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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Great Dickens Christmas Fair starts Friday, November 27

With Thanksgiving upon us, it's time to say, "'Tis the season!" And nothing beats the Great Dickens Christmas Fair for putting one in the mood! The GDCF will start this Friday right after Thanksgiving and continues on weekends until December 20.

Pretty much all that you'd want to know about The GDCF can be found at their website, There's a lot to keep you busy: food to eat, shows to watch, things to buy, drink to drink. Ha ha. But I'll tell you some things that might make your visit a tad more enjoyable. Things I wished I had known before I went for the first time.

Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue

Since you're most likely a fan of burlesque, make sure to get your tickets to the Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue (18 and over, please) as soon as you get there. The tickets don't cost extra, but seating is limited and that's how they allocate seats. Last year, I got there at about 3 or 4pm, and they had already given out their entire allotment of tickets.

If, however, you can't get a ticket, you can try showing up at the show anyway. That's what I did. They had a "stand by" line. A couple of minutes before showtime, they let in the people from that line if there were still some empty seats. So I got in. Yay!

After 5pm is what the Fair calls, "Dickens After Dark." In addition to the Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue, there is also Saucy Sorcery. Apparently, things just get plain saucy after the sun goes down. ;-)

Dark Garden Unique Corsetry Booth and Windows

Dark Garden's founder and owner is also a burlesque performer who goes by the names of Honey Le Bang and Miss Information. Her corsets are incredible and you'll want to stop by the booth, which is like a little shop, and at least browse through the selections.

The booth also has some windows in which live models wear Dark Garden fashions. They're usually engaged in some kind of "activity." The windows and models are always a popular attraction. There's just something about people pretending to be mannequins that just fascinates us!

RJ Johnson,Dark Garden Corsetry,Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Dark Garden windows 2008. Photo by RJ Johnson

Parking and such

The GDCF is in the Exposition Halls of the Cow Palace, which is below and around the main hall where they have the rodeos and hockey games. You'll be sure to want to park in the lot closest to those lower halls, as the walk is otherwise a rather long one.

Oh, and parking is $10. So you'll be sure to want to include that in your budget. Of course MUNI stops nearby, and there's a free BART shuttle available.

Bring a Map and Arrange a Meeting Place

The GDCF is a relatively large event. And the area is arranged in "streets," so it's a good idea to take a map. One is available at It's often crowded, and it's kind of dark, so I got lost. Ha ha. If you're going with a group, you'll probably want to arrange a meeting place in advance to avoid confusion.


If you go on a day that's crowded, expect to wait in a line for restrooms. There's two sets of restrooms, but I wouldn't wait until you positively, absolutely have to go. Especially if you're a woman. I remember seeing long lines at the women's restrooms. Be prepared to wait for 5 minutes or so.

Wear layered clothing

I remember the halls as being somewhat chilly. You'll notice in the video that people tend to wear coats or sweaters. I don't think there's much heating in those lower halls, but the body heat of the crowd wards off the real cold. So sometimes you may be warm, other times kind of cold.


The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a jolly good time. There's definitely an element or two that attracts the burlesque crowd, though there's a lot that also attracts families. For those of you who haven't checked out the GDCF website yet, I've copied the main information below.

Oh! And I remember as I was exiting, there was a dance happening at the ballroom near the exit. So if you like to dance and have a partner, you'll be sure to want to see if you can get on the dance floor. In fact, there's some video footage of the dance at the beginning of the second video above.

Thanks to DanceDispatch and CatTaylor2 for the YouTube videos!

Happy Holidays!

What: The Great Dickens Christmas Fair: A holiday adventure into Victorian London, partying with hundreds of costumed players in 90,000+ square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance parties and Christmas shops on winding lanes. It’s a twilight evening in Charles Dickens’ London Town – a city filled with lively and colorful characters from both literature and history. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air.
Cries of street vendors hawking their wares ring out above the bustling crowd. Dozens of lamplit shops are filled to overflowing with Christmas presents. New this year: each patron receives a Victorian name, a Passport to the Past, and tokens for prizes if the Timegame is well played. And it’s all in a Holiday Humor!
Where: Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, 2600 Geneva Avenue, San Francisco
When: Four Weekends including the Friday after Thanksgiving, November 27, 28, 29, Dec. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 2009; 11:00am - 7:00 pm
Who: Brought to you by Red Barn Productions and the Patterson Family, who created and directed the popular Renaissance Pleasure Faire at Black Point in Marin for 25 years, the Dickens Christmas Fair is a treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970.
Ticket Prices
at the Gate:
General Admission: $22.00
Student/Senior/Military: $19.00
Children 5-11: $10.00
Children Under 5 are Free
Groups of 15 or more: $17.00
Pickwick Club (Fair season pass):
$55.00 adult / $25.00 children
(available from our office or at the fair)
For discount advance ticket information, click here.
Parking: $10.00 (charged by the Cow Palace)
Public Transport: Take Bart or Muni to the GLEN PARK Bart Station. The Fair operates (for the first time!) a free Courtesy Shuttle to and from the Glen Park Bart station every 20 minutes, from 11:15 AM to 7:00 PM each Fair day.
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