Read this review before you go to the Dickens Fair so you can be prepared! What to expect, what to bring, and what it is like to go to the Dickens Fair!
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace in Daly City is our yearly family tradition! We love it, and wanted to share what it is like to go to the fair, what to bring, and what to expect!
* Spoiler Alert * This is a review for those who like to know what to expect and prepare accordingly. Totally not for those who like some element of surprise. So read on, only if you want to know what to expect when going to the Dickens Fair!
Table of Contents
There is a parking lot right on a hill where the fair is. It is a pretty big hill, so plan accordingly. The parking is spacious, so if you park far, you may have a long walk. Parking (2017) was $12 and cash only. We have gone during the twilight hours, around 4:30-5pm generally, and we’ve always been able to park in the first few rows!
Getting the Tickets
You can get tickets in advance through their website, or you can get it there. They also do run promotions through other sites like Groupon, so be on the lookout! We usually like to go during the twilight hours because this is a fun after nap activity – twilight hours start at 3 pm, and is discounted (as of 2017, this is only available at the Fair Box Office).
Entrance and Coat Check
Oh, I wish someone invented a scratch and sniff website!! It smells like Christmas there. Like Christmas spices, roasted chestnuts, warm apple cider, brandy, and eggnog.
After you get the tickets, you can walk right into the building. There is an ATM and a coat & gear check when you walk in. Many of the shops take cards, but the bar is cash only. So make sure you bring enough cash!
Once you see the place where you show your tickets —– WELCOME TO VICTORIAN TIMES LONDON!
Make sure you greet everyone with “Happy Christmas!!”
Food, Drinks, and Snacks
Make sure to come to the Dickens Fair hungry (I am talking about you – not the kids, hungry kids are never fun)! There are so many food options here. Anywhere from fish and chips, bangers and mash, meat pies, roast beef, and lots of desserts! Most of it is grab and sit down at a picnic table style, but if you want a special sit-down dinner, you can make reservations at the Tippling Toad. If you get enough people to come, it can be a private dining experience. They have a full course meal, and carolers come and sing for you during your meal. (Wine available by request.)
The Dickens Fair knows what they are doing when it comes to drinks! Eggnog and brandy, beer, wine, champagne, and hot apple cider and cocoa for non-alcoholic drinks. Some of the bars have absinthe too! You can get your drink at any of the bars, and walk around with your drinks! (Kind of like Vegas, but much cozier and family friendly.)
We also love the roasted chestnuts and sweet nuts stand. Great snacks and so festive. We also bring our own kid snacks, and we haven’t had any issues.
The shops at the Dickens Fair vary from books, ornaments, Christmas decorations, dresses and other outfits, and arts and crafts. We love getting ornaments from the Dickens Fair because they personalize it right there. It’s a nice keepsake we get every year.
The entire place is one big entertainment, with volunteer actors dressed up in Victorian costumes. They are walking around acting, interacting with people, or dancing around. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is visiting the Dickens Fair or who the actors are!
Our favorite entertainment at the Dickens Fair is the dancing stage. There are many people dancing to waltz, jigs, polkas – and you can join in on the fun! If you are going to dance with little ones, go to the center of the dance floor so you don’t become roadkill. Sometimes they have “guards” guarding your little ones against the flying dresses. 🙂
There are many stages at the Dickens Fair for plays, carolers, Santa, and some “adult” humor. Check them all out on their website here. We usually just walk around and stumble upon different shows on the way. No planning needed, you will always find something happening on one of the many stages.
We’ve never noticed before this year, but they have the best & coolest vintage carousel at the Dickens Fair! It’s gorgeous and so well done.
Besides all this, we’ve seen parrots, drunken pirates passed out on the floor, and mad hatters. You never know what you will see at the Dickens Fair!
What to Wear and Bring
Costumes are definitely encouraged at the Dickens Fair, so put on your best Victorian London costumes. This is the costume that Henry is wearing. I really want to get those gorgeous Victorian dresses. They sell them there, and for the cheaper ones, the entire ensemble cost about $500. Definitely contemplating it for when I no longer have to worry about getting dirty from being around two little boys.
You can bring a stroller in, and it is pretty easy to navigate it in there. However, it does get pretty crowded depending on when you go, so keep that in mind. If you have babies that can be worn, we highly encourage that. Forward facing if age appropriate, because they will love seeing everything that’s going on!
There are plenty of snacks there, but be sure to bring snacks for the kids just in case there’s a long line to get the food. (We never encountered much lines during the twilight hours at the Dickens Fair.) The fair is also very stimulating, so having snacks on hand might be an easy way to get them to sit down and watch a show or take a breather in general.
Tony and I have been going to the Dickens Fair since we started dating, through pregnancies and now two kids. We aren’t stopping anytime soon! We love going here, and we will keep going during the more quiet, and appropriate for drinking, twilight hours. We can’t wait for when the kids are old enough to sit through and watch some of the longer shows too!