Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- San Diego Christmas Events
- Balboa Park December Nights
- SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration
- Christmas 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
The weather outside is definitely not frightful in San Diego during the Christmas season, and all of the festive events sure are delightful! San Diego feels like summer in the North Pole and Christmas events bring the warmth of the holiday season. Whether you love traditional activities like Christmas light shows, parades with a California twist, or you like to enjoy the jolly of theme parks, San Diego is a fun and festive place to celebrate the season. This San Diego Christmas event guide tells you where to find the best things to do for families during the holidays.
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, featuring events my family enjoys every year.
Read More: How to Ring in the New Year, Family Style
Balboa Park December Nights
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
December 3-5, 2021, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Balboa Park December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego. 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!
This event looks similar to 2020. The traditional format will not be happening. Once again, it will be “Taste of December Nights.” There will be 20+ food trucks onsite serving up some of their most popular items. Attendees will remain in their cars and drive through. The event will be located in the Inspiration Point parking lot.
TravelingMom Tip: Arrive early because December Nights draws thousands of visitors.
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
500 Sea World Dr., San Diego, CA 92109
November 12, 2021 – January 2, 2022
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.
Many holiday activities and shows are included in a day’s admission. The 2021 offerings include new social distancing activities and experiences.
Click through for more information and TravelingMom insider tips about spending the day at SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration.
The Westgate Hotel 1055 Second Ave San Diego CA 92101
Christmas Tea Dates: December 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 2021
At this whimsical holiday tradition, enjoy a holiday tea with loved ones. The meal includes holiday beverages, teas, house-made pastries and desserts.
The Christmas Tea takes place from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Prices are $65 for adults, $35 for children ages 4-12, and complimentary for children 3 & under, tax and gratuity included. To reserve, call the hotel at 619-238-1818 for reservations.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
December 12 and 19, 2021
This Christmas 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 parade begins at 5:30 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 20, 2021 through January 2, 2022
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 stuffing and spiced cranberry dressing or indulge in a peppermint milkshake.
All participants will need a ticket. Children 2 and under are free.
Christmas Tree Lighting Celebrations Around the County
Wherever you find yourself in San Diego county, there’s bound to a Christmas tree lighting and fun family-friendly celebrations!
Liberty Station (North Promenade)
November 26, 2021 from 5p.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)
2811 Washington St, Julian, CA 92036
November 27, 2021
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. Your child can also write a letter and stick it in the Santa mailbox.
TravelingMom Tip: Parking is always limited in Julian so you’ll want to arrive early in the day.
Little Italy (Piazza della Famiglia)
Saturday, December 4, 2021 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The 21st annual tree lighting ceremony and Christmas village in downtown San Diego Little Italy is back in 2021!
Seas ‘n’ Greetings at The Birch Aquarium
2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
December 1- 31, 2021, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (3 p.m. closing on New Years Eve)
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.
For 2021, there will be fun, festive photo opportunities too! You must make an advance reservation to attend.
Elegant Winter Celebrations at the Hotel del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Home for the Holidays at the Hotel del Coronado
The hotel lights up with a range of festive winter wonderland activities. Take holiday photos on the lit-up Windor Lawn. Snag socially-distanced Santa photos on Dec 1, 9-11, 16-18 & 22-24, cost is $25. Reservations required.
This year, Skating By The Sea has returned. Attend a Jingle Roast any evening from December 15-25. Enjoy your own private beach bonfire (complete with Santa hats) and choose food from a menu ranging from s’mores to fireside franks. If your family loves movies, check out Holiday Movies on the Beach (December 4, 11, 18, 31). You can select a private bonfire complete with daybed or sand chairs. And you can also enjoy a Victorian Tea, Gingerbread Houses, and more!
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. Ninety minutes of reserved cozy seating around a fire pit with a front row view of the rink. The seasonal menu offers drinks and snacks.
San Diego Zoo Jungle Bells
2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
December 10, 2021 – January 2, 2022
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! Be sure to make a reservation. Choose evening hours for extra lighted experiences.
If you have the entire day to spend, check out this TravelingMom post with one-day San Diego Zoo itinerary tips.
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 Lakes Recreation Preserve 9310 Fanita Pkwy, Santee, CA 92071
Santee – Santa at the Lakes – December 11, 2021, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Entrance is $6 and physically distanced meetings with Santa are available. Head here to make a reservation.
Downtown San Diego
The Westgate Hotel Breakfast with Santa has been cancelled for 2021
L’Auberge Amphitheater 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92104
Santa by the Sea – December TBD, 2021 (the date is not available yet.)
This event will look different in 2021 but we love this fun offering. Take a fun picture with a socially-distanced Santa. Dress up the kiddos, furry friends and yourself for a sleigh photo with a live Santa nearby. You can make your reservation for $20 and part of the proceeds will benefit Fuel the Frontline San Diego.
Escondido – Winter Wonderland Festival – No Details Yet
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
1600 Pacific Hwy San Diego, CA 92101
December 28, 2021
You thought the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City 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
SDCCU Stadium 9449 Friars Road San Diego, CA 92108
December 28, 2021, 5 p.m.
Always a great college bowl game, this one pits PAC-12 versus Big Ten. There are pregame parties and free activities included with your game ticket, such as live music, face painting, temporary tattoos and photo booths.
TravelingMom Tip: Be in your seat 30 minutes before the game starts to watch the pre-game show with marching bands and parachute jumpers.