From Mad Sal’s Music Hall to Pickwick Place, we’ve mapped the ins and outs of celebrating the holiday season in Ole London Town.

Photos by Federica Armstrong

Welcome to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, enjoy a tour of London lead by the great Alfred Jingle Esquire. (Photo by Federica Armstrong)

It’s the most wonderful time of year! And by that, I mean it’s time for The Great Dickens Christmas Fair.

There are still five more weekends left to hop in the time machine and visit Victorian London. The perennially festive annual exploration of 19th Century England takes place every weekend until Christmas at the Cow Palace in Daly City.

Logically then, you might have a few questions about attending, how to dress, what to do, why to even go. Well, we have the answers for all that, with plenty of photos to match. So without further ado, here are our 10 tips for making the most of this year’s Dickens Fair.

On Nickeby Road you can buy fine gentlemen’s attire at Alan Jeffrey (top left) or just walk around among the many characters that mingle in the street of Dickens’ London. (Photos by Federica Armstrong)

1—Do you need a costume? No, no you do not!

When looking into attending the fair (or perusing our images of fine London Town) you might think— “I need a costume to really have a good time.” This is not true at all! I have never dressed in Victorian garb, authentic or otherwise, and have always had an enjoyable time at the fair. So whether you are dressed as though you just had tea with Mr. Dickens himself…or just sporting your Allbirds and hoodie, you will still be given a warm welcome and wished a happy Christmas.

2—Get a map! Want to know where the puzzle rings are? It’s on the map. What time is dancing at Fezzywig’s? It’s on the map. London is a large sprawling place, so get your bearings early and then proceed to enjoy the many sights and sounds. No matter how many times I go, at some point I get all mixed up and turned around. And while the pickpockets are very helpful and I have never left an interaction without my wallet it’s good to have the map and entertainment program.

Christmas carols at the Victoria & Albert Music Hall. (Photo by Federica Armstrong)

3—Look at the stage schedule (it’s with your map!) before you go.

Figuring out where to be when will help you navigate the stage shows at the fair. The dancers, singers, and performers put on a spectacular shows and it is worth it to spend some time at Fezziwig’s Dance Party or Mad Sal’s Dockside Ale House.

4—Bring cash. Most if not all of the food establishments are cash only and while ATMs are available with the crowds it can be a long wait and no one enjoys that when they are hungry.

Two young maidens head for the post office (note that the French Postcard Revue was already sold out). (Photo by Federica Armstrong)

5—Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue (18 and up only) get your free tickets first thing, they go fast! The Victorians were some kinky freaks and while the entertainment offered is not as licentious as the Victorian reality this titillating revue will offer you a taste of past entertainment. Sit back and enjoy a narration of these “living pictures” where the characters appear to be missing some quite important parts of their costumes.

Don’t miss the shows at Mad Sal’s Music Hall Extravaganza. (Photo by Federica Armstrong)

6—Mad Sal’s Dockside Ale House Have you ever gone to church at a bar? No? You must fix that right away. Every Sunday you can attend the Reverend Palmer’s Cockney Christmas Service and see him try and fail to bring the covey of three-penny-uprights back into the fold.

Wander through the streets of London and meet the characters of Fagin’s Den, on London Docs (top left); the Dickens Family Parlor with its busy kitchen on Nickelby Road (top right) and the Green Man Parlor hosting elegant dinners near Pickwick Place (middle and bottom left). (Photos by Federica Armstrong)

7—Hungry? Thirsty? Don’t worry!

Is it too early for a hot cider with rum? Never! Get your very own at any of the bars or public houses in London.

Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe- You are in England so have tea! Do make a reservation as they get busy.

Mr. Brown’s Fine Coffee and Tea- Turkish coffee and Chai made from scratch and Gingerbread cookies! Yes, yes, yes!

HMS Fish & Chips- You’re in England, go get your fish and chips. Piping hot and covered with vinegar and salt… you can’t go wrong for lunch.

The ever-busy Adorn Thy Hair shop on Petticoat Lane. (Photo by Federica Armstrong)

8—Adorn Thy Hair Feeling like you can do more with your hair? Do you want to see it all pretty and braided? Get thee to Adorn Thy Hair and let them work magic. The hairstyles can last a few days with proper care and stylist are very conscious of budget. People of all ages are welcomed and encouraged to have their hair adorned.

Seductive windows at Windows Dark Garden located near Maiden Lane. (Photos by Federica Armstrong)

9—The Windows of Dark Garden Underpinnings make the outfit and sometimes they are the outfit. Check out the windows of the beautiful boutique, are those mannequins or humans? If you yearn for adornments of your own head over the Dark Gardens San Francisco location and be expertly fitted.

Michael Stuart action packed Coin Strike located near Golden Square. (Photos by Federica Armstrong)

10—Coin Strike If you have kids or are a kid at heart make sure to stop by Michael Stewart’s coin strike operation. Stewart designed his first coin press mint in 1972 and has been going ever since. Come see a coin struck by 40 tons of force and hear what that sounds like. You can design your own medallion to take home too if you are so entranced by the process.

All Hail the Queen. (Photo by Federica Armstrong)

PS—Don’t forget to be on the lookout for Queen Victoria, Mr. Dickens himself, Father Christmas, and a whole cast of characters as you wander the streets. Sometimes, it’s not just what you do, it’s who you see that makes your day.

With chimney sweeps and naval captains, flower ladies and noble gentlemen enjoy the mesmerizing experience of the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. (Photos by Federica Armstrong)

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party takes place every Saturday and Sunday from now until Christmas, at the Cow Palace in Daly City. For info, times and tickets….click here.

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