The West is a big, big place, and every week our staff is all over it, digging up the shops and restaurants, beaches and trails, performances and, well, phenomena that make the region so vibrant. Here’s the Best of the West this week

Academy of Sciences Scuba Santa
Kathryn Whitney © California Academy of Sciences

Let the Holiday Magic Commence

Kathryn Whitney © California Academy of Sciences

True, the turkey hasn’t even gone in the oven yet, but this week at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences all the special winter wonderland fun begins. With school out for Thanksgiving weekend, I’m on the hunt for fun experiences to share with my kids, and our favorite science museum kicked off its winter holiday offerings last Friday. What’s in store? A special exhibit exploring natural life in the Arctic, twice-hourly snow flurries in the interior piazza, and special appearances by a scuba diving Santa in the aquarium and reindeer in the garden. Factoring in all the museum’s other offerings, who needs to see Frozen II? —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

A Holiday Display We Wish Stayed up All Year

It seems like holiday decorations go up earlier every year. Sometimes that’s not such a bad thing, though. One winter wonderland I don’t mind seeing before Thanksgiving is the Holiday Windows display at Macy’s, in downtown San Francisco. Every year, Macy’s joins forces with the San Francisco SPCA to create utterly charming storefront scenes that include live animals. All of the fluffy creatures—traditionally cats and dogs, but rabbits, guinea pigs, and even chinchillas will be included this year—are up for adoption. If you make a love connection with one through the glass, you can go inside and meet the potential fur baby to decide if you want to make it part of your family. The animals are on display from 10am-7pm every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day from now through January 1. (The animals go back to their state-of-the-art, no-kill shelter at night, and no one animal stays in front of the crowds for long.) If you don’t have plans to be in San Francisco this holiday season, no worries: You can livestream the fluffy action any time you want. —Nicole Clausing, digital producer

How the Grinch Stole Christmas Musical in Balboa Park, San Diego

Courtesy of The Old Globe Theater

I’ve made no secret of my devotion to the holiday canon, whether it’s ingesting in bulk the annual fusillade of lukewarm Hallmark and Lifetime Channel fare or seeking out variants of The Nutcracker across the country. If you’re not careful, it all blends together into a soup of nostalgia and candy-cane bits—but a week or so ago I had the good fortune to catch something new (to me, anyway; this has actually been happening since 1998): a lively performance of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park, San Diego. Working from a medium-sized stage with an inventive, cartoon-inspired set, the troupe brings to life the story you know and love: Grinch hates Christmas; loots Christmas; is caught mid-act and converted by Cindy-Lou Who; repents; town rejoices. The cast (and audience) bursts with glee and whimsy. Theodor Geisel might have grown up in Springfield, Massachusetts, but he and his wife Audrey retired in La Jolla and helped support this production and many others. In fact, due to Audrey’s generosity, San Diego is the only place in America where you can count on seeing multiple performances of this show every week during the holiday season. —Matt Bean, editor in chief

Tickets to Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, from $39

A Serving of Portland History

Heather Arndt Anderson

After I’ve gotten my Thanksgiving menu all planned and my prep all done, all I really want is Chinese food. Chin’s Kitchen has been open in Portland for 70 years as a mainstay of classic American Chinese food, but a few years ago the restaurant was bought by a family from Harbin in the far northeast of China. And thankfully, they brought their Dongbei cuisine with them. The hand-made dumplings (the pork and Chinese sauerkraut are my go-to) are rustic, with a warm, brothy dipping sauce, and the hand-pulled noodles are everything you wish lo mein could be. But at the end of the day, my favorite thing about this place is that it’s a piece of living Portland history. Heather Arndt Anderson, garden editor

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