San Diego events and festivals draw visitors to our city from around the globe for music, the fair, horseracing, seasonal discounts, and outdoor fun. Knowing when upcoming events are happening can enhance your stay or explain why hotel rates might be unusually elevated.
Summer San Diego Events
San Diego County Fair (Formerly Known as the Del Mar Fair)
At the end of May, our county fair kicks off for about a six-week run at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, with a calendar full of events ending on July 4. Go to visit the many attractions, enjoy rides, attend a big-name concert or festival, and eat some of our famous (often fried) fair food. The San Diego County Fair also now offers a season pass, a good option for residents.
Del Mar Horse Racing
Horse racing takes place from roughly mid-July to early-September at the Del Mar Racetrack, where the “turf meets the surf.” This summer horse-racing tradition dates back to 1937 when Bing Crosby personally greeted attendees at the gate, and Hollywood darlings frequented the races.
Go to bet on your favorite horse and jockey. Concerts with major headlining bands happen on Fridays as do family days on the infield (with games and other activities) typically on Sundays. Check the schedule of events before heading out to the track.
Summer Movies in the Park
During the summer months, Balboa Park hosts free movie screenings for families at Morley Field starting at dusk, usually about 15 minutes after sunset. Other public parks around town also host outdoor movies. Even the USS Midway Museum participates. The list can be found here.
Twilight in the Park
Also in Balboa Park, the Spreckels Pavilion puts on evening concerts (in addition to the weekly Sunday afternoon shows) called Twilight in the Park. The genres range from salsa to country to swing. Enjoy these free concerts from June to August, every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday starting at 6:30 p.m. with special themed events to kick off the show starting at 5:30 p.m.
An average of 170,000 people show up in costumed glory for the four-day event that is Comic-Con. It’s held at the San Diego Convention Center in downtown San Diego during the summer (usually July). Hotels in and near the downtown area sell out well in advance. Even San Diego hotels on the beach sell out.
Even if you could secure a downtown San Diego hotel, you might want to think twice about it if not attending Comic-Con because of the crowds (the people watching, however, is quite entertaining). Read our tips for taking the kids to Comic-Con.
Fall San Diego Events
Kids Go Free San Diego
October is the perfect time to visit San Diego as both residents and tourists can enjoy the annual Kids Free San Diego offers throughout the month, in which over 100 museums, attractions, tours, hotels, and restaurants participate.
Offers vary, but it’s usually that kids receive free admission, meals and more when accompanied by a paid adult. It’s a great way to experience the long list of the things to do in San Diego with kids.
TIPDuring the rest of the year you can save money on sightseeing with a Go San Diego pass.
San Diego Beer Week
San Diego Beer Week events happen across the county over ten days celebrate independent breweries and all things beer. Attend the massive Guild Fest kickoff party and tastings throughout the event.
San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival
Hundreds of award-winning chefs, wineries, and brewers participate in the eight-day San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival which usually happens in mid-November. Attend over a dozen events including expeditions, special lunches and dinners, speaking and demonstration panels, parties, and the headlining Grand Tasting experience at the Embarcadero. The latter is the food San Diego festival of the year.
Miramar Air Show
Held at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the Miramar Air Show is a three-day event and the largest of its kind in the United States. Go to see nonflying displays and historic military aircraft from all branches of the military along with spectacular aerial performances. Not to be missed are the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flying aerobatic team who perform daily at the show.
Winter San Diego Events
At the beginning of December for only two nights, Balboa Park turns into a winter wonderland full of rides, games, music, and more. December Nights is a wildly popular, top-rated San Diego holiday event.
Because of that, parking is notoriously difficult, but you can easily take one of the shuttles that pick up in the downtown area.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl and Parade
Watch this popular college football bowl game at SDCCU Stadium, a matchup of Pac-12 and Big Ten teams. The game usually occurs a few days after Christmas. Festivities begin with the annual Holiday Bowl Parade in downtown San Diego which is famous for its procession gigantic balloons (kids love this). The parade, America’s largest balloon parade, is free to attend.
Farmer’s Insurance Open
Watch your favorite famous golfers play the Torrey Pines Golf Course at the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open men’s golf tournament. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and other popular golfers have played in it so why not watch it in real life rather than on television?
San Diego Museum Month
Throughout the month of February, over 40 San Diego museums offer half-off admission with a booklet picked up at participating Macy’s stores across the county during San Diego Museum Month.
Annual San Diego Chinese New Year Food and Cultural Fair
Typically in February, the annual San Diego Chinese New Year Food and Cultural Fair (hosted by the San Diego Chinese Center) spans two days.
Attendees can eat tons of traditional food, shop for Chinese handicrafts, enjoy live entertainment. There’s also a children’s craft area where they’ll have the opportunity to make lanterns before the dragon parade. And, there are other Chinese New Year San Diego events to look forward to.
Spring San Diego Events
Padres Major League Baseball
Baseball season begins in April and continues for roughly six months, ending in the fall. PETCO Park, where the Padres play their home games in downtown San Diego, is incredibly family-friendly and offers a variety of seats and VIP experiences in addition to fantastic dining.
It’s also possible to take a guided tour of PETCO Park year-round during days when the Padres aren’t playing a home game.
The family-friendly LPGA tournament happens annually near the end of March at Aviara Golf Club near Park Hyatt Aviara and Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara, North San Diego. The Kia Classic is a lot more relaxed than other professional golf tournaments as the players are more accessible. Kids can also participate in Junior Golf Day which has age-appropriate activities and a golf clinic.
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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And, don’t forget to save money on sightseeing with my discount tickets or a Go San Diego Card.
Things to Do
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