San Diego Christmas is a magical time in America’s Finest City. Not many people know this but San Diego goes all out with its Christmas displays and decorations. From ice skating on the beach to endless beautiful Christmas trees, the annual San Diego holiday bowl, and even a boat parade of lights on San Diego bay. San Diego has holiday activities for everyone to enjoy. Below I’m sharing the best activities to check out in December to put you and your loved ones in the holiday spirit!
San Diego Christmas Activities
Hotel Del Coronado Christmas
The Ultimate Christmas decor award goes to the Hotel Del Coronado. The Del is the most magical this time of year. Not only is it located on one of the most famous San Diego beaches, but it’s decorated with multiple Christmas trees, an ice skating rink on the beach, a holiday food truck, and a light show orchestrated to music. The show is completely free and happens every day from 5 pm – 9 pm (every 30 minutes) and is located next to the Crown Room. For more information head to the Hotel Del Coronado website.
- Ice Skating costs $40 pp
- Holiday food truck items range between $16-$30
- They have igloos for rent on the beach this year
- You can rent a fireplace around the rink but it’s a $150 minimum food + drink purchase
With a Christmas Tree standing at 88 feet tall another great holiday activity is a day/evening in Liberty Station. Not only that, but they have an array of cuisines at the Liberty Station Public Market, a large ice skating rink, and holiday lights scattered about. Don’t forget to check out Pigment for the cutest holiday gifts and to shop small this season.
- Rady’s Ice skating Rink is $15 per person
- and directly supports Rady’s Children’s hospital when purchasing a ticket. Yay for giving back!
- The Nutcracker is December 11th this year
One Paseo Del Mar
One Paseo is a great place to celebrate the holidays. Not only do they have tons of shopping and restaurants. But they also have a large Christmas tree, a festive Studebaker littered with Christmas decor and their very own December Nights. You can find out more information here.
- Holiday Cinema December 11th
- December Nights happens every Friday + Saturday until 12/24
- enjoy snow cascading from the rooftops, and surprise guests
Holiday Market at Petco Park
The Holiday Market at Petco Park is back this year! This event is held every day from December 1st until December 24th and features food and shopping stalls reminiscent of a European Christmas market, a carousel, beautiful light displays, photo opportunities with Santa, and so much more! To buy your tickets head here.
- Tickets are $10 per child and $16 per adult
- Carousel is $3
- You need to book your time slot in advance
- Live music on select nights only
Seaport Village Surfin Santa
Seaport Village is a hidden gem for holiday activities. Every year they have a Surfin Santa event where Santa himself surfs into the seaport and parades down. Now, this already happened this year but don’t let it sway you from visiting Seaport Village this holiday. There are tons of light displays (including a light tunnel orchestrated to music), a Christmas tree made out of buoys, and a vintage Carousel for kids. Find out more information here.
San Diego Botanic Lightscape
Lightscape is a brand new winter event at the San Diego Botanical Garden located in Encinitas. Stroll through the outdoor gardens that are lit up with over 1 million holiday lights. Enjoy tons of exhibits from a lit-up bamboo garden, singing trees, fire displays, and my personal favorite the winter cathedral. This event is a popular one so make sure to book your time slot in advance. Finally, they are open from December 4th-January 1st.
December Nights Balboa Park
Balboa Park December Nights is my favorite of all the holiday activities in San Diego. Being that the past three years it has been a drive-thru experience, I am so excited to announce it is back in 2023. This year it is taking place on December 2nd and 3rd. Explore the holiday cheer that is brought to Balboa Park with tons of unique food vendors, museums with free entry, and live entertainment. The Christmas tree lighting ceremony takes place on the first evening with an exciting countdown at dusk. Finally, make sure to take an uber or ride your bike as parking can be quite an ordeal!
Snow and Glow Holiday Festival
Located at the Del Mar Fairgrounds this festival is great for kids! It has two major attractions: the snow tubing hill and a 1 million festive lights walkthrough. You can also rent a private igloo with smores, food, and drinks for the entire family. Check out this site for more information
- Starts December 8th through January 1st
- Tickets are $43 to experience everything (unlimited snow tubing)
- $25 for the walk-through light experience
- $16 children’s ticket
- $20 to park
Jungle Bells San Diego Zoo
The San Diego zoo is one of the most popular San Diego attractions and annually the Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland during the holidays. It’s a great experience for any age as the zoo is lit up with holiday lights and decorations, live music, and special food and drinks. You can also take a ride on The Polar Express (4D experience). This year it’s happening from December 9th – January 1st and you can find more information here.
The Grinch at The Old Globe Theatre
Did you know that Dr. Suess lived in San Diego? That is why How The Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe Theatre is so iconic in San Diego. It has to be the most popular San Diego Christmas activities. Showings start in early November and go through the end of December. You most definitely need to book tickets in advance as they are known to sell out fast!
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Every year during December the San Diego boating community goes all out with their San Diego parade of lights. Over 80 boats parade throughout the San Diego bay decked out in Christmas lights. It’s a completely free event and beings at 5 pm each evening it’s held (for 2021 it’s December 12th and 19th). Finally, the parade starts from Shelter Island and goes to Harbor Island. Another popular parade to check out is the La Jolla Christmas Parade.
San Diego Christmas Bars + Restaurants
These bars and restaurants listed below go all out for Christmas with decorations and special holiday drinks for the season:
- False Idol in Little Italy
- Nightmare Before Christmas theme – get the hot buttered rum
- Miracle on 30th Street Polite Provisions
- Nelsons Beer Hall in Downtown
- Barbarella in La Jolla
- InsideOUT in Hillcrest
- Nolita Hall in Little Italy
- Top of The Hyatt Downtown
- Kindred in South Park
- Cesarina in Point Loma
Neighborhoods in San Diego with the Best Christmas Lights
There are tons of neighborhoods that are decked out in Christmas lights and decorations that make for a great weekend activity. The best part is? All of these are free San Diego Christmas Activities! Some neighborhoods sell hot chocolate, elote, and popcorn, and there may even be Santa sightings. Below are the top neighborhoods to check out when visiting during Christmas:
- Merritage Court in Scripps Ranch (pictured above)
- Candy Cane Lane in Poway (Hickory St – pictured above)
- Christmas Circle in Chula Vista (Mankato street + Whitney street)
- Christmas Card Lane Rancho Penasquitos (Oviedo street + Ellingham street)
- Carlsbad Christmas House
- Luminaria South Park
- Jingle Bell Hill in El Cajon (Pepper Drive)
- Starlight Circle in Santee
- Garrison Street Lights in Point Loma
Well, there ya have it, folks. That about covers it for San Diego Christmas activities. Which ones are you going to check off your list this year? If you have any questions feel free to leave them below. Check out more of my San Diego guides. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
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