Holidays at Filoli

Photo courtesy Filoli Historic House and Garden.

WOODSIDE, Calif. – If you find yourself in need of a little inspiration on how to decorate your home for the holiday season, head to Filoli Historic House & Garden. The opulent, old-world style estate sits on a sprawling 654 acres in Woodside. Originally a private residence complete with a 16-acre landscaped garden, Filoli was built for prominent San Franciscans, Mr. and Mrs. William Bourn II. The origins of the house’s unusual name comes from Mr. Bourn, who created it by combining the first two letters of his personal credo: Fight for a just cause. Love your fellow man. Live a good life. Thus, “Filoli.” The Bourns lived there from 1917 until 1936. The following year the estate sold to the Roths. Both the Roth and the Bourn families lavishly entertained each holiday season, and today, as a historic landmark, the Filoli Historic House & Garden carries on that tradition.

Photo by Drew Altizer, courtesy Filoli Historic House and Garden.

From now through December 30, the house has elegantly decked its halls and lit its bowers and garden with timeless decor and hundreds of twinkling lights. Visitors will experience the stately Georgian mansion and the beautifully maintained garden dressed in its Christmas finest, with each room featuring a different theme. Your holiday gift-giving need not be extravagant to warrant a stop in Filoli’s Clock Tower Shop. Situated in the Carriage House, the shop contains a variety of gifts and garden decor.

There are also many special seasonal events taking place throughout the month. At the Holiday Tea, guests can choose from a selection of tea blends and sample sumptuous fare such as finger sandwiches and freshly made scones. These British baked goods are best enjoyed with lemon curd, clotted cream and the one-of-a-kind Filoli Clock Tower Shop jam.

santa at filoli

Photo courtesy Filoli Historic House & Garden.

During Santa Saturdays, good little boys and girls (and maybe even a few naughty ones too) will enjoy a visit from St. Nick, stories with Mrs. Claus, arts and crafts, and singing and dancing to Christmas carols. Although Santa will leave his reindeer and sleigh at the North Pole, young visitors will enjoy his festively attired ponies. Animal lovers should also keep an eye out for Percy the Peacock, who makes Filoli Gardens his home year-round.

holidays at fioli historic house

Photo courtesy Filoli Historic House & Garden.

Celebrate the Winter Solstice at Filoli on December 18. This mid-winter adults-only fete is held in the garden where guests will enjoy sparkling wine, hors d’oeuvres and the holiday garden lights. On this magical night, the Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble will serenade visitors with traditional songs from the Balkans, Caucasus and Slavic lands. Beer, wine, and coffee will be available for purchase.

If you go: Filoli Historic House & Garden is located at 86 Cañada Road in Woodside. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Holiday ticket prices start at $25. Children 5 and under are free. Separate tickets are required for Santa Saturdays, the Holiday Teas, and the Winter Solstice event. For more information, call 650.364.8300 or visit

Your Town Daycations is a series featured in Your Town Monthly. A version of this article was originally published in the December 2019 print editions.