The Ultimate Guide to the Holidays in San Diego 2020

holiday guide San Diego

Our Ultimate Guide to the Holidays in San Diego has you covered on family-friendly holiday-themed events, Christmas lights, Santa and so much more!

Have you checked out our Holiday Gift Guide? CLICK HERE 

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Use the buttons below to navigate to that section of the guide.

Holiday Festivals & Events


Celebrate Christmas at SeaWorld
Now – January 4th

There’s no hold on holiday cheer this year! SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration brings families together with priceless traditions and fun-filled surprises, with enhanced safety measures in place – because Christmas is meant to be merry and bright.

Discover photo-perfect moments throughout over 100 acres of beautifully decorated areas of the park, including a towering sea-themed Christmas Tree and a holiday music-activated tunnel of lights.It’s all waiting for your family, with seasonal food and drinks, amazing animals, delightful shopping, and other splashes of a SeaWorld Christmas!

birch christmas
Give the gift of the ocean and save $20 on select Birch Aquarium membership gift certificates through December 25, 2020. 
Aquarium membership certificates make a great experience gift. Members visit all year long and enjoy special discounts, perks, and events—all while supporting Birch Aquarium’s education and conservation initiatives. With this special offer, annual membership certificates start at just $35 (normally $55) and pay for themselves in two visits. The membership begins when the gift certificate is redeemed so no one misses out on any of the fun!
SPECIAL one time offer of $20 off gift certificates for NEW memberships at the Individual, Dual, Family, and Aquarium Associates Levels. Membership gift certificates are available online only and cannot be used for renewals or combined with other offers.

Taste of December Nights
Friday, December 4th – Sunday, December 6th

For more than 40 years, the San Diego community has celebrated the annual December Nights at Balboa Park. Due to the current pandemic conditions, we are saddened that our beloved gift to the region cannot occur as we know it. Instead, the City of San Diego is offering a “Taste of December Nights.” The program will have some of your favorite food vendors and food trucks from past December Nights in a drive-thru setting in the Inspiration Point parking lot near Balboa Park.

 All safety protocols by the county will be strictly enforced. Customers must remain in their cars. Bikes, scooters or walk-ups will not be allowed. And of course, everyone must wear a mask.

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BUILDING FAMILY EXPERIENCES ONE LIGHT AT A TIME! A Must See TREAT for the entire family! Discover a symphony of sight and sound at one of southern California’s largest Drive-Thru Holiday Light Spectaculars! Experience Holidays in Your Car at the Del Mar County Fairgrounds featuring more than ONE MILLION LED lights, Holograms, Projection Mapping, and lasers animated to the tunes of Holiday Classics. 

What better way to get out and experience a magical evening with your loved ones? Get in the car and get your cell phones ready. Buckle up & enjoy the dazzling lights from the safety of your own vehicle while respecting social distance rules. 


Holiday Photo Wonderland Featuring Santa, the Snowman, Elsa & Olaf!
Thursday-Sunday, December 3-20 from 11am to 8pm | Eastlake 

If you’re looking for the perfect photo for your holiday cards or social media posts, visit our life-size photo props located throughout Village Walk including Santa, the Snowman, Elsa, and Olaf. Select your favorite character or take photos with them all! Visit the photo props every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning December 3 and continuing through December 20 from 11 am to 8 pm.

Magical Snowfall Thursday-Sunday, December 3-20, 5, 6 & 7 pm
Be at the courtyard area near the Koi Pond Thursday-Sunday to enjoy Village Walk’s Free Magical Snowfall. We’ve added an extra showtime each evening along with snowflake sidewalk markers for social distancing.


When it comes to living that laid-back West Coast lifestyle, San Diegans do it better than most. Whether it’s sunbathing with the seals in La Jolla or seeking out the hottest regional Mexican food, easy and breezy is the order of the day. Because of the year-round picture-perfect weather here, sometimes we need reminding when the holidays are approaching. But when they do, we go all out! For a full-on, unique experience in ‘America’s Finest City,’ take an Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Lights & Sights Tour and ride a wave of holiday cheer!

Join in sing-a-long caroling with our Elf conductors as they share fun holiday facts and traditions. Enjoy a 15-minute stop at Seaport Village for holiday festivities. You’ll also get to see the festive holiday lights of Old Town, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Balboa Park and more!


Saturday, December 19th | Del Mar Fairgrounds

City Ballet of San Diego’s award-winning production of the classic holiday ballet “The Nutcracker” will be performed as part of the Concerts in Your Car holiday programming.

Voted “San Diego’s Best Nutcracker” (San Diego Dance Alliance Tommy Award), and described by the San Diego Union-Tribune as “a plum of a Nutcracker,” City Ballet’s 26th annual Nutcracker returns this season to a new outdoor stage at the Del Mar Fairgrounds as part of the Concerts in Your Car series.


Santa Saves Christmas! Live on Stage
Saturday, December 12th at 4:30pm & 7:30pm | Del Mar Fairgrounds

Oh NO! Santa ‘s sleigh has run out of gas! Santa, and his team need your help to fill the tank with Holiday Cheer or Christmas will be ruined!

Snowy Surprises, Holiday Sing-Along Songs, Spectacular Performances and MORE await you in this brand-new Holiday Adventure LIVE on stage!


Seaport Village’s Holidays By The Bay
Dates Vary by Event, See Below

BREAKFAST WITH SURFIN’ SANTA // While his seafaring commencement may be canceled, Surfin’ Santa will be making an annual appearance at Eats by Sam for a lively breakfast reception. The al fresco, socially-distanced event will be held on December 13th from 9 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Sam ‘The Cooking Guy’ Zion will serve up an exclusive breakfast menu, offering guests a choice of Breakfast Burger, Breakfast Sandwich, or Kid’s French Toast, alongside fresh fruit and holiday beverages (spiked refreshment available for adults). The morning of merriment will include photos with Surfin’ Santa, an interactive magic show with the Toy Soldier, live music and goodie bags. Priced at $25 per person, reservations are available for groups of 2 to 6. More information and tickets can be found here.

PHOTOS WITH SANTA // Capture the magic of the holiday season in a photo with Seaport’s resident Santa Claus. Beginning November 21st, families can stop by Santa’s new location by the Food Court (previously Wyland Gallery) to strike a pose with jolly Kris Kringle. Enhanced safety measures, including plexiglass and sanitation protocols, will be implemented to assure the well-being of all guests. Cost is $40 for a flash drive with captured photos. Santa’s schedule can be found here; no appointment necessary.

ROAMING CAROLERS & CHARACTERS // Masked carolers will be strolling throughout the waterfront neighborhood, serenading visitors with jolly tunes all season long. Costumed entertainers, dressed as elves and other holiday characters, will also be out-and-about, surprising guests with coupons and gift cards to Seaport Village businesses. Entertainment schedule can be found here.


Holiday Market & Trail At Petco Park
Thursday, December 3rd – Sunday, December 6th Wednesday, December 9th – December 23rd

The Holiday Market and Trail at Petco Park is a safe and fun night out for the whole family. The socially distanced, single-way Holiday Market in Gallagher Square, will feature local and European artisan shops, magical lighting displays, seasonal food and beverage, Santa and other holiday characters!  The walkthrough lighting displays will feature the following themes: Candyland, Winter Wonderland, Home for the Holidays and Artisan Workshop. Vendors will include such items as: Schnitzel, Gingerbread Houses, Wooden Figurines, Glass Ornaments, Handmade Wood Kitchenware, Delectable Treats, Oils, Handmade Soaps, Alpaca Fleece and much, much more!

Hornblower Cruises ‘Lights & Sips
Cocktail Cruise’
Friday, December 5th, 11th and 18th from 5:30pm-7:30pm 

The cruise includes boarding specialty drink and cash bar with plenty of drink specials on beer, wine and Hornblower cocktails along with light appetizers.  This is the perfect holiday excursion on San Diego Bay or a great way to kick of a night downtown.

INCLUDES: Two-hour Cocktail Event Aboard a Comfortable Yacht on San Diego Bay, a Chef’s choice Bento box with a variety of individual appetizers & desserts, Boarding Poinsettia Cocktail, Hornblower Signature Cocktails and Monthly Drink Specials (Drinks Available for Purchase)


Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo
Dec 4–6; 11–23; 25–31; Jan 1–3

Ring in the holiday season with the Zoo’s annual celebration, Jungle Bells proudly supported by California Coast Credit Union. The festivities include lighted displays, musical performances, animal views, and fun, safe, socially-distanced entertainment. ‘Tis the Season to celebrate—join us for holiday cheer!

There will be an abundance of culinary delights to enjoy at the Zoo’s many restaurants and food stands, and guests can shop for the perfect holiday gifts at the Zoo’s retail locations.


Holidays at LEGOLAND
November 20th – January 10th

It’s time for Holidays at LEGOLAND®, where the Resort is bursting with holiday cheer and festive décor! Your favorite holiday characters Santa, the Toy Solider and Gingerbread Man are back and ready for socially distanced meet-and-greets. Head over to Fun Town where there’s a 30-foot, fully decorated LEGO® Christmas tree with over 400 LEGO ornaments. And as the day winds down, the tree gets a-twinklin’ to holiday tunes at the Holiday Light Show. Need more pictures? Witness our life-size model of LEGO Santa on his sleigh that’s pulled by his trusted reindeer. 


Winter Wonderland at the Hotel Del 
November 26th at 5pmDecember 31st at 9pm

This holiday season thousands of white sparkling lights, towering Christmas trees, ornament-trimmed evergreens, snowy surprises, and garlands galore. The magic of the season comes to life on a grand scale with a 35-foot Christmas tree in the center of our beachfront Windsor Lawn. 

Photos with Santa – Families will cherish this annual tradition as they pose for socially distanced photos with Old Saint Nick. Santa will be posing in his vintage sleigh as families take their photos at a 6-foot distance in front of him. Reservations are required. Pricing is $20 and includes a 5×7 printed photo from Crown City Photography. Santa will be available from 4-7 pm on November 28, December 5, 12, 19, 23 & 24.


 Holiday by the Bay
November 26th – December 31st | Hilton 

A Full lineup of events and activities November 26th – December 27th! CLICK HERE to see their activity guide.  Enjoy the bright lights of our oversized Christmas Tree on our Bayfront Pier next to the San Diego Bay this holiday season from November 26 – December 31, 2020. Cuddle up under the stars and watch your favorite holiday movie! Saturdays at 7pm at Promenade Plaza throughout the holiday season. Nov 28 – Elf, Dec 5 – Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dec 12 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (PG-13), Dec 19 – A Christmas Story, Dec 26 – The Santa Clause.

Enjoy a socially distanced visit and opportunity for photos with Santa in their Lobby Saturdays from 2-4 pm!


Holiday Hayride Event at Fort Cross  
November 28th & 29th | December 5th & 6th

Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures will be host to some holiday fun! Hayrides, Rustic Ornament Making, Candle Dipping, Petting Zoo, Reptile Show, Archery, Tomahawk Throwing, Slingshot Gallery, and more!
Reservations are strongly recommended, as we do limit ticket sales, and have sold out on in the past. Please check the website for more information, and to purchase your tickets!



Movies at the Beach at the Hotel Del Coronado
December 12th, 19th, 26th, 31st

Snuggle up on Del Beach for our favorite holiday movies in a theater under the stars. Guests may cuddle up around a private bonfire with s’mores and relax in a beach daybed or enjoy seating in socially distanced Del Beach sand chairs. Reservations are required. Begin at 6:30pm, doors open at 6pm. December 12: A Christmas Story (1983), December 19: Elf (2003), December 26: The Goonies (1985) and December 31: Back to the Future (1985) + the New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop at 9pm and beach fireworks.

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As San Diego’s largest only locally-curated market, the event will feature a socially-distanced outdoor shopping experience with handmade goods by roughly 60 local makers each weekend.

This event is family-friendly and FREE this year, with holiday photo opportunities, a free raffle, and safety measures that ensure that it’s a secure environment for sellers and attendees (social distancing and masks required.



Santa Photos by the Sea
December 3rd & 4th 12pm-4pm | Del Mar Plaza

Dress up the kids (or dogs) and reserve a time to take your holiday photos in Santa’s sleigh, with a live Santa nearby.

Reservations are $20 per family per session, with a portion of proceeds donated to Fuel the Frontline San Diego, which provides crucial funds for Del Mar restaurants and meals for our local frontline healthcare workers.


Princess Christmas Party
Saturday, December 5th from 11am-12pm | Escondido

Come join Once Upon A Princess for their annual Christmas Party!


Children will have the chance to sing along with the Princess and bring home a Christmas themed craft. There will be Christmas cookies, story time, and a chance to take pictures with the princess.

*Tickets are only needed for children*


Santa Express at the Pacific SW Railway Museum Association
Saturday & Sundays, Nov. 28th – Dec. 20th 

A socially-distanced daytime train ride and holiday cheer aboard the Santa Express, a 30 minute train ride in the beautiful mountains of East County.  Enjoy holiday music and decorated cars as we glide down the rails.  At the end of your train ride, the Santa Express will let you off at our decorated Display Building. Tickets $5-25. 

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The performance can be heard for free on KPBS Radio 89.5 FM,
on the KPBS website and app, and on smart speakers
Thursday, November 26 (Thanksgiving Day) at 12:00 noon,
Saturday, December 5 at 12:00 noon,
Sunday, December 20 at 12:00 noon,
and Thursday, December 24 (Christmas Eve) at 6:00 p.m.

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! On the Radio is a wonderful, whimsical musical based upon the classic Dr. Seuss book. 


 Holiday in the Village
December 5th, 10am-9pm | La Mesa

With the uncertainty of tradition for the 2020 Holiday Season, the La Mesa Village Association is proud to announce the return of the beloved 5th Annual Holiday in the Village! In a modified Craft Market format that has been approved by County and City officials, we will once again be ringing in the holidays for everyone far and near! On Saturday, December 5th from 10 am – 9 pm in the La Mesa Village, friends and family will have the chance to take part in the FREE festive fun with holiday music, craft vendors, a food court, and unique holiday photo stations for classic joy and cheer! 


Fancy Cookie Decorating Workshop
Thursday, December 10th from 6:30pm-8pm

Always wanted to decorate your holiday cookies like a professional pastry chef? Learn just in time for this holiday season to impress your family & friends. You’ll learn: -Sugar cookie tips & tricks -How to make royal icing with recipe -The importance of different consistencies for various techniques -How to prepare piping bags/bottles -The basics of piping/outlining cookies -Step-by-step how to decorate 8 cookies -Cute boxes to carry the home in Come join us with Angela of Wednesday Cake Small bites & drinks provided. Tickets: $80. 

Christmas Trees


Ready to find your perfect Christmas Tree? 

Visit, they have made it so simple to find the perfect Christmas tree for your family. Simply enter your zip code and they will find local farms and retailers near you.

Or if you don’t want to go out to shop? Some locations even offer real Christmas trees in online sales with home delivery!  

Use #KeepItRealWithSDM and show us your beautiful trees.

Want to add your holiday themed event to the calendar? Complete the form below and someone will reach out within 24 hours. 


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