Park It by Ned MacKay: Christmas at the carousel

The holiday season is here, and one of its more colorful traditions is the kid-friendly Christmas celebration at the historic carousel in Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley.

The carousel is decorated with trees and lights. Attractions include Santa and his elves, unique ornaments, cookies, hot chocolate and gingerbread.

Hours are noon to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23; 4 to 8:30 p.m. weekdays through Dec. 14; and 2 to 8:30 p.m. from Dec. 17 through 21. The carousel will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The carousel is located on Tilden’s Central Park Drive just down the hill from the intersection with Wildcat Canyon Road. For more information, call 510-559-1004 or visit the website,

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Elsewhere at Tilden, the regional park naturalists have scheduled lots of activities in coming days.

“Fun with Felting” is the theme of a program from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15, with naturalist Jenna Collins. Learn how to use water to turn sheep’s wool into cloth, then make your own felted creation.

And from 3 to 4 p.m. the same day, Jenna will preside at the Kids’ Garden, where the kids can help to weed, water, and plant vegetables.

On Sunday, Dec. 16, naturalist “Trail Gail” Broesder will lead a hike from 9 a.m. to noon. The destination is the summit of Wildcat Peak, from which there are panoramic views of the region. Bring water and snacks.

After that, Trail Gail plans a sensory hike from 2 to 3 p.m. around the Tilden Nature Area.

And there’s more: Gail and the Over-The-Hills Gang will explore the Tilden Nature Area on a hike from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18. After the hike, the group will celebrate with a year-end potluck lunch, so bring some food to share.

The Gang is an informal group of hikers 55 and older who enjoy exercise, nature study, fitness and fun.

All five programs meet at Tilden’s Environmental Education Center, which is at the north end of Central Park Drive. Call 510-544-2233.

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Down at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda it’s bird-watching time, as the avians chow down on the mudflats and at the pond. Naturalist Michael Charnofsky will lead a birding program at the cove from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16, for ages seven and older. All levels of birding expertise are welcome, binoculars will be provided. Steady rain cancels the program.

Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda’s Central Avenue. Call 510-544-3187.

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There’s good news at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. The overwintering monarch butterflies have returned, although not in as large numbers as usual. You can see them flitting about in the park’s eucalyptus groves.

Park naturalists will conduct monarch butterfly programs at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 22, 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29, and 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 23.

There are special programs for kids ages three through six at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays, Dec. 15, 22 and 29 and Sundays, Dec. 16 and 30, with activities and a short hike. All the programs start at the Granary.

Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard, just north of Highway 84. For information, call 510-544-2797.

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This time of year, boughs of holly decorate the outdoors as well as the halls. In California the native toyon, also known as Christmas berry and California holly, displays lots of bright red berries.

Naturalist Eddie Willis will lead a short hike in search of toyon and other winter foliage from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Dec. 16 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. The hike is for ages five and older.

Meet Eddie in the uppermost parking lot on Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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“Critter Clues” is the theme of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15 at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. The naturalists will show how chewed branches, bird calls and animal tracks indicate what creatures have been roaming the park.

And kids ages 1 through 5, accompanied by a parent, will enjoy a program from 10 to 11 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 17, which repeats on Tuesday, Dec. 18. Naturalist Cat Taylor will help the kids to spot animal tracks on the park trails. Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. Call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

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Now that we’ve had some rain and the hills are slowly turning green again, there’s lots of nature to enjoy in the regional parks. Visit the website,, for complete listings.

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