With the Great Dickens Christmas Fair fast approaching, now is the time to start planning your visit. After all, it’s the premier holiday event in the San Francisco Bay Area and only lasts just five weekends. What’s more, it’s the first of its kind in the country to feature a Victorian holiday setting, as well as one of America’s best Christmas fairs. If you have never been to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, now is your chance to enjoy one of the best family friendly experiences this holiday season.
About the Great Dickens Christmas Faire
First held in 1970 by the Patterson Family, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a family friendly event with the look and feel of 19th century London. In other words, you will experience a setting reminiscent of a time when Charles Dickens once lived. In fact, not only will you see Victorian-style shops and streets but characters from Dickens novels. Today, the Patterson Family and its Red Barn Productions continues to host the Great Dickens Christmas Fair.
Please Note: Use this guide as a quick reference to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. However, for complete details and daily schedules, please refer to the official website.
When and Where
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is held across five weekends beginning Saturday, November 18, 2023. The enormous production is located inside the Exhibition Halls of the historic Cow Palace in Daly City. The second largest city in San Mateo County, Daly City is a short drive from San Francisco. The weekend hours for the Christmas Fair are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cow Palace Exhibition Halls
2600 Geneva Ave.
Daly City, CA 94014
How to Get to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair
If you’re traveling by car, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair can be reached by either Highway 101 or Highway 280. The most widely used route for you to take is Highway 101, then the Bayshore Boulevard exit to Geneva Avenue. Chances are, you’ll be following other motorists going to the Dickens Faire, making your drive that much easier.
Of course, you can also take public transportation to the Cow Palace. For instance, from the Balboa Park BART station, you can take San Francisco Muni bus 8. It’s about a 25-minute bus ride from Balboa Park to the Cow Palace and you would get off at Geneva and Santos Street. If you’re in San Francisco, you can take bus 8 from places like Fisherman’s Wharf and Market Street.
In addition to private vehicle or public transportation, you can use a ride share service to the Cow Palace. In fact, some major ride share companies like Uber and Lyft have headquarters right in San Francisco. Because of its wide availability in the San Francisco Bay Area, you shouldn’t have to wait long for a ride share. Your driver can drop you off right in front of the main entrance. On your return trip, you can find the ride share pick up on Geneva Boulevard.
Related: America’s Best Christmas Markets
Parking at the Cow Palace
Plenty of parking is available and the Cow Palace can accommodate RVs, limousines and buses. General parking is $15 while bus and RV parking is $30. Because of the size of the parking lot, a free wheelchair accessible shuttle will be available. The parking shuttle will operate each day and make stops at several spots throughout the large lots.
Cow Palace Exhibition Halls
2600 Geneva Ave.
Daly City, CA 94014
Prices for this year’s Great Dickens Christmas Fair remain unchanged from 2022. For those 13 and over, tickets are $45, while those ages 5 to 12, it’s $25. As for children under the age of five, they receive free admission. In addition, if you arrive after 3 p.m., you are eligible for the Faire’s twilight price. In this case, it’s $30 for ages 13 and over and $18 for ages 5 to 12. Please note that tickets are only available online.
Free Admission for Active Military
If you are an active military member, you can receive free admission on the first and second weekends of the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. What’s more, you can bring up to three family members and they also receive free admission.
This year, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is offering two premium experiences that will enhance your visit. For starters, there is a Jekyll & Hyde and the Elixir of Madness bar crawl for $65 per person. The other option for you to consider is the Port & Chocolate Tasting at the Green Mann Inn for $20. Please note that these experiences are not included as part of your regular admission ticket. However, there are other experiences that are included with admission, such as the Tours of London and the Sherlock Holmes Experience.
What to Wear
Although there is no requirement to wear Victorian-era clothing, many people will come in vintage outfits to enhance their visit. However, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair does have a policy that explains what type of clothing not to wear. For instance, clothing with objectionable symbols or statements are not allowed. For a complete detail of what you can or can’t wear, please visit the official website. In addition, you cannot wear clothing that “distracts” from their theme. This includes wearing superhero costumes or costumes based on Charles Dickens characters like Oliver Twist and David Copperfield.
How Much Time to Spend at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair
If you hope to see everything the Great Dickens Christmas Fair has to offer, you can expect to stay at least two or three hours. In fact, you might be finding yourself spending the whole day there. After all, activities will be going on throughout the day, including live music and the arrival of Father Christmas. That’s not to mention great food and drink, including bangers and mash, meat pies and beers, ciders and ale.
What to See
The Faire at Charles Dickens’ London covers over 140,000 square feet of entertainment space. Within this space are Victorian-style streets, shops, pubs, performance stages and more. Although the 2023 map is yet to be available, the Fair layout should be much like it has been in previous years. In more detail, there will be six main sections of the Fair, as well as seven stages for live performances. Moreover, there will be several shops selling all sorts of unique gifts from handcrafted holiday gifts to British pub-style food and drink.
Although the schedule for the 2023 season is yet to be available, you can expect to see live entertainment all day long. This includes twice daily appearances of Father Christmas and appearances by Charles Dickens at Tavistock House. Of course, each of the stages has its own special performances, like Christmas caroling, magic acts and comedy shows.
Kid Friendly Activities
Because the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a family friendly event, there will be many fun things to do for children. For example, you can go ice skating at Vauxhall Gardens or meet Father Christmas himself. That’s not to mention riding a carousel, visiting fairy houses and kid friendly interactive experiences. If that’s not enough, you can take family photos in front of the Christmas tree, watch puppet shows, wave a magic wand and much more.
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.