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- San Diego Christmas Events
- Balboa Park December Nights
- SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
- Teddy Bear Tea
- San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
- LEGOLAND California
- Christmas Tree Lighting Celebrations Around the County
- Seas ‘n’ Greetings at The Birch Aquarium
- Elegant Winter Celebrations at the Hotel del Coronado
- San Diego Zoo Jungle Bells
- More Places to See Santa Claus
- Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade
- Holiday Bowl Football Game
While the warm and sunny weather feels like summer, there are many San Diego Christmas events offered around the city to bring on the holiday spirit! Traditional activities like Christmas light shows and parades are given a Southern California twist and the local theme parks have their own seasonal offerings. Enjoy our San Diego holiday guide to the area’s best family friendly events.
San Diego Christmas Events
As a San Diego native, I enjoy the snow-free winter activities available during the holidays. Even with temperatures in the 70s most days, Christmas events abound in San Diego county. Bonus: a good many of them free! All of the winter experiences in this San Diego holiday guide are outdoor activities. And while the temperatures are often warm in the daytime, once the sun sets, you’ll definitely need a jacket. This is my family friendly San Diego holiday guide, sure to bring winter cheer!
Balboa Park December Nights
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Friday, December 6th, 2019 from 3-11 p.m. and Saturday, December 7th, 2019 from noon-11 p.m.
Balboa Park December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego. This event is entering its 42nd annual year with festive fun, food and attractions throughout the park. December Nights is just one of the many free things to do in Balboa Park! This event includes complimentary admission to Balboa Park museums from 5-9 p.m. Balboa Park December Nights was formerly called Christmas on the Prado, and most native San Diegans still call it that!
TravelingMom Tip: Arrive early because December Nights draws thousands of visitors. Consider parking off-site and taking advantage of one of the complimentary shuttles.
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
500 Sea World Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
November 23rd, 2019 through Jan 5th, 2020
For the holiday season, SeaWorld is transformed into a wintery, watery wonderland. Visit jolly old St. Nick inside Sesame Street Christmas Village. Play “reindeer games” in Rudolph’s Christmastown. Of course, there’s lots of holiday food and shopping opportunities as well.
All holiday activities and shows are included in a day’s admission. Some shows, like Dolphin Island Christmas and Clyde and Seamore’s Christmas Special, are only available during this celebration period. The ice skating spectacular, Winter Wonderland on Ice, is can’t miss evening entertainment! TravelingMom recommends purchasing SeaWorld San Diego tickets from our affiliate Undercover Tourist.
Click through for more information and TravelingMom insider tips about spending the day at SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration.
Teddy Bear Tea
The Westgate Hotel 1055 Second Ave San Diego CA 92101
November 30 & December 1, 6, 7, 8 then daily from the 13 through the 22.
At this whimsical holiday tradition children and families participate in a Teddy Bear Tea party, followed by a magic show and a visit from Santa Claus. The meal includes holiday beverages, teas, house-made pastries, and desserts. No need to bring a bear as each child will receive a keepsake teddy bear! All children also receive one-on-one time with Santa.
The Teddy Bear Tea takes place from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Prices are $80 for adults, $40 for children ages 4-12, and complimentary for children 3 & under, tax and gratuity included. To reserve a Teddy Bear Tea visit, call the hotel at 619.238.1818 for reservations.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
December 8th and 15th, 2019
This holiday light show has a definite SoCal twist! More than 80 lavishly decorated boats “parade” across San Diego Bay to onlookers sitting along the harbor. The 2019 theme is Comic-Con on the Bay. The parade begins at 5 p.m., proceeding to the pier at Cesar Chavez Park before making the turn to Coronado. Spectators watch from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the pier at Cesar Chavez Park or the ferry landing on Coronado.
TravelingMom Tip: You should probably bundle up! This parade takes place alongside the harbor; therefore, it can get pretty chilly once the sun sets. See this TravelingMom post about other SoCal boat parades.
One LEGOLAND Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
November 23rd through December 31st, 2019
Bask in the glow under the world’s largest LEGO Christmas Tree during Holidays at LEGOLAND. The winter-themed festivities are included with park admission. There’s live entertainment and posing for photos with the life-sized LEGO Brick Santa and Reindeer. Even the Sea Life Aquarium receives a holiday treatment with a seasonal underwater dive show. Hungry? Grab a holiday smoked turkey sandwich with rustic stuffing and spiced cranberry dressing or indulge in a peppermint milkshake.
Pre-purchase tickets online for LEGOLAND California through our affiliate Undercover Tourist.
Christmas Tree Lighting Celebrations Around the County
Where ever you find yourself in San Diego county, there’s bound to a Christmas tree lighting and fun family-friendly celebrations!
Liberty Station (North Promenade) – Friday Nov. 29th, from 4:00 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The gorgeous 88-foot Norfolk pine tree in Point Loma Liberty Station will light up the night! Free entertainment includes music, firetruck rides, photos with Santa, and The Grinch movie showing.
Julian (Pioneer Park) – Saturday November 30th, 5:30 p.m. (with festivities happening throughout the day)
2811 Washington St, Julian, CA 92036
This country Christmas tree lighting in Julian is always a popular event, with visitors coming far and wide to see the lighting and visit Santa. Parking is always limited in Julian so you’ll want to arrive early in the day.
Little Italy (Piazza della Famiglia) – Saturday, December 7th from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The 20th annual tree lighting ceremony and Christmas village in downtown San Diego Little Italy includes horse carriage rides, live music and entertainment, kid’s crafts and a visit from Santa Claus (found on India Street from 4-6 pm). Consider taking the trolley to this event and avoid the busy parking situation.
Seas ‘n’ Greetings at The Birch Aquarium
2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
December 1st to 31st, 2019
Where else would you expect to see Scuba Santa? Admission to The Birch Aquarium during the Seas ‘n’ Greetings holiday events includes crafts, scavenger hunt and other activities for kids. There will also be live holiday music on the weekends. The cost of this event is included in regular admission.
Elegant Winter Celebrations at the Hotel del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Holiday Festival at the Hotel del Coronado Wednesday, December 11th, 2019, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
This annual event held at the iconic Hotel del Coronado will feature outdoor professional ice skating demonstrations and fireworks. Children can enjoy Santa’s Village along with games, prizes and photos with St. Nick. The evening ends with fireworks!
Can’t make it to the Holiday Festival but still want to ice skate? The Skating by the Sea outdoor rink will be open from November 22nd 2019 through January 5th, 2020. Skaters and spectators will be treated to stunning views of the Pacific and Coronado beach. Guests can purchase hot chocolate and libations.
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re more of the stay-warm-by-the-fire type, you’ll love the Frostbite – A Place to Chill that’s offered at the Del. 90 minutes of reserved cozy seating around a fire pit with a front row view of the rink. The seasonal menus offers drinks and snacks.
San Diego Zoo Jungle Bells
2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
December 13th, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
The San Diego Zoo is transformed into a wild wonderland during the holidays with lights and seasonal performances. For the price of a regular admission, guests can enjoy the animal light sculptures and live entertainment including acrobatic elves!
TravelingMom Tip: Visit the Northern Frontier Trek once night falls. This location where the winter-loving animals live has been redesigned for the holiday event with beautiful lighted trees.
More Places to See Santa Claus
Santee – Santa at the Lakes – December 8th, 2019 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve 9310 Fanita Pkwy, Santee, CA 92071
This fun in the sun event includes Santa greetings, carnival rides, face painting, food and snow sledding. Cost is $10 per car (no limit on people) and $1.00 per ticket (activities use between 1-8 tickets).
Downtown San Diego – Breakfast with Santa – December 14 & December 21 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The Westgate Hotel 1055 Second Ave San Diego CA 92101
Families will gather at The Westgate Hotel in Le Fontainebleau for buffet of seasonal favorites. Santa and Mrs. Claus will make an appearance! Prices for the meal and event are $70 for adults, $35 for children ages 4-12, and complimentary for children 3 & under, tax and gratuity not included (call 619.238.1818 ahead for reservations).
Del Mar – Santa by the Sea – December 8th, 2019 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
L’Auberge Amphitheater 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92104
Free photos with Santa, as well as family games, entertainment and treats.
Escondido – Winter Wonderland Festival – December 7th, 2019 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM
California Center for the Arts 340 N Escondido Blvd, Escondido, CA 92025
Santa and his actual reindeer are on hand for photo ops along with live performances, kid’s crafts, snow play area, princess meet n’greets and free train rides.
Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade
December 26th, begins at 3 p.m.
1600 Pacific Hwy San Diego, CA 92101
You thought the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade had a lot of balloons? The Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade is actually America’s largest balloon parade! This holiday parade brings together world-class marching bands, floats, drill teams, and a procession of towering balloons. And the San Diego bonus – no snow! Purchase grandstand seats ahead of time online if you’d rather not sit curbside. For additional downtown things to do, read this San Diego 2-day itinerary.
TravelingMom Tip: Avoid bringing a car into the busy downtown area for this event. Consider staying in a nearby hotel or take the trolley to the parade route.
Holiday Bowl Football Game
December 27th at 5 p.m.
SDCCU Stadium 9449 Friars Road San Diego, CA 92108
Always a great college bowl game, this one pits PAC-12 versus Big Ten. There are pregame parties and free activities included with game ticket including live music, face painting, temporary tattoos and photo booths. Be in your seat 30 minutes before the game starts to watch the pre-game show with marching bands and parachute jumpers.