This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure.
What is so great about a San Diego Christmas? So many things! However, sometimes it is difficult to get into the spirit when you live in a place like San Diego. The warm weather and bright sun are the opposite of what I feel Christmas is. When I think of Christmas, I think of snow, gloomy skies, winter clothes, cute old style houses, and evergreen trees. While it's great that I can sleep with my windows open, don't have to scrape ice off my windshield or rarely have to wear a coat, it doesn't feel much like the holidays. But don't get discouraged if you live here! San Diego has a multitude of places and activities that can help get your spirit back. San Diego Christmas is my favorite time of year so I have made an effort to seek out some great holiday activities to help keep the spirit alive.
December Nights is a celebration held at Balboa Park, typically the first weekend in December. Activities and entertainment include Food From Around the World, free museum entry (from 5-9 PM), light shows, and other entertainment such as dancing and other musical presentations. The Food From Around the World exhibit is fun as it provides an opportunity to try a variety of different dishes. There are also many food truck options, as well as The Prado restaurant. Check the website for information on parking and transportation.
I never thought San Diego would be the place for an outdoor ice skating rink, but we've got more than one! Check out Skating by the Sea at the Hotel Del Coronado, Skate by the Bay at the Bayside Hilton or Viejas Ice Skating Rink in East County. If you want my opinion, check out the rink at the Hotel Del as it has amazing views of both the holiday decorated hotel and the ocean. Plus they serve up some hot cocoa or warm apple cider, along with other holiday goodies. Nothing gets me in the San Diego Christmas spirit like a cup of hot apple cider!
Sea World & Zoo
The San Diego Zoo's yearly Jungle Bells can be a great time for families. The zoo is decked out with Christmas lights, and you can enjoy caroling, Christmas shows or have a visit with Santa! San Diego Christmas festivities typically begin when the sun goes, when some of the more exotic animals tend to appear. SeaWorld also puts on an impressive Christmas display. You can spend time at Rudolph's Christmastown, Santa's Christmas Village, or many of the San Diego Christmas themed shows put on (Shamu, the dolphins, Clyde and Seymore, etc.). Also, make sure to check out the world's largest Christmas tree at 320 feet, a San Diego tradition since 1969.
San Diego Christmas Lights
Check out this map of San Diego Christmas light displays all over the County. Christmas Card Lane has been my yearly tradition, but I may just switch it up this year and try something different. I may even splurge and pay the $20 to go see the lights at the San Diego Botanic Garden.
Check out the Coronado Christmas parade, North Park Toyland parade, Ocean Beach Holiday parade, and the La Jolla Christmas parade. If you are up for a little road trip, the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year's Day is amazing. Check out a full list of San Diego parades here.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
The Parade of Lights is a parade of boats across the San Diego Bay decorated with Christmas lights. The parade runs from Cesar Chavez park, making its way to Coronado Island. Shelter Island is my favorite, but I'm sure any area along the processional would be just fine.
You know how Southern Californians like to stay fit. If you're looking to work off some of those Christmas treats, there are many different runs and athletic events happening! The more popular runs are the San Diego Half Marathon, the Jingle Bell run and the Holiday Bowl 5K.
Plays are plentiful around the holiday season. Check out classics like Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (The Old Globe), A Christmas Carol (Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory Theatre), Jesus Christ Superstar (La Jolla Playhouse), Miracle on 34th Street (Mission Theatre) and many more. Or, check out a time honored classic production of the Nutcracker at the San Diego Civic Theatre/Balboa Theatre or the City Ballet. Watch dancers perform to the composition of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, played by the theater's orchestra. Considered the most popular ballet during the holiday season.