Top Holiday Events in San Diego

If you’ve ever dreamed of celebrating the holidays on the West Coast, you simply must visit San Diego. Alongside the white lights dripping from palm trees, the festive tunes wafting in on Pacific breezes, and everything else that you associate with December in California, unique and exciting events take place all throughout the city all season long. Here’s a guide to four of our favorites.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

The San Diego Parade of Lights is a popular celebration that sees San Diego Bay transform into a giant light show. Boaters deck out eighty vessels with strings of lavish, colorful bulbs in different shapes and styles, according to a theme that changes each year. This year’s is Comic Con, so expect plenty of tributes to Superman, Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman. Pro tip: Book a room at Best Western Plus Island Palms for fantastic views of the event, minus the crowds.

Balboa Park December Nights

December Nights is a two-night Balboa Park festival that draws up to 350,000 visitors. It’s a truly dazzling event in which local shops sell their wares, amusement rides and Santa photo-ops are offered, ballet troupes and choirs perform, delicious food and drinks are available, and parades take place. Plus, if you’ve been meaning to make it to the park’s museums, admission is complimentary both nights.

Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

Little Italy’s tree lighting brings sparkling lights, Christmas carolers, nutcrackers rising 10 feet tall, and booths manned by local businesses and markets (including Little Italy Mercato). Arts-and-crafts activities are available in “Santa’s Living Room,” horse-drawn carriage tours take place, and the lighting of the Christmas tree itself — one of two in the neighborhood — is heralded with live music and festive entertainment.

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration

For younger visitors, SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration offers Santa Claus photo packages, dolphin and sea-lion performances, a glittering 40-foot tree, a Christmas Village and marketplace filled with holiday souvenirs, and story time with Mrs. Claus. There’s even a Rudolph theme, with staff members dressed like Dasher, Dancer, and other reindeer, and a ring toss featuring a character from the iconic holiday story.