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As a year when most of us have been feeling that life is still upside down comes to its end, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair has decided to turn itself inside out.

The annual Victorian-themed holiday extravaganza, which reverted to an all-virtual “Dickens Fair at Home” in 2020 for the first time in its 50-plus-year history, is returning in triumph to the Cow Palace in San Francisco, staging many of its events outside the exhibition hall at 2600 Geneva Ave. in the expansive parking lot surrounding it for a version we’ll experience in our cars.

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Dubbed “Drive Thru Dickens’ London,” the fair will kick off on Dec. 4 and run on weekends only through Dec. 19, charging each car full of attendees $25 to traverse the grounds while taking in the sights of Victorian street scenes, enjoying live entertainment on two stages and ordering, from behind their steering wheels, a variety of food and drinks from the era at an outdoor version of the fair’s Grand Concourse.

Those who are familiar with the fair from the pre-pandemic era will recognize some of the boisterous dance, comedy and music acts in continuous rotation on a Covent Garden stage, with ample parking providing good views. The Paddy West Singing Sailors will be bellowing out their sea shanties as usual, the Victorian Bobbies will be swinging their nightsticks and the London Chimney Sweeps will be as lovably antic as ever. 

This map explains how “Drive Thru Dickens’ London” will work. (© Red Barn Productions, map art by Don Carson Creative)

Drivers and passengers will also be able to select from a panoply of items to purchase suitable for holiday gift-giving, such as hand-dipped candles, ornaments, children’s painting sets and traditional rum cakes, which will be delivered to their cars along with their food orders. Tickets for timed-entry, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekend day, are at dickensfair.com.

Meanwhile, the “Dickens Fair at Home” virtual events, which proved to be a hit last year, are being reprised, with new content posted for free viewing during the same three-weekend period as the live show.

Visit dickensfair.com/dickens-fair-at-home to participate in such diversions as hearing an actor portraying the venerable author himself reading from his famous “A Christmas Carol.” There will also be an online shopping portal that will give access to a multitude of craftspeople and food and clothing purveyors who have supplied their goods to the live fair in the past.