If you’re looking to escape the cold this Christmas, San Diego is the perfect destination. This beach city gets pleasantly cool in the summer making it a great place to roam around and check out the many holiday attractions, many of which are free.
If San Diego sounds like your idea of an ideal holiday vacation, here are some things you will want to do when you’re in the area.
Balboa Park December Nights
Balboa Park December Nights typically takes place over the course of a weekend in early December so plan your trip accordingly. An annual event that has been going on for over 40 years, it is the largest free community festival in San Diego. It includes music, dance, theater performances, cultural traditions and over 90 food and retail vendors.
The park’s gardens and historic buildings are decked out for the season. The on-site museums are also free to the public when the festival takes place.
Sea World is a well-known San Diego destination known as the place to go to for up close animal experiences, thrill rides and shows. During Christmas, the park turns things up a notch offering hot chocolate and holiday treats that guests can enjoy while visiting the sea otters, flamingos and other animals that are on exhibit. The park is decorated with a music activated tunnel of lights and a towering sea themed Christmas tree.
Santa will be walking around, and the shows will be updated for seasonal fun. Santa Presents: Christmas Animals Around the World is a must-see favorite.
Christmas Tea at the Westgate Hotel
The Westgate hotel is known for mixing French elegance with San Diego hospitality. Every weekend in December they host a Christmas tea family event. The meal includes holiday beverages, teas, pastries and desserts.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Christmas is a great time to see the San Diego Bay all lit up. The Parade of Lights features more than 80 decorated boats sailing across the Bay. The fun starts at 5:30 PM, the time when boats leave Cesar Chavez Park and turn towards Coronado. The festivities can be seen from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, at the pier at Cesar Chavez Park and at the ferry landing on Coronado.
LEGO Land is a top San Diego attraction year-round. Guests can enjoy rides with a DIY spirit, LEGO themed attractions, a water park and aquarium.
At Christmastime, LEGO Land undergoes a transformation with holiday themed entertainment, a life sized LEGO brick Santa and Rudolf and other festivities. The park’s restaurants will be serving holiday favorites like holiday smoked turkey sandwiches with cranberry dressing and peppermint milkshakes.
After you’ve ridden all the park rides, head over to the aquarium for a holiday dive show.
Christmas Tree Lighting Celebrations
If you’re in San Diego to kick off the holiday season, you are bound to be in town in time for some great Christmas tree lighting celebrations. Here are a few to look out for.
· Liberty Station (North Promenade): Join the festivities to see the lighting of the 88-foot Norfolk pine tree in Point Loma Liberty Station. The free event features music, firetruck rides, photos with Santa and a showing of ‘The Grinch’.
· Julian (Pioneer Park) Official Tree Lighting Ceremony: This tree lighting ceremony is a very popular event so be sure to come early in the day. Santa will be there to help with the celebrations. Children can also write letters to stick in the Santa mailbox.
· Little Italy (Piazza della Famiglia): Little Italy has two beautiful trees; a 30-foot-tall live tree located in the Piazza della Famigilia and a 25 foot custom lit Venetian faux glass tree which sits in the Piazza Basilone Fountain. During the holidays, you can see the trees all lit up while visiting the Little Italy Holiday Market and taking part in the Little Italy Toy Drive. Cocktails are served, Gio the Elf is available for photo opps and children can write letters to Santa.
Sea N Greetings at Birch Aquarium
The Birch Aquarium is a great place to visit year-round. At Christmastime, kids can participate in making crafts, scavenger hunts and more. There is also live music and an 18-foot octopus that makes a great photo opp. Look out for Scuba Santa! He’s sure to be roaming around at holiday time.
Winter Celebrations at Hotel del Coronado
Every year at Christmas, the elegant beachfront Hotel del Coronado transforms into a Winter Wonderland. It is dressed up with thousands of lights, towering Christmas trees and garlands. The piece de resistance is the 35-foot Christmas tree featured in the center of their Windsor Lawn. Children are also welcome to participate in craft activities that include decorating cookies and making snow globes, Santa hats, gingerbread houses and Christmas ornaments.
Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is another popular attraction. During the holidays, it is Jungle Bell themed. Guests can enjoy a fully decorated zoo with live performances, animal light sculptures, live performances and acrobatic elves.
Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade
The San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade is the largest balloon parade in the country. It includes marching bands, floats, drill teams and of course, tons of balloons.
Holiday Bowl Christmas Games
Taking place at SDCCU Stadium, this game pits PAC 12 against the Big Ten. In addition to seeing an exciting game, there is also live music, temporary tattoos and photo booths. If you get there 30 minutes before the game begins, you can enjoy a pre-game show that features marching bands and parachute jumpers.
If you are looking for a snow free Christmas destination, San Diego is the place to be. What will you be doing when you get into town this December?