Looking for a holiday escape with exotic people, colorful language, music, shows and some tasty food and drink? You don't need to go to the airport -- just head to the Cow Palace for the 34th annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Every holiday season, the fair transforms the erstwhile hockey and rodeo venue into a slice of Dickens' Victorian London, with fully costumed actors, period sets, shows, music, crafts, food, and spirits inspired by classics like A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. And unlike Oliver Twist, when you ask for some more food, you are very likely to get it.
Staffed by hundreds of actors and volunteers, Dickens Fair recreates many street scenes from 19th century London and there's no lack of options for food and drink. "We are very proud of the variety of food offered at the Dickens Fair. You won't find hot dogs and hamburgers here, but rather bangers and meat pies and other lovely treats from the British Empire and beyond," said Fair Executive Director Kevin Patterson.
On the streets, the smell of snacks like cinnamon crunch almonds and freshly roasted chestnuts from the Chestnut Cart fills the air. For heartier fare, HMS Fish & Chips, the Roasting Beef Inn, Mr. Barker's Bangers, and Heritage Meat Pies serve English classics. For a complete, private, sit-down Christmas feast, guests can reserve a seat at the Tippling Toad. And since Victorians loved their sweets, a full range of confections are on offer, from a cookie and milk parlor all the way to artisan chocolates from Bramosia Fine Chocolates and Candies (there are even vegan and gluten-free options for the more "progressive" Victorian).
If you are in need of some libations to slake your thirst, Dickens Fair doesn't disappoint. For civilized sips, coffee and tea at Mr. Brown's or a complete "high tea" at Cuthbert's are authentic options. But if looking for a little more "spirit," Dickens Fair offers four pubs and inns with draft ales, toddies, spiced mead and wine (and perhaps a few songs). And for those who desire an authentic Victorian drinking experience, a visit to The Bohemian Absinthe Bar is a must. No visit to the 19th century is quite complete without meeting the "green fairy".
Dickens Fair runs from November 23rd to December 23rd. Tickets are $25 for adults, $21 for students/seniors/military, $12 for kids 5-12 years old, and free for children under 5. A "Pickwick Club" season pass ($80) lets you return whenever you please. Check out the event's website for more information, ticket sales, and restaurant reservations.