Celebrate The Holidays At The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Have you ever been to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in Daly City? If not, you’re missing out one of the biggest holiday events in the San Francisco Bay Area. After all, it’s one of America’s best Christmas fairs and has something for attendees of all ages. What’s more, this year is extra special, particularly …

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Two women wearing Victorian clothing and hats

Have you ever been to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in Daly City? If not, you’re missing out one of the biggest holiday events in the San Francisco Bay Area. After all, it’s one of America’s best Christmas fairs and has something for attendees of all ages. What’s more, this year is extra special, particularly because it hosted limited festivities the past two years. With three weekends remaining, you still have time to visit the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. However, there is no time to waste to purchase your tickets. That’s because there’s only a limited amount of tickets that are available each day.

Photo by Randy Yagi of A Victorian-era chimney sweep talks to a young woman holding a green parrot and wearing vintage clothing
Great Dickens Christmas Fair Characters (credit: Randy Yagi)

About The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Now in its 38th year, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is the first and best known of its kind in the country. First held in 1970, the Dickens Fair takes you back in time to the time when Charles Dickens wrote his most famous works. In this case, you’ll through a Victorian-era London, see people fashionably dressed and enjoy music, food and drink. If that’s not enough, there are several arts and craft vendors and family friendly attractions like a carousel. Of course, there are also regular appearances of Charles Dickens characters, like Father Christmas. In addition, there are new attractions this year, including a skating rink and Christmas tree sales. This marks the 21st year at the Cow Palace.

Related: America’s Best Christmas Markets

Cow Palace Exhibition Halls

2600 Geneva Ave.
Daly City, CA  94014


General admission for ages 13 and over is $45, while admission for youth ages 5-12 is $25. All children under the age of 5 have free admission. However, general admission prices for entry after 3 p.m. are $30 and $18 respectively. Earlier this season, active military members go visit for free the first two weekends. In addition, a Pickwick Club 2022 Season Pass remains available for $160 and is valid for all remaining dates. Please note that tickets are only available online in advance. In other words, you will not be able to purchase a ticket at the door. On the other hand, there is a Will-Call window onsite. Group tickets for 20 or more people are also available.

How To Get There

The Cow Palace is on Geneva Avenue, just south of the border between Daly City and San Francisco. Due to its location, public transportation may like be practical if you are traveling from out of town. However, it’s possible to do so with a public bus connection or ride-shares like Lyft, Uber and Alto . For example, the Daly City BART station is over 3 miles away while the Bay Shore CalTrain station is 1.7 miles. On the other hand, the most practical way to get to the Cow Palace is by car. In this case, you can determine your route via a GPS app. Once you are in the vicinity of the Cow Palace, you can follow the event signs leading you to the parking lots. Parking is $15 and the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is held at the Exhibition Halls.

Accessibility Services

As a completely diverse and inclusive event, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair offers a number of accessible services. This includes a wheelchair accessible parking shuttle and of course, accessible parking. What’s more, the parking shuttle is available for anyone who doesn’t want to walk from the parking lot to the Cow Palace Exhibition Halls. These shuttles operate frequently, therefore you won’t have to wait too long for one to arrive. In addition, the entire Dickens Christmas Fair is completely wheelchair accessible. On top of that, wheelchairs are available for rent and ASL services are available. Please note that no pets are allowed, with the exception of ADA-authorized service animals.

How Much Time To Allow

If this is your first visit to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, you should allow yourself at least a few hours to see everything. Indeed, you might want to set aside an entire morning or afternoon, especially for your first visit. After all, the entire Dickens Fair covers over 140,000 square feet, with ongoing entertainment and other things to do. Most importantly, you set your own timeframe as for how long you wish to say. However, it shouldn’t be a surprise if you happen to stay longer than your original plans.

Related: San Francisco’s Best Holiday Attractions

Man dressed as Charles Dickens speaking to people inside the Green Man Inn at the Dickens Fair
Charles Dickens at Green Man Inn (credit: Randy Yagi)

What To See

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair has so much to see and do that you might decide to return for a second visit. For starters, there is non-stop live entertainment across multiple stages. For example, at the Paddy West Stage, you might find people singing Christmas carols. Yet at another stage, you might see Mother Goose. In addition, you will see many people dressed in Victorian-era-style clothing. What’s more, you can see many Dickens characters either onstage or simply walking about. In one such case, you can the Ghost of Christmas Past and Ebenezer Scrooge walking together hand in hand. On yet another occasion, you’ll see Charles Dickens himself, as he reads excerpts from “A Christmas Carol”.

Related: America’s Most Unusual Christmas Trees

An assortment of Dickens Fair foods on a platter, including meat pies
Dickens Fair Food (credit: Randy Yagi)

What To Eat & Drink

At the Dickens Fair, you will have several food options to consider, with a special emphasis on traditional British cuisine. To illustrate, you can enjoy bangers and mash, meat pies and fish and chips. On the other hand, there are other food choices such as Greek food, Indian dishes like chicken masala and crepes. That’s not to mention delicious sweets like Yorkshire pudding, artisan chocolates and mince pies. As for drinks you can enjoy spirits, wine and more at four traditional British pubs, along with an absinthe bar. Of course, there are more drink options, like tea, coffee, sodas and more. As for tea, you should make an advance reservation if you wish to visit Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe. Although reservations aren’t necessary, it’s best to do so as the Fair will be busy over the final weekends.

Related: Best San Francisco Restaurants For New Year’s Eve Dinner

A replica of the Time Machine from the 1960 movie starring Rod Taylor
Time Machine (credit: Randy Yagi)

Arts, Crafts and Demonstrations

No Christmas fair is complete without a traditional holiday market. At the Great Dickens Fair, you can visit over 100 shops and carts at the Grand Concourse. For the most part, you will find holiday gifts like ornaments, jewelry, candles and even masks. If that’s not enough, you can also purchase magic wands, artisan glass and feathery headwear. Additionally, there are many items you can purchase online, like Dickens Fair branded coffee mugs and t-shirts. As for demonstrations, you can see a vintage printing press or take a trip on a Time Machine ($5). Equally important is a visit to the Athenaeum Club for demonstrations on 19th century technology.

Activities For Children

If you have children, they will love the many family-friendly activities at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Perhaps first and foremost is a chance to take photos and speak with Father Christmas. Similarly, your children can meet Dickens characters like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby. Equally important are the carousel, arcade games and decorated Christmas trees. That’s not to mention ice skating and kid-friendly entertainment like the Punch and Judy Puppet Theatre and comedy shows. Of course, there are immersive, hands-on activities to enjoy like making fairy houses and candle making.

Can I Wear Victorian-Style Clothing?

Yes, although not required, you are most welcome to wear your own festive costume. In fact, you may see many people including their children dressed in Victorian-style clothing. However, the Christmas Fair does have clothing restrictions in place. For this reason, you should visit’s the Fair’s “Okay vs. Not Okay” section for additional information. Some restrictions are obvious, such as not wearing objectionable clothing. Perhaps most importantly, you may not dress as primary Charles Dickens characters, like Father Christmas and Ebenezer Scrooge.

New This Year: Vauxhall Gardens

Last but certainly not the least are new additions to this year’s Great Dickens Christmas Fair. In further detail, it’s a new space known as Vauxhall Gardens. A reference to its namesake public park in London, it features a skating rink and Christmas trees for sale. You can’t miss this new 50,000 square foot section as you must walk by to reach Victorian London. Skating, including skate rental is $12 per person and $6 for children 8 and under. Vauxhall Gardens is an admission-free section with the purchase of parking.

Related: America’s Best Places For A White Christmas

About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.