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The Ultimate Guide to San Diego Holiday Events (2019)

Outdoor ice skating, holiday parades, tree lightings and more

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Things to do in San Diego during the 2019 December holidays include a number of parades, light displays, opportunities to see Santa, and much more.

Here are over 30 fun events to choose from at San Diego hotels, theme parks, neighborhoods, and other venues around town.

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 10 — December 29.

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 Christmas celebration featuring horse drawn carriage rides, a new custom-designed Christmas tree in Piazza Basilone with color-changing lights, a holiday pop-up market, live music, kids’ arts and crafts, and visits with Santa.

At 6:30 p.m. they will light a second Christmas tree, a new 25-foot live tree at the new Piazza della Famiglia on W. Date and India Streets.

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

India Street will be decked out in sparkling white lights throughout the season in addition to 10-foot nutcrackers on street corners. Saturday, December 7, 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.

Performances take place at the Spreckels Theatre. Buy tickets. Select dates and times between December 6 – 22.

San Diego Symphony Noel Noel (Family) Concert

The San Diego Symphony will perform their annual Noel Noel family concert at Copley Symphony Hall, which will be decked out with boughs of holly and sparkling lights, on Sunday, December 15 at 2 p.m.

Holidays at Hotel Del Coronado

There is always lots to do during the holiday season at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Happenings include a merry mix of activities such as Skating by the Sea (starting November 22), 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 22 – January 5.

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

Winter Wonderland at Fairmont Grand Del Mar

Photo credit: Paul Barnett Photography

Come to Fairmont Grand Del Mar for Winter Wonderland, a festive event with ice skating, carousel and Ferris wheel rides, fire pit rentals, Moet & Chandon champagne garden, character appearances, delicious dining, and more for residents and hotel guests. November 30 – January 1.

Holiday by the Bay

Hilton San Diego Bayfront hosts Holiday 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 – December 31.

Tree Lighting at La Valencia in La Jolla

A tree lighting ceremony will be held at La Valencia in their La Sala Lounge with warm holiday beverages, homemade cookies, and crafts for kids. Thursday, December 5 at 5 p.m.

Omni La Costa Resort and Spa Holidays

In addition to holiday activities for guests in residence, Omni La Costa Resort and Spa will host their annual Tree Lighting.

The family-friendly event is full of food, caroling, and fun. Saturday, December 7 from 3 – 8 p.m.

Snow will also fall in the Plaza on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in December at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Olde Fashioned Christmas – Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

The annual Olde Fashioned Christmas at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe will feature a bounce house for kids, the lighting of a stately Christmas tree, a soup tasting, and pictures with Santa Claus.

It’s a free event that is open to the public, with food and beverages available for purchase. Friday, December 6, from 5 – 10 p.m.

Breakfast with Santa at Neiman Marcus

Enjoy a nice breakfast at the Zodiac restaurant inside Neiman Marcus San Diego while carolers and Santa roam the room. After the breakfast, everyone has the opportunity to have gorgeous pictures taken with Santa with the store’s holiday décor as a backdrop.

A professional photographer will be on site and pictures will print while you wait. (Read more about our experience with Breakfast with Santa.)

Cost is $35 for kids ages 3 – 12 and $45 for adults and includes breakfast and professional pictures. Saturdays, December 7 and 14 from 8:30 – 10 a.m. There will be a second seating on December 14 at 10:30 a.m.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

The annual Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo is a celebration includes an opportunity to visit with Santa, colorful light displays, 4-D holiday experiences including a Polar Express train ride, and more in the evenings. December 13 – January 5.

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

SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration

An acrobat hangs on a dangling loop in the new Cirque Christmas show at SeaWorld San Diego.
Photo courtesy of SeaWorld San Diego

This year SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration features an all-new Cirque Christmas acrobatic show and a new Winter Wonderland on Ice ice skating show. Visit Rudolph’s Christmastown and the new Sesame Street® Christmas Village to meet favorite characters.

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

You can also have Breakfast with Orcas and Santa. All the festivities can be enjoyed among more than one million low-energy holiday lights throughout the park. November 23 – January 5 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

The world’s largest LEGO Christmas tree stands 30-feet tall and is 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 with LEGO Christmas characters like life-size LEGO models of Santa and his reindeer. Events will include live entertainment and a Holiday Light Show.

Also, don’t forget about Kids’ New Year’s Eve where the LEGO ball drops at 6 p.m. November 23 – January 5

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

Balboa Park 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

Balboa Park December Nights is in its 42st consecutive year. It’s 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. Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7. Admission is free.

Birch Aquarium Holiday SEAson Seas ‘n’ Greetings

From December 1 to 31, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Birch Aquarium celebrates Seas ‘n’ Greetings and is transformed into a winter wonderland, including appearances by scuba Santa, as well as crafts, music and more.

Garden of Lights – San Diego Botanic Garden

(This is 2018 information as 2019 information is not yet released) The San Diego Botanic Garden lights up for the holidays after dusk complete with, horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, visits with Santa, snow for sledding (on selected evenings), marshmallow roasting, mulled wine, and so much more. The nonmember cost is $18 for adults and $5 for children 3—12. 

Liberty Station’s Salute the Season

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

Liberty Station’s annual Salute the Season features several events throughout the holiday season.

Liberty Station Tree Lighting & Holiday Festivities main event takes place on Friday, November 29, from 4 – 9 p.m. Guests will enjoy the 88-foot Norfolk pine tree lighting in addition to live entertainment, festive firetruck rides, free photos with Santa, and The Grinch movie showing.

Salute the Season events also include The Nutcracker Tea Party and Rady Children’s Ice Rink at Liberty Station. Ice skaing net proceeds benefit the Thriving After Cancer program in the Rady Children’s Hospital’s Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. November 14 – January 5.

Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks in San Diego

Hotel Del Coronado’s Skating by the Sea

Go ice skating just steps from the sand at the Hotel Del Coronado. Skating by the Sea partially benefits Make-A-Wish San Diego.

Date: November 22, 2019 — January 5, 2019
Times: Check the website as they vary by the day.
Cost: $30 per person with free skate rentals online ($35 at the door)

Viejas Ice Rink

The Viejas Outlets’ enormous outdoor rink is the largest outdoor rink in California. It’s even bigger than the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Date: Through January 26, 2019 (open select dates in January
Times: Dates and times vary. Please check calendars at the link above.
Cost: $15 – $17

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

Dates: Saturday, November 14 — Sunday, January 5 (closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)
Times: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Cost: $10 – $15

Coronado Holiday Parade and Open House + Santa

First, Santa arrives to the Ferry Landing at 3:20 p.m. where there will be a snow mountain for all to enjoy.

Then, at the 44th annual Coronado Holiday Parade and Open House, watch the Holiday Parade (6 p.m.) and stroll Orange Avenue. Then watch the traditional lighting of a Christmas tree in Rotary Park at 7 p.m. Friday, December 6, 2019. Admission is free.

Santa by the Sea — Del Mar Village And Tree Lighting

This annual Del Mar Village Association event, Santa By The Sea, delights families with a dazzling tree lighting ceremony, pictures with Santa, carolers and arts and crafts. Complimentary admission. Sunday, December 8 from 3 – 5 p.m.; tree lighting happens at 5 p.m.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

The 47th 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 Comic-Con on the Bay.

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. Sundays, December 8 and 15 from 5 – 9 p.m. 

Oceanside Parade of Lights

Fishing boats, sailboats, yachts, kayaks, and dingys will dress up for the holidays and circle the Oceanside Harbor at the Oceanside Parade of Lights. The best viewing point is along the side of the Oceanside Harbor near the fishing dock and police station. Saturday, December 14 from 7 – 9 p.m.

Ocean Beach Holiday Parade

Attendees at the 40th annual Ocean Beach Holiday Parade will see marching bands, motorcycles, gorgeous floats, the VW Beetle club, classic Woodies and more cruise down Newport Avenue. Saturday, December 7 at 5:05 – 7 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 Christmas on the Moon. The Holiday Festival with entertainment and photos with Santa occurs before the parade in front of the Athenaeum from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. The parade starts at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, December 8.

Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade

Owners and their dressed-up pets march down the decorated streets of the neighborhood in the pet parade starting under the famous Gaslamp quarter Archway. It ends with a Holiday Pet Market at MLK Promenade Park. Sunday, December 15 from 12 – 5 p.m.

North Park Toyland Parade

The North Park Toyland Parade features melodious marching bands, upbeat dance groups, cool vintage cars, beauty queens, city officials and more. Santa will also make an appearance on a red fire engine. The parade runs along University Avenue between Utah and Iowa Street, rain or shine. Saturday, December 8 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

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, ponies, puppet shows, live music stages, and an outdoor market typically round out the traditional holiday fun (details are still forming). Saturday, December 13 from 4 – 9 p.m. and Sunday, December 14 from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Old Town State Historic Park Celebrations

Watch the 69th annual Las Posadas, a centuries-old tradition in which actors re-enact the biblical journey of Mary and Joseph through the town of Bethlehem. Saturday, December 14, at 5 p.m.

Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade

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

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. Grandstand tickets are $22. Thursday, December 26 at 3 p.m.

Poway’s Christmas in the Park

Poway’s Christmas in the Park features a tree lighting ceremony, 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 two locations: the Poway City Hall parking lot, and the Poway Adult School parking lot. Saturday, December 14 from 3:30 – 8:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Take Pictures with Santa

If headed to one of San Diego’s shopping malls, Santa will be there until December 24 during mall hours.

Neighborhood Christmas Lights

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

Candy Cane Lane (Poway)

Each house here is estimated to have over 50,000 lights. It’s a cul-de-sac themed like the North Pole. 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 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 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 shortly after the winter holidays, that we have Lunar New Year San Diego events to look forward to.

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8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to San Diego Holiday Events (2019)

  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!

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