Are you looking for something fun to do this holiday season? In this episode of Hella Smart, we’re going to look at three Hella Christmas things to do in the East Bay area. We’ll explore everything from skating rinks to Santa sightings so you can make the most of your holidays.

Ice Skating At The Veranda

Our first hella Christmas thing to do in the East Bay is located at The Veranda Shopping Center in Concord: ice skating. Nothing says Christmas like ice skating outdoors on an artificial rink, just like God intended LOL.

If you’re hungry before or after ice skating, the ice rink is surrounded by a number of eateries. Also, The Veranda Shopping Center has lots more places to eat a short walk away. This retail center is conveniently located off Highway 6 near the Willow Pass exit. The ice rink itself is near the front of The Veranda Luxe Theater and IMAX.

Candy Cane Lane And Fairy Winterland

Our next Hella Christmas thing to do in East Bay is Candy Cane Lane in Pleasanton. For over 60 years, the homes here have been decked out for the Christmas season with bright lights, decorations, and all kinds of things to show. The neighborhood is in a festive mood, so take a walk or drive down the street and look at all the lights.

The next thing you’ll want to do is visit the Fairy Winterland at Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland. Open from December 17th to the 30th this year, this magical multicultural event is perfect for the young and the young at heart. At 6:30 each night, Black Santa will be there to lead the Festival of Lights Parade, a lot of fun for everyone. 

Additionally, if someone you know has a letter for Santa, they can drop it off in the mechanical mailbox located at the Chapel of Peace.

Happy Holidays!

I hope this gave you a good idea of some of the fun East Bay area events you can experience this season. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and I’ll be happy to provide more information.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel so you never miss an episode of Hella Smart. Make sure to stay tuned for the next episode, and I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season!

Did you know there’s an area of Concord, California that’s an amazing community gathering place? In this episode of Hella Smart, I’m going to give you a tour of Todos Santos Plaza in downtown Concord. We’ll explore everything from its location to amenities so you can plan your visit.

Historic Todo Santos Plaza

Todos Santos Plaza is located in downtown Concord, California. Here, you can enjoy a beautiful park, great restaurants, and fresh produce year-round from the farmer’s market. This historic 2.5-acre park was named one of the three great places in California by the American Planning Association. It’s also a great place to enjoy an outdoor concert or just relax in the East Bay sun.

The Concord BART station is a half-mile away from Todo Santos Plaza, a great way to avoid the hassle of parking. If you want to drive, there is metered street parking around the Plaza and two parking garages nearby on Salvio Street.

The Plaza also has a grassy public park at its center with trees for shade and free Plaza-wide Wi-Fi. So if you need to work or just want to surf the web, you can kick back on picnic tables or benches and watch the little ones run around on the children’s playground.

Fun And Food

Todo Santos Plaza also hosts live musical acts and entertainment on its elevated stage. Want to catch a movie or get a bite to eat around the Plaza? Check out the Brenden Movie Theater or grab some grub from one of the many eateries.

The food around Todos Santos Plaza includes ramen, sushi, New York-style pizza, burgers, chicken wings, cinnamon buns, curry, ice cream, gelato, sandwiches, Thai food, Italian food, boba tea, Himalayan food, Salvadoran food, a bar and grill, taqueria, hot dogs, a brewpub, a tap house, Peruvian food, bagels, poke, and more.

The Concord Farmer’s Market

In addition to ready-made dishes, you can also source the freshest ingredients to create your own culinary creations at home. Be sure to catch the weekly farmer’s market where you can buy fruits, vegetables, and more that the Bay Area has to offer.

The Concord Farmer’s Market is home to over 30 local vendors from all over the region. You’ll find booths of food vendors, local produce, ready-to-make food, and other items here. In the summertime, look for strawberries, melons, plums, cherries, tomatoes, and zucchini. In the fall, you can expect apples, pumpkins, winter squash, and Brussels sprouts.

Enjoy Concord Living

I hope this gave you a good idea of everything you can enjoy at Todos Santos Plaza here in Concord. If you have any questions about the area, feel free to reach out to me and I’d be happy to connect.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel so you never miss an episode of Hella Smart. Stay tuned to see what I feature in the next episode!


Are you looking for a place with great food, great coffee, and the perfect space to indulge your inner geek? In this episode of Hella Smart, I’m going to take you to Characterz Café right here in Pleasanton. We’ll chat with owner Crystal Diamond to learn all about her unique coffee shop and the fun things they offer.

The Beginning Of Characterz Café

Characterz Cafe is located here in Pleasanton, California on Sunol Boulevard. The café began as a love project created by Crystal with her business partner and best friend Mike Petrak. They’ve been in their current location for six years now, creating a space where people can come with their entire family to play games, have great coffee, and enjoy delicious food. It’s an amazing place for all ages to enjoy.

Crystal’s theme of gaming, comic books, and sci-fi fantasy comes from one word: nerd. She and her business partner and best friends are nerds. When the pair were playing games and getting coffee with three of their older kids, they’d make so much noise that Crystal and Mike would get uncomfortable. The business duo decided to bring together their collection of games and knowledge as coffee roasters to create a unique coffee shop experience.

Their labor of love includes customers that have become friends, adding their input to a collection of things that began 10 years ago. Characterz Café is now a safe place for all the people who were secretly playing dungeons and dragons, gaming, and wanting to argue about Star Wars. It’s become their place to go and revel in their geekiness while having coffee and some yummy food.

Beautiful Local Artwork

Another unique thing about Characterz Café is the beautiful artwork that adorns the walls and includes everything from fantasy and comic books. Crystal and Mike have talented friends, including John and Grant Miller. The pair did the artwork on the coffee shop walls when they were doing the super edition of remodeling. It was a surprise to Crystal, who was floored by the awesomeness of it when she walked in.

There are more individual squares of art on the wall, including canvas paintings done by Characterz’s art class teacher, Stephanie. All of the fun and funky décor create the perfect atmosphere for patrons to enjoy a game while sipping on a tasty drink.

Brews And Bites

Characterz Coffee Shop has a variety of coffee and cold drinks, many of which are sci-fi and fantasy-themed. Among their special beverage selection are a few Star Wars and Harry Potter-themed drinks. As Crystal tells me, they do have a super-secret menu—but it’s not so secret if you go on their Yelp or social media pages.

One example off the Star Wars menu is their signature Stormtrooper, an Oreo cookie blended drink that’s hands down one of the best. Customers can also choose vegetarian or vegan options with a variety of milk substitutes. And if you really want to get into the Star Wars spirit, you can ask for a cup of blue milk—or as you might know it, bantha milk. It can be made with any of their milk or milk substitutes and is both fun and delicious.

Another special drink is their BB-8 drink, aka the Orange Circle. This delicious beverage features white chocolate and orange whipped together, which will help you get you rolling if you add a shot of espresso in it. Characterz also features hot drinks, and you can even purchase cold brew by the bottle featuring their special blend. It’s just $13 for the first bottle and $10 for every refill. It’s a great option to take on a trip or have on hand at home when you can’t make it to the café.

Aside from their signature drinks, Characterz Café also has a delicious food menu. Their breakfast sandwich is the most popular item, a build-your-own option with a variety of choices. Whether you want a croissant with bacon and cheddar or a bagel with tomato and egg whites, you can make their sandwich your own. Lunchtime options are equally delicious, and you’ll find Mike’s secret sauce—a little spicy, a little garlicky—featured on their sandwiches. Their grilled cheese is another popular option, great to eat while playing games with friends.

Activities And Events

Characterz Café offers a variety of activities and events throughout the week. Every Tuesday night from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm and Sundays from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, the café hosts an adult gaming night. Every Friday is a D&D night, where people can sign up for a game on Characterz’s social media pages.

Additionally, every first Saturday is an art day where you can learn to paint new stuff. The second Saturday of the month is a crafters fair, where customers can purchase unique gifts for themselves or their families. The third Saturday is live music with the Bay Area Academy of Music, and the fourth Saturday of the month is the café’s tournament play. Games rotate monthly, and those who sign up and win get their name on a trophy.

Come Geek Out At Characterz Café

I hope this gave you a good idea of all the great coffee, food, and fun you can have here at Characterz Café in Pleasanton. Be sure to stop by and grab a Star Wars-themed drink to sip on while you a game with friends and family. You definitely won’t be disappointed.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel for more great local features. Stay tuned to the next episode of Hella Smart to see where we go next!