San Diego might not have any Yuletide snow to offer, but that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t know how to celebrate the holiday season. In fact, if you are migrating for the holiday season to San Diego’s warm shores, you’ll find plenty of fun, exciting, and family-friendly holiday activities to do, many of them absolutely free. Here are just our top 13 choices from all around San Diego.
Recurring Holiday Events
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
Date: Nov. 12-Jan. 2
Location: SeaWorld San Diego
Spend the holidays with your friends of the rivers and oceans at SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. Sip hot cocoa with candy toppings and visit with sea otters, flamingos, sea lions, turtles and bat rays, or explore the more than 100 acres of holiday decor, like a massive, sea-themed Christmas tree and a music-activated holiday tunnel of lights.
Holidays at LEGOLAND
Date: Nov. 20-28, 2021 and Dec. 19, 2021-Jan. 8, 2022.
Location: LEGOLAND Resort, Carlsbad
There’s nothing like the Holidays at LEGOLAND. Make your way to Fun Town to see the 30-foot LEGO Christmas tree with more than 400 LEGO ornaments. Watch the tree twinkle and hum to holiday tunes at the Holiday Light Show. Get your photo taken with a life-size LEGO Santa on his sleigh, walk around the newly themed Miniland USA, or build your own LEGO ornaments.
Holiday Movies at the Beach
Date: Dec. 4, 11, 18 and 31, 2021
Location: Hotel del Coronado
Cuddle up on Del Beach for holiday favorites with a bonfire, s’mores and sand chairs. Watch the films on a big screen on the beach with the cool ocean air and twinkling stars above. This year’s Holiday Movies at the Beach schedule includes How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dec. 4), A Christmas Story (Dec. 11), Elf (Dec. 18) and Big (Dec. 31).
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Date: Dec. 12 and Dec. 19, 2021
Location: San Diego Bay
A time-honored holiday tradition, the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights has been wowing onlookers for more than 50 years. The Parade of Lights takes place over two nights, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. The procession of about 80 beautifully lit boats has become one of the most anticipated events each year. The parade begins at the southwest end of Shelter Island and travels past Harbor Island, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, and the Coronado Ferry Landing Marketplace before ending at the navy carrier turning basin. The parade is free of charge.
Holiday Events in November
Julian Country Christmas Tree Lighting
Date: Nov. 27, 2021
Location: Julian Pioneer Park, 2811 Washington Street, Julian, CA.
A little off the beaten path in the nearby Cuyamaca Mountains, the Julian Country Christmas Tree Lighting offers an authentic country Christmas in a lovely California small town. The town comes to life every year with an old-fashioned Christmas tree lighting. In the higher elevation, the air is a little more crisp, and you might even catch a glimpse of a snow-capped mountain or two to help get you in the holiday spirit.
Holiday Events in Early December
Encinitas Holiday Parade
Date: Dec. 4, 2021
Location: Downtown Encinitas
Kick off the holidays in Encinitas with a parade and tree lighting ceremony in the Lumberyard Shopping Center on Coast Highway 101. The tree lighting is scheduled for 5 p.m. with the Encinitas Holiday Parade to follow at 5:30. The parade will head south along the 101 from D Street to J Street. in Encinitas.
Christmas in the Park
Date: Dec. 11, 2021
Location: Old Poway Park
Join in for an old-fashioned Christmas in the Park holiday tradition that has caroling, live music, a visit with Santa, free children’s crafts and model train displays. There are holiday treats available, and plenty of shopping at the craft boutique. The Poway Midland Railroad makes for a fun ride around the park at nighttime.
San Diego Santa Run
Date: Dec. 11, 2021
Location: 875 Garnet Avenue
Dress in a sunny Santa suit, Santa hat and sunglasses, and take part in a fun 5K San Diego Santa Run event in downtown San Diego. The distinctive holiday event is just as fun to watch as it is to race! Come watch all the excitement in your finest (or ugliest) holiday attire and you will fit right in. Stick around after the race for the annual Pacific Beach Holiday Parade.
Late December Events in San Diego
San Diego Holiday Half Marathon
Date: Dec. 18, 2021
Location: (Starting Line) Hotel Karlan, 14455 Penasquitos Road
Take in the beauty of San Diego on a 13.1-mile course that begins in front of the Hotel Karlan and travels southwest along Carmel Mountain Road and finishes at Torrey Pines State Beach. The San Diego Holiday Half Marathon has a 711-foot net elevation drop along a “rolling” downhill path. The popular race is a sell-out almost every year. Hit your new PR in sunny San Diego!
An Irish Christmas
Date: Dec. 19, 2021
Location: Balboa Theater
Celebrate the international spirit of the holidays with An Irish Christmas. Take an unforgettable Christmas journey to Ireland for superb dancing and singing to traditional Irish music. Cast includes world champion dancers Tyler Schwartz, Emily MacConnell, Colm Alba and the Kerry Dance Troupe. Running time is just over two hours, including a 20-minute intermission.
SDCCU Holiday Bowl
Date: Dec. 28, 2021
Location: Petco Park
Petco Park is the new setting for the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, pitting two top NCAA Division I football programs battling it for supremacy in the beautiful winter weather in the Valley of the Sun. Catch the game and hang out in the city’s chic downtown entertainment district after the ballgame. This year’s Holiday Bowl will feature a matchup of two top teams from the Pac-12 and the ACC.
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Date: Dec. 30, 2021
Location: Civic Theater
Grab some tickets to enjoy the beloved holiday jams of Mannheim Steamroller. The group’s concert incorporates awesome multimedia effects, performed in an ideal setting, to showcase the magic of the season. The group’s holiday music has become a tradition all over the world, and there’s nothing like seeing a one-of-a-kind performance in person.
Del New Year’s Eve Gala
Date: Dec. 31, 2021
Location: The Hotel del Coronado
Say goodbye to 2021 and ring in 2022 at San Diego’s premier New Year’s party, the Hotel Del Coronado New Year’s Eve Gala. The upscale evening includes a champagne toast at midnight in the majestic Crown Room, followed by a delectable dinner and dancing in the oceanside ballroom. The adults-only soiree will have dancing to the Mighty Untouchables and a live DJ, awe-inspiring performers, live-action food stations, and an open bar. For youngsters, there is an alternative party with dinner, beach games and bonfire.
Lodging for Holiday Events in San Diego
If you’re looking to bask in the sun over the holidays instead of battling the blistering cold, you can’t go wrong in San Diego. Say goodbye to snow and sleet, and hello to sunny days and bluebird skies. There’s nothing better than getting the whole family, or that special someone, and enjoying San Diego over the holidays. It’s surely a season you’ll never forget.
We have turnkey vacation rentals that are ready to go for the holidays. Enjoy ample space to spread out, a full kitchen to cook a traditional holiday feast for your family, and lots of other amenities. Get your family under one roof this holiday season with San Diego Coast Rentals.
Browse our rental inventory and see what’s best for you, or give us a call at (858) 531-3247 and we can make a recommendation based on your interests and what you’d like to do while you’re in the city. We have rentals near the trendy Gaslamp District if you want to party all night with thousands of your closest friends, and we have private beachfront rentals where you can step right out of your door and feel the sand underneath your toes.