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La Jolla Mom - 20 Holiday Events Around San Diego County

20 San Diego Holiday Happenings: Fun For The Entire Family

Buon Natale Gondola at Loews Coronado Bay Resort

Looking for ways to entertain the kids (and pets, in some cases) during the holiday season? There is a lot to do in San Diego. Here are a few fabulous ideas that have crossed my radar.

Buon Natale at Loews Coronado Bay Resort: See the photo above? That could be you on the Loews Coronato “Buon Natale” gondola cruise, featuring a Santa Gondolier serenading guests with Christmas carols while cruising the canals and waterways of the neighboring Coronado Cays. Call to book.

Hotel Del Coronado:  There is always lots to do during the holiday season at the Hotel Del.  Happenings include a merry mix of activities, such as an elegant Victorian Tea, cookie decorating, a Kidtopia Camp with holiday scavenger hunts, family s’mores roasts on the beach and Elf Tuck-ins. Call to book.

Mrs. Claus at La Costa Resort and Spa:  This year La Costa Resort and Spa has introduced new holiday programming for families including the Holiday Hayride, with the final destination — the “North Pole.”  There will be story telling by Mrs. Claus, holiday crafts, s’mores and cookie decorating.  Date and time: On the following Saturdays and Sundays –December 14 & 15, 21 & 22, 28 & 29 from 6:30pm-8:30pm. Cost: $10 per child; $7 per adult.

Breakfast with Santa at Neiman Marcus: Enjoy a nice breakfast at  Neiman Marcus San Diego’s Zodiac restaurant while carolers and Santa  roam the room. After the breakfast, everyone has the opportunity to have pictures with Santa. A professional photographer will be on site and pictures will print while you wait. Date and time: Saturdays, December 8 and 15 at 8:30am. Cost $45 for kids and $55 for adults. Includes breakfast and pictures.

“Santa Paws” at Hotel La Jolla:  Back by popular demand, Santa Paws will once again return to Kimpton hotels around the nation, providing a great opportunity for locals and guests to celebrate the season with other fun-loving pet friends. This year, the new coastal-chic Hotel La Jolla invites folks to bring their furry friends and family to have a complimentary photo taken with Santa and delight in tasty treats, surprise giveaways from Muttropolis and Rancho Coastal Humane Society, and toast to the most wonderful time of year amidst festive décor and toys in the property’s living room-style lobby. Human companions also are welcome to bring their cameras to snap pictures of their pets with Santa. Date and time:  December 8 and 9 from 2:00pm-4:00pm.

Go ice skating outdoors:  Take the kids to the Hotel Del Coronad0’s Skating by the Sea, Viejas Outlets enormous outdoor rink or Sycuan’s Fantasy on Ice (near Horton Plaza) to ice skate. Read more about each experience here.

37th Annual Coronado Christmas Parade and Open House: Children can play in real snow on Snow Mountain (3:00pm-8:00pm) at the Coronado Ferry Landing and greet Santa Claus as he arrives to Coronado by ferryboat (3:20 pm). Watch the Holiday Parade (6:00pm-7:00pm) and stroll Orange Avenue (closed to cars from 5:00pm-9:00pm) to shop the Merchants Open House. Both are followed by the traditional lighting of a 50-foot Christmas tree (7:00pm) and free community concert in Rotary Park. Date and time: Friday, December 7 from 3:00pm-9:00pm. Admission is free.

41st Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights: The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights features more than 100 private boats decorated with holiday lights and sailing along the waters of San Diego Bay. This year’s theme is “Our 41st Anniversary, USS Santa Claus.” The parade is followed by a dazzling fireworks show over the water. The Coronado Island Marriott Resort and Coronado Ferry Landing, a charming collection of gift shops, art galleries and restaurants, offer great viewing from the shore. Date and time: Sundays, December 16 and 23 from 5:30pm-9:00pm. Fireworks follow the parade.

Head to La Mesa: The delightful downtown of La Mesa is transformed into a Victorian wonderland during its old-fashioned Christmas in the Village. The family-friendly event features horse-drawn carriages, strolling minstrels, carolers and street entertainers along La Mesa Boulevard. Carnival rides, ponies, puppet shows, live music stages and an outdoor market round out the traditional holiday fun. Date and time: December 14 and 15 from 5:00pm-10:00pm.

16th Annual Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Festival: The village of Alpine celebrates the season with this fun event featuring a popular parade, a visit from Santa and his helpers, Christmas caroling and a snow mountain for sledding at the Alpine Community Center. Date and time: Friday, December 7 from 6:30pm-9:00pm.

Julian’s 17th Annual Holiday Home Tour: Guests can explore some of East County’s most picturesque country homes. Good cheer and seasonal tidings abound as guests are personally chauffeured and welcomed into five spectacular homes, all decked out in festive holiday splendor. Date and time:  Friday, December 7. Tours are offered at 9:00am and 1:00pm.  Tickets cost $20 per person and must be purchased in advance

Balboa Park December Nights: A two-day holiday celebration of food, entertainment and fun where the numerous museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, the nation’s largest urban cultural park, open their doors free of charge. December Nights festivities in the park include carolers, live music, holiday light displays, theater and dance performances and delicious foods from around the world. Date and time: December 7 and 8 from 5:00pm-9:00pm. Admission is free.

Old Town State Historic Park’s Holiday in the Park: Decked out for the holidays during Holiday in the Park, guests can enjoy holiday treats, activities and extended shopping hours, along with strolling carolers on December 15. On December 16, watch the 62nd Anniversary Las Posadas, a centuries-old tradition in which actors reenact the biblical journey of Mary and Joseph through the town of Bethlehem. Date and time: December 15 and 16. Times for events vary.

Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade:  Owners and their dressed-up pets march down the decorated streets of the neighborhood in the pet parade and end at a Pet Expo featuring an awards ceremony for best-dressed pups and more. Date and time: Sunday, December 9 at 3:00pm.

Big Bay Balloon Parade:  It’s the country’s largest balloon parade. Floats, balloons and marching bands are just some of the offerings in this colorful holiday parade that takes place along San Diego Bay in downtown San Diego.  Date and time:  Thursday, December 27 at 10:00pm.

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights: Over 100 brightly illuminated powerboats and sailboats parade along Mission Bay. The Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights ends with a fantastic fireworks show at 9:00 pm above SeaWorld San Diego. Date and time: Saturday, December 8 at 7:00pm with fireworks at 9:00pm.

Poway’s Christmas in the Park: The event features a tree lighting ceremony, visit from Santa, train rides, live music, theatre performances, food, treats, crafts and more. Date and time:  Saturday, December 8 from 3:30pm-8:30pm. Admission is free.

Poinsettia Bowl Battle of the Bands: Rock out in the Gaslamp Quarter. Held two days prior to the annual Poinsettia Bowl, which is played in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, bands representing the two Bowl football teams line up at opposite ends of Fifth Avenue in downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter and face-off in an old-fashioned battle of the bands. Date and time:  December 17 at 6:00pm. Admission is free.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo:  There will be holiday decor, Santa, snow flurries and more as the San Diego Zoo celebrates the holidays. Date and time: From December 16-January 6 from 9:00am-8:00pm.

Take pictures with Santa: See this list of 16 places in San Diego to see Santa. Note that you can buy a VIP pass at most Westfield malls and skip the line!

Missing anything you like to do? Leave a comment!

*Photo courtesy of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Maureen - June 15, 2015

    You can always visit some of 21 California Missions as well. These historic places are great to visit these days.

  • Mark - December 29, 2014

    You can add Special Behind-the-Scenes Tour for 4th Graders & Their Family on Saturday Jan. 17th too. At old Mission at Oceanside, CA.

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I'm Katie Dillon, a freelance luxury travel writer who lives in seaside La Jolla, CA. This is where I document my recent trips around the world, the latest San Diego happenings and other fun lifestyle topics. Thanks for stopping by!

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