It’s no secret that the holidays are a magical time for both children and adults alike. What is [semi!] secret are these holiday activities we found throughout San Diego. We polled fans and found their top out-of-the-ordinary events to create one magical bucket list for the end of this year.

photo: cyrusbulsara via flickr

Garden of Lights at Quail Botanical Gardens
Quail Botanical Gardens, in Encinitas, is an inspiring place to connect with plants and nature throughout the year. Throw in the holiday spirit, over 125,000 sparkling lights, food, live blues and jazz music, and a variety of kid’s activities for an evening the whole family will truly enjoy. Your evening will be packed with fun including horse-drawn wagon rides, crafts, visits with Santa, puppet shows and more.

Dates: December 5-23 and 26-30, 5 – 9 p.m.
Cost: Adult members: $10; adult non-members: $15. Seniors, active military and students: $10. Kids ages 3-12: $5. Kids 2 and under: free (additional fees for some activities)

230 Quail Gardens Dr.
Encinitas, Ca

Photo: Leah Singer

Holiday Wonderland at Petco Park
Get ready to be transported to a winter wonderland complete with snow and reindeer. The Holiday Wonderland is back at Petco Park and kids will love sledding down a hill of snow, walking through magical lighting displays, riding the Polar Express, petting reindeer, bouncing in a snow globe, taking a photo with Santa around a 40-foot tree, and lots more. It’s Petco Park like you’ve never seen it!

Dates: Dec. 4-6, 11-13, 18-23, 4:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Cost: $20/adult, $10/kiddo; free/kids under 3

Petco Park
100 Park Blvd.
San Diego, Ca

photo: Ginger Anderson

Holiday Festivities at Torrey Pines Lodge
Get dressed up for some fancy festivities at Torrey Pines Lodge. Take family portraits, sing along with holiday carolers, roast s’mores, decorate cookies, plus storytime and photos with Santa fill their December calendar. Space is limited, so be sure to call and ask about reserving space. Good to Know: If you live in North County inland, the Rancho Bernardo Winery offers similar festivities December 17-20.

Dates: December (dates and times vary)
Cost: Free

11480 North Torrey Pines Rd.
La Jolla, Ca

photo: portofsandiego via flickr

Parade of Lights in San Diego Harbor
For two consecutive Sundays in December the San Diego boating community comes together to bring a lavish extravaganza of brightly-lit boats and holiday decorations at sea. Bundle up with blankets and hot cocoa, bring chairs and stake out a spot along the bay to get a great view of this annual event. The parade route runs from Shelter Island past Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, and ends at the Ferry Landing in Coronado. Full route can be viewed here.

Dates: December 13 and 20 at 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Downtown San Diego

photo: The Old Globe Theater

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at the Old Globe
Almost all children know the story of the Grinch and have seen the movie, but bring him to life on stage at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park. For the 18th year, the stage is transformed into snow-covered Whoville and children and adults perform in this holiday favorite. Special note: there will be a sensory-friendly performance on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 10:30 a.m.

Hours: November 15 – December 27
Cost: Prices vary based on date & time ($50-$100/ticket)

1363 Old Globe Way
San Diego, Ca

photo: Helen Woodward Animal Center

Frosty Farm at Helen Woodward Animal Center
For all the animal-lovers out there, this is a not-to-miss holiday event on the farm. In addition to face painting, faux snow, cookie decorating, crafts, hot chocolate and a visit with Santa, kids will experience live animal encounters! Get up close and personal with alpacas, chinchillas, doves, sheep, chickens and a miniature horse “reindeer” named Blitzen. Don’t forget to register on their website to guarantee time with Santa.

Dates: First three weekends in December from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Cost: $12/adults: $23/kiddo

6461 El Apajo Rd.
Rancho Santa Fe, Ca
858-756-4117 ext. 318

What’s on your holiday bucket list this year?

— Ginger Anderson

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