Get your fuzzy socks and hot cocoa ready, San Diego. From seasonal festivals and performances to festive events, the holiday season in America’s Finest City is truly magical.
Gather family and friends and celebrate what makes this time of year special with this guide featuring 70+ events.
December Nights | Friday, Dec. 1 + Saturday, Dec. 2 | 3-11 p.m. + 11 a.m.-11 p.m. | Balboa Park | Free | The city’s largest holiday festival takes over the landmark for two days with lights, music, food, and seasonal activities.
Holiday in the Village | Saturday, Dec. 2 | 12-9 p.m. | Downtown La Mesa | Free | Live music, craft vendors, food, holiday photo opportunities, and a zone for the kids “bigger than Santa’s Toy Shop” will line La Mesa Boulevard between Spring and Fourth streets for this community fest.
Little Italy Tree Lighting + Christmas Village | Saturday, Dec. 2 | 4-8 p.m. | Piazza della Famiglia | Free | Ring in the season with the lighting of the community’s 25-ft artsy “Aurora” tree, live music, seasonal vendors, holiday treats, and a visit from the jolly guy himself.
La Jolla Christmas Parade and Festival | Sunday, Dec. 3 | 11:30 a.m.| Wall Street, near Girard Avenue | Free | Enjoy live entertainment + seasonal activities, followed by the 67th annual parade at 1:30 p.m. along this route.
Unleash the Holiday Cheer | Sunday, Dec. 3 | 11 a.m.-2 p.m. | 2455 Cushing Rd., Liberty Station | $2-$20 | This military appreciation event features a pet parade and costume contest, crafts, and a holiday vendor village.
San Marcos Holly Jolly Holiday Market | Sunday, Dec. 3 | 10 a.m.-4 p.m. | 251 North City Dr. (near Cal State San Marcos) | Free | Enjoy live music, seasonal food, and 100+ artisans and vendors selling their treasures.
SnowSide Winter Festival | Friday, Dec. 1-Sunday, Dec. 3 | 4-9 p.m. | Emerald Isle Golf Course, Oceanside | $15-20 | This family-friendly fest features sledding, bouncy houses, glow putt-putt golf, Santa Claus, and local food vendors.
Holiday Festival | Wednesday, Dec. 6 | 2-9 p.m. | Hotel del Coronado | Free; Skating by the Sea required admission | Catch a grand entrance by “Skydiving Santa,” performances from local Coronado students, photos with St. Nick, ice skating, the “All That Jazz” lightshow (5-9 p.m.), and festive fireworks at 6:45 p.m.
Christmas in the Park | Friday, Dec. 8 + Saturday, Dec. 9 | 5:30-8:30 p.m. + 3:30-8:30 p.m. | Old Poway Park | Free | Step back in time for this old-fashioned holiday tradition complete with caroling, model train displays, crafts for kids, and visits with Santa. Pro tip: Park at Poway City Hall on Civic Center Drive or Poway Adult School on Twin Peaks Road and take a free shuttle to and from the event.
Winter Festival | Friday, Jan. 12 + Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024 | 5-9 p.m. + 3:30-8:30 p.m. | Poway Community Park | Free | A family-friendly weekend of seasonal activities like sledding and ice skating, plus specialty and food vendors.
SD’s Seasonal Ice Rinks | Dates vary | Times vary | Viejas Ice Skating Rink; Rady Children’s Ice Rink; Skating by the Sea; Glice Rink | Prices vary | Glide over to this guide to festive ice rinks in San Diego County that you can’t miss this season; most run through Jan. 7, 2024.
Holiday Pop-up Bars | Dates, times, and locations vary | Prices of menu items vary | From Miracle at Draft to Sippin’ Santa at Lime in the Coconut and The Grass Skirt, several festive bars have popped up across SD offering themed cocktails and major merrymaking.
A Very Furry Christmas | Friday, Nov. 10-Sunday, Jan. 7 | 10 a.m.-5 p.m. | Sesame Place San Diego | Included with admission | The “Sesame Street” theme park transforms into a winter wonderland with a Christmas parade, dance party, and other seasonal surprises.
Winter Wonder | Saturday, Nov. 11-Sunday, Dec. 31 | Opens daily at 11 a.m. | Belmont Park | Free | The Mission Beach landmark goes festive with special entertainment, holiday treats, and 1+ million holiday lights. Pro tip: Snag a seat at Draft for the Miracle pop-up bar.
Pine Creek: Camp Christmas | 8668 Pine Creek Rd. | Friday, Nov. 17-Saturday, Dec. 23 (select nights) | 5:30-9 p.m. | $15 | Make your way to the local mountain campground for this holiday extravaganza featuring hayrides, bounce houses, games, food, and light shows set to festive music.
SeaWorld Christmas Celebration | Friday, Nov. 17-Sunday, Jan. 7 | Times vary | SeaWorld San Diego | Included with admission | Meet Santa and Rudolph, enjoy festive entertainment, feel the “snow” falling, and walk down a music-activated tunnel of lights.
Holidays at LEGOLAND | Saturday, Nov. 18-Sunday Jan. 7 | Select days, times vary | Included with admission | Build memories: Meet and greets with holiday characters and a 30-ft Christmas tree made entirely of LEGOs are must-sees here.
San Diego Made Holiday Market | Saturday, Nov. 18 + Sunday, Nov. 19 | 11 a.m.-5 p.m. | Julep Venue | $6 | Shop 120+ local, curated makers while enjoying live music and activities like a floral bar, interactive art, a creative workshop, and tarot card readings.
Christmas Tree Lighting + Holiday Market | Tues., Nov. 21 | 4-7 p.m. | Otay Ranch Town Center | Free | Watch the shopping hub light up its tree with 17,000+ lights while enjoying community performances, festive activities, and magical “snowfall.”
Salute the Season: Holiday Tree Lighting | Friday, Nov. 24 | 5-9 p.m. | Liberty Station, North Promenade | Free | Celebrate the season with the lighting of the 88-ft Norfolk pine, live entertainment, festive fire truck rides, and photos with Santa.
Wild Holidays | Friday, Nov. 24-Sunday, Dec. 31 (select nights) | Open until 8 p.m. | Included with admission | San Diego Zoo Safari Park | The Escondido attraction twinkles with seasonal lights, special entertainment, and festive areas like the Forest of Color and Enchanted Lagoon.
December Nights at One Paseo | Friday, Nov. 24-Saturday, Dec. 23 (every Friday + Saturday) | 5-7 p.m. | One Paseo | The shopping hub’s Plaza West area transforms into a winter wonderland featuring “snow,” pretty lights, and seasonal fun.
Adams Avenue Spirit Stroll | Saturday, Nov. 25 | 2-5 p.m. | Adams Avenue | $35 | Celebrate Small Business Saturday with this 21+ self-guided walk along 25 independently-owned retail shops in the neighborhood while enjoying themed cocktail tasters and sweet treats.
Surfin’ Santa | Saturday, Nov. 25 | 1-5 p.m. | Seaport Village | Free | Decked out in board shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, this SoCal-style Santa will arrive by watercraft — no less — to kick off the holiday season at the landmark. Expect a parade down the boardwalk, “snow” at Malibu Farm, and photos with Santa on his surfboard.
Holidays at the Grand | Friday, Nov. 24-Sunday, Dec. 24 | Select dates, times vary | Fairmont Grand Del Mar | Prices vary by activity | The luxe resort’s holiday offerings include its Glice Skating Rink, visits with Santa, wreath and cookie decorating workshops, and holiday tea service.
Gingerbread House Experience | Friday, Dec. 1-Sunday, Dec. 31 | Rancho Bernardo Inn | During normal hotel business hours | Free | Head to the hotel lobby to check out a giant, edible house of candy made by The Inn’s bakers and pastry chefs. The creation boasts 4,000-pounds of ingredients including 1,000-pounds of sugar, 400-pounds of candy, 240-pounds of eggs, and 128 pounds of molasses.
South Park Winter Walkabout | Saturday, Dec. 2 | 5-9 p.m. | 30th Street | Free | Stroll through the heart of South Park while shopping small and enjoying live music, deals, and lots of holiday cheer.
Makers Arcade Holiday Fair | Saturday, Dec. 2 + Sunday, Dec. 3 | 10 a.m.-5 p.m. | Broadway Pier | $6-$7 | Browse 120+ small-batch makers while enjoying food trucks, craft cocktails, live music, and photo opportunities.
OB Holiday Parade | Saturday, Dec. 2 | 5 p.m. | Ocean Beach | Free | Celebrate the season in the eclectic beach community — Newport Avenue’s famous “Crooked Tree” and all.
San Marcos Tree Lighting | Saturday, Dec. 2 | 2-7 p.m. | San Marcos Civic Center | Free | This North County celebration will feature family-friendly activities, photos with Santa (2-5 p.m.), and vendors selling handmade goodies and snacks. The tree lighting is at 5:35 p.m., sharp.
Christmas on Crystal Pier | Saturday, Dec. 2 | 2 p.m.-5 p.m. | Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach | Free | The beachfront tradition returns to the tip of the pier with the lighting of the tree, festive wreaths, Santa Claus, and the sunset.
Tinsel & Tails | Saturday, Dec. 2 | 5-10 p.m. | BRICK, Liberty Station | Free | The Animal Pad dog rescue will host this pup-friendly pawty with prizes for dogs and their humans.
Chula Vista Starlight Parade | Sunday, Dec. 3 | 3 p.m. | Third Avenue in downtown Chula Vista | Free | After a 3-year hiatus, the community celebration returns with a 5:45 p.m. tree lighting, followed by the parade featuring floats, bands, and dancers.
Hanukkah + Menorah Lighting | Thursday, Dec. 7 | 5 p.m. | Liberty Station, Central Promenade | Free | The Chabads of Downtown San Diego and Pacific Beach partner with Liberty Station to celebrate the start of Hanukkah at this dazzling ceremony that includes music, snacks, and crafts.
Jungle Bells | Saturday, Dec. 9-Monday, Jan. 1 | 3:30-8 p.m. | San Diego Zoo | Included with zoo admission or membership | Enjoy festive entertainment — from Reindeer Games to The Tinseltones — plus glimmering lights, treats, and the “Aurora” show featuring live performers and 3D video projections.
East Village Tree Lighting & Holiday Market | Saturday, Dec. 9 | 3-7 p.m. | Quartyard | Free | Peruse a curated holiday market featuring hand-crafted gifts while enjoying live music, food vendors, activities for the kids, and a tree lighting ceremony at 5:45 p.m.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights | Sunday, Dec. 10 + Sunday, Dec. 17 | 5:30 p.m. | San Diego Bay | Free | This local holiday tradition — sailing along for the past 53 years — features a procession of lavishly decorated boats lighting up San Diego Bay.
Hanukkah Celebration | Sunday, Dec. 10 | All day | Sesame Place | Included with admission | Learn to play dreidel, light the Menorah, and listen to music with Sesame Street characters — Glatt Kosher food will be available for purchase.
Menorah Lighting Ceremony | Tuesday, Dec. 12 | 5-7 p.m. | One Paseo (near Pigment + North Italia) | Free | The Chabad Jewish Center of Rancho Santa Fe + Rabbi Levi Raskin lead the celebration that also includes live music and kosher bites.
Hanukkah Under the Stars | Tuesday, Dec. 12 | 5-9 p.m. | Mission Valley Mall | Free | Gather at Nordstrom Rack Court to see the new Menorah display and enjoy live music, magicians, games, and a dreidel craft station.
Chanukah Celebration | Tuesday, Dec. 12 | 4-6 p.m. | The Forum Carlsbad | Free | Chabad La Costa leads this lighting of the Menorah, plus family-friendly activities.
Taste ‘N’ Tinis | Thursday, Dec. 14 | 5-9 p.m. | Hillcrest | $30-$35 | Explore local shopping and seasonal sips and food at this festive, self-guided tour — you even get to keep a commemorative mini martini cup.
Coastal Christmas | Thursday, Dec. 14-Saturday, Dec. 30 (select dates) | 4-9 p.m. | Del Mar Fairgrounds | $15-$20 | This festive village features the “Holiday Light Spectacular,” an ice skating rink, a holiday market, visits with Santa, and Frosty’s Fun Zone.
Ales N’ Rails | Saturday, Dec. 16 | 6-9:30 p.m. | San Diego Model Railroad Museum | $40+ | This 21+ shindig brings together local breweries and train-loving revelers for an evening of craft beer, ugly sweaters, live music, and train exhibits.
Gaslamp Pet Parade | Saturday, Dec. 16 | 1 p.m. | Gaslamp Quarter | Free | Watch costumed pets strut in downtown San Diego — it’s pawsitively adorable.
Almost Nakey Santacon | Saturday, Dec. 16 | 1-10 p.m. | Belmont Park | $65+ | This 21+ winter wonderland rave will feature 50-ft inflatables, life-sized snow globes, a Club Penguin Igloo Silent Disco, and more; come dressed in your best Santa-inspired outfit.
Holiday Curated: The Female Maker Market | Sunday, Dec. 17 | 11 a.m.-4 p.m. | Liberty Public Market | Shop small and local via 20+ female-owned businesses while enjoying an “Elf on the Shelf” hunt throughout the market.
Jingle Belle Family Cruise | Thursday, Dec. 21-Monday, Dec. 25 | Times vary | Bahia Resort Hotel and Catamaran Resort Hotel, Mission Bay | $45 | This festive, family-friendly cruise along Mission Bay features carolers, photos with Santa, and cookie decorating; a portion of proceeds benefits Mama’s Kitchen.
Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade | Wednesday, Dec. 27 | 10 a.m. | North Harbor Drive, between Maritime Museum and Ruocco Park | Free | The year-end tradition returns with magnificent floats, marching brands, drill teams, and merry energy via this route along the downtown waterfront.
DIRECTV Holiday Bowl | Wednesday, Dec. 27 | 5 p.m. | Petco Park | $59+ | The downtown ballpark has been transformed into a football field for the 44th annual game matching the top teams from the Pac-12 and ACC; it’ll be televised on Fox, too.
🎻 Holiday performances
“Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show” | Friday, Nov. 17-Saturday, Dec. 24 | Times vary | The Old Globe | $29+ | A reimagining of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with a comic local twist, set in “wintry” San Diego.
“Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” | Wednesday, Nov. 8-Sunday, Dec. 31 | Times vary | $26+ | The Old Globe | Back for its 26th year, this whimsical musical adaptation of the Dr. Seuss Christmas tale has become a San Diego holiday tradition.
“Plaid Tidings” | Friday, Nov. 24-Sunday, Dec. 24 | Times vary | San Diego Musical Theatre Stage | $25+ | There’s a whole lot of yuletide joy packed into this show of holiday standards.
“El Milagro del Recuerdo” | Friday, Dec. 1 + Sunday, Dec. 3 | 7:30 p.m. + 2 p.m. | San Diego Civic Theatre | $25-$270 | The San Diego Opera presents this heartwarming holiday mariachi opera all about family traditions, love, and dreaming of something more.
Carols by Candlelight | Friday, Dec. 8 | 8-10:45 p.m. | California Center for the Arts, Escondido | $27+ | Multi-platinum recording artist Deana Carter (“Strawberry Wine”) leads this glimmering concert with Charlie Worsham, Back to the Garden, and Steve and Anna Vaus.
“Jingle” | Saturday, Dec. 9 + Sunday, Dec. 10 | 8 p.m. + 3 p.m. | Balboa Theatre | $35+ | The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus opens its 39th season with the music of Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Michael Buble, Darren Criss, Celia Cruz, Sia, and more.
“Million Dollar Quartet” | Monday, Dec. 11 + Tuesday, Dec. 12 | 7:30 p.m. | Balboa Theatre | $32+ | Inspired by its namesake hit musical, this show pulls from Christmases past to weave together the lives and sounds of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley.
“Noel Noel” | Friday, Dec.15-Sunday, Dec. 17 | 7:30 p.m. + 5 p.m. | The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park | $22+ | You have three chances to enjoy the jolly tunes at the San Diego Symphony’s holiday concert tradition at the bayfront venue this season.
Golden State Ballet Presents “The Nutcracker” | Friday, Dec. 15-Sunday, Dec. 24 | Times vary | San Diego Civic Theatre | $25+ | Clara, her Nutcracker Prince + the company dance into the Land of Sweets as the San Diego Symphony performs Tchaikovsky’s score.
San Diego Ballet Presents “The Nutcracker” | Saturday, Dec. 16 | 1 + 5 p.m. | The Magnolia | $45+ | The company’s annual production of the holiday classic features 100+ costumed dancers — from sugar plum fairies to snowflakes — performing to Tchaikovsky’s epic score.
“Mannheim Steamroller Christmas” by Chip Davis | Thursday, Dec. 28 | 7:30 .p.m. | San Diego Civic Theatre | $39+ | With its iconic sounds and dazzling multimedia effects, this show has been a holiday staple for 35+ years.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” in Concert | Saturday, Dec. 23 | 6 p.m. | The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park | $22+ | Watch Tim Burton’s beloved classic on the big screens as the San Diego Symphony performs Grammy Award-winning composer Danny Elfman’s musical score live.
A Big Band Christmas | Friday, Dec. 8-Sunday, Dec. 10 | 7:30 p.m. + 2 p.m. | California Center for the Arts, Escondido | $35+ | A swingin’ jazz show featuring vocalists, dancers, and new arrangements of Christmas classics by Duane Benjamin.
✨ Light displays
Lightscape | Friday, Nov. 17-Monday, Jan. 1 | 5-10 p.m. | San Diego Botanic Garden | $29+ | This traveling, glimmering attraction has been reimagined for 2023 with new art installations — some set to festive sounds — lining a 1-mile trail at the garden.
Holiday Nights | Wednesday, Dec. 13-Sunday, Dec. 17 + Wednesday, Dec. 20-Saturday, Dec. 23 | 5-9 p.m. | Bernardo Winery | Free | The winery village twinkles with lights, carolers, and holiday vendors.
Starlight Circle | After Thanksgiving-Christmas Day | Starts at dusk | East + West Glendon Circles, Santee | Free | Dozens of homes decked out in lights and themes — and on weekends, some residents set up stands with hot cocoa, cookies, and kettle corn for sale. You walk through the neighborhood or drive slowly.
Christmas Card Lane | After Thanksgiving-Christmas Day | Starts at dusk | Ellingham, Oviedo + Renato streets, Rancho Peñasquitos | Free | This RPQ neighborhood is famous for its detailed, dazzling displays — also enjoyed by car or foot.
Christmas on Knob Hill | Friday, Nov. 24-Saturday, Dec. 30 | 5-9 p.m. | 1639 Knob Hill Rd., San Marcos | Free | Powering up for the holidays since 1988, this North County display features 85,000+ lights, dozens of festive figurines and, sometimes, a visit from Santa Claus.
Christmas Circle | After Thanksgiving-Christmas Day | Starts at dusk | Whitney + Mankato streets, south of H Street, Chula Vista | Free | This South Bay neighborhood has been decking itself out in holiday lights for the past six decades.
Candy Cane Lane | After Thanksgiving-Christmas Day | Starts at dusk | Hickory Street, Poway | The ultimate place to see holiday lights and get into the spirit in Poway.
Lights at the Lakes | Friday, Dec. 1-Thursday, Dec. 28 (select dates) | 5:45-8 p.m. | Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve | $20-$30 | Load your family and friends into the car and take a slow drive through this glimmering light show at the lakes with displays synchronized to holiday songs that you can listen along to from your car radio.
Big Night San Diego | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 9 p.m. | Hilton Bayfront San Diego | $130+ | This long-running NYE bash features multiple party zones, bands, DJs, open bars, and a champagne midnight countdown.
New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. | San Diego Bay | $165+ | Cruise into 2024 with spectacular views of the city’s skyline.
21st Annual New Years Eve Yacht Party | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. | San Diego Bay | $179+ | Spirit of San Diego Yacht leads this cruise through San Diego Harbor, complete with DJs, a dance floor, an open bar, food stations, and party favors.
Smokehouse Rockin’ New Year’s Eve | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 10 p.m. | Hotel Del Coronado | $150 | Ring in 2024 in Victorian style at the landmark hotel with a live rock ‘n’ roll and blues band, dancing, an open ball, and appetizers.
New Year’s Eve on the Boardwalk Cruise | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 9:30 p.m. | San Diego Bay | $149+ | Board a three-deck mega yacht and cruise San Diego Bay while enjoying six DJs, an open bar, VIP casino, food, and dancing.
NYE 2024 Bar Crawl | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 8 p.m. | Bloom Night Club | $19+ | Make your way through 10+ bars in downtown San Diego.
NYE 2024: A Centennial Celebration | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 8 p.m.-1 a.m. | The Guild Hotel | $200+ | The downtown San Diego hotel — built in 1924 — hosts a glamorous, 1920s-inspired party with live music, DJs, burlesque dancers, and open bar options.
Studio 24-themed New Year’s Eve Party | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 9 p.m. | Barleymash | The downtown hot spot will host a poppin’ NYE party with a “champagne wall” and bottle service options; make reservations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mavericks 2024 New Year’s Eve Party | Sunday, Dec. 31 | 7 p.m. | $50+ | Mavericks Beach Club | The Pacific Beach bar will ring in 2024 with DJs, dance floors, balloon drops, party favors, and more.