Holiday Outings and Gift Idea - Angel Island - Christmas Trees - Adopt a Whale


Yule Go for It

The holidays are in high gear! Don’t worry­—we’ve got you covered: from the perfect holiday hike, to where to get your Christmas tree, to what to give the person who has everything.

Mount Livermore Angel Island

Angel Topper

The Christmas light atop Angel Island's Mount Livermore has long been a cheerful twinkle visible from many cities throughout the Bay Area. 2008's fire on the island disrupted the 50-year tradition, but this year things are back on track—and back to bright, starting tonight! Get into the holiday spirit by hiking the 2-mile (one-way) trail from Ayala Cove up to the light. The trail is gradually graded and provides plenty of Bay-mazing scenery, including a rare five-bridge view. At the peak—788 feet—grab a picnic table near the festive mountain topper and stay awhile. Bright on!

During winter weekends there are four round-trip ferries from Tiburon to Angel Island (complete schedule). A round-trip ticket is $13.50. Take the Sunset Trail to the top of Mount Livermore. (Find the Sunset Trail behind the picnic tables and up the fire road from Ayala Cove.) From the top, return to Ayala Cove via the North Ridge Trail to the Perimeter Road. No dogs.

Castro Valley Christmas Tree Farm

Family Tree

Get all Norman Rockwell this holiday by gathering friends and family to cut your own Christmas tree. For 40 years the Castro Valley Christmas Tree Farm has been a holiday tradition. You won't find bounce houses or Santas singing "Ho, ho, ho" here; owner Paul Illingworth prides his operation on its simplicity. He and his crew plant between 6,000 and 12,000 trees each year, resulting in 12 acres of pesticide-free and beautifully groomed Douglas firs and Monterey pines (precut Noble firs are also available). At the farm entrance you'll be handed a saw and a map; then you're free to roam. Hop out of the car anywhere along the 2-mile dirt road, search up and down, and when you find the perfect tree, saw away! One thing: Be sure to leave a few branches on the stump so that a new tree will grow.

TIP: Keep the green going—visit to find a convenient location where your Christmas tree can be dropped off for recycling after the holidays.

To reach the tree farm follow I-580 East; take the Redwood Rd. exit and turn left (north) on Redwood Rd. Go 3 miles until you reach the farm. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Douglas firs are $60.30, Monterey pines are $49.30, and precut Noble firs are $71.25. Dog-friendly!

Whale of a Gift

It's the age-old holiday dilemma: What do you give someone who has everything? How about a whale? San Francisco's Oceanic Society (which leads whale watching trips to the Farallon Islands from May to November) is offering a holiday present worth spouting about. For a $40 donation you can adopt a whale for someone else (or yourself). You'll get an adoption certificate, a color photo, and information about your new family member. (If you want to name the whale, you'll need to ante up $400.) The money donated goes to whale research initiatives and purchasing new field equipment. Whale tidings they bring.

TIP: If the person on your gift list dotes more on dolphins, the Oceanic Society also has an adopt-a-dolphin program.

All adoptions are tax deductible.

The World on Your Palate

Join or give the Williams-Sonoma Wine Club this holiday and save 10% with promo code SHERPA.

What if every month you got to sniff, swirl and taste some of the best vintages from boutique wineries around the world? That's exactly what you get with a Williams-Sonoma Wine Club membership. Their experts comb the globe's leading wine regions, hand-selecting wines to send to you. Each shipment of six bottles—two whites and four reds—includes insightful sommelier tasting notes plus Williams-Sonoma recipes to pair with each wine. And if there's a bottle that's particularly pleasing, you can order an entire case at 10% off (just one of the perks of being a wine club member). Whether you're a novice swirl-and-sniffer or an established connoisseur, Williams-Sonoma brings you exceptional wines from vineyards you'd have to travel halfway around the globe to visit. (And because there's no minimum commitment, you can cancel your membership whenever you want.) This holiday, taste the world with the Williams-Sonoma Wine Club!

BONUS: Use promo code SHERPA and save 10% on a wine club membership for yourself or as a gift. (There's no minimum commitment, so you can cancel your membership whenever you want—although we're pretty sure those New Zealand sauvignon blancs would be missed.)

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