't need our recommendation to attend the annual event. However, we love it so much that we're going to make sure you're 100 percent sold. This free event is an all-ages crowd pleaser with a few new features this year. Along with the traditional parade of floats, marching bands, carriages and local performance groups (all honoring this year's theme of "An American Christmas"), there will be a new Christmas Square marketplace where guests can sample food from local vendors, purchase products from local businesses and take the kids to the children's activity center.
Dec. 7 The Nutcracker
Catch the classic ballet -- performed by the dancers of Civic Dance Center and accompanied by the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra -- at one of four showings this weekend at Rabobank Theater and Convention Center. This year's ballet marks the 35th anniversary of the two talented groups' collaboration and promises to be every bit as good as you (and Clara!) have dreamed.
Dec. 8 Chez Noel
Tour some of Bakersfield's finest homes, and most decked-out halls (and living rooms, kitchens and foyers). A ticket will get you into the doors of the three homes that have been selected for this year's event. During the self-guided tour, docents -- and often the homeowners themselves -- will gladly answer questions about the elegantly decorated spaces. After the tour, guests are welcomed to the Assistant League of Bakersfield's headquarters where they can enjoy a cup of coffee and browse the gift shop. All proceeds go toward Operation School Bell, which provides clothing to underprivileged children and Operation Hugs, which supplies teddy bears to children who are sick.
Dec. 9 Bakersfield Toy Run
For the 28th year in a row, anything loud and on wheels will be driving from Beach Park to the Kern County Fairgrounds where participants drop off toys to be delivered by the Salvation Army. Last year, between 4,000 and 5,000 motorcycles (with another 300 off-road vehicles) were on hand to help make the holidays a little easier for those in need. Riding four motorcycles wide, it took an estimated 18 minutes before the parade of vehicles all made it out of the park en route to the fairgrounds. Start your engines and your holiday season off right.
Dec. 10 Color Me Mine's Paint with Santa
Who better to make holiday gifts with than the head toymaker himself? Color Me Mine Bakersfield will be hosting its Paint with Santa party where little artists and Santa Claus can collaborate on a hand-painted handprint plate. The store will also host several other holiday events in-store during December, including Santa's Secret Workshop (perfect for gift making) and the Paint Me a Story Snowmen-themed event.
Dec. 12 Volunteer your time and give back
In the famous carol, the 12th day of Christmas was the biggest gift-giving day of them all. To celebrate the giving spirit, donate to one of the countless number of local programs designed to help those in need during the most wonderful and, let's face it, financially stressful, time of the year. A quick search will find a Toys for Tots drop-off location on nearly every corner, and the Salvation Army is in need of non-perishable food items and toys for kids up to 12 years old. Salvation Army items can be dropped off at the distribution center at 4417 Wilson Road on or before Dec. 17, with boxes of goods being distributed to families on Dec. 19.
Dec. 15 Go skating in a winter wonderland
The San Joaquin Community Hospital Ice Center will create an indoor Winter Wonderland, complete with a 30-foot Christmas tree and snow on the ice each Friday and Saturday from now to Christmas Eve. Director Scott Hay said that Santa Claus is flown in each of these days to hang out with the kids, who in addition to ice skating, can play in the snow, make holiday crafts in the craft room, listen to holiday music or enjoy some hot chocolate and cookies at the snack bar.
Dec. 16 The Christmas Story at St. Paul's Church
It's almost like the Peanuts Christmas special, but this time, the cute little kids are real and the production doesn't go awry. The kids of St. Paul's Church will be retelling the Christmas story for this one night-only event. Expect costumed kids (the lamb and angel costumes are always particularly adorable), lots of singing and tons of "awwws."
Dec. 20 The Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Rocks! Extravaganza with Totsy
The Fox Theater will host this three-time Grammy-winning artist and his 18-member band for a night of new twists on classic Christmas music. Known for his blend of rockabilly, jazzy, swing and blues styles, Setzer will host a high-energy show with a complementary blend of innovation and old-fashioned rock that is sure to please the most discerning of music fans. For those who are weary of Victorian-style arrangements, this is a must-see.
Dec. 21 Last-minute shopping
We do it every year; the date never changes, but with only a few days left to go, we are still searching for the perfect gift. Try heading to the Marketplace where the Hoffman Hospice tree and storefront decorated windows will keep you in the holiday spirit as you browse through boutiques like Kaur and Bella, stores like Russo's and Williams-Sonoma or pick up that last-minute card at Anna's Cards & Gifts.
Dec. 23 See the lights
There's no ideal way to do it, but the various transportation choices help ensure that everyone in the family can enjoy looking at the light shows that Bakersfield's homes have to offer. For those who want to gaze in style, try a local limousine service to cruise through the streets around the Westchester area, which have some gems in otherwise dark neighborhoods. For those who want to stay active (and get a jump on burning off all those holiday calories), try biking through the streets of Haggin Oaks where you'll see some of the most consistently well-decorated homes in town. And CALM Holiday Lights always makes for a good leisurely stroll.