Top 10 Things To Do At Christmas In San Diego, California

things to do in san diego at christmas
Daryl
Daryl 
Contributing Writer
Published
| 4 min read

Heading south for the winter sounds like a great plan to avoid freezing temperatures, and San Diego is a fantastic destination for spending Christmas and New Year, whether you’re alone or with family. Known for its beautiful coasts and warm weather, the city is a natural paradise and home to both the San Diego Zoo and its own SeaWorld San Diego. It’s also home to numerous bird species and considered the “birdiest” city in the United States, attracting plenty of birdwatchers. But even if you’re not in “America’s Finest City” in search of feathered creatures, there are still plenty of things to enjoy during the winter holidays. If you’re curious, read on and check out this list of the top things to do at Christmas in San Diego, California.

1. Take a classic trolley ride in the Holiday Sights and Festive Nights Tour

San Diego - Old Town trolleys 01
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Joe Mabel used under CC BY-SA 3.0

For a fun-filled night out in San Diego’s Old Town, take the Old Town Trolley tour. Chow down on holiday tamales while sipping some margaritas to get your Christmas spirit up and running. Part of the tour will show you Embarcadero, the gardens of Balboa Park, and the Christmas lights attractions of Seaport Village. There’s also a Christmas carol sing-along for those who want to show off their singing skills.

Old Town Trolley's Holiday Sights and Festive Nights Tour

Address: 4010 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Website: Old Town Trolley Tours

Opening hours: Dec. 5 - Dec. 30: hours vary (closed on Dec. 25 and Dec. 26)

Price: $30 for adults; $25 for children aged 4–12

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2. Shop and dine at the festive Holiday Market at Petco Park

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

During the holidays, Petco Park holds a Christmas fair full of holiday cheer. The market features shops from local artisans showcasing their crafts, food stalls with seasonal foods and drinks, and a merry-go-round. Don’t forget to take pictures with Santa Claus and other mascots while you’re here!

Do note that your tickets will have specific entrance times, but once inside you, can stay for as long as you like.

Holiday Market at Petco Park

Address: Petco Park, 100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Website: Holiday Market at Petco Park

Opening hours: Dec 1 - 23: 4pm - 10pm

Price: from $10

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3. Welcome the holiday spirit at Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

A beloved annual tradition, Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village unites residents and tourists in San Diego to officially welcome the coming Christmas festivities. Held at the Piazza della Famiglia, the affair features live music, a 25-ft (7.6-m) Christmas tree, and a family-friendly ambiance.

If you’re on the hunt for souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones, Christmas Village has shops and stalls from local vendors for you to check out.

Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

Address: 523 W Date St, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Website: Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

Opening hours: Dec. 3: 4pm - 8pm

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4. Watch the twinkling lights aboard a Christmas Eve dinner cruise

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Stay local this Christmas with Flagship Cruises & Events. Start a new tradition that celebrates all the reasons to...

Posted by Flagship Cruises & Events on Monday, December 9, 2019

One of the more unique experiences you can have in San Diego is a luxurious dinner cruise while the California sun sets on the horizon. The menu offers several starters, a vegetarian entrée option, and an indulgent dessert. On your voyage, you’ll see some of San Diego’s marine vistas, such as Maritime Museum of San Diego, North Island Naval Air Station, and the mighty U.S.S. Midway Aircraft Carrier.

Christmas Eve Dinner Cruise

Address: 990 North Harbor Dr., San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Website: Christmas Eve Dinner Cruise

Opening hours: 6:30pm - 9pm (boarding time at 6pm)

Price: from $94.50 for adults; from $56.70 for children ages 4–12

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5. Relive the classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" performed onstage

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

We wish a very happy Who-ville opening night to the company of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Posted by The Old Globe on Sunday, November 14, 2021

Watching Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” has become a Christmas tradition for many people worldwide, and the performers at The Old Globe have skillfully adapted the holiday classic into a delightful stage play. Watch as familiar faces from Whoville are brought to life during the performance. If you’re big fan of the Grinch or Dr. Seuss’s other works, you’re sure to find this adaptation to be a magical treat.

Dr. Seuss’s "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

Address: 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Website: Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Opening hours: Nov. 9 - Dec. 31: hours vary

Price: from $24

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6. Marvel as San Diego Bay lights up from the Parade of Lights

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights 2014
Source: Photo by Flickr user Tony Webster used under CC BY 2.0

For a few days each year, San Diego Bay is alight as scores of delightfully decorated boats embodying the Christmas spirit traverse the waters, bringing wonder and cheer to crowds of visitors and onlookers. There’s a different theme every year, so even the locals don’t know what to expect from their friends and neighbors participating in the parade. This year, the theme is FantaSEA on the Bay, so be sure not to miss out.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Address: Shelter Island, San Diego, CA 92101, USA (starting point)

Website: San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Opening hours: Dec. 11 and 18: from 5:30pm

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7. Take a walk on the wild side at San Diego Zoo's Jungle Bells

171222 057 San Diego Zoo - Jungle Bells light displays
Source: Photo by Flickr user cultivar413 used under CC BY 2.0

If you love animals, make sure to visit San Diego Zoo and check out the Jungle Bells holiday show. There’s plenty of entertainment beyond meeting the zoo’s animals, as the grounds and facilities are transformed to provide an enchanting experience.

Brass bands and troubadours will play holiday favorites, while high-flying acrobats will wow the crowds with gravity-defying stunts. Once the sun sets, the trees will light up and dance to Christmas songs. If you happen to meet some friendly sprites, follow them to find the magical Aurora lights and sound spectacle.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Address: 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Website: Jungle Bells

Opening hours: Dec 9 - Jan 1: 9am - 8pm; Dec 24: 9am - 5pm

Price: from $63 for adults; from $53 for children ages 3–11

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8. Join the mirth and merrymaking at Balboa Park's December Nights

Balboa Park, San Diego, CA, USA - panoramio (239)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Roman Eugeniusz used under CC BY-SA 3.0

As San Diego’s biggest free holiday festival, Balboa Park’s December Nights invites locals, newcomers, and visitors to be merry together. Browse for gifts and souvenirs in the stalls and shops of locals or try the city’s specialties and even some foreign delicacies. You also shouldn’t miss the live entertainment, as different acts will perform on the five public stages.

If you’re going, don’t forget to bring the whole family because they’re sure to enjoy everything the festival will offer.

Balboa Park's December Nights

Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Website: Balboa Park December Nights

Opening hours: Dec 2: 3pm - 11pm; Dec 3: 11am - 11pm

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9. Have an elegant afternoon at The Westgate Hotel's Winter Wonderland Tea

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

GIVEAWAY Yule be sorry if you don't enter today's giveaway! A tradition here at The Westgate, we invite you to join us...

Posted by The Westgate Hotel on Monday, December 9, 2019

The holiday season isn’t only about merrymaking with friends and family. If you’re in the mood for a sophisticated afternoon of holiday activities, drop by The Westgate Hotel’s Winter Wonderland Tea service. Savor the flavors and aromas of premium teas served with scrumptious sandwiches and pastries while listening to the gentle music produced by a harpist.

If you’re planning to attend with children, the establishment recommends the Santa’s Storytime Tea event.

Winter Wonderland Tea

Address: 1055 Second Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

Website: Winter Wonderland Tea

Opening hours: Nov 25 - 27, Dec 1 - 4, 8 - 11, 15 - 23, 26 - 31, Jan 1: 2:30pm - 5pm

Price: from $74

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10. Be thrilled at the SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration

SeaWorld San Diego
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jeremy Thompson used under CC BY 2.0

Enjoy special holiday festivities at SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration! The park’s classic attractions, such as dolphin and sea lion shows, are given a jolly spin, and Santa himself will make an appearance. You’ll also be delighted by the holiday treats and gifts you’ll find in the market portion. In addition, nothing will get you in the Christmas spirit like the live entertainment you’ll find inside the park.

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration

Address: 500 Sea World Dr., San Diego, CA 92109, USA

Website: Seaworld Christmas Celebration

Opening hours: Nov 14 - Jan 8: hours vary

Price: prices vary

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San Diego has plenty to offer during the holidays

Although San Diego is most known for its warm weather and beautiful coast, it also has many holiday-themed attractions to keep you entertained. If you’re in town during this season, check out this list of the top things to do at Christmas in San Diego, California, to make cherished memories with your family.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Daryl has an interest in discovering and understanding new places, whether they exist in reality, literature, or the digital realm. Despite an unusual apprehension towards the act of traveling, he...Read more

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