San Diego holiday and Christmas events in 2022 feature the return of popular annual activities and some new festive fun. They include opportunities to see Santa Claus, festive lights, Christmas tree lighting, and holiday performances like The Nutcracker and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

I’ve listed nearly 30 festive events to celebrate Christmas in San Diego, from  San Diego hotels, theme parks, neighborhoods, and other San Diego attractions around the county to help get your holiday spirit on.

Choose from San Diego Christmas events like Balboa Park December nights, Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo, Christmas activities at the timeless Hotel del Coronado, Surfin Santa at Seaport Village, or the limited engagement Lightscape show at the San Diego Botanic Garden. 

You can save on tickets, tours, and hotels through my affiliations. If you make purchases through the links in this post, I may be compensated.

Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas! 

Come to The Old Globe for the beloved annual performance of Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The whimsical musical is back for its 22nd season, featuring favorite songs like “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and more. Buy tickets in advance. November 9 –December 31.

Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

Crowds gather around the Little Italy Christmas tree at night as it's being lit for the first time.
Photo courtesy of Little Italy Association

The Little Italy Association will close down India Street from W. Cedar to Hawthorn for a Christmas celebration featuring horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday decorations, a pop-up holiday market, live music, kids’ arts and crafts, and visits with Santa Claus.

At 4 p.m., take the kids to “Santa’s Living Room” to take photos and chat with Santa.

At 6:30 p.m., a Christmas tree lighting will take place at the Piazza Della Famiglia on W. Date and India Streets.

India Street will be decked out in sparkling white lights throughout the season, in addition to 10-foot nutcrackers on street corners. Saturday, December 3, from 4–8 p.m.

The Nutcracker Ballet at Spreckels Theater

City Ballet dancers take guests on an extraordinary journey to the magical Land of the Sweets with Clara and her Nutcracker Prince this Christmas season. Performances take place at the Spreckels Theatre. 

  • December 9-11, 2022, various show times at 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Surfing Santa at Seaport Village

It’s not Christmas in San Diego without Surfin’ Santa, who returns to Seaport Village on Saturday, November 26, for an afternoon of holiday cheer and merriment at Tuna Harbor Pier!

The meet-and-greet with Surfin’ Santa starts with his arrival via watercraft, a festive parade along the boardwalk followed by photos, live music, and entertainment. Saturday, November 26, from 1–5 p.m. 

You can also stop by Santa’s Workshop in the Lighthouse District next to Ben and Jerry’s east to take photos with Santa. The cost is $42 for a flash drive with captured photos. Check Santa’s schedule before you go. No appointments are necessary. November 25 – December 30.

San Diego Symphony Noel Noel Family Concert

Join the San Diego Symphony in a perfect holiday event as they perform their annual Noel Noel family-friendly concert at the Rady’s Shell, decked out with boughs of holly and sparkling lights.

  • December 9, 2022, 7 p.m.
  • December 10, 2022, 7 p.m.
  • December 11, 2022, 5 p.m.

Holidays at Hotel del Coronado

The Hotel Del Coronado offers some of the best holiday events in San Diego from Skating by the Sea to Victorian tea.

We love the holiday season at the Hotel del Coronado as it bustles with holiday events and Christmas activities for everyone.

Happenings at the Hotel del Coronado include a lively mix of activities such as Skating by the Sea (starting November 17 ), an elegant Victorian Tea, Holiday Ornament and Artwork, Sunday Brunch with Santa, or gather your friends and family for the new beachside Jingle Roast of s’mores with Santa hats. November 17 –January 1.

See also: Things to Do at the Hotel del Coronado During the Holidays

Holidays at The Grand

Come to Fairmont Grand Del Mar for Holidays at The Grande, a festive San Diego Christmas event with memorable dining experiences complete with seasonal food, a 30′Christmas tree, tea with Santa, s’mores, and much more for residents and hotel guests. November 25–January 1.

See also: Where to Have Christmas Dinner in San Diego

Holiday by the Bay

Hilton San Diego Bayfront hosts Holidays by the Bay with events that include an oversized Christmas tree with nightly light shows on the Bayfront Pier, holiday movie nights on Fridays and Saturdays, Sunday breakfasts with Santa, and more from November 25–January  1.

Tree Lighting at La Valencia in La Jolla

A tree lighting ceremony will be held at La Valencia San Diego in their La Sala Lounge with warm holiday beverages, a Christmas carol or two, homemade cookies, and crafts for kids. Thursday, December 1 at 4:30 p.m.

Virtual Santa Visit at Neiman Marcus

Even Santa Claus can’t resist a great breakfast, so meet him at Fashion Valley Mall for a breakfast feast in the ultimate holiday events! Enjoy mimosas, hot chocolate, brioche french toast, scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, and more at Neiman Marcus. We have been to the event in the past.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Spend your December nights on the wild side at the annual Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo. This San Diego Christmas celebration includes an opportunity to visit Santa, colorful light displays, 4-D holiday experiences, including a Polar Express train ride, and more in the evenings. December 9–January 1.

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See also: How to Buy Discounted Tickets to the San Diego Zoo

SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration

Rudolph and friends in front of holiday decor at SeaWorld San Diego's Christmas Celebration.
Photo courtesy of SeaWorld San Diego

Join SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration to complete your San Diego holiday and meet Santa and Rudolph, catch Donner and Blitzen’s Lazer lights show, or enjoy the sounds of the Holiday Brass band. Admission is included with regular park admission.

In addition to the special holiday-themed animal shows and a sea-themed Christmas tree, the park will be brimming with yuletide cheer, and you can even take photos with Santa Claus.

All the festivities can be enjoyed among more than one million low-energy Christmas lights throughout the park. Now–January 8 during park opening hours.

See also: How to Buy Discounted Tickets to SeaWorld San Diego

Holidays at LEGOLAND California

Kids stand next to LEGO Santa in front of the LEGO Christmas tree at night.
Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California Resort

Christmas in San Diego is super special at LEGOLAND California, where you’ll find the world’s largest LEGO Christmas tree. Standing at 30 feet tall, it’s constructed out of more than 245,000 forest green DUPLO® bricks and has 400 LEGO ornaments.

The entire resort will be decked out in holiday décor and more during Holidays at LEGOLAND California.

Fun Town transforms into a winter wonderland full of holiday spirit with LEGO Christmas characters like life-size LEGO models of Santa and his reindeer. Events will include live entertainment and “snowfall.”

Also, don’t forget about Kids’ New Year’s Eve, where the LEGO ball drops at 6 p.m. November 19-27, December 3-4, 10-11, 17-30, and January 1, 7-8.

Tip: You can buy discounted, straight-to-the-gate LEGOLAND tickets.

Balboa Park’s Taste of December Nights

People enjoying Balboa Park at night in the plaza with its multiple wire Christmas trees during December nights.
Photo courtesy of Balboa Park

The crown jewel of San Diego Christmas events is Balboa Park December Nights. The largest San Diego holiday celebration is full of food, entertainment, and fun. 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 for a true Christmas in San Diego celebration.

 December 2, 3–11 p.m. & December 3, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Admission is free.

Lightscape — San Diego Botanic Garden

Photo courtesy of San Diego Botanic Garden

Of all the San Diego Christmas events, we are most excited about this one! This year, the internationally acclaimed show, Lightscape, will be coming to the San Diego Botanic Garden.

A one-mile walking trail will weave throughout the garden with gorgeous illuminated art sculptures, a holiday music-activated tunnel, fire, and artistic installations.

This limited engagement sold out entirely in London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, so don’t miss out! November 18-20, 23, 25-27; December 1–4, 8-11, 14-23, 26–31; January 1.

Liberty Station’s Salute the Season

People ice skating at Liberty Station on a sunny day.
Photo courtesy of Liberty Station

The annual Salute, the Season at Liberty Station, features several San Diego events throughout the holiday season.

Salute the Season events include The Nutcracker Tea Party and Rady Children’s Ice Rink at Liberty Station. Ice skating net proceeds benefit the Thriving After Cancer program in the Rady Children’s Hospital’s Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks in San Diego

Hotel Del Coronado’s Skating by the Sea

Go ice skating just steps from the beach in the quintessential Christmas in San Diego experience at the Hotel Del Coronado. Skating by the Sea partially benefits Make-A-Wish San Diego.

  • Date: November 17, 2022 –January 1, 2023 
  • Times: Check the website, as they vary by the day.
  • Cost: $40  per person with free skate rentals online

Viejas Ice Rink

The largest outdoor rink in Southern California is here in San Diego at the Viejas Outlets’ outdoor rink — it’s even bigger than the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

  • Date: Through January 8, 2023 
  • Times: Dates and times vary. Please check calendars at the link above.
  • Cost: $18–$20

Rady Children’s Ice Rink

The Rady Children’s Ice Rink is located at Liberty Station. All proceeds from this event benefit the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego. 

  • Dates: Saturday, November 17 –January 8, 2023  (closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)
  • Times: 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
  • Cost: $15–$17 

Coronado Holiday Parade and Open House + Santa

Kick off Christmas in San Diego with the 47th annual Coronado Holiday Parade and Open House. Start at Ferry Landing, down Orange Ave to Hotel del Coronado, then watch the Holiday Parade, join in holiday sing-a-longs and watch the traditional lighting of a Christmas tree in Rotary Park. Admission is free. Friday, December 2.

North Pole by the Sea — Del Mar Village And Tree Lighting

This annual Del Mar Village Association event, North Pole by the Sea, delights San Diego families with a dazzling tree lighting ceremony, pictures with Santa, carolers, and arts and holiday crafts. Complimentary admission. Sunday, December 5, from 1  – 3  p.m.; tree lightingat 5 p.m.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

The 52nd  annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights features more than 80 private boats decorated with holiday lights and sailing along the waters of San Diego Bay. This year’s theme is FantaSea on the Bay.

The Coronado Island Marriott Resort and Coronado Ferry Landing (a charming collection of gift shops, art galleries, and restaurants) offer excellent shore viewing. No matter where you view, don’t miss the San Diego Bay Parade of lights Sundays, December 11 and 18, from 5:30–9 p.m. 

The approximate parade route and time of arrival are as follows:

  • Shelter Island (start of parade): 5:30 p.m.
  • Harbor Island: 6:00 p.m.
  • The Embarcadero: 6:30 p.m.
  • Seaport Village: 7:00 p.m.
  • The Pier at Cesar Chavez Park: 7:15 p.m.
  • Ferry Landing on Coronado: 7:30 p.m.

Oceanside San Diego Parade of Lights

Fishing boats, sailboats, yachts, kayaks, and dingys will dress up for the holidays for an authentic Christmas in San Diego while circling 

the Oceanside Harbor at the Oceanside Parade of Lights. The best viewing point is along Oceanside Harbor, near the fishing dock and police station. Saturday, December 10, from 7–9 p.m.

Ocean Beach Holiday Parade

Attendees at the annual Ocean Beach Holiday Parade will see marching San Diego bands, motorcycles, gorgeous floats, the VW Beetle club, classic Woodies, and more cruise down Newport Avenue. Saturday, December 3, from 5:05–9 p.m.

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

The La Jolla Christmas Parade marches down Girard Avenue to Prospect Street and ends at the La Jolla Recreation Center. This year’s theme is “Grand Ole Christmas.”

The Holiday Festival with entertainment and photos with Santa occurs before the parade at the Christmas village in front of the Athenaeum from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. The parade starts at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, December 4.

La Mesa’s Holiday in the Village

The delightful downtown of La Mesa is transformed into a Victorian wonderland during its old-fashioned Holiday in the Village.

The family-friendly event features horse-drawn carriages, strolling minstrels, carolers, and street entertainers along La Mesa Boulevard. Carnival rides and games, craft vendors, fire pits, live music stages, and an outdoor market typically round out the San Diego Christmas fun. Saturday, December 3, from 12–9 p.m.

Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Bash + Parade

Big balloons (panda, toy soldier, ice cream cones) wait to head out into the balloon parade.
Flickr/Port of San Diego

If you love bands, you’ll want to check out the Snapdragon Holiday Bowl Bash, where two university bands face off in the streets of downtown San Diego in the ultimate battle of bands. In addition to fantastic live music, there will be food, giveaways, games, and fun for the entire family. Insider tip: Jump on one of the Old Town Trolley Tours while you’re there! Tuesday, December 27, 5-8 p.m

America’s largest balloon parade is back at the Holiday Bowl parade! Floats, balloons, and marching bands are just some of the offerings in this colorful holiday parade along San Diego Bay in downtown San Diego. Grandstand tickets are $25. Wednesday, December 28 at 10 a.m.

Poway’s Christmas in the Park

Poway’s Christmas in the Park features a tree lighting ceremony, a visit from Santa, train rides, live music, theater performances, food, treats, crafts, and more.

A free shuttle is also available to and from the event from the Poway City Hall parking lot and the Poway Adult School parking lot. Saturday, December 9, from 5:30–8:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Take Pictures with Santa

If headed to one of many shopping malls in San Diego, Santa will be there until Christmas Eve during mall hours.

Neighborhood Christmas Lights in San Diego County

Take a drive through these San Diego neighborhoods to see houses decked out in lights beyond belief. This is a short list of many.

Candy Cane Lane (Poway)

It’s a cul-de-sac themed like the North Pole, except right here in San Diego. Each house here is estimated to have over 50,000 lights. Location: Hickory Court, Hickory Street, off Twin Peaks Road and Silverset St. Also Includes Butterwood Ct. and Rockrose Ct.

Christmas card Lane (Rancho Penasquitos)

This San Diego neighborhood display is known for larger-than-life illuminated Christmas cards and other lights adorning the homes. Location: Ellingham Street and Oviedo Street, just off Black Mountain Road

Belardo Lights (Tierrasanta)

It’s just one house, but it’s well worth seeing. The idea started in 2006 as a way for the Schmika family to provide a light show for their two autistic sons. If it is raining, check the website to see if the lights will be off. Location: 5306 North Belardo Drive

Garrison Street (Point Loma)

These high-end San Diego homes are dense with brightly-colored Christmas lights. Drive through or walk around … it’s your choice. Location: Garrison Street near Chatsworth

See also:

What is your favorite thing to do in San Diego during the holidays? Please leave a comment with anything missing from this list! And don’t forget that we have Lunar New Year San Diego events to look forward to shortly after the winter holidays.

Katie Dillon headshot

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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8 Comments

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

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

  3. Traditions of Christmas has grown to be the biggest Christmas show in San Diego drawing over 250,000 patrons since it began. It is a musical journey through all the greatest Christmas songs and celebrations from around the world. Santa’s Workshop comes alive with dancing elves, Raggedy Ann dolls, toy soldiers, and magical toys. The Rockette-style tap dancing kickline will have you cheering in the aisles. You’ll even get to sing along to your holiday favorites like White Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town! The celebration culminates with our most treasured tradition of all – a Living Nativity complete with animals. This show is truly the perfect collection of all the best sights and sounds of Christmas!

    Shows opens December 18-December 23rd at the Don Powell Theatre at San Diego Stage University

  4. Traditions of Christmas has grown to be the biggest Christmas show in San Diego drawing over 250,000 patrons since it began. It is a musical journey through all the greatest Christmas songs and celebrations from around the world. Santa’s Workshop comes alive with dancing elves, Raggedy Ann dolls, toy soldiers, and magical toys. The Rockette-style tap dancing kickline will have you cheering in the aisles. You’ll even get to sing along to your holiday favorites like White Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town! The celebration culminates with our most treasured tradition of all – a Living Nativity complete with animals. This show is truly the perfect collection of all the best sights and sounds of Christmas!

    Show Dates are December 18th-December 23rd at The Don Powell Theater at San Diego State University.

  5. I am SO SO SO glad you stopped by my blog so I can see yours! My hubby and I are likely moving to SD soon and I LOVE seeing all the wonderful things we can do and see! I’ll certainly be back!