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A giant nutcracker figurine is displayed as part of the "Winter Wonderland" at Petco Park, shown on Dec. 5, 2014.
Andy Hayt
Andy Hayt via San Diego Tourism Authority
A giant nutcracker figurine is displayed as part of the "Winter Wonderland" at Petco Park, shown on Dec. 5, 2014.

Family-friendly winter events to explore this holiday season

Art, culture and entertainment

'Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!': This annual classic from The Old Globe returns to Balboa Park for a 26th year. The musical delivers all your favorite Whoville earworms, like "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," and more. Plus, the Old Globe's plaza is all decked out with a tree and decorations for a Whoville-style Christmas.

Actors are shown during a production of The Old Globe's "Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas" in an undated photo.
Ken Howard
The Old Globe
Actors are shown during a production of The Old Globe's "Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas" in an undated photo.

Note that this production is for children ages 3+ and their families, with the exception of 10:30 a.m. shows that are open to all. A sensory-friendly performance happens at 10 a.m. on Dec. 9, and an ASL-interpreted performance is Dec. 8.


Details: On stage through Dec. 31. The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way San Diego, Balboa Park. $26+. Running time: 1 hour and 25 minutes. There is no intermission.

Story and tea time at the Westgate Hotel:

  • 'Enchanted Tea: A Christmas Nightmare': For those still refusing to take down their Halloween decorations, why not slowly transition into the holiday season with a spooky flare? This event is a Jack and Sally-themed fine afternoon tea and sandwiches, complete with a performance from the Pumpkin King and company.

    Details: 12:30-2:30 p.m., Nov. 26. The Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Avenue, Downtown San Diego. $95 (All-inclusive).

  • 'Santa's Story Time Tea': Cozy up and head to the hotel's Le Fontainbleau Room for story and tea time by the big guy in red himself, Santa. Along with live piano music, story time and a photo opportunity where each child will take home their own stuffed animal from the North Pole. Kid-friendly treats and hot chocolate will be served, as well as the traditional tea.

    Details: 12-2 p.m. December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 20-21, 22-23. The Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Avenue, Downtown San Diego. $98 (All-inclusive).

Performing Arts Workshop: 'Tea with the Sugar Plum Fairy': This Nutcracker-themed tea party in Encinitas involves mini performances of ballet, visits from their favorite Nutcracker characters and tea and desserts. Attendees are given a gift to take home.

Details: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Dec. 3. Performing Arts Workshop Encinitas, 1465 Encinitas Blvd Unit A102, Encinitas. $30.

Las Posadas in Old Town: The 65th Annual Las Posadas in Old Town San Diego is a celebration of Mexican holiday traditions, including a pilgrimage with Mary and Joseph and their donkey, a food bank donation center, live music and refreshments.


Details: 7-9:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8. Heritage County Park, 2454 Heritage Park Row, Mission Hills. Free.

Yale Strom: Shloyml Boyml & His Lucky Dreydl: Yiddishland, a cultural center operated by the Yiddish Arts and Academics Association of North American (YAAANA), will host musician, ethnographer, filmmaker and author Yale Strom for a Chanukkah storytime and event. Strom will read from his book, "Shoyml Boyml and his Lucky Dreidl," in English and "a bisele af Yiddish," play some Chanukkah music and share Purim food and drink.

Details: In-person or on Zoom from 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 14. Yiddishland California and on Zoom, 1128 Wall St, La Jolla. $10-$25.

San Diego Symphony: 'Noel Noel': The San Diego Symphony's holiday theatrical and musical performance, "Noel Noel," is back and updated. Guest conductor Christopher Dragon will conduct the San Diego Symphony, joined by the San Diego Master Chorale and San Diego Children’s Choir for three performances. Expect storytelling, a play and lots of holiday classics beneath the stars, with holiday-themed treats available for sale.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15-16; 5 p.m. Dec. 17. The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, 222 Marina Park Way, Embarcadero. $22-$95.

The Nutcracker: The San Diego Ballet returns with America’s classic holiday story: The Nutcracker. Watch dancers perform and amaze their audiences in this fairy tale, where toys and fairies come to life and face the infamous Mouse King.

Details: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on stage Dec. 16. The Magnolia, 210 E Main St., El Cajon. Prices vary.

Flamy Grant: Christmas Eve Drag Story Time: University Christian Church (UCC) of San Diego recently announced Billboard-charting drag Christian musician as their musician-in-residence. To kick off the role, Flamy Grant will join the congregation for several Christmas Eve services, including a special drag story time in the evening.

Details: 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 24. UCC San Diego, 3900 Cleveland Ave., Hillcrest. Free.


"Surfin' Santa" is shown at Seaport Village in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Seaport Village
"Surfin' Santa" is shown at Seaport Village in an undated photo.

Surfin’ Santa at Seaport Village: Santa is comin’ to town (on a surfboard, that is)! Surfin’ Santa has returned and is ready to rock-and-roll at Seaport Village, where family members of all ages can enjoy live music and have their picture taken with Old Saint Nick.

Details: 1-5 p.m. Nov. 25. Seaport Village, 849 West Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego. Free.

Jingle Terrace Live: What’s the holidays without Father Christmas, crafting and lights? The Moonlight Amphitheatre has it all, and invites visitors to join them for a season of merriment that includes seeing reindeer, dancing to a holiday brass band and shopping at Maker’s Market.

Details: 5:30-9 p.m. Dec. 8- 23. Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista. Free.

A brown bear digs into its Christmas present in this undated photo at Lions, Tigers and Bears.
Lions, Tigers and Bears
A brown bear digs into its Christmas present in this undated photo at Lions, Tigers and Bears.

Christmas with the Animals: Lions Tigers and Bears is opening its sanctuary to the public to witness rescued animals open their Christmas presents. Snuggle and bundle with a cup of hot cocoa or other holiday drinks at their full bar where visitors can celebrate the holidays with their furry friends.

Details: 2:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 9. Lions Tigers & Bears, 24402 Martin Way, Alpine. Prices vary based on membership.

Community parades

San Diego will be packed with holiday parades. Check out our parade list to see what’s happening in your neck of the woods.

Coronado Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting: The parade begins at Ferry Landing, proceeds down Orange Avenue and ends at the Hotel del Coronado. And if that isn’t enough holiday cheer, celebrate after with live music, shopping and a tree lighting ceremony at Rotary Park.
Details: 6 p.m. Dec. 1. Orange Avenue, Coronado. Free.

Encinitas Holiday Parade: The parade will chart its course along Coast Highway 101 with light and fanfare with approximately 90 entries. Enjoy parade floats, music and holiday cheer.

Details: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 2. South Coast Highway 101 from D Street to J Street, North Coastal. Free.

Ocean Beach (OB) Holiday Parade: Enjoy a night of glimmering lights and laughter in San Diego’s bohemian surf village at the 44th Annual OB Holiday Parade. This year’s theme? “Santa’s Disco Luau.”

Details: Starts at sunset. Dec. 2. Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach. Free.

La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival: La Jolla’s parade will have an array of floats, Christmas characters and animals, including a camel! There will also be arts-and-crafts, music and activities for young children.

Details: 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., parade at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 3. Girard Avenue & Prospect Street, La Jolla. Free.

Chula Vista Starlight Parade & Festival: After a three year hiatus, downtown Chula Vista will transform into a winter wonderland of entertainment. From a holiday market and glittering floats to marching bands and dance squads. You don’t want to miss out on the fun.

Details: Festival: 3 p.m., tree lighting: 5:45 p.m., parade: 6 p.m. Dec. 3. Downtown Chula Vista, 353 3rd Ave. South Bay. Free.

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights: Enjoy the boat parade with fanfare. The event will show off fireworks from SeaWorld and giveaways and raffles for all family members and friends to enjoy.

Details: 5:30-9 p.m. Dec. 9. 1215 El Carmel Place, Mission Bay. Free.

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights: The parade offers a spectacle with decorated boats and yachts including lights, ornaments and holiday trimmings.

Details: 7-9 p.m. Dec 9. Oceanside Harbor, Oceanside. Free.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights: The 53rd annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights returns and promises to dazzle and entertain. Each year, the parade brings more than 100,000 San Diego residents and visitors to the water and creates treasured memories for all who attend.

Details: 5:30 p.m. Dec. 10 and 17. Procession begins at Shelter Island and ends at Ferry Landing in Coronado. Free.

The Star of India ship is shown adorned for the holidays in an undated photo.
Steve Simpson
The Star of India ship is shown adorned for the holidays in an undated photo.

Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade: Come with friends and family to witness nation's biggest balloon parade, where everyone will be delighted with marching bands, floats, drill teams and, of course, massive balloons! The parade festivities will begin with the annual Holiday Bowl 5K Run/Walk.

Details: 10 a.m. Dec. 27. East Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego. Free.

Ice skating

For a more comprehensive list of locations visit the San Diego Tourism Authority website.

Viejas Outlet Center: Southern California’s largest ice skating rink is open to the public. Lace up your skates and glide over some ice, and maybe get a sweater or two while you're at the outlet center?

Details: 3-10 p.m. Nov. 3, 2023 - Jan 8, 2024. 5000 Willows Road. Alpine. $20-$22.

Rady Children's Ice Rink: Celebrate the holiday season with the return of Rady Children’s Hospital outdoor ice skating rink in the Central Promenade at ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station. All net proceeds from the ice rink will go to the Thriving After Cancer program at the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady.

Details: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Nov. 16, 2023 - Jan. 7, 2024. Hours subject to change due to weather and private events. Legacy Plaza at ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station, 2875 Dewey Rd. Point Loma. $15-$20. 

People are shown ice skating at the Hotel Del Coronado in an undated photo.
Hotel Del Coronado
People are shown ice skating at the Hotel Del Coronado in an undated photo.

Skating by the Sea: Hotel del Coronado is much more than its beautiful shores and nearby shopping centers, it’s also home to their beachfront ice rink. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, enhance your experience by reserving a rink-side or ocean-side seat at the Frostbite Lounge for holiday-themed libations and treats.

Details: Hours vary. Nov. 17, 2023 - Jan 7, 2024, Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado. General Admission: $40 Value Skate Days (Nov. 27-28, Dec. 4-5, 11-12): $35

Four people, rendered in silhouette and in a reflection in the wet ground, walk through a golden light installation at Lightscape at the San Diego Botanic Garden.
Courtesy of Lightscape
An installation at Lightscape at the San Diego Botanic Garden is shown in an undated photo.


Lightscape: Lightscape is back and brighter than ever! New installations along with returning fan favorites fill the one-mile loop with glowing lights, art and nature. This is a popular event, so buy your tickets now before they sell out!

Details: Nov. 17, 2023 - Jan. 1, 2024, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. San Diego Botanic Garden, 300 Quail Gardens Drive (off Ecke Ranch Road). North County. $13-$29.

'All That Jazz' Lightshow Spectacular: It’s the swingin’ ‘20s at the Hotel del Coronado. Enjoy a scheduled light show orchestrated by music from the Golden Age. Patrons can enjoy a turn-of-the-century experience with a Victorian-inspired bar and libations. Children-friendly events and activities are available nearby for young children.

Details: 5-9 p.m. Nov. 17, 2023 - Jan. 7, 2024. 1500 Orange Ave. Coronado. Free.

Festivals, food and markets

Julian Country Christmas Tree Lighting: Want to get away for the holidays? A day trip to Julian may just be the answer as they invite visitors to enjoy the county’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. Music will play at 2 p.m. and the tree lighting begins at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy the outdoors with family-packed activities and holiday splendor.

Details: 12:00 - 7:30 p.m. Nov. 25. Julian Town Square, Main and Washington, Julian. Free.

Performers are shown in front of the Christmas Tree at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park in an undated photo during December Nights.
Courtesy of Balboa Park
Performers are shown in front of the Christmas Tree at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park in an undated photo during December Nights.

Balboa Park December Nights: Balboa park will be decked-out with lights, music and family-friendly activities for two days of holiday fun. Celebrate the spirit of the season and enjoy photos with Santa, shopping and live music.

Details: 3-11 p.m. Dec. 1. and Saturday, Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Balboa Park. Free.

The Maker’s Arcade 2023 Holiday Fair: Can’t find the perfect gift for the holidays? Maker’s Arcade 2023 Holiday Fair is a shopping event that will host 120 vendors and makers and provide a lively shopping experience. There will be food trucks, live music and fun entertainment for all ages — and is pet-friendly, too!

Details: , 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Dec. 2 and Dec. 3. Broadway Pier, 1000 N Harbor Drive. Embarcadero. Tickets are $6 presale or $7 at the door. Children ages 10 and under are free.

2023 SoNo Fest: Love food and supporting your local schools? What a better way to support the community than attending 2023 SONO Fest and Chili Cook-Off in North Park. All proceeds from the event go straight to the McKinley School Foundation to support the dance, art, music, Spanish, garden, ceramic and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.

Details: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Dec. 3. Thorn St. & 32nd St. North Park. Free.

Coastal Christmas Del Mar: Del Mar Fairgrounds is hosting “12 days of holiday fun” where visitors can enjoy their favorite holiday festivities by the sea. Family and friends can enjoy a light show, Santa’s North Pole, Frosty Funzone, skating, igloos and fire pits that serve confections from Mrs. Claus’ kitchen.

Details: 4-9 p.m. Dec. 14 - Dec. 17, Dec. 21 - Dec. 26, Dec. 29 - Dec. 30. Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar. General admission: $14.95-$19.95; prices vary for other experiences and services provided.

Kwanzaa Festival at WorldBeat Center: Kwanzaa is a time for family, community and culture for African Americans. This year, WorldBeat Cultural Center is opening its doors to its 43rd annual Kwanzaa celebration. The four-day celebration will include guest speakers and performances that help reconnect with cultural and historical African heritage.

Details: Dec. 26-29, 6-9 p.m. Dec. 26 hours: 6:30-9 p.m. WorldBeat Cultural Center 2100 Park Blvd. Balboa Park. Free.

Theme parks and attractions

Sesame Place: A Very Furry Christmas: Enjoy the holidays with everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends in their Christmas attire, as they invite guests to witness a wintery transformation. Not only will there be exciting rides and attractions, but there will also be a Christmas parade and dance party that the entire family will love and cherish.

Details: 12-6 p.m. Nov. 10, 2023 - Jan. 7, 2024. 2052 Entertainment Circle. Chula Vista. General admission prices vary.

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration: What better way to unite San Diego’s nautical theme and the Christmas spirit other than SeaWorld? Experience the thrill of laser light shows, music-activated tunnel of lights, adrenaline pumping rides and holiday sing-alongs with SeaWorld fun.

Details: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Nov. 17, 2023 - Jan. 7, 2023. 500 SeaWorld Dr., San Diego. Mission Beach. Prices vary based on admission price.

Wild Holidays at San Diego Safari Park: Once you have Jungle Bells out of your system, the San Diego Safari Park is hosting their own holiday event: Wild Holidays. See the park dressed up in lights and embark on their scheduled holiday expeditions where holiday music and treats will set up the mood for that Christmas cheer.

Details: Safari hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. On Wild Holidays dates, the Safari Park is open until 8 p.m. Member Preview Nov. 24; Nov. 25–26; Dec. 2–3, 9-10, 16–23 and 26–31. 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd. Escondido. Wild Holidays activities and entertainment are included with admission tickets or membership. Prices vary.

San Diego Zoo: Jungle Bells: Experience a wild night with the San Diego Zoo for their annual Jungle Bells. You can bring your family and friends to enjoy their spectacular light show: Aurora; Jingle Brass band, Reindeer Games activities and witness Santa's acrobatic elves fly in the Toy Shop Hop. It’s an adventure everyone will remember.

Details: Zoo hours: 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Dec. 9, 2023- Jan. 1, 2024. 2920 Zoo Dr. Balboa Park. Prices vary based on admission.

Julia Dixon Evans writes the KPBS Arts newsletter, produces and edits the KPBS/Arts Calendar and works with the KPBS team to cover San Diego's diverse arts scene. Previously, Julia wrote the weekly Culture Report for Voice of San Diego and has reported on arts, culture, books, music, television, dining, the outdoors and more for The A.V. Club, Literary Hub and San Diego CityBeat. She studied literature at UCSD (where she was an oboist in the La Jolla Symphony), and is a published novelist and short fiction writer. She is the founder of Last Exit, a local reading series and literary journal, and she won the 2019 National Magazine Award for Fiction. Julia lives with her family in North Park and loves trail running, vegan tacos and live music.
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