From December Nights to the Parade of Lights, These Quintessential San Diego Events Will Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Looking for ways to get in a holly jolly mood? This is the list for you!

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San Diego doesn't usually get a White Christmas or a cozy Hanukkah like our friends in the northeast, but that doesn't mean the holidays are any less merry on this side of the country. From holiday light shows to winter wonderlands, San Diego has a plethora of wintry events to get us in the spirit. Use this holiday events guide to find a celebration to fill you with cheer:

December Nights
Dec. 2-3: Balboa Park
The sprawling Balboa Park becomes the epicenter of holiday cheer for the annual tradition that is December Nights. Booths will takeover the majority of the park with vendors, food stations, and performers bringing holiday cheer to thousands of San Diegans starting off their holiday season. Four main stages will also host dozens of musical performances over the holiday weekend, including Flamenco dancers, musical performances from Organist Raul Prieto Ramirez, a tree lighting and more. This evening event, which runs from 3 to 11 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, gets packed and there are some rules that you should know before you go.

After a two-year pandemic pause, the holiday festival kicks off on Friday night.

Nov. 18 - Jan.1: Encinitas
fgfdgfdgdf The stunning landscapes and plants from the San Diego Botanic Garden have been adorned with lights, creating a brilliant experience known as Lightscape. The installation makes the grounds glow with more than one million holiday lights draped over the garden's tunnels, trees and more. Visitors who meander through the Lightscape walking trail can be dazzled by the displays and have many photo ops along their walk. The experience runs from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on select dates.

Starlight Nights
Dec. 4: Chula Vista
Chula Vista will ring in the holidays at this event along the historic Third Avenue from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. The local Las Jefas Market will also be going into holiday mode for all your locally-crafted stocking stuffers. Enjoy live holiday tunes under the Third Avenue sign before gathering around the 25-foot Christmas tree in Memorial Park for the tree-lighting ceremony at 5:45 p.m. Choo Choo! All aboard the Chula Vista Express! At this year's Starlight Nights guests can hop on a trackless train and ride through the downtown winter wonderland, right over to Santa Clause for free Christmas card photos.

Tree Lighting & Christmas Village
Dec. 3: Little Italy
Deck the halls of Little Italy, which will be garnished with Christmas decor including 10-foot-tall nutcrackers, festive lights, and maybe you’ll even a partridge in a pear tree. While there is never a bad time to visit Little Italy, this event is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. India Street will be jam-packed with artisan vendors, including some of your favorites from the Little Italy Mercato, who are sure to have great stocking stuffers. You can pick up locally designed crafts and delectable food that just tastes like holiday cheer.

Then, the annual Christmas tree lighting takes place. Two Christmas trees will tower over the crowds in anticipation for an Italian-inspired tree-lighting ceremony at Piazza della Famiglia. The Aurora tree, which is a kinetic sculpture that reacts to the wind, will also be making its return this year alongside the permanent 25-foot tree. According to, the artist behind the tree, Joshua Hubert’s website people can expect to see different patterns, designs and light shows from the Aurora this year thanks to new technological updates. 

Holiday in the Village
Dec 3: La Mesa

For this year's 7th annual holiday celebration visit La Mesa for their Holiday in the Village. For a day full of Christmas cheer, enjoy selfies with Santa, reminisce in the sounds of a crackling fire and indulge in holiday-themed food and drinks. Guests can even be serenaded by the “Holiday Carol Stoll” where different groups from schools, clubs or churches will perform holiday carols to attendees all along La Mesa Boulevard.

Holiday Festival
Dec. 7: Coronado
At The Del, guests can enjoy performances by Coronado schools as they share joyous holiday carols. You can also strap on your ice skates and take a spin on the rink for skating by the sea from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. This is a great way to take in the winter feel of a chilly ice skating rink while watching the sunset over the pacific waves on the shore. 

While enjoying the holiday festival make sure to keep an eye out in the sky not for a bright red nose guiding the way, but instead for Santa himself! There will be a jolly man jumping from a plane in the sky and landing on the beach to celebrate the holiday festivities. 

After Kris Kringle's grand sky diving entrance attendees can take photos with him and soon after enjoy the Lightshow Spectacular. Christmas tree lights will coincide with holiday music accompanied by whimsical snow flurries. To close out the night fireworks will shower the sky above the beach.

Holiday Market
Dec. 1-23: Downtown

Head over to Petco Park’s Gallagher Square for an eclectic gathering of local artisan vendors, festive food and delicious drinks in celebration of the happiest time of the year. This is a great spot to find hand-crafted stocking stuffers all while taking in the sparkling lights display. A huge Christmas tree will be set up in a Whoville-esque fashion in the middle of Gallager Square and guests will be joined by a variety of holiday characters that will be dressed up for the occasion. Of course, you'll be sure to find Kris Kringle there for the jubilee.

Hanukkah Celebration
Dec. 21: La Jolla
The Chabad of La Jolla is hosting its annual Hanukkah celebration. Guests can enjoy classic Hanukkah treats including latkes and donuts. Spin the dreidel and dance along to live music on Patio Sol at La Valencia Hotel starting at 5 p.m.

Parade of Lights
Dec. 10: Mission Bay
For a spectacular seaside celebration head to Mission Bay for the Parade of Lights. The night will be filled with festively-decorated boats and capped by a firework light show from SeaWorld. There will be six designated watching spots throughout the 2-hour route with festive foods, jubilant family activities, drinks, bonfires and more nearby.

Parade of Lights
Dec. 11 & Dec. 18: San Diego Bay

This year's theme is "FantaSEA on the Bay" and guests should expect nothing less with around 80 creatively decorated boats for the 52nd annual Bay Parade of Lights. Since the event starts at 5:30 p.m., guests can expect to see the lights ornamenting the boats illuminated and reflected beautifully off the water in the bay. The parade is free to watch but you'll want to line up along the parade route early for your chance at a good viewing spot.

The Nutcracker
Dec. 16-23: Downtown
For a true holiday classic, head to the Civic Theatre in Downtown San Diego to view a graceful performance of The Nutcracker. Performed by the Golden State Ballet, the night is sure to be on point with elegant storytelling and a breathtaking Tchaikovsky score by the San Diego Symphony. Tickets start at $25.

Menorah Lighting
Dec. 18: Midway District
Head over to Liberty Station's Central Promenade at 5 p.m. to light the Menorah to kick off the eight-day Hanukkah celebration. Guests will be surrounded by twinkling lights decorating Liberty Station to commemorate the occasion.

Winter Wonder
Until Jan. 1st: Mission Beach

Belmont Park is coasting into the seasons with their winter wonderland-decorated amusement park. The park will be fully decked out with different holiday sculptures, festive food and drinks and live entertainment. If you visit on the weekends you may even see Santa's favorite helper, Buddy the Elf, making balloons for all the kids on the nice list.

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