‘Tis the season to embrace the holiday cheer in sunny San Diego, where the festive spirit merges seamlessly with the laid-back coastal vibe. Whether you’re spending the holidays with your family, furry friend, solo, with friends, or your significant other, the city offers more than enough plans that promise to make this season truly unforgettable. That’s why we’ve rounded up 56 things to do during the Holidays in San Diego so you can enjoy the festivities stress-free.
Table Of Contents
- 'Tis the season to parade all day
- Enjoy a jolly holiday show
- Pay Santa a visit
- Sleigh you way into fun fairs
- Be dazzled by the holiday light displays
- Take your ice skates for some outdoor merriment
- Fill up with joy at an amusement park
- Light up the Menorah
- Celebrate Kwanzaa
- Go holiday shopping 'til you drop
- Check out San Diego's Christmas Trees
‘Tis the season to parade all day
Oh! What would be the Holidays without its magical parades? A quintessential way to celebrate Holidays in San Diego, begin your celebrations by immersing yourself in the vibrant energy that graces the streets of SD. Watch as colorful floats, marching bands, and festive characters create the picture-perfect show.
on December 1, Coronado will host a festive parade at the Ferry Landing to Hotel del Coronado with live music and a grand tree lighting.
Join the Encinitas Holiday Parade on December 2, as floats and bands roll along Coast Highway 101.
Celebrate more than 40 years of tradition at Ocean Beach’s quaint Holiday Parade on December 2.
Bands, drill teams, vintage vehicles, and even a camel will make an appearance at this year’s La Jolla’s Christmas Parade on December 3.
With over 100 dazzling entries, Chula Vista’s Starlight Parade & Festival will transforms Third Avenue into a winter wonderland on December 3.
Kick off the holiday season at the Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade on December 9, with SeaWorld’s fireworks.
Watch the Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights on December 9, featuring boats brightly decorated for the holiday season.
The Port of San Diego Bay Parade of Lights on December 10 and 17, will showcase more than 50 boats with this year’s theme: Christmas traditions around the world.
Experience America’s Largest Balloon Parade at the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade on December 27.
Enjoy a jolly holiday show
For an evening filled with laughter, joy, and heartwarming performances, treat yourself to a jolly holiday show. San Diego’s theaters and most iconic venues have various productions and concerts tailored for the season. From classic holiday tales to more modern renditions, these shows are perfect for both families and those seeking a delightful evening out.
Add a new holiday music tradition this season and head to Candlelight’s festive concerts for a cozy candlelit evening filled with classical renditions of your favorite holiday and pop tunes. Various dates available.
From November 8 to December 31, celebrate the holidays at the Old Globe Theatre as it transforms into snowy Who-ville.
Imagine if Scrooge was from America’s Finest City, well come see it live from November 17 to December 24, as you are visited by the local spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come in this comedic twist of the holiday classic.
Join the joyous celebration of holiday songs and sing-a-long at R•E•S•P•E•C•T•F•U•L•L•Y Christmas from November 25 to December 24.
If you are more into the classics, tradition meets Dickens’s Victorian world in A Christmas Carol from December 8 to 17, on the Julian stage.
Tip-toe into an enchanting winter wonderland and enjoy the magical ballet experience of City Ballet’s The Nutcracker from December 21 to 23.
From December 15 to 17, wear your ugly sweater because you have a date with San Diego Symphony’s Noel Noel at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park for a night full of cozy holiday moments and your favorite tunes.
Paying homage to the legend himself, these cozy concerts on December 19 and 20 include a catalog of tunes that Sinatra loved to sing during the holiday season and a delicious menu of small bites!
Pay Santa a visit
No holiday celebration is complete without a visit to the man in the red suit himself. San Diego hosts various events where children and adults alike can meet Santa Claus, share their wish lists, and capture the moment with a cherished photo.
Enjoy a personalized visit with Santa at Fashion Valley’s Photo Experience, available from November 10 to Christmas eve, featuring extended time and special add-ons.
Create cherished memories at Westfield UTC’s Photo with Santa from November 17 to December 24, ensuring an unforgettable festive experience.
On December 2, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, stroll on over to Santa’s Workshop located behind Geppetto’s Toys and snap a selfie with Santa at Seaport Village.
Do you smell that? Eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast, coffee, juices, and mouth-watering Cinnabons are all part of a scrumptious breakfast Santa is hosting at Parkway Plaza on December 2, from 09:00 am to 11:00 am.
Visit Santa in The Forum’s Garden Area Saturdays and Sundays through December 23, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, and tell him all your holiday wishes.
Capture picture-perfect memories with Santa at Grossmont Center’s Workshop from November 24 to December 24, where no appointment necessary to get up-close and personal with the big red man.
Sleigh you way into fun fairs
San Diego’s festive spirit extends beyond traditional celebrations to include unique and vibrant fairs. From the Encinitas Holiday Street Fair to SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-off, these events showcase the city’s cultural diversity and bring people together in what makes Holidays in San Diego so special.
Dive into the festive frenzy of the Encinitas Holiday Street Fair on November 19. Brace yourself for a whirlwind of children’s rides, lively entertainment, and mouthwatering food and drink options that turn the streets into a vibrant hub of holiday joy!
Picture this: an iconic 88-foot Norfolk pine tree lighting, live entertainment, festive firetruck rides, free snaps with Santa, and a Grinch movie screening. Love it? Then, grab your loved ones and step into the magic of Julian’s Country Christmas on November 25.
Hang-ten with Santa at Seaport Village’s Surfin’ Santa Arrival on November 25. Immerse yourself in a lively parade, groove to live music, witness street performers, and capture unforgettable moments of your crew surfing with the big guy.
Get ready for a two-day holiday extravaganza at Balboa Park December Nights on December 1 and 2. Free museum access, carolers serenading, live music filling the air, and an international feast awaits.
December 2 transforms Little Italy into a winter wonderland, streets twinkling, nutcrackers towering, and kinetic tree displays dancing with holiday cheer.
On December 2, wander La Mesa’s historic downtown, exploring craft vendors, cozying up with artisan treats, and enjoying festive entertainment.
Spice up December 3 at SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off. Join for a day filled with craft beer, wine, shopping, music, and fiery chili fun.
Save the date because on December 8, you’ll immerse in holiday joy at Poway’s Christmas in the Park. Tree lighting, Santa visits, live music, treats, crafts, and more will all be part of this holiday extravaganza
On December 27, get ready to dive into the festive buzz at the 2nd Snapdragon Bowl Bash in downtown San Diego. Free family fun awaits you as you enjoy live music, Battle of the Bands, mouthwatering food specials, and an exclusive photo op with the coveted Holiday Bowl Trophy.
Be dazzled by the holiday light displays
As the sun sets, San Diego transforms into a breathtaking spectacle of lights. These holiday displays are the perfect backdrop for festive photos and an integral part of the enchanting ambiance that make Holidays in San Diego so magical.
The Hotel Del Coronado’s Founders Lawn transforms into a magical grove with towering Norfolk Island Pines dancing in a dynamic light show set to music. Be mesmerized until January 7!
Immerse yourself in a one-mile loop of surprise and delight at the Garden, blending nature and art for a festive nightly display until January 1.
Drive through a twinkling mile of lights dancing to holiday tunes, creating a unique experience each visit. Catch the colorful magic from December 1 to 23!
Experience a seaside winter wonderland at this iconic venue from December 14 to 31, complete with twinkling lights, holiday cheer, and delightful snacks and drinks.
Hop on for a wave of holiday cheer! Elf conductors guide you through Old Town, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Balboa Park, and more. Festive nights await from December 1 to 23, and 26 to 30.
Step into a winter wonderland from December 15 to 22, surrounded by brilliantly lit trees, magical cottages, light tunnels, entertainers, and over a million festive lights.
Take your ice skates for some outdoor merriment
Feel the crisp air as you gracefully glide across the ice, surrounded by the scenic beauty of San Diego. Skating pros and noobies can enjoy the unique blend of holiday merriment and Southern California charm.
Let the holiday magic unfold as you lace up your skates at Viejas Ice Rink, swirling in joy until January 8.
From November 16 to January 7, glide into the season at ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station’s outdoor ice skating rink, enchanting the community.
Dive into a SoCal’s winter wonderland at Hotel del Coronado’s Skating by the Sea, transforming Windsor Lawn into a seaside rink from November 17 to January 7.
42. Red Nose Run
Feel the festive sand beneath your feet at the family-friendly Red Nose Run on Del Mar beach on December 9, benefitting Semper Fi & America’s Fund and San Dieguito River Park.
Unleash your holiday spirit at the San Diego Santa Run 5K and 1 Mile Race on December 9, where festive attire meets a one-of-a-kind holiday experience.
Fill up with joy at an amusement park
For families and thrill-seekers, San Diego’s amusement parks are a treasure trove of holiday joy. Decorated with festive lights and adorned with holiday-themed attractions, these parks offer a unique blend of excitement and holiday cheer.
Dive into festive cheer at LEGOLAND until January 7 with Santa, the Toy Soldier, and the Gingerbread Man. And as they day ceases, head over to Fun Town where there’s a 30-foot, fully decorated LEGO Christmas tree with over 400 LEGO ornaments twinkling to the rhythm of music.
Are you tall enough? Hop on the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster until December 31 and sip holiday-inspired drinks and typical amusement park sweets amid a million lights on Belmont Park’s enchanting Midway.
From November 13 to January 7, SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration awaits you with delightful treats, aquatic holiday spectacles, and dazzling live shows that promise a season of magic.
Hi, it’s Elmo! From November 10 to January 7 Sesame Place transforms into a winter wonderland filled with magical surprises, festive games, unique decorations, and all the Sesame Street friends dressed in their cute holiday attire. —Lowkey this is what our childhood dreams were made of!
Choo, choo! Calling all passenger to climb aboard the North Pole Limited from November 24 to December 16 for carol-singing elves, Christmas tales, and treats, stopping at Santa’s Workshop for a magical visit.
Join the San Diego Zoo’s Jungle Bells celebration, lighting up nights from December 9 through January 1 until 8 p.m. Experience enchanting entertainment, including the Jungle Brass, Reindeer games, Dr. Harry’s and his friends, Dr. Zoolittle’s One Wild Night Before Christmas, and, of course, the spectacular Aurora.
Light up the Menorah
Celebrate Hanukkah in San Diego with an array of events made for everyone in the family. Partake in traditional festivities, witness the lighting of the Menorah, and even play dreidel with your favorite childhood characters; the celebrations are endless.
Join the Chabad of La Jolla for a magical Annual Hanukkah Celebration on Patio Sol at La Valencia Hotel on December 7, starting at 5:00 pm. Revel in live music, menorah lighting, latkes, doughnuts, dreidels, holiday gifts, and more.
Dive into Hanukkah joy at Sesame Place San Diego on December 10. Play dreidel, light the Menorah, dance to festive tunes, and enjoy Glatt Kosher treats by Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage, overseen by Rabbi Daniel Reich.
Celebrate the rich African heritage and culture during Kwanzaa in San Diego as the city hosts events and gatherings that embrace the seven principles of Kwanzaa fostering: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, and Imani.
Step into the vibrant celebration of Black excellence at WorldBeat Center’s Kwanzaa Fest from December 26 to 28. Each day embodies Kwanzaa principles, featuring dynamic speakers, performances, candle lighting, libation, poetry by Johnnierenee Nia Nelson, free heirloom seeds, and the festive Karamu feast – a true family get-down!
Go holiday shopping ’til you drop
Make your Holidays in San Diego even more special with a unique gift from our local business. Roam through the streets adorned with holiday lights, and let the spirit of giving guide your shopping spree.
Wander through the transformed Little Italy Farmers Market every Wednesday in December, exploring artisanal gifts, delectable holiday treats, and festive decorations. Discover unique stocking stuffers, soaps, teas, and more, supporting local small businesses.
On December 9, experience a unique European-style Christmas Market infused with Yuletide spirit. Hosted by the collaborative efforts of the Backfence Society, this event boasts artisanal vendors, a touch dark holiday magic, lots of community initiatives, and a wild hunt of Vista’s own Krampus!
On December 2 and 3, you have a date at The Makers Arcade Holiday Fair for a holiday shopping extravaganza like no other. With over 120 small-batch makers, craft cocktails, gourmet food trucks, live music, and more, this festive market will cross off in your list all your holiday gifts. —Don’t miss the swag bag for the first 100 attendees each day!
Check out San Diego’s Christmas Trees
56. Make your way through the Christmas Tree Trail
Embark on a merry journey through San Diego, where holiday magic sparkles at every turn. Behold the enchanting Christmas trees at iconic spots like Hotel del Coronado, The Old Globe, Mister A’s, and the charming streets of Little Italy at 621 W Fir St. and 523 W Date St. Continue your festive tour to Liberty Station at 2816 Historic Decatur Rd., then bask in the coastal glow at 1850 Ocean Front St., Del Mar, and Crystal Pier. Feel the joyous spirit at SeaWorld San Diego and experience the magic in Julian at Main Street and Washington Street.