Holiday Happenings

There's so much to do in San Diego this holiday season!
Small snowman on the sand at the beach.
Photo credit Kryssia Campos/Getty Images

The holidays are here in San Diego, and there is so much going on in our beautiful city! Here are some of our favorite Holiday Happenings this year.

The Viejas Ice Skating Rink at the Viejas Outlets is now open through January 7th! This is the largest outdoor skating rink and is open daily from 3pm-10pm, with some exceptions for holidays:

November 23, Thanksgiving Day – Closed
December 24, Christmas Eve, 3pm-8pm
December 25, Christmas Day, 5pm-10pm
January 7, 3pm-8pm

Day time view of the Rady's Ice Rink at Liberty Station
Photo credit Rady's Ice Rink

The Rady Children’s Ice Rink officially returns next week to ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station on Thursday, November 16 at 4 pm. The holidays are all about giving back and net proceeds from the rink will benefit the Thriving After Cancer program in the Rady Children’s Hospital’s Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. The rink will be open from 10 am to 10 pm through January 7 with some exceptions for holidays included below:

November 23:  10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

December 24:  10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

December 25:  1:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

December 31:  10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Here are some specials nights at the rink:

-November 24 5 pm to 9 pm - Liberty Station Tree Lighting

-December 7 5 pm to 8 pm - Menorah Lighting

-December 18 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm - Holiday Skate Show

San Diego Botanic Garden Lightscape
Photo credit San Diego Botanic Garden

Lightscape at the San Diego Botanic Garden (November 17-Jan 1)

Experience this year’s custom-designed one-mile walking trail with artistic installations that will illuminate the night and put everyone in the holiday spirit. Highlights this year include a California poppy-inspired display, an illuminated laser sky, playful fiber optic flowers, and a bespoke floral display inspired by the topography of the San Diego Botanic Garden premiering in the US for the first time.

A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place San Diego. Join Elmo, Cookie Claus, and all your favorite Sesame Street characters at Sesame Place on select dates from November 10- January 7. The park will be transformed into a winter wonderland complete with a 24-foot tall Christmas Tree. The kids will have plenty to do and see with the Sesame Street Christmas show, Christmas Parade, and Furry Friends Christmas Dance Party. Get tickets here. 

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration starts November 25 and goes through January 7th, 2024 on select dates. Enjoy delicious food, stunning live shows, live music, and meet Santa and Rudolph!

December Nights at Balboa Park happens this year from December 1-3 from 3pm -11pm. Join hundreds of thousands of San Diegans that come to this annual event. It’s a family friendly event with lots of live entertainment, food venders, holiday displays, and lights!

Santee Lights at the Lake happens select nights Dec 1- 23 select nights from 5:45 pm- 8:45pm. Experience a drive-thru light show around Santee Lakes. As you drive-thru, music will be synced up to the light displays from your radio for the whole family to enjoy. The show will be about 15-20 min long. Admission starts at $19.99 for a vehicle with up to 8 passengers. Advance tickets are required, get them here.

The 42nd Annual Fallbrook Christmas Parade, December 2 from 5 PM- 7 PM. Head to downtown Fallbrook to enjoy lighted floats, marching bands, live music, dancers, and the big man himself, Santa!

Holiday Lights at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum, December 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15 & 16. Get immersed in the holiday spirit at Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum. There you can write letters to Santa, take a hayride through the museum grounds to see all the lights, and more! Kids 12 and under are $5, 13+ are $10.

SnowSide Winter Festival, December 1-3 from 4 PM - 9 PM at the Emerald Isle Golf Course in Oceanside. There will be REAL snow in Oceanside! Dress accordingly for the 40-ft sled run! Santa will be there from 6pm-8pm, there will be live music, a silent disco, inflatable jump houses, food, drinks, and more! Tickets are $20 for kids, $25 for adults.

Snow Day at Ocean Air Recreation Center in Carmel Valley, December 2 from 8:30 AM- 11:30 AM. Enjoy a Snow Day at the park with outdoor games, Santa photos, train rides, and of course- sledding! This is a free event with a food or toy donation. Bring non-perishable food items for the San Diego Food Bank or an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots.

Snow Day at The Headquarters at Seaport Village, December 2 from 12 PM- 3 PM. Let the kids play in real snow while visiting Santa, playing games, and doing crafts! This is a free event.

Starlight Parade and Festival, this free annual event in Chula Vista makes its return after a 3 year hiatus due to the pandemic. The Festival starts at 3pm in Memorial Park and Park Way. The 25-foot tree lighting ceremony takes place at 5:45pm, followed by the parade at 6pm on Third Avenue.

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Festival on December 3 at 11:30 am. Join in on this free family-friendly holiday tradition in the Village at La Jolla. Catch our very own Dorothy Tran and Sherry Knight at this event! The festival starts at 11:30 am and takes place on Wall Street between Girard & Athenaeum. The parade will follow at 1:30pm.

Holiday Festival at the Hotel Del Coronado on December 6. Look to the sky in Coronado as skydiving Santa parachutes into the festival to kick off the holiday season. There will be live performances, a light show on the historic pine trees at the Del, and a fireworks show at 6:45p. Don’t forget, Skating by the Sea will be open starting at 2p. Get more info on this holiday tradition here. 

Cirque Dreams Holidaze flyer.
Photo credit San Diego Civic Theatre

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the San Diego Civic Theatre on December 9-10. Take the family to see one of Cirque de Solei's signature shows! It's a Broadway-style musical mixed with the magic and Cirque!

East Village Tree Lighting & Holiday Market happens on December 9 from 3pm- 7pm. Bring the family out for a night of live music, food, activities, and fun to Quartyard on Market and 13th Street in Downtown. Santa will be there for photos, too! You can find more info here.

The 53rd annual San Diego Parade of Lights takes place this year on December 10th and December 17th. Head out to the San Diego Bay to see the lights go by all decked out in this year’s theme: Christmas Traditions around the World. The procession starts at 5:30pm. Here’s the approximate arrival time for each location:

Shelter Island (start of parade)   5:30 p.m.

Harbor Island                               6:15 p.m.

The Embarcadero                        6:45 p.m.

Seaport Village                             7:15 p.m.

The Pier at Cesar Chavez Park 7:30 p.m.

Ferry Landing on Coronado      7:45 p.m.

Coastal Christmas Holiday Light Spectacular is making its debut in Del Mar on December 14! Don’t miss 12 days of holiday festivities. Bring the family to experience “millions of shimmering lights, shimmering lights, holiday skating, and much more!” Buy your tickets here.

Nutcracker poster
Photo credit San Diego Civic Theatre

Golden State Ballet Presenting The Nutcracker, December 15th-24th! Seeing The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition for many families. Check it out this holiday season at the San Diego Civic Theatre with live music from The San Diego Symphony!

Poster for Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Photo credit San Diego Civic Theatre

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas on December 28th at the San Diego Civic Theatre. Catch the Ultimate Holiday Tradition when it rolls into town! The show will feature "multimedia effects in an intimate setting."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Kryssia Campos/Getty Images