San Diego: while the destination may be best known for summer fun, the city offers a breathtaking seaside getaway during the winter months, featuring awesome mild temperatures (averaging 66 degrees), white sandy beaches and a sunny, cheerful vibe with holiday events for all ages.
For visitors wishing to warm up, chill and exchange their snow attire for beachwear, San Diego is sure to make this holiday memorable. And if you happen to live in Southern California or in close proximity to sunny San Diego, it’s still a great way and a new twist on how to spend the season.
The following are 12 fun ways provided by the San Diego Tourism Authority to make the holidays more merrier in San Diego, from ice skating by the sea, and lighted boat parades to selfies with a scuba-diving Santa, the fun awaits.
- During Garden of Lights, Dec. 1-30, the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland for visitors to stroll and enjoy more than 125,000 sparkling lights illuminating the flora of this urban oasis for a magical, Insta-worthy holiday experience.
- From Dec. 1-31, visitors can deck the halls at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla with Seas ‘n’ Greetings, featuring enthralling dive shows with Scuba Santa, themed animal encounters, live holiday music, crafts for the kids and more.
- Balboa Park December Nights on Dec. 7 and 8 is a widely-popular holiday tradition that brings families and friends together to kick-off the most wonderful time of the year with carolers, festive music, holiday light displays, theater and dance performances, free admission to the park’s museums (from 5 to 9 p.m.) and delicious foods from around the world.
- The holidays take center stage on Nov. 9-Dec. 29 at The Old Globe theater in Balboa Park during the 21st annual production of the musical, Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” The famous holiday tale comes to life for audiences of all ages, complete with a fantastical Whoville tree and decorations in the front plaza.
- A holiday favorite, the musical A Christmas Carol returns Nov. 28-Dec. 30 to the Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. Now in its 5th year of cheer, the re-imagined production is complemented by a festive Family Day on Dec. 2 with complimentary kids’ activities and hot chocolate.
- All aboard the Santa Train North Pole Limited from Nov. 30-Dec. 22, an enchanted train ride from the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo through San Diego’s backcountry, featuring caroling, a reading of The Night Before Christmas, cookies, hot chocolate and Santa Claus.
- The Hotel del Coronado, home of the world’s first electrically lit outdoor Christmas tree (1904), is renowned for its festive holiday traditions including twinkling lights, scrumptious seasonal feasts and the spectacular Skating by the Sea, Nov. 22-Jan. 1, a beachfront ice rink that makes for one of the most unique winter experiences in Southern California.
- San Diego’s major attractions get into the holiday spirit with the jubilant Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo, Dec. 14-Jan. 6, complete with costumed characters, Santa, light displays, live entertainment, animal encounters and a holiday happy hour at Albert’s Restaurant (3 to 5 p.m.); SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, Nov. 17-Jan. 5, featuring stunning live shows, and Holidays at LEGOLAND, Nov. 17-Jan. 1, featuring the world’s largest LEGO Christmas Tree, singing elves and a life-sized LEGO Santa and reindeer for fun family photos.
- San Diego’s bayfront dazzles with a kaleidoscope of color during the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, Dec. 9 and 16, when more than 80 private powerboats and sailboats festooned with holiday lights glide the tranquil waters of San Diego Bay. Prime viewing spots include the Embarcadero, Harbor Island and Shelter Island.
- A must-see Mexican holiday tradition for the past 68 years, Old Town Las Posadas on Dec. 15 features a reenactment of the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem, plus holiday decorations, a piñata for the kids and a campfire and s’mores in Old Town Plaza.
- Furry four-legged friends jingle all the way during the Vet + Pet West Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade on Dec. 16, part of the Gaslamp for the Holidays festivities. See owners and their adorable holiday-attired pets step out on the town through the decorated streets of the Gaslamp Quarter, ending with a free pet holiday market and an awards ceremony for the best-dressed pups.
- San Diego’s only waterfront holiday adventure park, Holiday by the Bay at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Nov. 21-Jan. 5, slides into the season with Reindeer Run, an exhilarating two-story ice tubing slide; an Iceberg Bumpers ride, plus Shine, an hourly interactive light show. There’s also stocking decorating at Santa’s Workshop for the kids, cookie decorating and festive craft cocktail flights for parents at the Yule Lodge.
Don’t spend the holidays in the cold, visit San Diego and warm up to all the possibilities it has to offer! For more information on celebrating the winter season in San Diego, including cost-cutting holiday offers at hotels, shops, restaurants and more, visit sandiego.org/holidays.