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Fun Things To Do For The Holidays

Fun Things To Do For The Holidays

Fun Things To Do For The Holidays — North County San Diego

Guest post by Ashley Schuering

To celebrate the most magical time of the year, we’re bringing you our favorite Christmas activities San Diego has to offer! As the city lights up with holiday cheer, there's a flurry of festively fun activities for adults and kids gathering on our sun-kissed shores. 

From twinkling lights to heartwarming shows, spectacular shopping to fabulously free adventures, our little slice of SoCal heaven is ready to get you feeling merry and bright. So, wrap up warm, grab a cup of Deluxious Dark Drinking Chocolate, and let's dive into the best holiday family activities San Diego has to offer in 2023!


Get ready to shop till you drop! San Diego's shopping scene is a treasure trove of unique gifts, from quaint boutiques in the Gaslamp Quarter to the festive markets at Liberty Station. Discover handcrafted treasures, perfect for your special someone, and maybe even a chocolatey treat for yourself!

Joy Factory, Chuao Chocolatier

When: Monday - Friday, 10 am - 5 pm. Open Saturdays 10 am - 3 pm starting 11/25 through 12/23.

Step into a world where chocolate dreams come true at Chuao Chocolatier's Joy Factory! Located in the heart of San Diego, our Joy Factory is more than just a chocolate shop; it's an experience where the magic of chocolate-making comes to life right before your eyes. Watch in awe as our skilled chocolatiers craft our renowned gourmet chocolates, blending innovation with the finest ingredients.

But the fun doesn't stop at watching! Dive into the joy of creating your very own bespoke Share The Love gift box, filled with an assortment of our delicious mini chocolates. Whether you're a fan of our adventurous Firecracker mini or the classic Salted Chocolate Crunch, you can mix and match to your heart's content, creating the perfect personalized gift for a loved one or a special treat for yourself.

The Joy Factory isn't just a visit; it's a sensory journey into the heart of chocolate craftsmanship. So come, indulge your senses, and leave with a box full of happiness, handpicked by you!


*Please note, events are subject to change and cancellation. Please confirm the event information by visiting the event website. 

Feel the holiday cheer as San Diego's streets come alive with festive parades! Marvel at the twinkling floats, hear the joyful music, and wave to Santa as he makes his grand entrance. These are some fun holiday activities you won't want to miss!

Coronado Holiday Parade

Date: December 1, 2023

Experience the festive spirit with Coronado's annual holiday celebration. Starting from the Ferry Landing and proceeding along Orange Avenue to the Hotel del Coronado, this event features live music, open houses by local businesses, community sing-alongs, a captivating parade, and a spectacular tree lighting ceremony at Rotary Park.

Ocean Beach Holiday Parade

Date: December 2, 2023

Join the Ocean Beach community, a charming surfing village, in celebrating over 40 years of holiday traditions. This beloved SoCal Holiday Parade is a seasonal highlight not to be missed.

Encinitas Holiday Parade

Date: December 2, 2023

Witness a procession of vibrant floats and bands along Coast Highway 101 in the heart of Encinitas, bringing holiday joy and community spirit to the streets.

Chula Vista Starlight Parade & Festival

Date: December 3, 2023

See Third Avenue transform into a dazzling holiday wonderland, filled with lights and festive activities, marking a memorable evening in Chula Vista.

La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival

Date: December 3, 2023

Celebrate the holiday season in La Jolla with a festive parade featuring marching bands, community groups, vintage vehicles, and even a camel. The event includes a Holiday Festival, Tree Lighting Ceremony, and a sky filled with the sound of church bells and a fly-over.

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights

Date: December 9, 2023

Enjoy the illuminated spectacle of powerboats and sailboats adorned with festive lights, parading along the scenic Mission Bay. It’s a delightful SoCal holiday tradition.

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights

Date: December 9, 2023

Marvel at a parade of beautifully decorated boats, cruising through Oceanside Harbor in a display of holiday lights and cheer. A perfect seaside holiday event.

Port of San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Dates: December 10 & 17, 2023

Witness over 80 private boats, festively decorated with holiday lights, gliding through San Diego Bay. This annual event offers stunning views from various points including Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Cesar Chavez Park Pier, and Coronado's Ferry Landing.

Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade

Date: December 27, 2023

Be amazed by the country's largest balloon parade at the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade. Featuring gigantic balloons, vibrant floats, and marching bands, this parade along San Diego Bay is a festive spectacle not to be missed.

Tree Lighting 

*Please note, events are subject to change and cancellation. Please confirm the event information by visiting the event website. 

The sparkle of thousands of lights on a towering tree is a sight to behold. Join us at some of the most iconic spots for magical tree-lighting ceremonies and outdoor activities in San Diego. These glittering events are perfect for sipping on your favorite hot chocolate and making memories with your loved ones! 

Julian's Country Christmas and Tree Lighting

Date: November 25, 2023

Join the heartwarming festivities in Julian as the town lights up its magnificent living Christmas tree. This beloved event draws crowds to Pioneer Park for the spectacular lighting ceremony, complete with a visit from Santa Claus, making it a perfect start to the holiday season.

Little Italy Tree Lighting and Christmas Village

Date: December 2, 2023

Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit at Little Italy's Tree Lighting Ceremony. Witness a stunning 25-foot Poinsettia tree come to life, surrounded by lively entertainment, festive decorations, and the joyous sounds of live music. Indulge in tasty treats, holiday drinks, and revel in the community's vibrant Christmas Village.

Paradise Point Tree Lighting Ceremony

Date: December 7, 2023

Gather at Paradise Point for a delightful tree lighting ceremony filled with holiday cheer. This family-friendly event features s'more roasting, caroling, delicious offerings from The Churro Addict food truck, festive cocktails, and activities for all ages. Don't miss the special appearance by Santa Claus in this enchanting evening.

Festivals & Fairs

*Please note, events are subject to change and cancellation. Please confirm the event information by visiting the event website. 

San Diego's holiday festivals and fairs are a whirlwind of excitement. From cultural celebrations to winter wonderlands, each event is packed with food, fun, and festivities. Experience the joy of the season as we explore the best festivals and fairs that offer something special for everyone in the family.

Encinitas Holiday Street Fair

Date: November 19, 2023

Since 1989, the Encinitas Holiday Street Fair has been a seasonal highlight, featuring children's rides, dual stages for live entertainment, and a variety of food and drink options. This vibrant fair offers a wonderful atmosphere for visitors and a fantastic opportunity for vendors.

Surfin' Santa Arrival at Seaport Village

Date: November 25, 2023

Join the fun at Seaport Village for the arrival of Surfin' Santa! This unique event includes a parade along the boardwalk, where you can see Santa riding the waves. Enjoy live music, street performances, and snap memorable photos with your family and friends alongside a surfing Santa.

Balboa Park December Nights

Dates: December 1-2, 2023

Experience the magic of the holidays at Balboa Park with a two-day celebration featuring carolers, live music, stunning light displays, and an array of theater and dance performances. Savor delicious global cuisines as you immerse yourself in this festive extravaganza.

Holiday in the Village: A La Mesa Tradition

Date: December 2, 2023

Stroll through the historic downtown of La Mesa during this cherished holiday event. Enjoy live music, dance performances, cozy fires, and an array of craft vendors. The kids' area features holiday movies and activities, making it a perfect family outing.

SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off

Date: December 3, 2023

Gather your family for the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off, a neighborhood celebration in South and North Park. Choose a handmade ceramic bowl and taste chili from local restaurants. Explore holiday gifts from artisans, enjoy free live music, kids' activities, gourmet food trucks, and a beer garden with local craft brews.

Poway's Christmas in the Park

Dates: December 8-9, 2023

Join the festive spirit in Poway with Christmas in the Park. This event features a tree lighting ceremony, Santa visits, train rides, live music, theater performances, and a variety of food and craft stalls, offering a merry experience for all ages.

Snapdragon Bowl Bash

Date: December 26, 2023

The Snapdragon Bowl Bash, hosted by the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, returns for its second year in downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. This free family-friendly event includes live music, food, giveaways, and more, offering a festive gathering spot for both fans and locals.

Holiday Productions & Plays

*Please note, events are subject to change and cancellation. Please confirm the event information by visiting the event website. 

Experience the magic of the holidays through San Diego's vibrant theater scene. Join us as we spotlight the must-see productions and plays that make the city's stages come alive with the spirit of the season.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe Theatre

Dates: November 12 - December 31, 2023

Explore the enchanting world of "Whoville" in Balboa Park, beautifully adorned to celebrate the Old Globe Theatre's annual holiday production of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Wander around the park and admire its stunning architecture while enjoying the whimsical decorations, and, if possible, grab a show!

Las Posadas: An Old Town Celebration

Date: December 8, 2023

Join a unique procession at Heritage County Park, reenacting the journey of Joseph and Mary with a donkey. Each of the six stations offers captivating narrations and interactive performances by volunteers. The evening concludes with refreshments back at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion Sunday Concerts

Enjoy free concerts every Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. This venue, home to the world's largest outdoor pipe organ, has been a San Diego icon for over 90 years. Experience the grandeur of holiday favorites, waltzes, and show tunes echoing from its impressive 32-foot pipes.

San Diego Symphony's Noel Noel at Rady Shell Family Concerts

Dates: December 15 at 7:30 p.m., December 16 at 5 p.m., and December 17 at 5 p.m.

Celebrate the holiday season with the San Diego Symphony's beloved Noel Noel concert at Rady’s Shell. This family-friendly event will be a festive delight, complete with traditional holiday music, set amidst a backdrop of twinkling lights and holiday decorations.

The Nutcracker Ballet by City Ballet

Dates: December 21 at 7:30 p.m., December 22 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., December 23 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Experience the magic of the holidays with City Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. This enchanting ballet takes the audience to the whimsical Land of the Sweets alongside Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. The performances, held at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, promise to be a mesmerizing holiday treat.

Free Walking Activities to Get in the Holiday Spirit

Discover the festive charm of San Diego on foot! The city offers numerous free walking activities that immerse you in the holiday spirit. Explore beautifully decorated neighborhoods, enjoy window displays, and soak in the festive atmosphere, all without spending a dime. 

We'll show you the best routes and fun places in San Diego for a merry and bright adventure. Just don’t forget to pack some Chuao mini’s to keep the festive feelings flowing mile after mile. 

Christmas Tree Trail
Embrace the holiday spirit by following San Diego's unique Christmas Tree Trail. From a festive tree on the beach to a rooftop tree shining miles away, and even a Grinch-themed tree, this trail is a delightful way to experience the city's seasonal charm.

Hotel del Coronado
Visit the iconic Hotel del Coronado this December. Cross the Coronado Bay Bridge to see the hotel spectacularly lit up for the holidays, and don't miss the beautifully adorned Christmas tree in the lobby, a favorite among visitors.

Winter Charm in Julian
This December, escape to Julian, a picturesque mountain town. Savor a warm mug of hot apple cider and indulge in Julian's famous homemade apple pie. On Saturdays, enjoy the festive atmosphere with Christmas carolers and a living nativity scene as you wander through the quaint streets.

Mount Laguna
Discover a snowy wonderland at Mount Laguna, just an hour's drive from San Diego. Enjoy winter activities like sledding, snowman-building, and snowball fights in this scenic mountain location.

San Diego Beaches
Explore San Diego's stunning beaches, stretching over 70 miles and open to everyone. During your beach walks, collect seashells and sea glass for holiday crafts or simply enjoy the serene beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial
Drive up to the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in La Jolla for breathtaking panoramic views of San Diego's holiday lights and decor. On your way, admire the elegantly decorated homes in this exclusive neighborhood, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Other Fun Holiday Activities at Theme Parks

*Please note, events are subject to change and cancellation. Please confirm the event information by visiting the event website. 

San Diego's theme parks turn into enchanting holiday destinations! With special shows, seasonal decorations, and festive attractions, these parks offer a delightful escape into a world of holiday joy. Whether you're seeking thrilling rides or enchanting experiences, our guide to holiday activities at theme parks will ensure your season is filled with fun and excitement.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Dates: December 9, 2023 - January 1, 2024

Experience a wild holiday adventure with Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo. From December 9 through January 1, the zoo transforms into a festive wonderland with vibrant light displays, Santa’s acrobatic elves, and opportunities to meet Santa himself in the evenings.

Wild Holidays at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Dates: November 24–26; December 2–3, 9-10, 16–23, and 25–31 from 4–8 p.m.

Stay after dark at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park for Wild Holidays. Savor gourmet hot chocolate while exploring vibrant light displays. Enjoy holiday music, live performances, storytelling, stilt walkers, and more.

Lightscape at San Diego Botanic Garden

Dates: November 17–December 31 (except 24 & 25th), with additional days through January 1, 2024

Don't miss Lightscape at the San Diego Botanic Garden, an internationally acclaimed holiday show. A one-mile trail adorned with illuminated art sculptures, a holiday music-activated tunnel, and artistic installations creates a mesmerizing experience. This popular event has sold out in cities like London and Los Angeles, so be sure to catch it in San Diego.

SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration

Dates: November 17, 2023 - January 7, 2024

Celebrate the holiday season at SeaWorld San Diego. Enjoy meeting Santa and Rudolph, be dazzled by Donner and Blitzen’s Lazer lights show, and listen to the Holiday Brass band. The park features holiday-themed animal shows, a sea-themed Christmas tree, and over a million low-energy lights. Regular park admission includes access to all these festive activities.

Holidays at LEGOLAND California

Dates: November 18, 2023 - January 7, 2024

LEGOLAND California invites you to a unique Christmas celebration featuring the world's largest LEGO Christmas tree, made from thousands of DUPLO® bricks. The resort transforms into a holiday paradise with LEGO Santa and reindeer models, live entertainment, and 'snowfall' in Fun Town. Oh, and don't miss the LEGO ball drop at the Kids’ New Year’s Eve event at 6 p.m.!

Lightscape at San Diego Botanic Garden

Dates: November 17–December 31 (except 24 & 25th), with additional days through January 1, 2024

Don't miss Lightscape at the San Diego Botanic Garden, an internationally acclaimed holiday show. A one-mile trail adorned with illuminated art sculptures, a holiday music-activated tunnel, and artistic installations creates a mesmerizing experience. This popular event has sold out in cities like London and Los Angeles, so be sure to catch it in San Diego.

As our festive journey through San Diego's holiday delights comes to a close, we're reminded of the rich, sweet moments that make the season so special. Whether you were captivated by the twinkling displays at the San Diego Zoo or charmed by the holiday parades, these moments are like the assorted flavors in a Chuao Share The Joy chocolate box—each one unique and full of wonder. 

So, as we bid farewell to this season's enchantments, remember to carry the warmth of San Diego's holiday spirit into the new year. Here's to a holiday filled with sweet surprises, joyous encounters, and the rich, delectable moments that make life truly special.

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