Budget-Friendly Holiday Activities in San Diego

Between gifting, parties and traveling, it is easy for holiday spending to get out of control quickly. It might seem like every time you leave the house, you’re waving good-bye to another chunk of change.

Fortunately, there are many budget-friendly holiday activities in San Diego for families looking to reign in the expenses while still having a blast!

  • Concert, art + lights in Balboa Park: A free, fun family Sunday begins at 2:00 p.m. in Balboa Park. First, enjoy a free one-hour organ concert featuring your favorite holiday tunes at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, which features the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ. Then head to the always free Timken Museum of Art for their breathtaking “Jewels of the Season” display, full of exquisite ornaments designed by San Diego artists. By the time the museum closes at 4:30 p.m., you’ll be walking out at sunset – just in time to enjoy the gorgeous holiday lights strung up throughout Balboa Park.
  • Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade: Get an early start on ringing in 2019 – for free! On December 31 at 10:00 a.m., bring the whole family downtown to the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade – the largest balloon parade in the nation. Incredible floats, huge balloons and exceptional marching bands are just a few highlights of this wonderful holiday parade along the bay.
  • Walk through the Hotel del Coronado: Nothing says the holidays like the stately charm of the Hotel del Coronado, all aglow in lights and decorations. Take the family over to walk the Del’s hallways and grounds, marveling at the illuminated beauty inside and out. Kids will especially love the spectacularly decorated tree in the lobby. And why not bring some blankets, sweaters, hot cocoa and a picnic dinner to enjoy on the beach after your stroll? You may even catch your own mini “parade of lights” by spotting some decorated boats out at sea!
  • A day in Julian: Less than a 90-minute drive from San Diego is the delightful mountain town of Julian – the place Southern Californians go for a warm mug of apple cider and a slice of the best pie in the whole Southwest (and maybe beyond)! Throughout December, your family can enjoy Julian’s quaint holiday atmosphere by strolling through the neighborhood streets and taking in all the sights and sounds of a small-town Christmas. You may even catch a group of roaming carolers!
  • Cruise the holiday lights: One of San Diego’s most fun family holiday traditions is to scope out the twinkling, dazzling decor garnishing the homes on Point Loma’s Garrison Street, or “Christmas Lights” street. With plenty of free street parking on surrounding streets, your family can take their time strolling down the illuminated street. If you’re feeling hungry afterward, head over to Liberty Station for a casual bite at one of their delicious vendors in Liberty Public Market.
  • Go ice skating: For around $50, a family of four in San Diego can enjoy an afternoon or evening of ice skating – including skate rentals – at a number of fantastic locations throughout the county. Pack a picnic lunch or dinner to enjoy after your skating adventure at a nearby park or beach!
  • Stroll through the Garden of Lights: Also for around $50, a family of four can wander through San Diego Botanic Garden’s gorgeous holiday-themed Garden of Lights. Now through December 30, your family will be in awe of over 125,000 sparkling lights that transform the Botanic Garden into a magical holiday wonderland! There is also food, entertainment, activities and pictures with Santa. Admission for children ages 3-17 is just $5.
  • Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo: If your family has an annual membership to the San Diego Zoo, there is really no better budget-friendly way to revel in the holiday spirit than by visiting the zoo during Jungle Bells. Through January 6, the zoo stays open until 9 p.m. and features thousands of colored light displays, animal-themed holiday entertainment, live music and a nightly parade.

Looking for more family fun this holiday season? Visit Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups’ articles for the best tips in San Diego.

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