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
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.
Updated December 2020. Please verify events before heading out to them as decisions to delay and change events are being made daily due to Covid 19.
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. (Note: Event dates will be updated as they become available.)
Join our NEW Facebook Community: Making Travel Easier. We promise to always tell you what we would tell our best friend -- what works for kids, what doesn’t and what you need to know before you go to have the Best. Family. Vacation. Ever. Our group of travel experts are ready to answer your travel questions!
Balboa Park December Nights
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Friday, December 4th, 2020 thru Sunday, December 6th, 2020
Balboa Park December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego. This event is entering its 43rd 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!
This event looks different in 2020. The traditional format will not be happening. Instead it is being replaced with a “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 a drive thru. The event will be located in the Inspiration Point parking lot. Be sure to wear your mask!
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 13th, 2020 through Jan 4th, 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.
Many holiday activities and shows are included in a day’s admission.The 2020 offerings include new social distancing activities and experiences. 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.
The Westgate Hotel 1055 Second Ave San Diego CA 92101
December 4-5-6 / 11-12-13 / 18-19-20-21-22-23 / 26-27-28-29
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 13th and 20th, 2020
CANCELLED FOR 2020. Watch 2019’s parade below.
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 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 20th through January 10th, 2021
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. All participants will need a ticket. Children two 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) – Official Lighting Cancelled but will be lit from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas
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) – Official Lighting Ceremony cancelled but tree will be lit
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. In 2020, your child can still write a letter and stick it in the Santa mailbox.
Little Italy (Piazza della Famiglia) – Saturday, December 5th from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
The 21st annual tree lighting ceremony and Christmas village in downtown San Diego Little Italy has gone virtual for 2020. You’ll be able to join in the fun from wherever you are by reserving a ticket and joining online.
Seas ‘n’ Greetings at The Birch Aquarium
2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
November 28th to December 31st, 2020 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 2020, there will be a new 18 foot inflatable octopus to take selfies with. You must make an advance reservation to attend.
Elegant Winter Celebrations at the Hotel del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Holiday Festival at the Hotel del Coronado (Festival Cancelled for 2020)
While the traditional holiday festival won’t be taking place there is still some planned holiday cheer! Take holiday photos on the lit up Windor Lawn. Snag socially-distanced Santa photos on December 5, 12, 19, 23 & 24th. Reservations required. Attend a Jingle Roast any evening from December 11-December 25. Enjoy your own private beach bonfire (complete with Santa hats) and can choose food from a menu ranging from s’mores to fireside franks. Or if your family loves movies check out Holiday Movies on the Beach (December 12, 19, 31). You can select a private bonfire complete with daybed or sand chairs.
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 4-6, 11-23, 25-31 and January 1-3, 2021
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.
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 6 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve 9310 Fanita Pkwy, Santee, CA 92071
Entrance is $6 and physically distanced meetings with Santa are available. Head here to make a reservation.
Downtown San Diego – Breakfast with Santa – Cancelled for 2020
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).
Holiday Balcony Concert- December 5 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This new offering at The Westgate Hotel features the Los Angeles Philharmonic Holiday Brass in the Mainly Mozart Holiday Concert. Overnight accomodations are included in this VIP package. You’ll view the concert from the comfort of your room’s balcony.
Contact room reservations to book at 800-522-1564.
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
This event will look different in 2020 but we love their 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 – Cancelled for 2020
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
Cancelled in 2020
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
Cancelled in 2020
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.