Holiday Events in San Diego: Where to Go for Festive Fun

December in San Diego is full of extraordinary seasonal events for the whole family! As the festive season approaches, the city transforms into a wonderland of lights, music, and cheer. Combining its sunny charm with the joyous spirit of the holidays, San Diego offers a unique winter experience that locals and visitors should not miss. While we can’t mention all of them here, we have compiled a short list of the fun holiday festivities happening throughout the county. Check out this list of holiday events in San Diego, and start planning how many you’ll attend!


Must-Visit Holiday Events in San Diego

With the arrival of December, the holiday spirit takes over San Diego, turning it into a festive playground. To help you make the most of the festive season, we have compiled a list of some of the best holiday events in San Diego. Each event promises a unique experience filled with merriment and holiday cheer. From the shimmering waterfront to the lively streets, these events are the heart and soul of the holiday season in our vibrant city.


San Diego Bay Parade of Lights: 

When: December 10 and December 17, 2023 – The procession will start at 5:30 PM

2023 Theme: Christmas Traditions around the World

Imagine a fleet of boats, each decked out in dazzling lights, gliding gracefully across the San Diego Bay. This maritime parade is a visual spectacle, combining the bay’s natural beauty with the festive glow of holiday lights. Families gather along the shoreline, hot cocoa in hand, marveling at this unique San Diego tradition.


Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

When: Runs from November 10 through December 31

Where: Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

The annual family favorite is back! Kids and adults alike will enjoy the classic story coming to life in the stunning Old Globe theatre.


The Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade: 

When: Saturday, December 16, 2022 – From 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Registration: Sign up your pet in advance for $25

This whimsical parade in the historic Gaslamp Quarter is a delight for pet lovers. Watch dogs, cats, and even a few exotic pets strut in their festive looks down the street. It’s a heartwarming display of holiday spirit and a testament to the city’s love for its furry friends.


Holiday Events at Little Italy: 

Following the Tree Lighting & Christmas Village, Little Italy continues its festive celebrations. Enjoy whimsical appearances by Gio the Elf throughout the neighborhood, and participate in the heartwarming tradition of sending Letters to Santa at the Piazza della Famiglia. The Wednesday Holiday Market also offers a unique shopping experience featuring local vendors and a festive atmosphere. These events extend the holiday spirit in Little Italy, making it a must-visit destination for a truly enchanting holiday experience.


Holidays at Legoland:

When: November 18 through January 7

Where: One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

Head to Legoland for a variety of holiday delights! Take pictures with characters like Santa, the Toy Soldier, and the Gingerbread Man. Don’t miss the giant LEGO® Christmas tree and unforgettable seasonal shows. Indulge in special treats and enjoy exciting LEGO® activities amidst the twinkling lights. Additionally, the Kids’ New Year celebration on December 31st features fireworks, live music, and a thrilling New Year’s countdown!


Julian’s Country Christmas: 

When: Different events throughout December

Where: Main Street

Charming Julian lets you experience holiday delights with the Cuyamaca Mountains acting as a beautiful backdrop. Visit this month to find unique holiday gifts at the local shops, ice skate at the farm, make ornaments at their holiday hayride event, and have a slice of Julian apple pie. While you’re there, take the kids to Town Hall to add a decoration to a tree and write a letter to Santa! On December 25th, head to Main Street Julian for a small-town celebration of the holiday tree lighting. Look at their website to discover all the fun events they’ll host! 


Holidays at the Hotel Del Coronado: 

Experience a 1920s-inspired ‘Twenties Holiday Affair’ this season at Hotel del Coronado from November 17th to January 7th. Enjoy unique festivities like beachfront ice skating, cozy igloo gatherings, and the dazzling ‘All That Jazz’ Lightshow. The celebration also features special events like the Jingle Roast, Thanksgiving Buffet, a Holiday Festival, and opportunities for Photos with Santa. With additional offerings like Elf Deliveries, Movies on the Beach, Gingerbread House decorating, and grand feasts on Christmas Eve and Day, culminating in a Rockin’ New Year’s Eve at the Smokehouse, the Hotel del Coronado provides an enchanting holiday experience for all ages.


Hidden Gems for Holiday Celebrations

Beyond the bright lights and well-known festivities, San Diego harbors some delightful hidden gems that offer a more intimate holiday experience. These lesser-known spots are where locals love to revel in the season’s joy away from the bustling crowds. In this section, we’ll uncover these secret havens of holiday cheer, each with its unique charm and festive spirit.


Seaport Village Holiday Caroling: 

Tucked away in the charming Seaport Village, local choirs fill the air with classic melodies. Stroll along the waterfront, enjoy the festive music, and discover quaint shops offering unique holiday gifts. You and your family can join several festive activities in the area, like gingerbread house workshops, the Surfin Santa Parade, and taking selfies with Santa himself!


Coronado Island Holiday Walk: 

Coronado Island offers a serene holiday escape with its picturesque streets and elegant holiday decor. Walking is perfect for enjoying the island’s festive ambiance, with small-scale events and local artisan markets.


North Park Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair: 

North Park, known for its vibrant community, hosts a delightful holiday fair. This less crowded but equally festive event features specialty holiday gifts, delicious homemade baked goods, hot chocolate, and cider.


Ocean Beach Holiday Market: 

For a laid-back holiday shopping experience, the Ocean Beach Holiday Market is a must-visit. Local vendors offer everything from handmade crafts to gourmet treats, all set against Ocean Beach’s relaxed vibe. Look at their calendar for more festive activities.


La Jolla Holiday Festivities: 

Nestled in La Jolla’s picturesque coastal setting, these events provide San Diego residents with a serene yet festive holiday escape. From the intimate Christmas Eve dinner at La Valencia to the family-friendly gingerbread house decorating, there’s a personal touch to each activity. The jazz rendition of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ at The Conrad adds a cultural flair. At the same time, the storytime brunch with Santa and the elegant Holiday Tea at La Valencia offers delightful experiences away from the city’s hustle.


Old Town Las Posadas: 

Old Town’s rich heritage and community spirit make it ideal for experiencing the holiday season’s warmth and joy. Two festive events are held in the area in December: the Tree Lighting Ceremony (December 7) at the Whaley House complex and the 65th Annual Las Posadas (December 8) at Heritage County Park. The Tree Lighting Ceremony features choral performances and a festive atmosphere, while Las Posadas offers a historical reenactment celebrating Mexican traditions.


Tips for Enjoying the Festivities

To fully immerse yourself in the holiday spirit of San Diego and make the most of its festive offerings, a few insider tips can go a long way. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, these suggestions will help you navigate and enjoy the holiday events in San Diego with ease and joy.


  • Dress Smartly for the Weather: San Diego’s winter is mild, but evenings can get chilly, especially near the water. Dress in layers to stay comfortable between indoor and outdoor events. Remember a light jacket or a festive scarf!
  • Plan Your Transportation: With the influx of visitors and numerous events, planning your transportation in advance is wise. Use public transit, ride-sharing services, or parking apps to find the best spots. This way, you can avoid traffic and parking hassles and focus on enjoying the festivities.
  • Book Tickets and Make Reservations Early: Popular events and dining spots fill up quickly during the holiday season. Book your tickets and make restaurant reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment. 
  • Explore Local Holiday Foods: San Diego’s culinary scene is vibrant and diverse, and the holidays are a perfect time to explore it. Indulge in the season’s flavors, from seasonal craft beers to festive treats at local bakeries.
  • Stay Hydrated and Rested: Amidst the excitement, it’s easy to forget the basics. Stay hydrated, especially if you’re indulging in holiday spirits, and ensure you get enough rest. This step will keep your energy levels up and help you enjoy the festivities.
  • Capture the Moments: San Diego’s holiday events are picturesque, so remember your camera. Capture the twinkling lights, your festive outfits, and the joyous moments with friends and family. These photos will be cherished memories of your holiday experience in San Diego.


Embracing San Diego’s Winter Wonderland

San Diego’s winter charm extends beyond the evening’s festive lights and holiday parades. The city offers many daytime activities that perfectly complement the holiday spirit. From sun-kissed beaches and winter sports to cozy neighborhood cafes, San Diego is a delightful blend of relaxation and celebration during the holiday season.


Beachside Winter Walks: 

Take advantage of San Diego’s mild winter weather with a leisurely walk along its stunning beaches, or enjoy a scenic hike. The winter sun casts a magical glow, creating a serene and picturesque setting. It’s a perfect way to enjoy the natural beauty of San Diego while staying in the holiday mood.


Visit Seasonal Markets: 

Explore the various holiday markets that pop up around the city. These markets are treasure troves of local crafts, unique gifts, and festive decorations. They’re also a great place to savor seasonal treats and mingle with locals.


Enjoy Festive Brunches: 

San Diego’s culinary scene shines during the holiday season. Many local cafes and restaurants offer special festive and healthy brunch menus. Indulge in dishes that blend traditional holiday flavors with San Diego’s fresh, coastal ingredients.


Outdoor Ice Skating: 

Experience the joy of ice skating at one of San Diego’s rinks. Skating under the open sky, with palm trees in the backdrop, is a unique experience that combines winter fun with San Diego’s signature style.


Explore the City’s Decorations: 

Take a tour of San Diego’s neighborhoods to see the festive decorations. Each area has its own style, from elegantly lit palm trees to extravagantly decorated homes. It’s a beautiful way to experience the city’s diverse holiday spirit.


Relax in Cozy Coffee Shops: 

For a more relaxed experience, visit one of the city’s many cozy coffee shops. Enjoy a hot beverage and a sweet treat while soaking in the festive ambiance. It’s a perfect way to break from the hustle and bustle of holiday activities.


Key Takeaways

We invite you to explore the diverse and vibrant holiday events in San Diego. From the sparkling lights of the bay to the festive streets of Little Italy, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful city. We wish you a joyous and extraordinary holiday season.

Make the most of your holiday season in good health and high spirits! Contact our healthcare professionals if you need guidance on staying healthy during the holidays. If you’re seeking more insider tips on enjoying San Diego to the fullest, explore our dedicated resources page. Your perfect San Diego holiday experience is just a click away!

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