If you've ever asked for a time machine for Christmas and been left disappointed when Santa didn't deliver, let the Kern County Museum take you back to the late 1800s this weekend.
The museum is bringing back its Holiday Lamplight Tours on Saturday after a year off. In addition to lanterns lighting the grounds, the evening will also include tours of the museum's houses led by costumed docents, a carriage ride, carolers, cloggers, tea at the Fellows Hotel and all the chilly Christmasy vibes one could want.
"This is one of the few times it's open at night, and the museum is gorgeous at night with the Christmas decorations and the lanterns," said Grace Martin, director of development at the museum. "We don't do a big show with lights, we stick to the traditional lanterns and wreaths ... You really do feel transported."
At the Holiday Lamplight Tours, guests will be able to tour houses like the Lopez-Hill house, the Howell house and the Merle Haggard home. Docents will talk about the era of the different houses and how its original residents would have celebrated Christmas, as well as about the residents themselves.
"We try to tailor it individually to each house, specifically to the era that house is interpreted in," Martin said. "For some houses that we do have more specifics on, they'll learn the background on the families that lived there."
Guests can also see the museum grounds from a carriage ride, which will cost $5. The ride lasts about 15 minutes and can accommodate between nine and 12 people, Martin said, so space could be limited.
During the evening, the Fellows Hotel will host a Victorian Tea, offering drinks and snacks for sale and a place to warm up. Coffee and tea will cost $2 and alcoholic drinks will be $7. There will also be food available for purchase from various vendors, including Ben & Jerry's, Carnie Kettle Corn, Michelangelo's Pizza and tamales and churros.
Last year, the museum decided to try something new for its annual holiday event, replacing Holiday Lamplight Tours with Christmas at the Village, a daytime event that kept the tours but nixed the lights. The thinking behind the decision was that people might be more inclined to come out without the threat of a cold night, but Martin said attendance was about the same as a good-weather night at the regular Lamplight event.
"We had some feedback that people missed the nighttime portion of it," Martin said. "Especially with this year being so warm, people enjoy being bundled up and pulling out coats and hats."
So far, ticket sales are doing well, Martin said, with about 200 sold so far. Because the museum is so big and unlikely to sell out, most people buy tickets the day of the event at the door, she said.
With the size of the museum, completely decorating it for the season takes a lot of work, without a single elf to help make the magic happen.
"Every year we do our best to be decorated by the first of December, so we hit it hard after Thanksgiving," Martin said. "Our staff worked really hard."
The museum will be dressed for the holidays all December, and it will hold two other Christmas events on Dec. 16: a Tinsel & Tea holiday tea party and A Very Merry Lori Brock Christmas.
Tinsel & Tea is for children 5 to 12 years old and their families and includes a catered lunch, hot chocolate, tea, an art project with Color Me Mine, holiday songs, photos and a visit from Mrs. Claus. The event will go from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and costs $40. Space is limited and tickets must be bought by Sunday.
A Very Merry Lori Brock Christmas will go from 1 to 3 p.m. and includes treat-making, crafts, photos with Santa Claus and a performance of "Dude, Where's My Sleigh?" by Omnipresent Puppet Theater at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $10, or free for museum members.