While the chances of a white Christmas in Southern California are slim, San Diego’s coastal community transforms into a winter wonderland that’s sure to be fun for they entire family. Located on the Pacific Ocean, San Diego is known for its mild year-round climate, extensive beaches and laid-back lifestyle. It also hosts a slew of holiday-themed events including candlelit tours, twinkling lights, caroling, trolley tours, parades and Christmas shows – everything you need to create memories to last a lifetime.
Known as “the birthplace of California,” San Diego was established in 1769 and has colorful roots in Spanish and Mexican heritage. In 1850, California became part of the United States following the Mexican-American War and has grown to become the eighth-largest city in the country. From the historic Old Town district to a bustling bayfront and present-day Downtown, San Diego offers a never-ending list of things to do during your holiday vacation.
One of the best ways to experience San Diego during the holidays is aboard Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Lights and Sights Tour. Join in sing-a-long caroling with the conductors as they share fun holiday facts, history and traditions while taking in the festive Christmas lights of Old Town San Diego, the Embarcadero, Balboa Park, Garrison Street and more. This 75-minute tour departs from Old Town Market on December 1-23 and December 26-30. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for kids ages 3 to 12 and children 2 and under are free.
Featuring an all-new live nativity musical, seasonal shopping, festive food and drinks and a sea of twinkling trees, SeaWorld offers up holiday fun for they entire family. Check out the parks’ Santa’s Christmas Village, meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, take in the Dolphin Island Christmas show or even eat breakfast with the orcas and Santa. SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration general events are included in park admission and run through Saturday, January 6, 2018. Some events cost additional.
After the sun goes down, San Diego Botanic Garden illuminates with more than 125,000 twinkling lights transforming the lush landscape into a winter wonderland. From December 2-23 and December 26-30, the Garden features festive holiday activities including snow, horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, visits with Santa, hot mulled wine and other refreshments. Garden of Lights is held from 5 pm to 9 pm and admission ranges from $5 to $20.
As Southern California’s largest outdoor ice skating rink (it’s even bigger than the Rink at Rockefeller Center!), Viejas Ice Rink at Viejas Casino & Resort has become a popular destination to celebrate the sights and sounds of the holidays. From now through January 28, 2018, the rink will host open skating for they entire family. Each 90-minute session costs $16 for adults, $14 for children ages 12 and under and season passes are available for $99.
More than 80 private boats decorated with thousands of twinkling lights sail along the waters of San Diego Bay during the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. Now in its 46th year, the parade, which is a time-honored tradition amongst the local boating community, will entertain bayfront crowds during the evenings of Sunday, December 10 and Sunday, December 17 starting at 5 pm.
San Diego has thousands of small, locally owned shops with one-of-a-kind items for everyone on your nice list. Check out hip neighborhood boutiques in La Jolla, Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, Hillcrest, North Park and South Park. There are also plenty of outdoor shopping centers with big name stores and outlet centers for those looking for a bargain. Stop by the San Diego Distillery in Spring Valley to pick up some holiday spirit or tour San Diego Brewing Company for some local suds.
Just minutes from downtown San Diego is Hotel del Coronado, an iconic destination at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Relaxed beauty and seaside charm encapsulate the quintessential Southern California coastal lifestyle at this historic hotel. Built in 1888 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, Hotel del Coronado is regularly visited by celebrities, dignitaries and U.S. presidents. From historic architecture and modern touches, The Del (as its known by locals) is a perfect holiday destination whether you’re staying for a night or a week.
Located on 44 acres of private island paradise, Paradise Point Resort & Spa features bungalow-style guestrooms amidst lush, tropical gardens, tranquil lagoons and one-mile of sandy beaches. You’ll find plenty of room to relax at this island escape tucked away on Mission Bay in the heart of San Diego with five swimming pools, beach bonfire pits, a marina, five restaurants and an award-winning spa.