By NED MacKAY
Special to the Tribune
A couple of always-popular special programs mark the holiday season in the East Bay Regional Parks.
One is Christmas at the Carousel, at the historic merry-go-round in Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley.
Built in 1911 by the Herschell-Spillman Company, and located at Tilden since 1948, the carousel has beautifully painted hand-carved wooden animals. Besides the rides, the Christmas celebration features unique ornaments, hot chocolate and cookies for sale, Christmas trees, and occasional visits from Santa and his elves.
Hours are from 4-8:30 p.m. weekdays, noon to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from now through Dec. 23.
The carousel is located on Tilden’s Central Park Drive, just down the hill from the intersection with Wildcat Canyon Road. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (510) 559-1004.
The other special event is Christmas at the Patterson House at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. The house is a beautifully restored Queen Anne mansion, decorated in Victorian splendor for the holiday.
Festivities include live music, refreshments, more than 20 Christmas trees, and Victorian-style holiday ornaments.
Tours are scheduled on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18. Tours are included with Ardenwood admission and tickets are available at the door.
Also there’s a Holiday Open House from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Dec. 9. For the open house, tickets are $8 at the door; ages 12 and under get in for free.
Ardenwood is on Ardenwood Boulevard just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. For information about Christmas at the Patterson House, call (510) 791-4196 or email email@example.com.
Back at Tilden Nature Area, there’s a butter-making program from 2-3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Little Farm classroom. Interpretive student aides Sharona Kleinman and Nic Hoffman will show how to make butter by churning heavy whipping cream. Join in, have a snack, teach your friends and take some butter home.
The Little Farm is at the north end of Central Park Drive. For information, call (510) 544-2233.
By the way, I put out some wrong information in a previous column about the dog regulations on Tilden’s South Park Drive, which is closed to vehicle traffic during the rainy season to protect newts crossing the road.
Pedestrian and bicycle traffic is allowed, but I said that dogs have to be on leash. Not so. Your canine friends can be off-leash, though they must be under the owner’s control, which means Fido will return to you if called. Try to keep the dogs away from the newts; the newts have a toxic substance on their skin. Also please pick up your dog’s waste, and dispose of it in a trashcan.
Amazing amphibians – frogs and salamanders – will be the stars of Family Nature Fun Hour from 2-3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3-4, at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda. After that it’s fish feeding time from 3-3:30 p.m. at the center’s aquarium.
Crab Cove also plans two chocolate seminars: one from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, and the other from 4-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17. It’s a chance to learn about chocolate’s history, find out how it’s made, and sample some fine local varieties.
Registration is required, and there’s a fee of $15 per person ($17 for non-district residents). For information and registration, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2: refer to program 15224 for Dec. 3, 15227 for Dec. 17.
Crab Cove is at the end of McKay Avenue off Central Avenue in Alameda. For information, call (510) 544-3187.
For a bit of post-Thanksgiving exercise, there are a couple of good choices. The Wednesday Walkers, an informal hiking group welcome to all, will explore Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Oakland hills on a moderate, 3¾-mile hike from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 7. Along the way you’ll see a hidden pond, volcanic rocks, and a mysterious old car.
Meet at the Old Tunnel Road staging area. It’s off Highway 24 on the east side of the Caldecott Tunnel. For information, call (510) 544-3282.
Or you can take a 3½-mile Sunday Stroll from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 4 at Leona Canyon in Oakland. The stroll includes one strenuous climb. Meet at the trailhead on Canyon Oaks Drive off Keller Avenue. For information, call (510) 544-3187.
With its clear water, tall trees and lots of fish, Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch is a bird paradise. Join naturalist Kevin Dixon for a bird-watching stroll there from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. Meet in the main parking lot at the end of Frederickson Lane. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.