Sleigh Christmas! Top Holiday Events in San Diego

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The magic of the holiday season is roaring back this year and there’s an undeniable energy in the San Diego air. We’re ready and excited to soak up every minute of the season with family and friends this year. Whether you want to catch live performances like Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Ebenezer Scrooge, at the Old Globe Theater or celebrate outside at the Botanic Garden’s Wonderland of Lights, here are the top holiday events happening throughout the county.

The Old Globe Theater: Holiday Shows

Enjoying a live show at the theater is something we all missed last year so it is such a treat that The Old Globe Theater has not one, but two holiday shows in its Christmas stocking this year. Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a wonderful, whimsical musical based upon the classic Dr. Seuss book. Back for another incredible year, the family favorite features the songs “Santa for a Day,” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and “Welcome, Christmas (Fah Who Doraze),” the delightful carol from the popular animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Celebrate the holidays as the Old Globe Theatre is once again transformed into the snow-covered Who-ville, right down to the last can of Who-hash. Also playing the fast, funny, and highly theatrical reimagining of one of the most beloved holiday stories ever told. All the traditional elements of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol are intact—including the iconic ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future—but with a comic local twist. Audiences of all ages will cheer Ebenezer Scrooge’s rediscovery of the Christmas spirit in this riotous Dickens mash-up filled with music and laughter—all set in “wintery” San Diego.

For 2021, all performances welcome children ages three and up. Children under the age of three (including babes in arms) will not be admitted into the theatre. Regardless of age, each audience member must wear a mask. For more information on the COVID-19 policy, click here

1363 Old Globe Way
San Diego, Ca 92101
Online: oldglobetheater.com 

Sleigh Rides at Temecula Carriage Co.

Jingle all the way over to Temecula Carriage Co., where your family will enjoy a private horse-drawn carriage ride over the hills and through the vineyards to see 100,000 twinkly lights and holiday displays. The ride includes a visit with Santa, who will be stationed inside an open-air gingerbread house where he's working on building toys. Your family will remain in the carriage at all times. 

When: Dec. 1 - Dec. 31 from 3-9 p.m.
Cost: $75 for up to 6 guests on a 12-15 min sleigh ride
Tickets: advance purchase required

Temecula Carriage Co.
40001 Berenda Rd., Temecula
844-369-1852
Online: temeculacarriageco.com

Neighborhood Holiday Lights

Make some hot cocoa, turn on the holiday tunes, buckle up, and go for a drive to enjoy dazzling Christmas light displays around various neighborhoods. There are lots of well-known neighborhoods that really go all out with their holiday decorating. These neighborhoods are always worth the drive.

Christmas on Knob Hill
Knob Hill Rd., San Marcos

Holiday Magic
Fairway Village + Stoney Gate Pl., Carmel Mountain Ranch

Christmas Card Lane
Oviedo St., Rancho Penasquitos

Christmas Park
Lana Dr. + Mt Abernathy Ave., Clairemont

Starlight Circle
Magnolia Ave. + Tomel Ct., Santee

Christmas Circle
First Ave. + H St., Chula Vista

Winter Wonderland at California Center for the Arts

The 8th Annual Winter Wonderland is back at the California Center for the Arts. This free event offers families the opportunity to play in real snow, enjoy holiday-themed drinks and treats at Santa’s Corner Café, holiday crafting activities led by professional teaching artists and browse for gifts from local artisans.

When: Dec 8
Cost: Free
Tickets: n/a

California Center for the Arts
340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido
760-839-4138
Event details.

Wonderland Holiday Nights at San Diego Botanic Garden

Keep your spirits bright amidst the annual winter event, back this year at San Diego Botanic Garden. The outdoor nighttime festivities provide families and friends the opportunity to stroll through holiday lights strung throughout 37 acres of gardens. Santa Claus will be on-site from 5:30-8:30 pm entertaining guests by singing holiday favorites and there will also be activities throughout for families to participate in, like a Letters to Santa writing opportunity. Listen to the music of professional carolers and enjoy the beauty of this magical garden. 

When: Dec 4-5, Dec 10-23, Dec 26-30 from 5pm - 9pm 
Cost: $10-$18, children under 2 are free
Tickets: advance purchase required

San Diego Botanic Garden
300 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas
760-436-3036
Event details.

Snow N Glow: Del Mar Fairgrounds

If it's choices you desire, then head to the Del Mar Fairgrounds where they're serving up three major winter attractions designed to make your holiday spirit shine bright this year. San Diego doesn't get snow, but there are places you can find your winter wonderland and the giant snow hill made with real snow right in Del Mar is one of them. There will also be an open area to play in the snow. Back from last year is the ever-popular Holidays in Your Car event where you can discover a symphony of sight and sound from the comfort of your car. The show features more than one million lights, holograms, and projection mapping animated Holiday Classic tunes. The third option of fun is to stroll through a million festive lights while sipping on hot cocoa. Whatever you choose, there are plenty of snowy surprises and glistening lights to make your season joyful and bright. 

Complete Snow N Glow Holiday Experience
$34.99

Walkthrough Glow Only Experience
$12.99 - 17.99

Holidays In Your Car Drive-thru Experience
$45.00

Del Mar Fairgrounds
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar
858-755-1161
Online: tinybeans.com/events

More event details.

Holidays by the Bay at Seaport Village

Seaport Village is the headquarters for your holiday bucket list. From a public menorah lighting on the third night of Hanukkah to breakfast with Surfin' Santa, the village is equipped to make all your family's holiday dreams come true. The holiday displays remain lit throughout the season and there's always live music along with roaming carolers and even stilt-walkers. Have visitors in town, show them a full-on, unique experience in 'America's Finest City,' by taking an Old Town Trolley tour of the lights and sights, and ride a wave of cheer! Don't forget to document your time with a photo with the city's iconic Santa, located next to Geppetto's.

When: Nov. 12– Dec. 24 daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free to walk around, breakfast with Santa $25/person, photos cost varies
Tickets: advanced purchase required for breakfast with Santa and photos

Seaport Village
849 W. Harbor Dr., San Diego
619-530-0704
Online: seaportvillage.com

Holiday Market & Trail at Petco Park

The 2nd Annual Stroll Holiday Market Trail at Petco Park is back and this year the popular market will be bigger and better with even more food, beverage and artisan vendors. The Holiday Market in Gallagher Square is a fun night for the whole family and will feature local and European artisan shops, magical lighting displays, seasonal food and beverage, Santa and other holiday characters! Holiday festivities will run from November 29 - December 24, 2021.

When: Nov. 29-Dec. 24  4-10 p.m.
Cost: $12/kids 1-14, $16/adults 14+, kids under 1 are free
Tickets: advance purchase required

Gallagher Square at Petco Park
840 K St., Downtown
619-795-5000
Event details.

––Aimee Della Bitta & Bonnie Taylor

featured image: via iStock

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SoCal Snowfall! 8 Cool Spots for Playing in the Snow

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It may not snow in San Diego, but when the weather gets chilly you won’t have to go far to find it. There’s so much fun for little kids to play in the mountain snow that goes beyond just skiing and snowboarding. They’ll find snow tubing and sledding hills, some have magic carpets and gondolas to ride up, but just making snowmen and having snowball fights will create memories for years to come. You will need to plan ahead so you’ll be ready at the drop of a snow hat at the mere mention of snow in the weather report. Get your boots and mittens ready, and you may need to bring some chains, but with a little preparation and a lot of spontaneity, you’ll have an unforgettably fun day in the snow.

Snow N Glow at Del Mar Fairgrounds

A brand new snow experience this year will delight everyone and you won’t have to travel far. It’s all happening at the Del Mar Fairgrounds where you can snow tube down the giant Snow Hill and make snow angels in the snow field. Sip on hot cocoa as you stroll through the Winter Wonderland light display, made with over 1 million twinkling lights. You can even rent a private Igloo, complete with your own fire pit for roasting s’mores. On your way out, take a drive through their Holidays in Your Car experience and drive around the Del Mar Racetrack that will be filled with dazzling animated Christmas light displays.

Dates: December 4 – January 2 (Fri-Sun only, except Holidays in Your Car is open nightly)

Deal: Get 20% off your tickets when you use this writer's discount code: FAMDIEGO. (Good for the first 200 uses and then it drops down to 10% off.)

Snow N Glow
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.
Del Mar Fairgounds
Online: snownglow.com

Big Bear

Slide into fun at Grizzly Ridge Tube Park at the top of Snow Summit in Big Bear. The whole family young and old alike will love whizzing down the snowy hills on high-speed tubes. Ride the magic carpet up to the top before sliding down one of three 300-ft tubing lanes. Ride again and again during your 1.5 hour time slot.

Good to know: Book your time slot online, tickets  include 1.5 hours of unlimited access, one tube per person (no doubles) and all riders must be 42 in. tall and 40 lbs. to ride. Snow tubing is scheduled to open Dec. 10, 2021, subject to change based on weather.

Big Bear
880 Summit Blvd.
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
844-462-2327
Online: bigbearmountainresort.com

Mammoth Mountain

Snowmobile adventures, tubing and cross country skiing await you on Mammoth Mountain. Cruise through tree-lined meadows on a guided snowmobile excursion or catch a lift to the top for Woolly's Tube Park and snow tube back down. You can click into some Nordic skis or snowshoes to get a workout exploring Lakes Basin on a cross country adventure. Whichever you choose to do, you’ll find plenty of snowy fun for everyone!

Good to know: Book your time slot online for a 1 hr 15 min session. Same day walk-ups are based on availability. You can combine a snow tube session with a scenic gondola ride, or just pay for a snow play only session. Snow tubing is scheduled to open Dec. 10, 2021, subject to change based on weather.

Mammoth Mountain
10001 Minaret Rd.
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
800-626-6684
Online: mammothmountain.com

Mountain High

Your little snow angels will squeal with delight at Yeti's Snow Play. Here you'll find tubing, sledding and snow play... as well as a friendly Yeti who's willing to pose for pics. The snow play area is open only for kids 36” tall and under, while those over 36” tall can go sledding, tubing and ride the gondola up to the top! Kids between 32”-36” can snow tube with a paid parent on a separate tube.

Good to know: Tickets are required for everyone on the snow and are valid for all day fun. Space is limited and it's suggested that you arrive early for the best experience. Yeti’s Snow Play is scheduled to open Dec. 11, 2021, subject to change based on weather.

Mountain High
24510 State Highway 2
Wrightwood, CA 92397
888-754-7878
Online: mthigh.com

Mount Laguna

You’ll be able to cool down on top of this mountain about an hour due east of San Diego. Watch for weather updates from the Laguna Mountain Lodge Facebook page. When you head up, there are plenty of turn off spots, but it does get crowded. Along with your boots and mittens, you’ll want to bring some snacks, a full tank of gas and some snow chains.

Need to know: You’ll need an Adventure Pass to access the forest.

Mount Laguna Lodge
10678 Sunrise Hwy.
Mt. Laguna, CA 91948
619-473-8533
Online: lagunamountainlodge.com

Julian

You’ll have to wait for just the right time, but every year a good Northern storm can drop snow in Julian. Watch the weather reports, then drive up right after it snows. Your crew can sled on the small snow hills and then warm up with some hot apple pie in town. Remember, the snow melts quickly around Julian.

Parking: Please only park in designated lots and not on resident’s yards and sides of the road. Also please pack out what you bring in. Many times the town has to clean up broken sleds, trash and end up with tire marks in their yard. This is a problem every year, so please be considerate in this small town.

Jess Martin Park
2955 Highway 79
Julian, CA 92036

William Heise Park
4945 Heise Park Rd.
Julian, CA 92036

Lake Cuyamaca
15027 Hwy 79
Julian, CA 92036

Online: lakecuyamaca.org
Online: visitjulian.com

photo: iStock

Palomar Mountain

Find the magic of snow on Palomar Mountain just North of San Diego. Bundle up to make snowmen and snow-angels or toboggan down a snow hill. Dress warmly and you may want to pack an insulated thermos of hot water and cocoa packets to enjoy on the way home.

Good to know: Fill-up your tank before you go (no gas stations on the mountain); bring snacks and snow chains too.

Palomar Mountain
9952 State Park Rd.
Palomar, CA 92060
760-742-3462
Online: palomarmountian.gov

Idyllwild

Worth the drive! Whether you take the day or a weekend trip you’ll be glad you drove (about two hours) up to Idyllwild. You’ll find a cute mountain town where you can take a winter hike, sled or just walk the town after a fresh snow. There are plenty of cute shops to look at and places to eat too.

Idyllwild, CA 92549
Online: idyllwild.com

––Bonnie Taylor, Beth Shea & Nikki Walsh

featured image via Yelp

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The first weekend of December is merry and bright––full of festive activities your whole family will love. From Del Mar’s Snow N Glow Holiday Festival and The San Diego Parade of Lights to Botanic Wonderland and so many more amazing events, read on for the details!

Botanic Wonderland 
The annual winter event, Botanic Wonderland at San Diego Botanic Garden, has become a local favorite tradition. The nighttime festivities provide families and friends the opportunity to stroll through the garden to enjoy outdoor holiday lighting and activities in a safe and carefully organized setting. Botanic Wonderland transforms the garden into a unique, winter experience and we are excited to welcome you and your group to enjoy it during an exclusive evening! Sat. Event details. 

Snow N Glow Holiday Festival
The Beautiful Del Mar Fairgrounds will be transformed into San Diego’s Holiday Headquarters. Three major attractions are designed to make your holiday spirit bright. You can snow tube down our giant snow hill made with real snow! There will also be an open area to play in the snow. Sip on hot cocoa while you stroll through a million festive lights! Sun. Event details. 

San Diego Parade of Lights
The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is a time-honored holiday tradition brought to San Diego by the boating community. Continuing its long-standing San Diego tradition, the 50th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights promises to dazzle and entertain bayfront crowds. Participants in this year’s highly anticipated holiday boat parade will decorate their boats to fit this year’s theme. Sun.  Event details. 

Winter WonderLights
Enjoy Winter WonderLights, a magical holiday light show, every Friday and Saturday night, December 3 through December 11, 5 pm to 7 pm. The light show will be choreographed to your favorite holiday music and we’ll have Magical Snowfall throughout the center. Enjoy an expanded area where the light show will be performed, so no matter where you are in The Forum, you can enjoy the festivities. Fri&Sat. Event details.

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration 
Bring your family together for the eye-catching spectacle, priceless traditions, and fun-filled surprises of SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration. See a dazzling new Christmas cirque show or meet Santa, Rudolph and your favorite Sesame Street friends. Feel the snow falling and watch the sky light up with holiday fireworks. Find photo-perfect moments across acres of beautiful decorations, including a towering 30 foot, twinkling Christmas tree and a music-activated tunnel of lights. All the while, savor delicious candy-topped hot chocolate and other treats for all ages. It’s also a chance to experience the wonders of SeaWorld in a spectacular new way, from thrilling rides against a sparkling backdrop to animal presentations with a festive twist. Where else can you say “Merry Christmas” to a sea otter? Fri.-Sun. Event details. 

Rady’s Children Ice Rink
NTC Foundation and Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, are celebrating the holiday season with the return of their outdoor ice rink beginning Thursday, November 18, and closing January 9, 2022. Located in the Central Promenade at ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station, all net proceeds from the ice rink benefit the Thriving After Cancer program at the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital. This year will feature additional safety protections including hand hygiene stations and disinfectant spray for the skates and helmets. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for children and $10 for military or groups over 10 people. Tickets will be available for purchase online. Fri-Sun. Event details.

23rd Annual Little Italy Tree Lighting
Kick-off the holiday season at San Diego’s Little Italy for the 23rd Annual Little Italy Tree Lighting and Christmas Village on Saturday, December 4th. From 4 to 8 p.m., friends, families and neighbors will experience a magical evening filled with festive décor, seasonal vendors, a tree lighting ceremony, live entertainment and music, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday treats, visit from Santa and more! Sat. Event details. 

Holidays at LEGOLAND! 
During Holidays at LEGOLAND kids and their families can feel the LEGO® cheer at the Park’s winter holiday retail and dining celebration and enjoy shimmering lights, live entertainment, the famous LEGO Christmas tree, festive decor and more! Fri.-Sun. Event details. 

Skating by the Sea
Skating by the Sea® is returning to Hotel del Coronado for the 2021 holiday season. This spectacular beachfront ice rink features stunning views of the Pacific and benefits Make-A-Wish® San Diego. You can also reserve a private rink-side lounge at Frostbite with plush seating, a roaring fire pit, holiday-themed libations and delectable bites. Skating by the Sea schedule changes daily, see website for details.  Fri.-Sun. Event details.

—Aimee Della Bitta

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These days, chances are you might be ready for a vacation. If a trip to LEGOLAND, California is in the cards then you won’t want to miss our pro tips. We’ve hit up the park, aquarium and the best gift shops to bring you the inside scoop on making your trip to the brick capital the best ever.

photo: LEGOLAND

1. LEGOLAND is open! You'll need to have a reservation and purchase tickets in advance to get in. Check out the packages here. 

2. LEGO Movie World is open! Come meet all of your favorite characters from the movies and experience all of the details and sets at LEGO Movie World. Your kiddo will be blown away! There are also lots of yummy treats to choose from when everyone works up an appetite. And don't forget to stop by the The Awesome Shop to pick out some rockin' LEGO Movie merch. Read more about the experience here.

3. Get the app! Before you even pack for your trip, download the LEGOLAND app onto your phone. It has an interactive map to aid in exploring the park, gives your ride wait times, a height guide for rides, directions and even a car finder to help you keep track of where you've parked.

4. Shop without a care (or a carry). The stores at LEGOLAND have one of the largest selection of LEGO and LEGOLAND products in the world! There are a couple of bigger stores closer to the entrance of the park, but you can purchase from any of the shops throughout LEGOLAND, and they will have your item(s) waiting for you when you are ready to leave.

5. Start at the back. Head to the end back of the park upon arrival. Lines for big rides Coastersaurus, Safari Trek and Fairy Tale Brook are much bigger in the earlier part of the day. 

photo: LEGOLAND

6. When to go. If only there was a LEGOLAND crowd calendar! We don't have one, but we can tell you that if you can plan your visit to LEGOLAND while the kids are still in school—DO IT! Otherwise, you run the risk of enduring crowds. You'll also enjoy milder weather during the months of the school year versus the scorchers in summer. Spring and fall temperatures for Carlsbad, CA typically range between 60 to 70 degrees, perfect for wee-ones making their way around an amusement park. But if a summer trip it is, there are still plenty of ways to keep them cool when the mercury rises. 

7. Rent a stroller. If you've got kids that might not make the whole day on foot, save yourself space in the trunk for that giant LEGO set, and just rent a stroller on site. Strollers can be rented on a first-come, first-served basis at The Marketplace in The Beginning. Singles are $17, doubles are $20 and they even have infant strollers ($17).

8. How to get a discount on LEGOLAND tickets. Get your tickets in advance! Besides saving extra cash, pre-purchasing your tickets will also expedite your entry into the park. On their website, LEGOLAND offers an array of deals for customizing your theme park experience. You can choose between visiting the amusement park only or combine it with the water park, Sea Life Aquarium or both. Purchasing your tickets from the LEGOLAND website is also the best choice if you're planning to visit the park for only one day. Costco members can also save big on ticket prices. Check if they have deals online and after you check out, your E-tickets will be sent to you within the hour (Psst ... there's a Costco store just two miles from the theme park if you prefer to purchase your tickets in person). Discounts are also offered to AAA members and Military with ID.

9. Where to stay. If you've got a LEGO-maniac, or three, or four in your crew, and you don't mind shelling out the extra coin, then you won't want to miss staying at the LEGOLAND Hotel. Your mini-master builders will go crazy over all of the resort's brick-tastic features including a choice of themed rooms to stay in, early entry to the park, nightly kiddie entertainment, plus a scavenger hunt to look for clues to unlock a treasure chest in your room. There's a huge breakfast buffet, restaurant and pool, plus the hotel is nearly in the theme park itself—a great option if naps are still on the agenda.

If you want to save cash, but still have easy access to the park then you might want to try the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort. It has its very own entrance at the back of the park (Psst ... this is a great way to score first-in-line for some of the most popular rides), plus you won't have to deal with parking fees or hassles.

The Cassara Carlsbad is another great option that offers both standard rooms and family suites. The fully remodeled and redesigned hotel now has a private pedestrian entrance to LEGOLAND and perfect views of the Carlsbad flower fields. We bet your crew will head straight for the resort's family pool and kiddie splash pad once you arrive.

LEGOLAND Hotel
5885 The Crossings Dr.
Carlsbad, Ca 92008
888-690-5346
Online: legoland.com/california/legoland-hotel/legoland-resort-hotel/

Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa
5480 Grand Pacific Dr.
Carlsbad, Ca 92008
760-827-2400
Online: sheratoncarlsbad.com

The Cassara Carlsbad | Tapestry Collection by Hilton
5805 Armada Dr.
Carlsbad, Ca 92008
760-827-3232
Online: thecassaracarlsbad.com

10. Bring the minifigs. Have you heard about Minifigure trading? If not, we bet you and your little sidekick will think it's the best thing to come along since Emmet's double-decker couch. Just have your kid bring their old minifigures to the park, including all the parts and accessories, and they can trade them up for new ones. Every LEGOLAND employee (Hint: They're called Model Citizens. Get it?) has a super cool LEGO name badge with minifigures fixed onto it. If your tyke wants one of the Model Citizen's guys, they'll gladly trade with them. You'll also find trading posts throughout the park that offer armies of mini-men to trade for, and if your kiddo doesn't have a minifigure for making a switcharoo, there are plenty available for purchase at LEGO stores throughout the park.

11. Get there early! Chances are your brick enthusiasts will be up by the crack of dawn and ready to go before you hit the button on the coffee maker, so why not take advantage of their excitement by heading to the park early? You're likely to score parking that's a stone's throw from the premium spots, plus you will spend less time waiting at the entrance. The best part? Even though LEGOLAND officially opens at 10 a.m, the turnstiles are rolling by 9 a.m., and by 9:30 a.m. some of the rides at the front of the park are already going.

12. Measuring up the rides. Most of LEGOLAND's rides and attractions are geared for the entertainment of kids ages 2 to 12, but if you've got an adrenaline junkie who has already taken on giant roller coasters and scream machines, the park will likely feel babyish to them. Still, there are a few great spots your older crew might try. The Knight's Tournament ride is the most thrilling in the park and gives riders the experience of what it feels like to be tossed and turned by a factory robot arm. Kids ages 9 and older might also like to have a hand at building a programmable robot in the LEGO Mindstorms lab. Just be sure to sign them up early as spots are limited and do go quickly. Then, after all, that constructing is done head next door to the Xbox WB Games Space.

If you've got Littles tagging along on your adventure you'll want to check how tall they are before you go. Many of the rides have minimum height restrictions starting at 34 inches, and some require an adult or at least a responsible big kid to ride along with. Even if your wee ones fall below the line, there's still plenty of fun to be had - no rides necessary.

13. Use Ride Swapping. If your kiddos find themselves not meeting the height requirement, or they just aren't into thrill rides, parents can use the Ride Swapping system. One parent will ride with the tall enough child, then when the ride is over they can swap right away so the second parent can ride without waiting in the line again.

photo: Karly Wood

14. Avoid the wait with Reserve 'N' Ride. If you think you'll need good tactical maneuvers in order to avoid encountering a meltdown from waiting in long lines, here are a few solutions to try. LEGOLAND offers a Reserve 'N' Ride system, which allows you to hold a spot in line for their most popular rides without having to be in the queue. To set up a Reserve 'N' Ride, check out their website to learn more. When you purchase the pass, you'll get to choose between Express, Deluxe and Ultimate. Download their mobile app to take advantage of Reserve 'N' Ride.

15. More tips on skipping the wait. To avoid long lines without having to pay reservation fees, you'll need to plan ahead and be prepared to check out some of the non-ride attractions at the park. To start, when you arrive at the resort, head to the back and avoid the buildup for the Coastersaurus and Safari Trek. Also, if you must ride the Sky Cruiser, one of Legoland's most popular attractions, be sure to do it when you first arrive. This elevated, pedal-powered coaster offers awesome panoramic views of Fun Town but is not worth waiting hours for. At mid-day, when the park is at its busiest, you'll want to head into Fun Town and visit some of the areas less popular, but surprisingly enjoyable attractions, including the LEGO Factory tour, Police and Fire Academy or DUPLO Playtown. You can also make your way over to the Imagination Zone where your kids will spend hours building and racing their own LEGO car. And don't forget to check out Miniland, where your pint-sized squirt will love wandering along paths passing world-famous cities and attractions scaled to just about their height.

photo: Karly Wood

16. Take it or leave it. Even if you don't plan to splash around at the water park, you'll want to bring swimsuits, towels and extra clothes to keep in the car—just in case. Pirate Shores has a few wet rides, a splash pad, and a play structure with mini waterslides and several dowsing features to cool off in when things heat up. If you don't want to carry your gear with you, there are lockers located at Pirate Shores for $10 (Psst ... this is the cheapest in the park), and for a quick dry try one of the family dryers afterward.

17. No outside food and drink. Outside food and drinks are not allowed in the park, but LEGOLAND does make exceptions for dietary restrictions and infants. There is a bag check at the entrance, but the staff typically turn the other cheek if you bring in your own water bottles and a couple of snacks. And speaking of food, you'll likely to find LEGOLAND's dining choices are decent by theme park standards with options including pizza, burgers, hot dogs, as well as some spots for BBQ, Ramen and healthy snack items. Go ahead and splurge on those Granny's Apple Fries for your crew and don't forget the vanilla cream dipping sauce. They're delish!

 

photo: LEGOLAND

18. What about the waterpark? Compared to other water parks you may have visited, many of LEGOLAND's slides and features will seem scaled back and probably best for the small fries, but if the hotel or condo you're staying at doesn't have a pool then it's definitely worth the ticket upgrade. Peak hours are between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., so try for before or after those hours for the most low-key experience. Kids love the lazy river where they can build with soft, oversized LEGO right on their tube, and the newish Chima area will keep them busy for hours as they frolic in the Lion Temple wave pool or slide through the massive crocodile's jaw in Cragger's Swamp. You'll find several spots kids can play with LEGO, which are nice diversions when the park does their routine 10-minute pool break for lifeguard rotations. If you do plan to visit the water park, be sure to check their schedule ahead of time. The pools are typically open from Spring Break through Labor Day, plus weekends during the fall, but mid-week black-out dates aren't unusual.

19. Don't skip SEA LIFE Aquarium. If you've never been before, the SEA LIFE Aquarium is definitely worth a visit. Although it's a quick trip through the whole thing (typically an hour), it's the perfect size for small attention spans. Most of the exhibits are indoors with the exception of the touch tanks, so it's also a great way to escape warmer daytime temperatures. At the aquarium, you'll see jellyfish, seahorses, eels and a Giant Pacific Octopus. There's also a large underwater tunnel that wanders through the Lost City of Atlantis, a 200,000-gallon tank filled with sharks, rays, and tropical fish to give you a scuba diver's perspective of these thrilling sea creatures. Kids can learn more about their favorite underwater animals during one of the special Tank Talks or Feeding Times, plus take part in an educational scavenger hunt to earn a special prize when they've found all the clues.

20. Pack extra clothes. Even if you're bypassing the water park, LEGOLAND has plenty of water features that kids won't be able to pass up. If your kiddos find themselves enjoying the several splash pads and play area but don't want to stay soggy, check out the cheapest lockers to stow your stuff, as well as dryers near Pirate Shores.

21. Experience Holidays at LEGOLAND! From Nov. 20 2021-Jan. 2 2022, meet and take a selfie with your favorite holiday characters, including the Toy Solider and Gingerbread Man. There will be a 30 ft. LEGO Christmas tree, holiday tunes and a holiday light show. Holidays at LEGOLAND will make your experience even more memorable!

LEGOLAND California
One LEGOLAND Dr.
Carlsbad, Ca 92008
760-918-5346
Online: california.legoland.com

—Taylor Clifton, Rachael Brandon & Karly Wood

Featured image: Courtesy of LEGOLAND

 

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Local businesses are the bedrock of communities throughout San Diego and they’ve weathered quite the storm recently. As we approach the gift-giving season, let’s remember our awesome local businesses and (look to them first) as we’re searching for the best Christmas gifts and Hanukkah gifts. We’ve rounded up a bunch of local shops to make your holiday shopping beneficial for both your recipients and small businesses in San Diego. Read on for our holiday gift guide.

Little Renegades

A gift that helps build empathy and kindness? Yes, please! The San Diego-based, mom-founded business Little Renegades is a mindfulness company that offers tools for kids to learn more about themselves and empowers them to practice emotional regulation by tuning in to their feelings and surroundings. Since moms know what parents need, the products are simple and easy to use, and practical for busy schedules.  Products include Activity Cards that are chunky and just right for little hands, as well as Mindful Journals that are 128 pages of prompts and space to record their feelings and the world around them. 

These adorable digital downloads are also available for bedrooms or classrooms (a great add-on to a teacher's gift!). 

Online: Little Renegades

Pangaea Outpost

Pangaea Outpost is a quintessential San Diego business, showcasing more than 70 local artists just blocks from Pacific Beach. Guests are immersed in a veritable shopping paradise filled with jewelry, apparel, kids' toys, crystals, decor, local art and local artisan creations, as well as plenty of imports from around the world. So whether you want to share a piece of San Diego with an out-of-town loved one, or you're looking for the cutest duds for your little beach lovers, stop by Pangaea Outpost and check those boxes off your list. 

Online: Pangaea Outpost 

Vuori Clothing

If you live in San Diego, you're familiar with Vuori Clothing and even know how to pronounce it ( "vee-OR-ee,"). They've mastered everyone's favorite jogger and have the softest performance apparel line that's perfect for a workout or a coffee run. It's true that now they're more of a nationwide success than a small-town shop, but they started in Encinitas and are focused on supporting the community they love. It's also a great spot to shop for all those hard-to-find men on your list. 

Online: vuoriclothing.com/

Maya's Cookies

We featured Maya's Cookies last year and we'd be remiss not to mention them again. After all, Santa isn't the only one who loves milk and cookies. Order a few gift sets from Maya's Cookies in San Diego and amaze all your sweet-loving friends and relatives. The award-winning, vegan shop ships nationwide so you can send a set to family you may not be able to see in person this year. Another reason we love supporting Maya's Cookies is their commitment to community engagement. They give back to San Diego youth and underserved communities, making shopping local extra sweet. 

Online: mayascookies.com

Pigment San Diego

Husband and wife team Chad Anglin and Amy Paul own Pigment San Diego, located in the One Paseo shopping center in Del Mar. The store focused on supporting local artists from day one when the shop opened in 2007 as an art gallery to showcase local artists. With a heavy focus on the fundamentals of art and sound design, thoughtful merchandising followed. Slowly but surely, the store outgrew the first location and eventually moved two doors down to their current 3,000 square foot space. Entering the space today, you'll be struck by the beautiful aesthetic, and the color-coded merchandising is captivating. The wall of houseplants will make your green thumb come alive. So whether you grab a puzzle for your in-laws or a succulent (and the perfect planter) for your BFF, we guarantee that finding a gift for anyone and everyone on your list just got easier! 

Online: shoppigment.com/

Cradled Boutique

Whether you're looking for your own little sweet pea or other pint-sized recipients this newly-opened Alpine boutique serves the wee ones in your life. From onesies, cardigans, teething necklaces to sophisticated furniture you're sure to find a gift your recipient will love in Cradled Boutique. 

Online: cradledboutique.com 

Tremont Collective

The just-opened Tremont Collective is a 3,400 square foot outdoor venue in the heart of coastal Oceanside that is an ideal spot to grab a peppermint latte from Communal Coffee and get into the holiday spirit. From Brixton, which started in a garage in Oceanside and has since grown to a nationally beloved apparel shop, to AL FRESKO, a luxury outdoor experience company, the collective offers an opportunity to level up your gift-giving game and get something unique for loved ones. 

Online: tremontcollective.com/

Solo

One trip to Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach can solve all your holiday gift-buying dilemmas. The beach town's design district is brimming with artisan shops like Solo, which is meticulously curated and truly has something for everyone. From your three-month-old niece to your antique loving aunt, you can find a unique and often locally crafted gift at this neighborhood favorite. 

Online: solocedros.com

The Library Shop

We love supporting book stores (and budding book worms!) because nothing compares to the magic of cracking open the spine of a book so the story inside can spring to life in a young reader's imagination. If you want to gift books this season, check out our full roundup of the best independent bookstores for kids in San Diego. On our shop local list, we're highlighting The Library Shop because it not only has plenty of excellent books but a great assortment of other gifts, including apparel and jewelry. 

Online: thelibraryshop.com 

Clay and Craft

Whether you're looking for a gift for a friend or want to share an experience with someone, Clay and Craft in Encinitas is worth exploring. The timeless and minimalist pottery is perfect for the "interior design" lover on your list. The "Best of San Diego" business also offers a dose of self-care by offering classes where you can spin and play with clay. Classes are available for both adults and children. 

Online: Clayandcraft.com 

photo: Jo Savage Photography

Kateboards

Do you have a 'lil or big skater on your list this year? The Bloom is an old-school pool board that's perfect for cruising around town and in bowls. It has a deep concave, wide platform, and a substantial nose + tail. It's ideal for all levels of riding and whoever is on it will feel like they're coasting on clouds with the softer and bigger wheels. Gift the board and then be sure to check out our list of best skateparks in San Diego—2022 will be full of new adventures. 
 
Encinitas, CA
619-736-1185 
Online: www.kateboards.com

––Aimee Della Bitta

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If you buy something from the links in this article, we may earn affiliate commission or compensation.


Quite possibly the hardest group to shop for, tweens and teens are unlikely to make it easy on you by providing a detailed list of what they want this holiday season. But, that’s where we come in! We consulted with young experts (in our own homes) to bring you this list of the best gifts for teens and tweens this year. You’ll find everything from the LED lights they want for their room to cozy gear for lounging around the house all day. We know you’ll find some winners here!


DIY Mochi Ice Cream Kit

$34   BUY NOW

Sweet and chewy on the outside, ice cream on the inside, these mochi treats will be their new favorite dessert.


LED Lights Kit

$30   BUY NOW

We're not sure why, but all the teens and tweens on our list want these LED lights for their rooms. They can change the colors via app or the included remote control so that they can feel like they are at the club. But at home.


Professor Maxwell's VR Atlas

$65   BUY NOW

Travel the world in virtual reality with this set that has kids learning about culture, cuisine, history and more.


Evereden Kids Happy Face Duo

$39   BUY NOW

Introduce your tween to the importance of skincare with this new line for kids. The face wash and cream include good things like probiotics, amino acids and omegas.


Kindle Paperwhite Kids

$160   BUY NOW

This all-new reader delivers thousands of books without any of the distractions like games, ads and videos. Bonus: It's waterproof and comes with a two-year guarantee.


Barefoot Dreams Youth Collection

$98   BUY NOW

Your favorite loungewear now comes in kid sizes but be warned, they may never take them off.


POP! Deluxe: Mando on Bantha with Child in Bag - The Mandalorian

$30   BUY NOW

Mandalorian fans will love receiving this quirky Funko POP! in their stocking. The Child is even along for the ride.


Perfectly Imperfect Stories

$18   BUY NOW

It's hard being a kid. This book is full of inspiring stories of famous people like Michael Phelps and Frida Kahlo who were able to overcome struggles with mental health to achieve their goals.


LEGO THE BATMAN - BATMOBILE™

$100   BUY NOW

This newly released LEGO set will be as fun to build as it is to display in your teen's room. It has true-to-life features and is inspired by the 2022 THE BATMAN movie.


Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

$100   BUY NOW

This sleek gaming keyboard with exposed LEDs is the perfect addition to your teen's desk setup, especially if gaming is their life's focus.


Travel Cord Roll

$20   BUY NOW

We could all use a little more organization in our lives. This travel roll will keep all your tween's cords and headphones from tangling in their bag.


Opopop Gourmet Microwave Popcorn

$40   BUY NOW

Flavor-wrapped kernels are the name of the game with this gourmet popcorn that offers options like Maui heat, cheddapeno and salted umami.


Ultra-Compact Microphone

$70   BUY NOW

Your budding YouTuber or podcaster will be able to record with little background noise. Its ultra-small size means it won't clutter their desk space.


Frankie Frog Ambient Light

$22   BUY NOW

With this little cutie on your nightstand, you can't do anything but smile.


Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Camera

$120   BUY NOW

It's all about instant gratification when you pop this little cutie in your backpack. Snap pics of your friends and print 3x3 photos right from the camera.


Cdrop Subscription Box

$32   BUY NOW

If your tween is obsessed with everything Claire's, this is the gift for them. Choose a one-time or monthly subscription and they'll get surprise glam delivered right to their door.


X Rocker SE+ 2.0 Gaming Chair

$199   BUY NOW

Comfort is top of mind when your teen spends all their awake hours gaming. This chair comes with two built-in headrest speakers and folds to store when not in use.


Personalized Cozy Blanket

$100   BUY NOW

Whether they're into rainbows and unicorns or basketball and UFOs, you'll find an awesome blanket that suits them. They are so cozy you might steal them for yourself.

—Kate Loweth & Editorial Team

Editor’s Note: Prices and availability reflect the time of publication. Images courtesy of retailers.

If you purchase something from the links in this article, we may earn affiliate commission or compensation.

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Make this holiday season extra special and take your Yuletide-loving little ones to one of these San Diego resorts. We’ve rounded up the best local hotels that celebrate the holidays with an extra dose of spirit. Scroll down to discover the destinations in and near San Diego dedicated to hosting you for the merriest Christmas ever!

Hotel Del Coronado

In true Hotel Del fashion, the iconic resort goes BIG for the holidays and shimmers and shines with opulent decor and sparkling lights. The beachfront hotel offers a full lineup of activities for kids of all ages including snowy surprises and plenty of festive experiences to shower your family with cheer. Skating by the Sea is one of their most popular holiday activities and it returns this year. Take a break from skating and enjoy holiday treats and drinks on the South Paseo Lawn at the Frostbite Bar. In groups of up to six people, you can sit around a cozy fire pit with access to a full food and beverage service and a perfect view of the rink. Or catch your favorite holiday movie under the stars on Del Beach.  Whether you check-in overnight or visit for the day, Hotel Del can help make your 2021 holiday season a pure delight. 

November 22 through January 2.

Online: hoteldel.com

La Quinta Resort & Club

During the holidays, this world-renowned Palm Springs resort transforms into a quaint Christmas village adorned with twinkling lights and festive scenery. No matter where you find yourself in the resort, it feels, smells and looks so much like Christmas, you'll almost forget you're in the desert. From the spectacular tree to the aroma of roasting chestnuts in the lobby, the holiday spirit is palpable.

Kiddos can meet Santa for breakfast during their stay and spend time creating fun holiday arts and crafts. In addition to the holiday festivities, there’s a children’s playground adjacent to the main pool and a daily Kids Kamp to keep their (and your) spirits merry and bright.

By day, parents enjoy a few rounds of golf, a dip in the natural springs and a heavenly spa experience. Parents seeking a romantic dinner at night under the mistletoe can rely on the resort’s nightly child-care services.

With amenities, this good, booking La Quinta Resort and Club should be on everyone's Christmas wish list.

Online: www.laquintaresort.com

photo: Rancho Valencia Resort

Rancho Valencia Resort

Experience the magical winter season at Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa for a SoCal getaway roaming between 45 lush acres of gardens, nature trails, olive groves and casitas. On November 29, guests are invited to the hidden oasis to pamper themselves with a pre-holiday getaway and enjoy a complimentary room upgrade with breakfast, late checkout and festive holiday amenities that are sure to get the whole family in the holiday mood. If you're looking for a true holiday staycation, stay through Christmas and deck the halls of your casita with holiday cheer and delight. The hotel set your casita aglow with a festive twinkling holiday tree complete with lights and ornaments and delectable treats on Christmas Eve.

November 29 through January 2.

Online: RanchoValenciaResort.com

photo: Rancho Bernardo Inn

Rancho Bernardo Inn

Rancho Bernardo Inn is full of Christmas cheer and welcomes guests to enjoy their winter wonderland of celebrations, holiday dining and festive decorations. This year, local families are invited to experience:
 
Annual Life-size Gingerbread House
Each year, the property creates a life-size gingerbread house built and baked in-house during the holidays. The outstanding life-size gingerbread house is on display in the hotel lobby after months of baking and building with over 4,000 pounds of delicious ingredients including 1 ton of powdered sugar, 750lbs. of granulated sugar, 750lbs. of cake flour, 2,160 eggs and more. 
 
The Holiday Tradition Cocktail
Just for parents, the property’s Mixologist Jason Sorge has created a festive cocktail that pairs perfectly with a tour of the gingerbread house: the Holiday Tradition, an indulgent sipper that blends cognac, coffee, honey, gingerbread spices and benedictine, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
 
S’mores Pajama Party with PJ Salvage
Holiday PJs for the win! Rancho Bernardo Inn has partnered with luxury sleepwear brand PJ Salvage to create the ultimate holiday pajama party for families. This festive sleepover includes accommodations, one set of PJ Salvage’s holiday-themed kids’ pajamas, a s’mores kit, a kid’s drink and in room pop-up tent for kids to play or sleep in for the night. Little ones can re-order, along with their classic s’mores and tent set each day of your stay. Note: Valid for children ages 2-10. $21 per additional child. 

November 18 through January 30 

Online: ranchobernardoinn.com

Snowland at the Great Wolf Lodge

Water slides and wave pools aren't exactly what come to mind when you imagine a winter wonderland, but the folks at Great Wolf Lodge want to make sure your holiday is as wet 'n wild as it is merry and magical. In addition to the 100,000-square foot indoor water park (the water's warm!), holiday guests will be treated to a slew of seasonal attractions including a life-sized gingerbread house (you can actually have dinner inside of it!), snow-themed suites and a complimentary hot cocoa bar. Little wolf cubs will also be treated to nightly holiday flicks in the hotel lobby, visits from Santa, cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus and snowfall-infused family dance parties.

November 28 through January 5.

Online: greatwolf.com

—Aimee Della Bitta

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Make this holiday season merry and bright by taking your family to one of these twinkling places that light up the night. Lots of neighborhoods go all out to light up their entire block and you’ll also find fun places like gardens and fairgrounds that will dazzle your eyes. Most of these you can drive through and some are fun to get out and walk around. Read on for these can’t-miss bright spots around town.

Holidays in Your Car, Del Mar Fairgrounds

Discover a symphony of sight and sound at one of southern California's largest Drive-Thru Holiday Light Spectaculars! Experience Holidays in Your Car at the Del Mar Fairgrounds featuring more than one million LED lights, holograms, and projection mapping animated to the tunes of holiday classics! They have a separate walk-through option this year as well in their Winter Wonderland; next to their new snow-tubing hill and snow-play area. (*Advanced timed tickets are required.)

Lights On: Dec. 4 – Jan. 2 from 4-10 pm

Holidays In Your Car
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar Fairgrounds
Online: tinybeans.com/events/socal/snow-n-glow-holiday-festival-del-mar

Botanic Wonderland, Encinitas

Stroll outdoors along the 1-mile glowing pathway that meanders throughout this Botanic Wonderland. Each area is transformed into dazzling holiday displays and children’s gardens filled with delights. Make a night of it with dinner from the on-site food trucks, sing along with carolers and kids can write letters to Santa after they play in the magical treehouse. Make this unique wonderland part of your winter holiday tradition. (*Advanced timed tickets are required.)

Tip: Santa Claus will be there for photos from 5:30-8:30 pm

Lights On: Dec. 4-5, 10-23, 26-30 from 5:30-9pm

San Diego Botanic Garden
230 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas
Online: Tinybeans.com/events

Enchanted Village, Spring Valley

Surround yourself with over 200,000 lights amongst 8 acres of brightly lit trees, magical cottages, light tunnels, carolers, giant candy canes and interactive displays to walk through. This is an annual event for the Noah Homes; which provide housing and care for people with developmental disabilities. Their residents have been mostly unemployed due to the pandemic and this is an exciting way to provide seasonal employment for them this year. (*Advanced tickets are required; discounted if purchased before Nov. 28th.)

Lights On: Dec. 17-22 from 5-8pm

Safety: Since this event includes a high-risk population, health and safety are top priorities for wearing face-masks and social distancing.

Noah Homes
12440 Campo Rd., Spring Valley
Online: tinybeans.com/events

Starlight Circle, Santee

Over 75 houses light up the night around this circle and each house dresses up in their own themes. Some usually offer treats and hot chocolate for sale in their driveway, so bring cash if you want to partake.

Lights On: Dec. 1-31 from dusk-10pm

Where: Santee at N. Magnolia Ave. + Tomel Ct.

Candy Cane Lane, Poway

This neighborhood transforms into a twinkling wonderland and you’ll be amazed by large lighted displays, giant inflatables and holiday decorations. If you're viewing lights from your car, pack your patience and plan on moving at a very slow pace. Many opt to park their car, bundle up the kids in strollers and walk through the neighborhood to see the lights at their own speed.

Lights On: 2nd week of December from 5-10pm

Where: Poway at Twin Peaks Rd. + Silverset St.

Online: facebook.com/powayccl

Fairway Village, Carmel Mountain Ranch

Almost 100 homes on this friendly residential street turn up the wattage and amp up the brightness to really shine. Drive on out to one of the best neighborhood light displays in the county. Some houses will have hot cocoa, cookies and music to fill you up with holiday cheer.

Save the Date! The annual block party is held on the Saturday before Christmas; this year it’s on Dec. 18, 2021. This isn’t just for the neighbors, it’s open for everyone to join in the merriment. Almost every home has treats, some project holiday movies on the side of their homes, carolers and dancers perform and sometimes Santa will ride on a fire truck down the streets.

Lights On: Dec. 1-Jan. 1 from dusk-10:30pm

Where: Fairway Village at Stoney Gate Pl.

Online info: tinybeans.com/events

Christmas Card Lane, Rancho Peñasquitos

Nothing says larger than life like these colossal “Christmas Cards” that light up these landscaped lawns. Dawdle or drive-down this magical street and your eyes will enjoy this feast of lights.

Lights On: Dec. 1-31; from 6-9pm

Where: Rancho Penasquitos at Oviedo St. + Black Mountain Rd.

––Bonnie Taylor, Leah R. Singer & Beth Shea

featured photo: iStock

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A little like Disneyland, Christmas tree farms have that magic ability to instantly ignite memory-making opportunities and put a smile on your kiddos’ face. The yearly ritual is the perfect kick-off to the holiday season and these family-owned, U-cut Christmas tree farms know how to make the journey of tree-picking merry and bright. Read on for the details on full-service farms near San Diego as well as our favorite local tree lots for fresh Christmas trees—most of which open the day after Thanksgiving.

Highland Valley Christmas Tree Farm 

Tree cutting + wine = yes, please! Check out this Ramona farm where its owners also claim stake to a whimsical winery, the Principe di Tricase Winery. Families can come for the wonder of the property and to stroll through the groves to find the prettiest tree to cut and take home. You’ll find a few thousand trees including Monterey Pine and Leyland Cypress varieties with sizes ranging from 3 to over 12 feet tall trees. Choose your tree and they’ll come cut it for you––or you can also cut it yourself. In addition to cutting your tree, they offer shaking, drilling and netting for free.

Good to know: Prices start at $18/ft. with 10% off for military families, firefighters and senior citizens. 

Open Nov. 26-Dec. 18

Hours: Thurs. & Fri. noon-4 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.; By appointment only Mon.-Weds.

18425 Highland Valley Rd.
Ramona, CA
760-315-8872
Online: pineandwine.com

Family Christmas Tree Farm

Mark your calendars for opening day! This ten-acre, family-owned farm in El Cajon kicks off the season the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 26th. Pick from an array of native California Monterey Pine trees––they provide the saw for cutting and the twine to secure the tree to your car. In addition to the u-chop experience, there’s an abundance of pre-cut tree varieties (Douglas, Grand, Noble & Nordman Fir) as well as potted trees (including Rosemary!) and wreaths to choose from. Though the folks at the farm recommend cutting your tree during daylight hours, they suggest bringing a flashlight if you’ll arrive after dark. Saws and twine are provided while shaking is free, netting is $2 and stands are available as well. Pick up your mistletoe and cinnamon brooms here too!

Good to know: This family farm’s first Christmas tree season was in 1972 and generation after generation come to cut their tree here each year. It’s a wonderful place to partake in this holiday tradition, given the Farm’s friendly, small-town community vibe that can’t be beat––and you’re supporting local agriculture by picking your perfect tree here. Also, bring Fido! Dogs are welcome at this pet-friendly farm. 

Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m., 7 days a week (starting Nov. 26)
300 Pepper Dr.
El Cajon, CA
619-448-5331
Online: familychristmastreefarm.com

Sand Haven Pines Christmas Tree Farm

The drive to Sand Haven Pines Christmas Tree Farm in Perris is worth it! Here you can cut down your pick of a beautiful Monterey Pine tree. The kiddos will get a free candy cane and you'll get a free cup of coffee. If you need a hand, the staff will also cut and carry your tree, shake it clean, net it for transport, drill a hold in it for the tree stand, install the tree stand, flock your tree if desired, and even tie it to your car for the trip home. A variety of potted Christmas trees are also available––so you can plant it in your yard after the holidays and enjoy it forever.

Opening Day: Nov. 20; closed Thanksgiving Day; "Trees Under the Lights" opens Dec. 1st
Hours: Nov. Hours: Weekdays 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Weekends 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. Hours: Weekdays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Weekends 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Good to know: After you select your tree, we can apply flocking to give it that "White Christmas" look!  You can choose from a light dusting to a heavy snow.

19255 Wood Rd.
Perris, CA 92570
951-789-8450
Online: sandhavenpines.com

photo: Mr. Jingle's Christmas Trees

Mr. Jingle's Christmas Trees

Mr. Jingle's Christmas Trees is a tree lot as opposed to a farm––so if you're not up for chopping down your tree this year, this is a great place to pick out a fresh Christmas tree closer to home. With three locations in San Diego: Clairemont/Pacific Beach, Balboa Park/downtown, and La Jolla, there are plenty of options. All of these locations open November 26 and offer Douglas Firs, Nordman Firs and Noble Firs in a wide variety of sizes, as well as wreaths, garland and decorating accessories. They also offer online ordering and tree delivery or pick-up.

Online: mrjingleschristmastrees.com

Pinery Christmas Trees

Pinery Christmas Tree lots are conveniently located all over San Diego in Bonita, Del Mar Horsepark, Rancho Bernardo, Murrieta and Mission Valley. This year they're offering the options to shop on location or to opt for home delivery. Here you'll find fresh cut Nordman, Noble, Grand and Douglas Fir varieties. They open Nov. 26 and anticipate large crowds on peak days––so they'll be limiting the number of visitors allowed on the lot during these times. Read their Covid-19 update and plan accordingly before your visit. Going on a weekday morning is generally a less busy time.

Good to know: Click here for a $5 off coupon. 

Online: pinerychristmastrees.com

Tips For a Successful U-Chop Experience

If you usually get your tree from a lot but are ready to head out into the field, we’ve got a few tips for you.

1. If it’s an option, leave the compact car at home and instead bring the family truck or SUV to accommodate your freshly chopped tree. Bring a tarp, old sheet or blanket to put in the trunk to catch the needles and sap. You can also use this on the roof of your car if you are going to tie it down.

2. Most farms have some rope or twine but it never hurts to bring your own to make sure you can tie it down securely before you head home. Even if it costs extra, spring for the wrapping on-site if the farm has it.

3. Bring snacks and water. Cutting down your own tree is some serious business, so be sure to bring snacks and drinks to keep those little tummies going and to stay hydrated.

4. The farms usually provide a small hand saw for your use. If you have a better tool at home, bring it.

5. Don’t forget to charge your phones and cameras because you’re going to want to snap a family photo or several!

6. Bring a mask for each member of your family and remember to follow social distancing protocols. 

––Jeannette Swanson & Beth Shea

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Two-year-olds are famous for whizzing from place to place, leaving a blurry streak in their wake, and when it comes to figuring out what will keep them busy, the struggle is real. Give them a gift that encourages their creativity, sparks a love of reading or provides a way for them to get their wiggles out even on rainy days. Read on for our suggestions for the best gifts you can give your two-year-old this year.


kiko & gg Machi Tiny Town

$35   BUY NOW

While other kids play with train sets, your child can have their very own mini Paris or London! Machi Tiny Town Paris from kiko & gg is a magnetic set that kids can rearrange to create different combinations. The magnetic base doubles as a chalkboard so kids can decorate Paris with their designs.


Dabble & Dollop Bubble Bath Mixing Kit

$28   BUY NOW

If your kid loves bubble baths, blow their mind with a make-your-own bubble bath kit. Your mini bubble mixologist can use the included bowl for mixing and recipe suggestion cards for inspiration.


Kid Trax Toddler Disney Cars

$90   BUY NOW

Is your two-year-old itching to get behind the wheel? Now they can. You can choose between a TowMater truck, a Spiderman motorcycle, an Elsa snowmobile and more. None go over two miles an hour, so you don't need to worry about your little one speeding away.


Lily & River's 5-Star Little Climber

$190   BUY NOW

A pikler triangle climber is perfect for cold days when you're trapped inside with a stir-crazy toddler. This climber helps develop balance and coordination in a safe, controlled environment. As a bonus, it folds up for easy storage when not in use.


Madame Alexander Adoption Day Baby

$44   BUY NOW

Kids this age are ready to care for their very own baby, and these sweet bundles come with their very own adoption certificates, cradle, diaper and more.


Trek Kickster Balance Bike

$170   BUY NOW

Two years old is a perfect age to start learning how to balance on two wheels. The Kickster balance bike is one of the best because it is lightweight and has a handle built into the seat for a parent to hold onto until kids are ready to roll off on their own.


Playmobil 1.2.3

$46   BUY NOW

Playmobil 1.2.3 sets have large, round and colorful pieces perfect for encouraging imaginative play. Kids will love this family home complete with slides, a teddy bear, movable furniture and a complete family.


Opposites Attract

$13   BUY NOW

Mo Willems is best known for characters like Elephant & Piggie; his new book is a highly engaging book with abstract art. Bold colors, shapes, lines and textures reinforce the concept of opposites as children as asked whether an object is hard or soft or dark or light.


Green Toys Construction Trucks & Board Book Set

$50   BUY NOW

How adorable is this construction crew? Not only will your kiddo get three vehicles, but they'll also get three play figures (Rose, Gus and Baxter) and a board book, too!


CreateOn Doodle Tiles

$30   BUY NOW

There is no need to color in the lines with this tile set. Kids can draw on the tiles, erase and doodle more. Even better, they can build anything they can imagine with this magnetic building set using Magna-Tiles.


HABA Rhino Hero Junior

$30   BUY NOW

Rhino Hero Junior is three games in one and allows children to practice their fine motor skills, work on a basic understanding of numbers and quantities and train their memories.


Step 2 All-Star Sports Climber™

$107   BUY NOW

This climbing structure comes with three balls, a mini-basketball hoop, a football toss target and a soccer goal. Because this climber has so many activities built-in, it's great for more than one kid to use at a time.


Tender Leaf Toys Garden Wheelbarrow Set

$85   BUY NOW

Who says gardening has to happen outdoors? Your little green thumb can water their sunflower, tomato and carrot, as well as cut flowers with their birdy secateurs.


LEGO® Spider-Man Headquarters

$30   BUY NOW

It's Spidey Time! This cool building set is based on the Disney+ show, has three characters and plenty of accessories.

—Jaime Davis Smith

Editor’s Note: Prices and availability reflect the time of publication. Images courtesy of retailers.

 

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