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Historic Homes for the Holidays

Many historic homes around the bay area get all decked out for the holidays and invite the public to come for high tea, or special tours. Here are some places you may want to visit this season with out of town guests, or as a special treat to enjoy with local friends and family.

Dec. 2-17: Dunsmuir-Hellman, Oakland

The historic Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland will again be transformed into an Edwardian masterpiece for this year’s “Holiday Tradition.” Events will run from noon to 4 p.m. on weekends from Dec. 2-17.

Get inspiration for your own seasonal home decor from the opulent decorations in the 37-room mansion and spend some time shopping in the Mansion Gift Shop. There are Holiday High Teas for adults and children and Brunch with Santa, too. Though time slots fill up early, visitors can still enjoy carriage rides, entertainment, shopping and tours of the house. Find Dunsmuir-Hellman at 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland. Tickets:

Nov. 15: History Museum, Los Altos

Take part in “Catch the Spirit” at the Los Altos History Museum on Nov. 15 with a guided tour of the J. Gilbert Smith History House, a historic property that will be decorated for a 1930s Christmas. Listen to talks by local authors; shop in the boutiques; and enjoy refreshments from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free; 51 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos;

Nov. 16-19: Montalvo, Saratoga

The Montalvo Arts Center, the exquisite 1912 Saratoga manse built by Sen. James Duval Phelan, hosts “Bedazzled: Yuletide Marketplace” from Nov. 16-18. On these three days, the villa morphs into a venue where you’ll find handcrafted gifts, clothing, holiday decor and edible treats to purchase from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Montalvo’s champagne tea and children’s tea are scheduled for Nov. 19. Marketplace admission is free; make tea reservations at

Nov. 16-Dec. 17: Ainsley House, Campbell

This historic home, a 1925 Tudor-style Cotswold cottage that was home to a local canning pioneer, holds holiday teas, tours and a gift boutique through mid-December. Photos with Santa will be held Nov. 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Evening open houses are scheduled for Dec. 14 and 17. For tea reservations, tickets and tour times, check; 300 Grant St.

Nov. 18-Dec. 23: Filoli, Woodside

Big changes are afoot this holiday season at the regal Filoli in Woodside. The historic estate will be open for 30 days’ worth of events instead of the usual 10 — from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, with extended hours till 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

“Santa Saturdays” will feature special family activities, visits by Santa and readings by Mrs. Claus. On Friday and Saturday nights, “Garden Lights” will illuminate the Sunken Garden and the Walled Garden. Guided tours will feature stories of holidays past, themed classes will show you how to decorate your home and entertainment will be offered daily in the mansion. Holiday teas are scheduled every Tuesday. Tickets, details: 86 Cañada Road;

Nov. 25-Dec. 10: Shadelands, Walnut Creek

Again this year, the Walnut Creek Historical Society will host a two-week-long Holiday Faire, plus Victorian teas, at the Shadelands Ranch Museum. Dozens of vendors will sell handcrafted items and gifts in the lavishly decorated 1903 Colonial Revival home from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

The luncheon — offered twice daily, at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. — features traditional scones and the Secret Shadelands Tea Blend. This year, a champagne tea has been added on Dec. 2. Holiday Faire admission is free; tea tickets are $35. Tickets, details: 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road;

Dec. 1, Valle Monte League

This marks the 50th year that the Valle Monte League, a nonprofit that supports mental health causes, has sponsored Christmas Tree Elegance. The Dec. 1 brunch is sold out, but there are tickets available to the evening fashion show and dinner at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Tickets:

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