The Immersive Holiday Spectacular, The Great Dickens Fair, is Back!
Please note: It’s been brought to our attention that there’s a boycott going on. We did not know this when we visited. Here’s a link to more information on the boycott as well as information published by the producers of Dickens Fair, Red Barn Productions, so that you can make your own decision.
After a two-year hiatus, The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party (known simply as Dickens Fair) has reopened to help you build lasting memories. Find an adventure around every corner. Open weekends through December 18, 2022, including the Friday after Thanksgiving, you’ll find this immersive theatrical event at The Cow Palace in Daly City.
Start with a Tour of London
Over 4 acres have been dedicated to an immersive experience that has hundreds of precious moments inside holiday-themed shops, pubs, stages, and dance halls. Some of us love meandering around with no schedule but for some, a guide might be the way to go.
A literal city has been built within the Cow Palace. Over 2 weeks, master carpenters and artists created a stunning display with holiday garland decorating every nook and cranny of the event. Theatrical guides will give you the lay of the land in a tour of London via a narrated tour that will likely include characters from the works of Mr Dickens himself.
If you miss a tour, be sure you grab a map of the city. It’s important if you’re looking for something specific.
High Tea at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe
When my friend and I first showed up, we were hit with an intoxicating smell of cinnamon. This made us look for some coffee or tea to walk around with. We found ourselves at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe and saw that there was a full tea service – complete with little tea sandwiches, tarts and scones with several kinds of toppings like butter, lemon curd and jam.
Tables are close to each other in a way that feels communal and friendly.We were sat next to two women who became our fast friends. Gretha (age 92), her daughter and granddaughter have been going to The Dickens Christmas Fair for 10 years and it’s become a family tradition they never miss out on.
Gretha said the one activity they can’t miss is having high tea at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe. This year, they said, the tickets for high tea sold out too quickly but they were happy to find that anyone could come and get a table for high-tea throughout the day.
We made a pact to meet up with our new friends later in the day after some more adventuring and wandering around the beautiful festival.
New This Year: The Sherlock Holmes Experience:
Become a junior detective and work with Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Watson to solve a mystery. “Unravel malevolent misdeeds in a world of international intrigue and try to stop the nefarious villains before they strike and change the course of history.”
While I was walking around, I found a few detectives on the case and asked them about it. They said it was a great way to have purpose while exploring the entirety of the space and a fun adventure with friends. It added an extra fun adventure between friends.
With acres of space, there are several stages you will stumble upon during your day at Dickens Fair. You can watch salty seaman singing sea shanties, watch a gypsy dance, peep a fun band playing music, listen to some carolers, watch waltzing, visit with Santa, or enjoy a musical. Beyond the shows you can enjoy countless hands on events and experiences. We found a massive booth where you could build your own fairy booth but also saw drawing rooms where people were drawing together.
The food tho! The food is delicious. My favorite were the piroshki but I also really enjoyed the simplicity of the cucumber sandwich I enjoyed at tea time. Those who would love to sit and drink an English Ale will find bars sprinkled around the venue.
Every bar has its own theme or style. I ended up getting an eggnog at the bar I found but soon after we ended up in an absinthe bar. You could honestly spend the whole day eating your way through the fair and not at all be disappointed if this was the adventure you had chosen.
Shops all feature the Highest Level of Craftsmanship:
As a daughter of a working artist, I’ve been to hundreds of craft shows throughout my lifetime. If you go with me to an event, expect me to be the weird art kid flipping a mug over to see how it was made or examining the connection points of a sculpture. How things are made, who made them and the quality of a piece of art matters to me.
With that clearing, I can say with confidence that the level of craftsmanship at The Dickens Fair far exceeds any other craft or art fair I’ve been to in a very long time. As a contrast for those who enjoy going to shows where folks are selling their handmade wares, the goods at this event are often made in a more old-world style.
Nearly 100 beautiful shops and carts feature handmade goods or quality manufactured goods. Everything I saw just blew my socks off. I kept turning to my friend with a massive smile on my face every time we saw a new piece of art. You will find that the price point for some goods is that of more of an investment piece, I was able to find plenty of moderately priced items.
Each shop is special and unique in it’s own way. When you walk by them they all look like old store fronts you’d be able to find in London. Enter into any one of them and you will feel transported into an old world shop of your dreams. Whether you’re looking for a full Victorian era outfit or a new wand for your collection, you will find a shop that suits your needs.
I was able to find an adorable candle shop which had a station where you were encouraged to dip your own candle. For under $10 you are taught how to choose your own colors and guided through the experience. There were many moments like these around the event – moments where an experience was both kid and adult friendly.
Little Special Moments Everywhere
I think what struck me most throughout the event were the special moments being formed everywhere. The immersive experience transports you into a world where there is joy to be found around every corner. Those working really made you feel special.
You could sit for hours making a fairy house or you could sit for hours watching a show. You would have just as much fun as someone like myself who chose to bop around all day. The moments you savor within this space are moments you will never forget. There are hundreds of special little corners of this place – more than I could enjoy in one day.
For me, the most special part of the day was meeting my new friends at tea and meeting up again later to talk about our days. Sitting across from my new friends later in the afternoon, it felt sweet and unforgettable that a place like this quirky, fun, imaginative place brought strangers together and created moments we will never forget.
I wholeheartedly believe that there are special memories you create, unforgettable smiles you share, and the tiny little special moments of joy at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party which can only be experienced there.
THE DETAILS ALL ROLLED UP IN ONE SPOT:
WHEN: Opens Saturday, November 19 and runs Saturdays and Sundays (plus the Friday after Thanksgiving) through December 18, 2022, from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
WHERE: The Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, 2600 Geneva Avenue, Daly City, CA
TICKETS & INFORMATION: www.dickensfair.com
How much: Tickets range from $18 – $45, are date-specific and must be purchased in advance, online only. Please see dickensfair.com for details on General Admission, Group Sales and other special discounts. Tickets are limited so you’ll want to be sure to get your tickets early.
Covid Safety measure information from the organizers: “To improve the safety of Fair patrons and participants, the event organizers have put in place numerous Covid safety measures: daily attendance will be capped and controlled via advance, online ticket purchasing only; ventilation has been significantly increased with large industrial fans; and the event layout has been modified to allow for doorways throughout the event buildings to be left open. Masks are recommended for those who are sensitive, immune-compromised, or unvaccinated and hand sanitizers are available throughout the venue. For further details on this year’s enhancements, please visit the COVID-19 Information section on the Dickens Fair’s FAQ page.
Active Military: 1st & 2nd Weekends Free Admission: Active Military personnel along with three (3) family members will receive FREE Admission for the first two weekends, November 19, 20, 25, 26, 27. (Available at Will Call only. Photo I.D. required.)
Twilight Special (entry after 3:00 pm)
A great excuse to visit for a second time for a date night, dinner, or a show!
Twilight Adult Admission (13+): $30.00
Twilight Youth Admission (13+): $18.00
Group Tickets: For groups of 20 or more, contact Kathy Alvarez Kingman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On-Site Parking: $15/car, $30/RV or bus (cash or credit, charged by the Cow Palace)
NOTE: All photos are by Vita Hewitt