Holiday Light Displays

San Diego Botanic Gardens – Garden of Lights
December 6- December 23
December 26 – December 30
5:00pm – 9:00pm

Neighborhood Light Displays
throughout San Diego County
Click ABOVE to find a light display in your neighborhood!


Parade of Lights

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
presented by The Port of San Diego
Sunday, December 14 and
Sunday, December 21
5:30pm – 9:00pm
San Diego Bay

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights
Saturday, December 13
6:00pm – 9:00pm
Mission Bay
San Diego

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights
Saturday, December 13
Oceanside Harbor

Ice Skating

Sycuan’s Fantasy on Ice at Horton Plaza
Nov 20 – Jan 4
225 Broadway Circle
San Diego

Skating by the Sea at the Hotel del Coronado
Nov 27 – January 4
1500 Orange Avenue

Ice Skating at Viejas Outlet Center
5005 Willows Road
November 1, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Ice Town
University Town Centre
4545 La Jolla Village Drive
San Diego

San Diego Ice Arena
11048 Ice Skate Place
San Diego

The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center Ice Arena
6737 University Avenue
San Diego

555 N. Tulip Street

Family Fun Events

LEGOLAND Holiday Snow Days

Build a snowman with LEGO accessories LEGO Holiday Village building activity, LEGO Santa and his holiday helpers!

November 28, 2014 to December 31, 2014.  Nightly tree lighting at 5:30PM followed by entertainment, fireworks and Santa.

Surfin’ Santa’s Arrival at Seaport Village

Santa will make his annual arrival to San Diego Saturday November 29th in true Southern California fashion for the festive holiday event. Arriving via watercraft and donning his favorite board shorts and flip-flops, he’ll take a break from his busy holiday schedule to enjoy the San Diego sunshine with locals and visitors

From 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. families can take photos with Santa on his giant surfboard and six-foot wave. A festive parade down the boardwalk, kids’ crafting activities, live street performers and unique shops will keep visitors busy during the event.

December Nights – Balboa Park

Balboa Park December Nights, the nation’s premier holiday festival, will take place for the 35th consecutive year on Friday, Dec. 5, 3-11pm, and Saturday, Dec. 6, noon-11pm. As always, the event brings families and friends together to spread holiday joy, learn more about the cultural value of Balboa Park and kick-off the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Participating Balboa Park museums open their doors free of charge from 5-9 pm both evenings and more than 300,000 visitors are expected to experience the joy of San Diego’s largest free community festival. Those who attend will participate in a truly multicultural experience, enjoying food, music and entertainment from around the world.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Displays of lighted animal sculptures, ride the Twinkle Light Trolley, live animal presentations, special music and entertainment with delicious treats, and an appearance by Santa Claus!
December 13, 2014 to January 4, 2015 from 9AM to 8PM

The Toyland Parade – North Park

The Toyland Parade has been a North Park tradition since long before the neighborhood became the trendy destination it is now.  Since the 1930s, the pageant has welcomed marching bands, dance groups, vintage cars, beauty queens and floats along University Avenue. This year enjoy the 50th Annual Golden Anniversary North Park Toyland Parade & Holiday Fair on Saturday, December 6th, 2014, starting at 11am on University Avenue between Utah and Iowa Streets.

Christmas Parade – Ocean Beach

Join us, Saturday, December 6 for this year’s 35th Annual Holiday Parade! The Ocean Beach Annual Parade is hosted by the Ocean Beach Town Council’s Tree Committee. Every year, Newport Ave. is taken over by the geriatric surf team, motorcycle riding dogs and marching bands – plus Santa Claus on a fire truck! Come early to get a spot, there is parking throughout the neighborhood. Parade start time is 5:00pm. This year’s theme is Surfer’s Paradise.

Holiday at the Rancho – Carlsbad

Create treasured holiday memories at the “Holiday at the Rancho” event, presented by City of Carlsbad Saturday, December 6, 5:00pm-8:00pm Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park.  The classic holiday celebration includes entertainment, a tree lighting ceremony, crafts, cookie decorating and a very special visit by Santa. Get holiday shopping done at the handmade craft boutique, and bring a blanket and chair for the classic holiday movie, “A Christmas Story,” shown outdoors on the big screen.
Pre-sale tickets are available for $5 until Dec 6 online at  Tickets are $8 at the door, free for ages 3 and under. Train rides, souvenir photos with Santa, refreshments and merchandise are available for an additional fee.

Holiday Parade – Encinitas

Thousands of people will be on floats and in bands with tens of thousands more cheering them on as the Encinitas Holiday Parade rolls along Coast Highway 101 on Saturday, December 6. The 5:30 pm parade is preceded by a 5:00 pm treelighting ceremony at the Lumberyard (near Starbucks).

The Parade kicks off the holiday season in Encinitas, and is the largest community event of the year drawing a crowd of approximately 20,000 people.

Holiday in the Village – Chula Vista

The Third Avenue Village Association (TAVA) invites the community to celebrate the season in the historic heart of Chula Vista on Saturday, December 6. Holiday in the Village will be a free pedestrian-friendly event centered on the unique charm of the newly renovated Village Plaza and the business district.

Head to beautiful Third Avenue Village for entertainment, shopping and holiday merriment along Third Avenue, in Memorial Park and at E Street from 12 to 5 p.m. Join Santa Claus, Mayor Cheryl Cox, Jerry Olea & the 805 Drifters and more for a day full of excitement for the community.

SONO Park Holiday Fest & Chilipalooza – SONO

Join us for the SoNo Park Holiday Fest. This year also marks the 16th Annual San Diego Ceramic Connection Chili Cook-Off. This event that will bring together North Park and South Park for the holidays… there will be no more bickering about which community has this or which area is cooler… simply good, clean family fun that everyone will enjoy. We’ll have chili in hand-spun ceramic bowls, great holiday gifts and crafts from local artisans, live music, kids’ activities, a craft beer and wine garden, and much more.  Mark your calendar for December 7, 11am-5pm.

Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival – La Jolla

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival begins at 1:30 pm Sunday December 7 on Girard Avenue.  The parade will be followed by a Holiday Festival from 3:30pm-5:00pm including live music, entertainment, food and Santa. A Christmas Tree Lighting will take place at 4:30pm.

Christmas in the Village – La Mesa

A gift to our community from the La Mesa Village Merchants Association. FREE Fun for the Whole Family!  Friday, Dec. 12, 5pm-10pm and Saturday, Dec. 13, 5pm-10pm.
Don’t miss the Holiday Parade starting at 5pm both nights.
The Village is transformed into a Victorian Wonderland. Perfect for holiday gift giving!
Strolling Minstrels, Carolers and Street Entertainers, Food and Commercial Vendors. Live Music is featured in a number of stage areas, while the Horse Drawn Carriage and Bonfires fill the Boulevard. The kids will love Santa, the Carnival Rides, Ponies and the Puppet Shows. All Specialty Shops, Boutiques and Restaurants open late during event.

Christmas Parade – Escondido

Escondido Jaycees 64th Annual Christmas Parade “Christmas Around the World” Saturday, December 13, 9:30 A.M.

Christmas in the Park – Poway

Experience the Magic of Christmas in the Park . Saturday, December 13, 3:30pm – 8:30pm.  Holiday Magic Gleams and Glistens at Old Poway Park.  A Holiday Tradition Remains Alive.
Are you looking for a great way to get into the holiday spirit and create family memories that will last a lifetime?  You are? Then see Christmas traditions come to life during ‘Christmas In The Park’, including these activities: Christmas tree lighting at 5:15 pm, Watch Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by train at 5:30 pm. Make holiday ornaments to help decorate the community Christmas tree. Take your picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus in Santa’s Village. Listen to live musical holiday entertainment and caroling and much, much more.

Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade – Downtown San Diego

Once a year San Diego pets and owners are invited to dress up in their favorite costumes for a special promenade throughout the Gaslamp Quarter to celebrate the holiday season. You can only imagine the fun and excitement as downtown became filled with costumed pets & their handlers all vying for prizes and bragging rights including Best Costumed Duo, Cutest Critter, Best Pet Costume & Best of Show!

The Parade originates and concludes at the Hilton Park adjacent to the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter at 4th Avenue and K Street.

The Parade steps-off Sunday, December 7 promptly at 3pm. Enjoy our Pet Expo in Hilton Park throughout the afternoon.

Don your best costume with your furry friends and join in the festivities!

Grinchmas returns to Universal Studios Hollywood

Warm your hearts and spread the merriment this season with a holiday experience that’s fun for the whole family.

  • Enjoy a helping of Wholiday cheer
  • Take photos with Grinch and his dog Max and make it a Grinchmas to remember
  • Join the Backlot Whobilation as the Whos sing and dance through Whoville
  • Stand beneath the towering 60-foot Grinchmas tree and soak in the festive Park décor


Big Bay Balloon Parade – Downtown San Diego

The scenic, bayside streets of downtown San Diego will come alive with the Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade,  a National University Holiday Bowl Production.  Monday, December 26. 3:00pm.
As always, this exciting family event brings together world-class marching bands, magnificent floats, entertaining drill teams, and a procession of enormous balloons-more than any other parade! Over 100,000 street-side spectators will enjoy the parade along with a nationwide television audience.

Christmas Tree Purchase and Disposal

Consider “adopting” a Christmas tree instead of buying a cut one. You can not only create a memorable holiday experience, but you can support local environmental causes, reduce greenhouse gases and help out local San Diego actors and musicians. How can you get a tree and at the same time help out actors and musicians? Each tree is delivered by “elves,” also known as starving artists. The experience is not to be missed! And the best part is that when the holidays are over, you can plant the tree in your own backyard or donate it to a park or other charity.

The Adopt a Tree program is unique to San Diego.

If you do opt to purchase a precut tree, dispose of it properly. Many cities have drop off sites where you can take your tree. Be sure to remove all decoration and tinsel prior to loading it into the dumpster. Also, before you take the time to drop off your tree, check with your waste disposal company; many offer free tree pick-up with regular trash service for up to two weeks past Christmas. All you may have to do is cut your tree into smaller pieces.

To recycle a Christmas tree, click to find out the San Diego locations, and the North County locations can be found on the city’s site. For example, Carlsbad’s site lists a few locations.

If you cannot find your city, check out the I Love a Clean San Diego site where you can put in your zip code and select what type of waste you have to dispose of, and a list of options will be generated.

The Miramar Greenery accepts trees throughout the year.

“Cut Your Own” Tree Farms

Fun Activities With Your Kids

Submitted By: A. Lombardi

  • Gather large pinecones outside. Decorate them with glitter and attach yarn to the top to hang them on gifts or on the Christmas tree.
  • Get a caroling group together or join a caroling group and sing around your neighborhood or at a nursing home. Most kids love to sing and it is a wonderful way for them to make others happy.
  • Decorate gingerbread houses. Have a decorating contest and split family/friends into small groups at Thanksgiving or around Christmas and have a contest for most unique, most traditional, etc. If you do them at Thanksgiving, they can be left on display throughout the holiday. Consider putting the houses together the day before so they are sturdy to work on.
  • Host a group of your children’s friends for a sugar cookie decorating party. Have the cookies already made. Set a table with different frostings, colored sugars and candy to decorate with. Make sure to cover the table with wax paper to make clean up easier. Also, why not consider donating some of the children’s beautiful creations to a local nursing home to brighten an elderly person’s day?
  • For Hanukkah, make latkes and Hanukkah cookies with your children. Place the menorah in the window to share the light of Hanukkah with friends and neighbors.
  • Work on your holiday menu early by going online or reading magazines for recipes and fun ideas. Consider asking a relative for family recipes to keep family traditions alive.

Gift Giving Alternatives

Often you hear family members or friends saying “‘Please don’t buy me a gift. I don’t need anything.” The problem is that these are usually people you most want to express your appreciaton to.

Consider donating to a special cause in their name. Purchase gifts for children in need. Take a meal to a needy family. You can send your family or friends a letter describing what it is you did. Most people will really appreciate this gesture, and you will be helping others that really are in need at the same time.

Adopt a Family: You can adopt a family through the Salvation Army by providing gifts and a Christmas meal.

If your child does not need more toys, why not suggest alternatives to family members? A Reuben H. Fleet museum membership, a membership to the Birch Aquarium, the Wild Animal Park, the San Diego Zoo, a Legoland pass, or any local attraction are great ideas. Many are open on Christmas Day so it is not only a gift, but a diversion to enjoy once all the ribbons and wrapping paper have been ripped off of everything else!

Classes are another gift giving alternative. Why not have a family member purchase a gymnastics class, an art class, a clay class, a cooking class, an acting class, or any other class/workshop your child has been asking to try?

–submitted by S. Guttentag
Before you decorate for the holidays, work with your kids on cleaning out their toys. You can also clean out your pantry at the same time. Make a box of giveaway toys and food and deliver them to a local charity, or schedule an online pick-up easily through the Salvation Army. This activity is both rewarding and practical in that it helps your own cause of cleaning out your house before the new stuff comes piling in.

If you love giving gift certificates but sometimes feel it doesn’t look like you put much effort or thought into the gift, make some homemade candy, brownies, or cookies to attach to the gift certificate to give it a simple, yet inexpensive and personal touch.

Inexpensive wrapping ideas: Instead of purchasing holiday bags and gift wrap, make your own. Use paper bags and brown postal wrapping paper. You can decorate these gifts with raffia, ribbon, and bows, or stamp and color the paper by yourself or with your children. A simple way to include your child in the gift-giving process and keep them occupied as you gift wrap is to have them make a simple card or name tag to attach to the gift.

–Submitted by A. Walker
Our first goal is to get the kids to think of someone other than themselves during the holidays. We work hard to make it fun for them to buy things for others. We participate in Operation Christmas Child, which sends shoeboxes full of toys and practical goodies to kids in other countries. We also incorporate the kids in buying gifts for other members of the family and experiencing the joy and excitement of giving.

We started buying our kids three gifts each. One gift is a practical gift that they would enjoy like extra fun pajamas or a jersey from one of their favorite teams. The second gift is something special and a little bigger than the usual gifts – a playset, bike, LeapPad. Our third gift is something to help them grow – an art or music set, series of classes, something for the LeapPad.

As for the grandparents, we ask them for something bigger so there aren’t a bunch of little presents. This helps in two ways: they know the gift they are purchasing is something the kids want, and you get things crossed off your list!

There are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to reward the kids with gifts. It is probably not a good idea at such a young age to overwhelm them all at once and risk losing the true spirit of Christmas.

If your child does receive many gifts all at once, consider hiding the surplus and bringing the gifts out one at a time at a later date. That way, the child gets to fully appreciate the gifts he or she did receive.


Start making a list of who you need to buy gifts for early on. This way when you are out shopping and find something that would make a great gift, you can look at your list and see if it works for anyone. It also helps if you are on a budget to make a note of what you want to spend on each person.

Look online to find great deals on gifts. Many companies are now including free shipping in order to entice more shoppers.

Make a note on your list of those gifts that need to be shipped so that you can get everything off on time and with as few trips to the post office as possible.

Gift certificates are great for those that live out of town. They can be found almost anywhere you shop and you do not have to spend a fortune on shipping.

Remember to get gift receipts so the recipient can exchange things at the rate you paid rather than at the after Christmas sale prices.

Start New Family Traditions

  • Have the kids put on their PJs, put hot chocolate in sippy cups and drive around town looking at Christmas lights while listening to your favorite Christmas music on a CD.
  • Some families buy their kids a new ornament so that when they are grown up and get married, they will have a few sentimental decorations to start their tree (great gift from grandparents too).
  • As a present to open on Christmas Eve, buy the kids new pajamas they can wear immediately. Great idea for having the nicest looking photos on Christmas morning!
  • On Christmas Eve we always mix oats and a little red glitter in bags to sprinkle on our lawn for Santa to see and the reindeer to eat. Kids of all ages can participate in this activity and love it!
  • Make the tree decorating a special event: play Christmas music, drink hot chocolate or eggnog, string popcorn, and tell the kids stories about something special that happened in previous years. You might even want to share experiences about your Christmases from when you were a child!

Take Time to Give Back

Submitted By: Cathie Nichols
These San Diego charities could really use your help during this particularly economically challenging time. The gift can either be your time or in the form of food or gifts:

Winter Camps

Submitted By: Cathie Nichols Art 4 Children – San Elijo Hills
Seasonal camps for children ages 5-11.

Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego - San Diego

East County YMCA – La Mesa
Winter activity camps.

Oceanside Gymnastics - Oceanside

Gyminny Kids – Rancho Bernardo

Kindermusik – various locations
Drop-in classes equal shopping days for parents .

Magdalena Ecke YMCA – Encinitas
Intersession camps.

Munchkin Minders for Babysitting Services

Salvation Army Kroc Community Center – central San Diego

San Diego Junior Theater – Chula Vista, La Jolla, San Diego
If you are constantly commenting to your friends and family how much of a ham your son or daughter is, maybe the San Diego Junior Theater is the right camp!

San Diego Museum of Art – Balboa Park
Classes in bookmaking, watercolor painting, paper arts and others for kids between the ages of 6-12.

San Diego Zoo – Balboa Park
Count on the zoo to entertain your K-5th grader for a few days during the school break.

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