Escape winter's chill and enjoy the season San Diego-style, where the typical day of cool mornings and warm afternoons lends itself to getting out and getting active. Cruise Highway 101 with the top down, enjoy a beach all to yourself or marvel at the California gray whales migrating along the Pacific coast and the dazzling display of wildflowers in the desert. The following suggestions for free activities and events are sure to keep you in the warm embrace of San Diego's winter, where the only winter blues you'll see are in the skies above and the sea beyond.
Date: December 28, 2017
Gaze up at the massive balloons during the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade, the country's largest balloon parade. Floats, balloons and marching bands are just some of the offerings in this colorful holiday parade along San Diego Bay in downtown San Diego.
Dates: January 12-13, 2018
The Poway Winter Festival brings to life all of the charm and entertainment of a cold-mountain town, set right in Poway.
Date:January 13, 2018
Experience San Diego's rich cultural diversity and traditional heritage through live music, dance performances, storytelling, children's activities (drum circles, face painting and crafts) and a wide range of ethnic food and merchandise from different parts of the world.
Date: January 14, 2018
Watch runners compete in San Diego's oldest marathon during the scenic Carlsbad Marathon and Half-Marathon along the Pacific Coast in San Diego's North Coast. Live bands at each mile marker help set the pace and speed runners on their way.
Date: January 14, 2018
One of the largest celebrations of its kind in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 38th annual parade down Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego is filled with dazzling floats, high school bands, drill teams, community organizations and more.
Date: January 15, 2018
The WorldBeat Cultural Center in Balboa Park hosts this annual celebration that honors Martin Luther King, Jr. through music, dance and information.
Dates: February 16-18, 2018
The prosperous Year of the Dog will be celebrated with a traditional lion dance, followed by the Miss Vietnam San Diego pageant, other contemporary dance performances, cultural performances, carnival rides, food, drinks, karaoke and a separate segment for children to perform and learn about Vietnamese culture.
Dates: February 17-18, 2018
A woofing, chirping and meowing good time for the whole family, four-legged friends can receive "spa treatments" from local groomers, sample delicious treats and try on the latest in furry fashions; their humans will enjoy interacting with top trainers and learning pet-care tips from animal welfare organizations. Who knows, you may just come home with a new family member!
Dates: February 24-25, 2018
Welcome in the Year of the Dog at this two-day fair in downtown San Diego that features martial arts demonstrations, acrobats, lion dancers, taiko drumming, lantern parades, and a wide variety of Chinese and Asian food.
Dates: March 3-4, 2018
Head over to Seaport Village for an awe-inspiring festival. In a battle of entertainment, extraordinary one-of-a-kind performers including jugglers, sword swallowers, comedic stuntmen and Didgeridoo players take to Seaport Village's cobblestone streets for a weekend of outdoor family amusement.
Dates: March 3-11, 2018
With its eclectic events and science-inspired adventures, The San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering sets out to prove that science is fun. The ten-day festival kicks off with its largest event, Expo Day (March 3, 2018), which is free and open to the public.
Dates: March 10-11, 2018
Take in a variety of media from approximately 60 artists including: fine arts, oils and watercolors, photography, sculpture, pottery/ceramics, jewelry, fabric art and more at this art show staged at Christmas Circle in the heart of the village of Borrego Springs.
Dates: March 10-11, 2018
Marvel at one of nature's most cheerful blossoms and view over 3 million daffodils growing along Julian's streets and in the surrounding hillsides, as well as on display at the Julian Town Hall.
Date: March 11, 2018
Celebrate San Diego's Mexican heritage through mariachi music, traditional ballet folklorico dancing, and a celebration of arts, culture and culinary delights.
Date: March 17, 2018
Celebrate all things Irish at the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in Balboa Park. The parade steps off at 10:30 AM accompanied by an all-day Irish festival featuring food, beer gardens, musical entertainment and more.
Dates: Sundays year-round
Enjoy free organ concerts in Balboa Park beginning at 2:00 PM each Sunday. The Organ Pavilion features the world's largest outdoor pipe organ, a San Diego landmark for over 90 years, where organists resound waltzes and show tunes from the organ's monstrous 32-foot lead alloy pipes.
From the shores and cliffs of Point Loma, catch a spectacular show from December through March as California gray whales pass through the waters off San Diego's coastline as they migrate south to the warm-water breeding grounds off the coast of Baja, California.
Experience the vastness of San Diego's East County minus the summer heat with a mountain bike ride through the Cleveland National Forest, less than one hour from downtown via Interstate 8.
Gather up the needed supplies including loose wood, loose wire hangers, chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers before heading out to one of the many fire pits that line the beaches of San Diego.
Explore pools teaming with magnificent creatures of the sea when winter tides expose wider sections of the beaches. The Point Loma tide pools are located just south of the tip of Cabrillo Point.
Marvel as the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is transformed into a wonderland of color as wildflowers appear following winter rains. Depending upon rainfall, blooms can begin as early as mid-February and last through April. Anza-Borrego is located just two hours from San Diego via Highway 78 and Interstate 8.
Ride, or watch with awe, the large northwest swells that come down from Alaska during winter and make December through February the ultimate surfing season in San Diego.
Revisit the past at the "birthplace of California." Free admission allows viewing of an original Wells Fargo stagecoach from the 1800s; San Diego's first public school house, newspaper and courthouse; and Casa de Estudillo, an original adobe hacienda from 1825. Free guided tours are also available.
Take a walk around Balboa Park and discover its beautiful architecture. Take advantage of the park's variety of free offerings, including tours of the park and its spectacular gardens.
Stretch your legs with a scenic mountain, meadow, or valley hike in San Diego's inland or mountain areas. Enjoy winter sunshine and mild temperatures along trails that range from mild to heart-pumping, all with amazing views.
Explore the lighthouse, trails and vistas of Cabrillo National Monument during fee-free days on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and President's Day Weekend in February.
Reconnect with the quieter lifestyle of the past with a cruise down San Diego's most celebrated roadway. Hugging the Pacific Ocean from Oceanside to La Jolla, this historic route is dotted with small, eclectic communities that link many historic and cultural treasures of the region.
Take a stroll along one of San Diego's 70 miles of beaches, all free and open to the public. Collect seashells, build a sandcastle or just enjoy the magnificent Pacific Ocean.
Cast your fishing line in a freshwater lake in San Diego's East County. The resulting catch could be rainbow trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish or sturgeon.
Cross the Coronado Bridge and experience this quaint island community. Window shop down Orange Avenue and walk through the landmark Hotel del Coronado, built in 1888 and the setting where the comedy Some Like it Hot was filmed.
Experience snow in San Diego when you make the scenic, one-hour drive to the top of Mount Laguna. Sled down mountain slopes, build snowmen and have snowball fights (weather conditions permitting).
Take a drive to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla for a panoramic view. Winter days dawn crisp and clear, without the summer's marine layer, providing extended vistas up and down the coastline and far out to sea. The 29-foot Mount Soledad Cross is a well-known landmark of San Diego.
Behold the collection of historic ships and a string of public art inspired by local military history along the downtown embarcadero. Ships include the USS Midway and the Star of India. Public art includes the "Greatest Generation Collection" commemorating World War II naval history.
Sample the bounty of San Diego's year-round growing season at one of the many farmers markets around San Diego County. Throughout the winter months, locally grown fruits and vegetables still fill the market stalls, along with art vendors, live bands and even llama rides at the Ocean Beach farmers market.
See the sights on two wheels with a relaxing, carefree bicycle ride. Choose from the pathways on the shores of Mission Bay, the 25-mile Bayshore Bikeway along San Diego Bay or the Pacific Coast Highway between La Jolla and Leucadia.
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