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

Temecula Carriage Company

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

Bonnie Taylor @famdiego

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
Event details.

San Diego Botanic Garden

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
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

Walkthrough Glow Only Experience
$12.99 – 17.99

Holidays In Your Car Drive-thru Experience

Del Mar Fairgrounds
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar

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

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
Event details.

––Aimee Della Bitta & Bonnie Taylor

featured image: via iStock


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