Bookmark our list of must-see holiday events and activities in San Diego for a memory-filled holiday season

San Diego sure know how to make the holidays come alive in paradise. From seeing traditional favorites like How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the iconic Old Globe Theatre to wandering through clever lit up holiday displays whether through neighborhoods or the botanical garden, there’s something fun for everyone no matter what kind of holiday celebration you may be into. So once you’ve found your Christmas tree, stocked up on gifts at the best toy stores in San Diego, and declared a winner of the best hot chocolate in town, head to these fun, only-in-San Diego holiday activities for a most memorable holiday season.

Must-See Holiday Shows in San Diego

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at The Old Globe

Select Dates Nov. 9-Dec. 31: 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.

Ebenezer Scrooge's BIG San Diego Christmas Show 

Select Dates Nov. 18-Dec. 24: This is a funny, and highly theatrical reimagining of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. You'll meet the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, but with a comedic locals San Diego twist.

1363 Old Globe Way
San Diego

The Rady Shell

Noel Noel at The Rady Shell

Dec. 9-11: Experience an all-new San Diego holiday tradition by watching the 2nd annual Noel Noel show at the beautiful Rady Shell. This new one-of-a-kind outdoor venue sits along the bay front and projects gorgeous images onto the "shell" throughout the performance. You'll be able to follow along with the storyline as it's told through favorite holiday tunes.

222 Marina Park Way
San Diego

A Christmas Carol  at the Cygnet Theatre

Select Dates Nov. 22-Dec. 24: The holiday classic A Christmas Carol will transport you into the Victorian era for a tale of hope and redemption at Christmas time. This production features original music, creative stagecraft and live sound effects for a unique storytelling experience that will delight the whole family.

Good to Know: Children under five years old are not permitted in the theater during performances.

4040 Twiggs St.
San Diego

Must-Go Holiday Events in San Diego

Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld San Diego

Nov. 14-Jan. 8: Christmas Celebration is filled with fun holiday-themed animal and entertainment shows, special food and drink items, Santa photos, acres of beautiful decorations and a lighted musical tunnel that you can dance and sing your way through.

Good to Know: You can reserve your Santa photo spot online.

500 Sea World Dr.
San Diego

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Dec. 9-Jan. 1: Stroll around the Zoo & Safari Park at night under the sights & sounds of holiday cheer. Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo will light up your night with the animals as you stroll around the zoo listening to live music and carolers. Catch a Christmas story time, find the holiday trampoline jumpers, traipse through the Northern Frontier Holiday Forest and be mystified at the Aurora light spectacular show.

Wild Holidays at Safari Park

Select Dates Nov. 25-Jan. 1: Wild Holidays at the Safari Park will let you travel to far away places that glow and twinkle with holiday tunes, seasonal food and decor. Catch a holiday story time, walk through the bridge of lights and the lantern walk and wave to the firefly stilt walkers.

Good to Know: All of the holiday activities start after 3:30pm. Both are included in admission and memberships.

15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.

Lightscape at the San Diego Botanic Garden

best holiday events san diego lightscape
San Diego Botanical Garden

Select Dates Nov. 18-Jan. 1: Wander through the gardens after dark in this enchanting illuminated 1-mile trail. You’ll see over one million twinkling lights, eye-catching glowing art installations, colors and sounds that have been custom designed for this garden. Kids will enjoy roasting marshmallows over fire and sipping hot chocolate.

Good to Know: Advanced timed tickets are required. Buy your guaranteed parking spot online.

300 Quail Gardens Dr.

December Nights at Balboa Park

Dec. 2 & 3: The City of San Diego's December Nights is back this year in Balboa Park. This free, family friendly event brings San Diegans together to enjoy the lights, the sounds, the attractions and of course, the amazing food.

Balboa Park
San Diego

Snow-N-Glow at the Del Mar Fairgrounds

best holiday events san diego


Dec. 8-Jan. 1: Snow-N-Glow is back this year for snow-tubing down the giant slides with real snow! Wander around the one million twinkling lights, seasonal eats & drinks, roast s’mores over community fire pits, and even book a private “igloo” with fire pit and have fresh snow delivered to you for a private snow play experience.

2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.
Del Mar

best holiday events in San Diego
Bonnie Taylor

The Annual Holiday Market Trail at Petco Park

Select Dates Dec. 1-23: The Annual 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, a carousel, Santa and other holiday characters!

Good to Know: Advanced tickets are required. Park at the Padres Parkade at 10th Ave. + J St.

840 K St.
San Diego

San Diego Boat Parades

Visit Oceanside

Truly a San Diego local’s holiday event is to catch one of the (free!) boat parades floating by with each vessel all decked out in lights and holiday decor. Dress warmly, BYO blankets and chairs to sit on, grab some take-out and bring your hot chocolate for a fun night. Note: there may not be bathrooms nearby where you’re sitting so plan ahead. PS: Check their websites for the routes, best places to park and more logistical intel.

Mission Bay Parade of Lights: Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m.

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights: Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.

Related: Discover Why Our Editors Love Hanging Out in Oceanside

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights: Dec. 11 & 18 at 5:30 p.m.

San Diego's Best Neighborhood Holiday Lights

best neighborhoods for christmas lights in San Diego
Bonnie Taylor

Throughout Dec.: 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.

Starlight Circle
Magnolia Ave. & Tomel Ct.

Christmas Circle
First Ave. & H St.
Chula Vista



Your daily dose of joy and connection
Get the Tinybeans app