Holiday Fun in San Diego with Kids
One of the best times to visit San Diego is during the holidays. Our winters are milder, with plenty of sunshine and comfortable temperatures. But, the holiday spirit is in full force including light shows and some snow fun.
This family pastime takes on a San Diego twist with an ice rink by the beach. The famed Hotel del Coronado sets up an ice skating rink on their lawn every year along the sandy shores of one of America’s best beaches. My kids love going here. There are also holiday rinks at downtown’s outdoor Horton Plaza mall and at the Viejas Outlets, Southern California’s largest outdoor ice rink.
Animal Encounters Don’t rule out a visit to see the animals for some holiday fun. The world-famous San Diego Zoo has Jungle Bells. The zoo is open late for holiday-themed activities, shows, light displays and nightly tree-lighting. Kids can ride the Twinkle Light Trolley (for a small fee) for a tour of the zoo’s lights.
SeaWorld San Diego’s SnowWorld has 6,500 square feet of fresh snow everyday for snowmen, sledding and snowballs. They have holiday-themed shows and performances and even an opportunity to have breakfast with Shamu and Santa. Our favorite is the nightly lighting of Southern California’s largest Christmas tree. It’s always a delight to see this from afar. Visit Santa’s cottage to decorate cookies, meet elves and see reindeers.
Legoland California’s Holiday Snow Days provides over 50 tons of real snow for tubing, snowman building and snowball throwing. Don’t miss the nightly lighting of the world’s largest LEGO Christmas tree or finding LEGO Santa. Stay through the night for the holiday lights show and holiday entertainment. They end the festivities with nightly fireworks from Dec. 26 through 31. Dont forget to see the festively decorated Miniland USA. Kids also love the LEGO Holiday Village building activity.
Spectacular Light Shows
Who doesn’t love seeing Christmas light displays? Boating communities all over San Diego decorate their boats for the holidays and put on a parade. For two consecutive Sundays in December, the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights has over 80 boats participating that follow a theme. The Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights usually has over 100 holiday-decorated vessels.
The San Diego Botanic Garden features “Garden of Lights” with over 100,000 sparkling lights along with holiday entertainment and activities, like s’mores making. They even bring on the snow on certain dates for some sledding.
Though, it is not on for 2013 due to a track expansion, the Holiday of Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds will be back next year. This is a drive-through light show and exhibit with various themes along a 1 1/2 mile route. Visitors can enjoy over 400 animated and lit displays accompanied by holiday music.
For the locals or those visiting with rental cars, it’s always worth a drive to see some of the local neighborhoods put on Christmas displays. It’s amazing what some people do to their houses. Check this handy map for neighborhoods near you to visit.
Balboa Park December Nights
San Diego’s largest free holiday festival, usually held during the first Friday and Saturday of December, at Balboa Park is a wonderful way to kick-off the season. This event has been around since 1978 and attracts over 350,000 visitors. The park is decked out and filled with holiday activities, entertainment and free admission to most of the museums from 5-9 pm. There are booths for shopping including the Spanish Village’s artisans. Santa can be found at various sites too.
Our favorite part is eating and drinking our way around the world through the International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations Cottages. There is a wide variety of ethnic and holiday food to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. It’s a festive atmosphere that has been part of many family traditions. Be prepared for large crowds and long lines so bring your Christmas spirit and a lot of patience with you.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, Hilton has locations throughout the San Diego area. Check out the various Hilton hotels in San Diego.
Have you spent some holiday time in San Diego?
Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…