It’s the most wonderful time of the year and there is hardly a more beautiful place to enjoy the Christmas season than in San Diego! This city in the far south of California is one of the most kid-friendly cities we know and what a better time to visit than in December when all the holiday events make it all the more fun. Grab your flip-flops, shorts, and swim suits (and a jacket for those cold nights), and come enjoy some of the best Christmas Events in San Diego for families!
Meet Santa – San Diego style
Santa doesn’t come to San Diego on a sled pulled by reindeer. He comes on a surfboard! See Santa arrive by watercraft on November 29, 2014 at Seaport Village and then take photos with him on his surfboard. Enjoy a holiday parade, children’s crafts, and live street performers in this unique shopping venue. Take a Polar Express hayride to visit Santa at the Annual Christmas in the Valley at Bates Nut Farm on December 12 & 13, 2014. This free event includes live entertainment, Christmas carols, and storytelling. Come early enough to see Santa arrive by fire truck or helicopter! A special breakfast with Santa at Neiman Marcus is held on two Saturdays in December and sells out quickly. Parents and kids love the chance to have more conversations with Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as yummy breakfast foods and special photos taken. Call the store directly for schedule and booking.
Theme Park Christmas Fun
The San Diego Zoo gets into the holiday spirit during Jungle Bells, which runs all day from December 13 – January 4, with the exception of December 24. Hop aboard the Twinkle Light Trolley to see lighted animal sculptures throughout the zoo. Meet Santa or enjoy Dr. Zoolittle’s fun version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Take photos while you are there enjoying the fun, post them to Instagram and tag with #junglebells for a chance to win great prizes.
It snows in San Diego – surprise! At SeaWorld’s Christmas celebration families can enjoy playing in Snow at SnowWorld, watching the Shamu Christmas Miracles show, laughing at The Pets Rule Christmas show, and more. Make reservations quickly for breakfast with both Shamu and Santa. These daily events run from Nov 15 – Jan 4, 2015. There’s real snow at LEGOLAND too, but the newest fun for 2014 is an ice rink! Find the rink outside the LEGOLAND Hotel where there are skate rentals and “bobby” ice skating aides for the youngest skaters. Daily admission tickets include snow tubing, snow play, the lighting of the LEGO Christmas Tree, and holiday treats. Enjoy holiday entertainment and fireworks on “Winter Nights” on certain nights in December. Check schedule for details and enjoy festivities Nov 22 – Jan 4.
Parades and Special Events
More than 100 private boats decorated with holiday lights sail through the waters of San Diego Bay in the Parade of Lights. Great places to view this event are at the Coronado Ferry Landing, Seaport Village, and the Embarcadero on both December 14 and 21, 2014 from 5:30-9:00pm, followed by fireworks.
Another distinctly California holiday boat parade is the Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights, taking place December 13, 2014. This free event is highly anticipated by locals and tourists alike who line the bay near SeaWorld and Paradise Point Resort at great places such as Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island, or the west side of Fiesta Island.
“Spirit of Christmas – Peace on Earth” is the theme for the La Jolla Christmas Parade. Festivities will fill the streets of downtown La Jolla on December 7, 2014 at 1:30pm. After the parade, enjoy the Holiday Festival at the La Jolla Recreation Center, which includes arts and crafts, live music, and the Birch Aquarium bus. Santa is the last entry in the parade and joins the Festival for visits and photos with the kids. The day ends with the lighting of the Christmas tree.
See America’s largest balloon parade on December 26 at 3pm. In conjunction with the Holiday Bowl, marching bands, floats, drill teams, and a procession of enormous balloons will march along the bayside streets of downtown San Diego. The Big Bay Balloon Parade is a fun and festive way to recover from Christmas and yes, the balloons are massive!
Santa comes to the Ferry Landing on Coronado on December 6 at 3:20pm and kicks off the Annual Coronado Christmas Parade. Listen to the carolers and play at snow mountain at the Ferry Landing before the parade starts down Orange Avenue at 6pm. Stores along the route will have treats to make the event a festive holiday. Don’t miss the Christmas Tree lighting near the Rotary Plaza at 7pm.
Outdoor Ice Skating
While the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean, strap on a pair of ice skates and twirl (or fall) on the ice with sparkling lights from the Hotel del Coronado shining overhead. It doesn’t get more beautiful than Skating by the Sea just steps from the sand. Other beautiful places to skate outdoors in San Diego include Fantasy on Ice, located next to Horton Plaza. This is ice-skating in an urban environment with the added bonus of proceeds benefitting Rady Children’s Hospital. Outlet shoppers can head to Viejas Outlets to bargain shop and then skate in Southern California’s largest outdoor ice-skating rink.
Enjoy touring the San Diego Botanic Gardens for their Garden of Lights event from Dec 6 – 23 and 26 – 30, from 5 – 9 pm. Walk the garden on foot or travel by horse-led wagon rides to see the dazzling light displays and enjoy the festive music sung by carolers and mariachis. Kids will love roasting marshmallows, drinking hot chocolate alongside the campfire, and making holiday crafts. Weather permitting, snow will fall!
Several communities join forces to light up their streets in an over-the-top fashion. Garrison Street in the wealthy, seaside community of Point Loma never fails to please. Christmas Card Lane in Rancho Peñasquitos is where residents mix life-sized Christmas cards with ornate light displays and more. Don’t forget about Jingle Bell Hill in El Cajon or Christmas Circle in Chula Vista, as well.
Balboa Park – December Nights
December Nights is one of the largest San Diego community festivals. Large numbers of families and friends come to enjoy this annual event taking place on Friday, Dec. 5, 3-11pm, and Saturday, Dec. 6, noon-11pm. The fantastic museums of Balboa Park will be open for free and live entertainment and food will be available throughout the area. Don’t miss the Santa Lucia Procession at the Plaza de California, musical and dance presentations by the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Del Cerro Baptist’s Christmas Story Tree, and a diverse choice of ethnic foods at the International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations Cottages.
Special Holiday Performances
A wonderful blend of original music and dramatic storytelling is what brings families back to the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado every year to celebrate Christmas. We thoroughly enjoyed the stage presentation and stunning music in the intimate theatre. This year the Lamb’s Players present “Northern Lights” at their Festival of Christmas. Purchase tickets before they are sold out for Nov 29 – Dec 28, 2014. The Lamb’s Players also present “An American Christmas” at the historic Hotel Del Coronado. Guests are seated around tables of 8 with festive attire, and jackets for gentlemen suggested. Included, are a four-course meal, champagne toast, entertainment, and more. Not for children under the age of 5. Presented nightly Dec 15 – 27, 2014.
In Balboa Park there are two historic theatres which play host to two holiday presentations. Enjoy the wonderful and whimsical musical, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” based on the book by Dr. Seuss playing at The Old Globe Theatre on Nov 15 – Dec 27, 2014. A sensory-friendly performance will be played on Saturday, Dec 13 at 10:30am for kids on the autism spectrum and their families, as well as other families with special needs. Adjustments are made to produce fewer loud noises and flashing lights as well as other features. The San Diego Civic Youth Ballet presents the Nutcracker at the historic Casa Del Prado Theatre in Balboa Park from Dec 10-21 and there is an additional kid friendly performance of the Nutcracker excerpts on Dec 5 & 6.
Bring the kids and prepare to do some shopping at Old Town State Historic Park on December 13, 2014. Carolers will be strolling around, stores will stay open a bit later and offer special treats, and decorations will be especially festive. Christmas in the Village is a free event for the whole family in La Mesa Village on Dec 12 – 13 from 5-10pm. Enjoy strolling minstrels, meeting Santa, carolers, carnival rides, food, Lazer Tag, and horse-drawn carriages in this Victorian Wonderland.
Holiday Events at Resorts
Many resorts are offering great holiday packages to allow every guest a chance to enjoy the holidays to the hilt. Many are open to non-guests so check resort for details on dates, prices, and reservations. At Park Hyatt Aviara enjoy a special Teddy Bear Tea with teddy bear donations benefitting Rady Children’s Hospital. Take part in gingerbread decorating classes after you gaze at the amazing gingerbread mountain village in the lobby. Victorian Tea and a holiday festival are available at the Hotel Del Coronado. Take a Buon Natale Cruise at Loews Coronado Bay Resort and be treated to favorite Christmas carols as you cruise through the enchanting canals and waterways of the Coronado Cays. At Paradise Point Hotel & Resort kids will enjoy a one-hour excursion on a water taxi with Santa or have Breakfast with Santa. It’s the perfect resort to view the Annual Mission Bay Parade of Lights. The Grand Del Mar celebrates the holidays with a Nutcracker Holiday Tea including an abridged performance of the ballet and child-friendly tea service on December 22 & 23. At the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa kids can listen to stories around the campfire read by Mrs. Claus as well as roasting s’mores and making gingerbread houses.
A special thanks to Katie Dillon who was the original author of these Christmas events to enjoy in San Diego.
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