When it’s record-breaking heat in San Diego and Southern California for Thanksgiving, getting into the winter holiday spirit can be a challenge for even the merriest of elves. Whether you are looking for festive ways to meet Santa or places to go ice skating by the sea, here are some ideas for Celebrating the Holidays – San Diego style!
December Nights (Balboa Park) – Dec. 1 – 2, 2017
December Nights is the heart of the holidays for San Diego families and friends. Featuring dazzling lights; dancers, choirs, and bands; incredible food; amazing attractions; and free admission, December Nights is a treasured tradition that kicks off the holiday season for young and old alike.
In its 40th year, December Nights is an event that many families make a yearly tradition. Be sure to check out all the details with what you need to know before you go on the official December Nights website.
Jungle Bells (San Diego Zoo) – Dec. 8, 2017 – Jan. 1, 2018
Twinkling lights, festive foods, and merry performances transform the San Diego Zoo into a wild, glowing wonderland. The whole family will enjoy an exciting array of animal light sculptures, jingly, jazzy carols, acrobatic trampoline elves, and more.
Jungle Bells activities are included with your admission or membership unless otherwise noted. Check the official SD Zoo website for more information about the activities and entertainment offered at Jungle Bells.
Christmas Celebration (Sea World) – Nov. 18, 2017 – Jan. 6, 2018
As holiday music fills the air, a sea of lighted trees sparkles, transforming Sea World into a wintery, watery wonderland. SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration is a holiday waiting to be made, with seasonal shopping, festive food and drinks, and stunning live shows. Celebrate the reason for the season during our mesmerizing new nativity show, O Wondrous Night, inspired by the original story of Christmas.
Visit Santa’s Christmas Village to see Santa himself (and some of his reindeer), meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™ and friends, and savor holiday flavors as you shop for unique gifts and decorations. Make spirits bright at this Christmas event that is included with park admission. Check the official Sea World website for additional information.
Parade of Lights (San Diego Bay) – Dec. 10 and Dec. 17, 2017
The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is a time-honored holiday tradition brought to San Diego by the boating community. Continuing its long-standing San Diego tradition, the 46th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights promises to dazzle and entertain bayfront crowds during the evenings of December 10 and 17, 2017. Participants in this year’s boat parade will decorate their boats to fit this year’s theme, which is “Arrrgh! A Pirate’s Christmas.”
Presented by the Port of San Diego, the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights brings more than 100,000 San Diego residents and visitors to the shores of San Diego Bay each year. The procession of approximately 80 lavishly decorated boats has become one of the most iconic events in the region. The procession starts at 5:00 p.m. and will follow the predetermined parade route (check the official website for details). This year, for the 2nd time, the parade will proceed to the pier at Cesar Chavez Park before making the turn to Coronado, giving spectators another area to view the parade. Whether a participant or spectator, the Parade of Lights is a festive and delightful experience for all!
Photos with Santa – Various locations and times throughout San Diego
A time honored tradition for many families is the annual photo with Santa Claus. There are many places to capture this moment, including some of the places mentioned above. Other locations include Seaport Village, Fashion Valley Mall, and Mission Valley Mall. Be sure to check the official website(s) of the place(s) you plan to visit for additional information.
Breakfast with Santa
Building on the tradition of a photo with Santa, how about enjoying breakfast with Santa? There are a few places in San Diego offering this special event. Most of these require advance reservations, and some dates are already sold out, so be sure to check in advance before you go. Here are some locations and dates for breakfast with Mr. Claus:
- Parkway Plaza Mall (Dec. 2)
- SD Safari Park (Dec. 9 – 10)
- Seaport Village (Dec. 16 – 17)
- Bernardo Winery (Dec. 18 – 23) (Map to Bernardo Winery)
Outdoor Ice Skating
Liberty Station is the location for Rady Children’s Ice Rink. All proceeds from the ice rink event benefit the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital. The rink ran into some technical difficulties at the beginning of the season, but opened on November 25th and will be open daily from 10 AM – 10 PM, 7 days a week throughout the holiday season until January 7, 2018 (closed Christmas Day). Additional information is on the Rady Children’s website, and check its Facebook page for details and specials.
Southern California’s largest outdoor ice skating rink is in Alpine, a community that is approximately 35 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. Every year, Viejas transforms its grounds into a winter wonderland and the ice skating rink provides a stunning backdrop for a great winter tradition. Under the glow of holiday lights, guests and visitors can glide around the rink and/or enjoy seasonal goodies. The Ice Rink is open November 4, 2017 – January 28, 2018. Additional information is on the Viejas website.
Hotel del Coronado:
Experience San Diego’s only beachfront ice skating rink. Skating by the Sea® returns to Hotel del Coronado for the 13th year from November 23, 2017 through January 1, 2018. This spectacular ice rink is located seaside on Windsor Lawn and features stunning views of the Pacific and Coronado beach. The Del’s iconic Victorian Building, adorned with thousands of white lights, provides a magical backdrop as holiday music fills the air and guests enjoy hot chocolate and other holiday treats. Additional information can be found on the official Hotel Del website. A portion of the proceeds from The Del’s Skating by the Sea® will be donated to Make-A-Wish San Diego.
“It’s Christmas time in California
Put on your sunscreen
Christmas time in California
Toasty, warm and green.
Take a sleigh ride to the beach
Do snow angels in the sand
‘Cause it’s Christmas time in California.”
(“Christmas Time in California” by The Dan Band)
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you get into the holiday spirit – San Diego style!
What are some of your traditions for celebrating the holidays?
Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”