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12 Signs You're In San Diego

Looking to start a new holiday tradition the whole family can enjoy? San Diego has you covered with holiday parades both on and off the water, colorful lights displays and festivals full of good food, music and much more.

San Diego

  • Kids and adults can "hang-ten" with Santa during Surfin' Santa Arrival along San Diego Bay. Dressed in board shorts, Santa arrives to this bay front shopping complex by watercraft; following his arrival, a lively parade takes place on the Seaport Village boardwalk, along with festive entertainment, live holiday tunes, stilt walkers, an eco-friendly tree lighting ceremony and more. Guests can also take photos with Santa and enjoy holiday crafts.
  • Cultural delights abound during the annual Balboa Park December Nights. This popular holiday event is the largest free community festival in San Diego and includes carolers, live entertainment, dance performances, children's rides, free admission to the Park's museums and cultural institutions (from 5:00 to 9:00 PM) and delicious foods from around the world.
  • The Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights includes over 100 brightly illuminated powerboats and sailboats. The parade ends with a fantastic firework show over the water.
  • During the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, more than 100 private boat owners decorate their boats with holiday lights and sail along the waters of San Diego Bay, followed by an extravagant fireworks show over the water. Great views are available on dry land from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Marina Park and Coronado's Ferry Landing.
  • The annual Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade takes place in downtown's Gaslamp Quarter, where dressed-up pets and their owners march down the historic neighborhood's decorated streets. Awards are presented for the best-dressed pups, and the event ends with a free public Pet Expo offering complimentary goodie bags filled with pet keepsakes and samples, toys and special discounts to some of the Gaslamp Quarter's pet-friendly restaurants and shops.
  • Unwrap some magic this holiday season and partake in the festive fun, at the North Park Toyland Parade & Holiday Fair. Gliding down University Avenue between Utah and Iowa Streets, this cheerful pageant will feel like a Winter Wonderland, as melodious marching bands, upbeat dance groups, cool vintage cars, beauty queens and city officials (and more!) warm your spirits.


  • The landmark Hotel del Coronado is renowned for its festive holiday traditions. It was here in 1904 that America's first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree made its debut, setting the stage for over a century of holiday enchantment. This year's holiday theme is "Celebrating 125 Years of Holiday Magic." The resort will deck the halls with festive timepieces, vintage Santas, gold and silver accents and more than 100,000 glittering white lights illuminating the grand Victorian structure.
  • Throughout the holiday season, guests at The Del can enjoy a merry mix of activities, including an elegant Victorian Tea, cookie decorating, a Kidtopia Camp with holiday scavenger hunts, family s'mores roasts on the beach and Elf Tuck-ins.
  • Children and adults alike can enjoy the Hotel del Coronado's seasonal kick-off, Holiday Festival…A Family Celebration, featuring a beachfront ice skating rink, holiday booths with games and prizes, a special appearance by St. Nick and his elves at Santa's Village, hot cocoa and other libations. A festive fireworks show provides an unforgettable ending for the day's events.
  • Guests can get in the holiday spirit during the Annual Coronado Christmas Parade and Open House. Children can play in real snow on Snow Mountain at the Coronado Ferry Landing and greet Santa Claus as he arrives to Coronado by ferryboat. Other highlights include a popular Holiday Parade and Merchants Open House along Orange Avenue (closed to cars), followed by the traditional lighting of a 50-foot Christmas tree and free community concert in Rotary Park.

La Jolla

North County Coastal

  • Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights features fishing boats, sail boats, yachts, kayaks and dingys all brightly decorated for the Christmas season.
  • For over 50 years, nearly 100 parade floats and entries make their way down the Parade route on Historic Coast Highway 101 during the Encinitas Holiday Parade.
  • After the sun goes down in December, the San Diego Botanic Garden is transformed into the Garden of Lights, a dazzling winter wonderland with over 100,000 sparkling lights illuminating the Garden for a magical holiday experience! Join in the fun that includes horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, visits with Santa, live music, refreshments and hot mulled wine

North County Inland

  • If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind, unique way to bring holiday delights to your family this holiday season, then make sure your plans include experiencing the magic of an old-fashioned tradition at Poway's Christmas in the Park.

East County

  • There is fun for all ages at the Annual Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon. San Diego's traditional holiday kick-off event, held the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is the largest parade in the county and the largest of its type west of the Mississippi. The free holiday celebration, which attracts thousands of spectators, showcases marching bands, colorful floats, clowns, equestrians and more. Special appearances by celebrities and musical performers add to the day's festivities.
  • Guests can celebrate the yuletide season in the historic mountain town of Julian during the Julian Country Christmas and Tree Lighting. This popular annual holiday celebration features costumed strolling carolers, the scent of freshly baked apple pies and Santa Claus arriving aboard a fire engine for a festive tree lighting ceremony.
  • The charming village of Alpine celebrates the season with the Annual Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Festival featuring a popular parade, a visit from Santa and his helpers, Christmas caroling and a snow mountain for sledding at the Alpine Community Center.
  • The delightful downtown of La Mesa is transformed into a Victorian wonderland during its old-fashioned Christmas in the Village. The family friendly event features horse-drawn carriages, strolling minstrels, carolers and street entertainers along La Mesa Boulevard. Carnival rides, ponies, puppet shows, live music stages and an outdoor market round out the traditional holiday fun.

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