Every Christmas, Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont decks itself out in Victorian-era style for a grand holiday celebration. This year it's from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Festivities will include tours of the decorated Patterson house, Christmas caroling and other live music, a search for the yule log, visits with Father Christmas, and a homemade Christmas cookie contest (bring your cookies and the recipe). Fees for the event are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and older, $5 for children 4 through 17. Parking is free.

Other Christmas season activities are centered on the Patterson House. House staff and docents will lead tours at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Dec. 12-13 and Dec. 19-20; and at 11 a.m., noon, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Dec. 14-15. The fee is $4 for adults and seniors, $3 for children 3 and older, plus farm admission.

And there's a Christmas Evening at the Patterson House scheduled from 5 to 8:45 p.m. Dec. 13. For ticket information, visit www.regerec.com. Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. For information, call 510-544-2797.

MINING REMAINS: Geology -- specifically the geology on display in the townsite at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch -- will be featured in a hike there from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, led by naturalist Bob Kanagaki.

Because of the coal deposits in what is now the park, the mining town of Somersville was one of Contra Costa's largest communities back in the 19th century. Little remains of it now.


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The hike is designed for ages seven and older. Meet Kanagaki at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4. The hike is free of charge; the park has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

lADYBUGS IN WINTER: A ladybug hunt is the goal of a moderate, 2½-mile hike from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday, at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. The insects gather in large clusters on bushes as they winter there.

This is one of the family-friendly Saturday and Sunday Strolls series. Meet at the park's Canyon Meadow staging area. It's at the end of the park entrance road, which is on Redwood Road about two miles east of the intersection with Skyline Boulevard in the Oakland hills. For details, call 510-544-3187.

If you can't make the hike, there's a good chance you'll see the ladybugs on your own if you walk Redwood Park's Stream Trail to the junction with the Prince Trail. In past years that junction has been one of their favorite hangouts. No collecting, please, it's against the law. Just enjoy observing them in their natural habitat. Dogs are welcome at Redwood, but they must be leashed along the Stream Trail and in picnic areas and parking lots.

While we're talking Redwood, volunteers are needed for a project to remove French broom and restore the environment for native plants. The work session is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Meet at the Canyon Meadow staging area to help with removal along the East Ridge Trail. Tools will be provided. For details, call 888-327-2757, option 3, ext. 4553.

make it and take it: Craft making is the focus of two free programs this weekend at Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley.

From 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, interpretive student aide Tricia Radis will show how to create a beautiful nature picture on a glass jar. Bring a jar and learn about reusing old materials in general. The program is for children 5 and older, with parental help.

From 11 a.m. to noon Sunday, naturalist James Wilson will host a program on working with wool. You can watch as a spinning wheel is used to turn carded wool into yarn and create a felted holiday ornament to take home. Both programs are at Tilden's Environmental Education Center. To get there, park on Lone Oak Road off Central Park Drive, then follow the signs to walk to the center. For details, call 510-544-2233.

A favorite holiday season attraction at Tilden is the merry-go-round Christmas fantasy. From now through Dec. 23, the historic merry-go-round is open 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. nightly, regardless of weather, decorated in holiday style. Seasonal food and drink such as gingerbread and hot apple cider are sold. Santa visits every evening except Wednesdays. The merry-go-round is on Central Park Drive a bit downhill from the junction with Wildcat Canyon Road.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.