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10 Family-Friendly San Diego Christmas Events (2020)

My favorite time of year is…tax season…yeah right! It’s the CHRISTMAS season!!!! Cozying up beside our glowing tree with a cup of steaming peppermint cocoa as I watch White Christmas is the quintessential night for me! 

Do you know what’s even better than a cozy Christmas night IN? A fun night OUT during the holiday season at one of the many San Diego Christmas events! 

Seasonal festivities are happening in every town around the San Diego area, so I’m sure at least one of them will fill you up with Christmas joy! Check out these 10 San Diego Christmas events and make sure to add a few to your schedule this holiday season. 


San Diego Christmas Events

1. Balboa Park December Nights

If you like music, dancing, food, and beautiful lights, then you can’t miss December Nights at Balboa Park. This event typically occurs on the first weekend in December. It’s a free event, but make sure to get there early because its popularity makes the parking lot fill up fast. 

Cost: FREE

Date: December 4-6, 2020 from 11am - 10pm

2020 Update: During the above dates and times, they will be offering a "Taste of December Nights"  with favorite food trucks from the annual December Nights. It will be drive-thru style in the Inspiration Point parking lot. 

2. San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

This is a parade unlike any other-- it takes place on the WATER! Around 80 boats are decked out in Christmas lights and wildly festive decorations. This fun-filled boat parade cruises all along the San Diego Bay, so people can watch from multiple locations. Grab a jacket and a gingerbread latte, and make your way to the shoreline for a beautiful parade of lights!

Cost: FREE

Date: TBD

The Procession starts at 5:30pm and follows the parade route. 


2020 Update: The parade of lights has been cancelled due to COVID. 


3. Hotel Del’s Skating by the Sea

Strap on those ice skates and skate around the rink with a view of the historic Hotel Del Coronado on one side and towering palm trees by the beach on the other. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic date night…or a sore booty--you decide! When you combine an ice rink by the sandy beach, you get the epitome of a San Diego Christmas. 

Cost: Varies

Date: November 26, 2020 - December 31, 2020

2020 Update: They will be hosting Winter Wonderland activities on The Del's property in place of their Skating by the Sea.  


4. Julian Country Christmas

Celebrate the season old-fashioned style while perusing boutique shops for one-of-a-kind gifts and indulging in holiday sweets. This San Diego Christmas event is sure to make you feel nostalgic about Christmases gone by. Plus there is a beautiful tree lighting to attend, so it’s one big family-friendly affair! 

Cost: FREE

Date: TBD

2020 Update: They will not be hosting a tree lighting ceremony. 


5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Head on over to Balboa Park and visit The Old Globe to see a live theater performance of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! As one of the country’s leading professional regional theaters, it is sure to entertain families young and old 

Cost: FREE

Date: November 26, 2020 at 12:00pm, December 5, 2020 at 12:00pm, December 20, 2020 at 12:00pm, and December 24, 2020 at 6:00pm

2020 Update: There will be an audio-only production for the 2020 Christmas season. You can listen on KPBS Radio 89.5 FM on the above dates and times. 


6. Neighborhood Christmas Lights

Looking at neighbors’ houses twinkling with Christmas lights is always a wonderful greeting as we pull into our neighborhood. BUT…there are a handful of neighborhoods in San Diego that take “putting up Christmas lights” to the NEXT LEVEL! Make sure you take one night, bundle up, and walk around a lit-up neighborhood for a spectacular display of color and creativity! Bonus points for buying a kettle corn snack or homemade gift ( from one of the homeowner’s driveway booths. 

Cost: FREE

Date: Usually weekend evenings from Thanksgiving to Christmas


7. Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

Ring in the holiday season in San Diego’s Little Italy with live music, horse-drawn carriage rides, Christmas carolers, a visit from Santa, and more! A new custom tree will make its debut in Piazza Basilone this year, and the usual tree lighting ceremony will take place in Piazza della Famiglia on a live Christmas tree over 25 feet tall! (Tip - Christmas tree lighting will begin around 6:30pm) 

Cost: FREE

Date: December 5, 2020 from 5:30pm - 6:15pm


2020 Update: The Little Italy Holiday Special will be a virtual experience broadcast on several platforms. 


8. La Mesa’s Holiday in the Village

Head to La Mesa for a music-filled San Diego Christmas event. Holiday treats, local shopping, and children’s activities make this event perfect for the whole family! Live entertainment occurs on multiple stages with all sorts of Christmas tunes, so grab your dancing shoes and get ready to rock around the Christmas tree! 

Cost: FREE

Date: December 5, 2020 from 10am - 9pm


2020 Update: Health precautions including temperature checks will be taken to ensure a safe Holiday Market experience. 


9. Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade

Head downtown to see Santa Paws in a parade with his canine pals at the 13th Annual Just Food For Dogs Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade. This is one of the few San Diego Christmas events where your pets are the stars of the show. Pet owners dress up their beloved companions in festive costumes as they promenade from the Gaslamp Quarter Archway to MLK Promenade Park for the Holiday Pet Market. Dogs, cats, birds, and even fish are welcome to take part in this holly-jolly good time!

Cost: FREE to watch ($15-$20 to enter your pet IN the parade)

Date: TBD


2020 Update: The parade has been postponed due to COVID restrictions.



10. SeaWorld Christmas Celebration

If you have admission to SeaWorld during the holiday season, you get to see over one million lights sparkle all around the park. Watch incredible live Christmas shows involving ice skating, music, acrobatics, storytelling, and more! Plus, your kids can join in the festive fun at Sesame Street Christmas Village as they sing and dance with Cookie Monster or meet some of Santa’s elves. This Christmas event is one of our personal favorites!

Cost: $64+

Date: Select dates, November 13, 2020 - January 4, 2021


Whatever your budget and availability, there are a number of San Diego Christmas events for you to choose from all season long. Embrace the magic of Christmas as a family and add a couple of these events to your calendar now! Even if it’s only for a couple of hours, these events are sure to be Worth Every Trip!

Father & Son walking through Christmas light tunnel
SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Show

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