While the warm and sunny weather feel like summer, there are many San Diego Christmas events offered around the city! Traditional activities like Christmas light shows and parades are given a Southern California twist and the local theme parks have their own seasonal offerings. Our Day Trips TravelingMom shares her essential 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 events 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. Enjoy!
Balboa Park December Nights
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Friday, December 1 from 3-11 p.m. and Saturday, December, 2 from noon-11 p.m.
Balboa Park December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego. This event is entering its 40th year with festive fun, food and attractions throughout the 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 18th through Jan 6th, 2017
For the holiday season, SeaWorld is transformed into a wintery, watery wonderland. Visit Jolly Old St. Nick inside Santa’s Christmas Village. Play “reindeer games” in Rudolph’s Christmastown. And SeaWorld Christmas Celebration’s newest nighttime show, O Wonderous Night, is can’t miss!
All holiday activities and shows are included in a day’s admission. 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.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
December 10 and 17, 2017
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 2017 theme is Arrrgh!-A Pirate’s Christmas. 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 18th through Jan 1st, 2018
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. New this year at LEGOLAND California is Winter Holiday Market, inspired by the Christmas markets in Germany. Winter Holiday Market will take place in the Fun Town Area on December 9th and 16th till 7:00 p.m. Authentic foods like grilled sausages, giant Bavarian pretzels and spiced wine will be available for purchase.
Pre-purchase tickets online for LEGOLAND California through our affiliate Undercover Tourist.
Seas ‘n’ Greetings at The Birch Aquarium
2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
December 1st to 31st
Where else would you expect to see Scuba Santa? Admission to the Birch Aquarium during the Seas ‘n’ Greetings holiday events includes crafts and activities for kids. There will also be live holiday music on the weekends.
Check out this TravelingMom post about The Birch Aquarium with more tips for visiting.
Elegant Winter Celebrations at the Hotel del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Holiday Festival at the Hotel del Coronado Wednesday, December 6, at 4:00 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.
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 23 through January 1. 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 Jingle Roast offers at the Del. Rent a fire pit and choose from the menu that includes fireside franks with condiments, s’mores fixings or a classy cheese and charcuterie board.
Global Winter Wonderland
9449 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92108
Open select nights from November 19th, 2017 to January 7th, 2018
This is a brand new event to San Diego for 2017, held in the SDCCU Stadium parking lot (formerly Qualcomm Stadium). There are dozens of handcrafted, illuminated lanterns, some large enough to walk through. This event also features live entertainment, food trucks and carnival rides.
Click through for a full review of Global Winter Wonderland San Diego.
San Diego Zoo Jungle Bells
2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
December 8th 2017 – January 1st 2018
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.
Snow Day San Diego
4440 Sweetwater Road Bonita, CA 91902
December 15 – 30
You won’t find real snow in San Diego, but this winter-themed event (located in Rohr Park, less than 20 minutes south of downtown San Diego in Bonita) will be a happy substitute! Snow Day San Diego will feature synthetic snow (biodegradable and non-toxic). Guests can hop on a tube and fly through twinkling light archways, past decorated trees and falling snow! The event will also offer a 12′ gingerbread-themed house and ice skating with skates available for rent. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase as well.
TravelingMom Tip: Snow Day San Diego is open from 6:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. This would be a good evening activity after spending the day exploring downtown San Diego.
Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade
December 28th at 10 a.m.
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 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.
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.