From malls and parks to drive-worthy experiences, here are the best places to take photos with Santa in San Diego—some will even pose with your pet

There are so many fun, family activities happening this time of year, whether you’re shopping for your Christmas tree in San Diego, wandering around town to catch all the must-see holiday lights nearby, or seeing which favorite holiday show should be on your wish-list this year. Of course don’t forget to make time to mingle with good ole St. Nick. The sun might be out (with no snow in sight) but Santa Claus is coming to town, and chances are, you’re looking for some memory-making photo ops. From malls and parks to an entire village dedicated to the man, we’ve rounded up our must-go spots to see Santa near San Diego.

1. Santa's Village at SkyPark

If you haven't ever done it, we definitely recommend heading up to SkyPark at Santa’s Village, at least once in your lifetime. The whole village comes into its own and lights up for a jolly good time. From breakfast with Santa to tea with Mrs. Claus, you can get as little or as much Santa in your life as you want. For photo-ops, make a reservation online to save your spot and prevent disappointments. Of course, that’s not all—there’s ice skating and a dazzling light show that takes place at the park as well. You might even get snow while your here—a true Christmas miracle for SoCal residents.

Dates: Nov. 17-Jan. 8

28950 California 18

2. Photos with Santa at Seaport Village

Capture the magic of the holiday season in a photo with Seaport’s resident Santa Claus in a delightful San Diego waterfront setting on the harbor. Families can strike a pose with jolly Kris Kringle—in front of the Chris Harvey Gallery—no appointment necessary. This spot also has 54 retail shops—get your Christmas shopping done while you're here.

Dates: Nov. 19-Dec. 24; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

849 W Harbor Dr.
San Diego

3. San Diego Zoo's Jungle Bells

The San Diego Zoo's holiday celebration, Jungle Bells (Dec. 9-Jan. 1), has all the Christmas fixings you might be looking for: holiday photos with Dr. Harry Lion, Churchill Polar Bear, and Sydney Koala, a juggling Jack Frost, live holiday music, acrobatic elves, strolling Holiday Troubadours, and, of course, photos with the big guy. You'll find Santa (and his factory), in the Lost Forest—at the Price Education Center, to be specific. 

Dates: Nov. 25-27, Dec. 3-4 and 24; 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., Dec. 9-23, 25; noon-8 p.m.

2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego

4. Santa's Treehouse

best santa photos around San Diego

Skip the lines and spend some quality time with Mr. and Mrs. Claus in their treehouse. In addition to the professional photo session with Santa, kids will have time to chat about what's on their wish lists, tour the tree house, sit by the fire place, and even have a seat in the big man's chair. Claim your spot at this popular event—offered by reservation only.

Good to Know: This is a fundraising event so the proceeds help sponsor families in need.

Dates: Reservations are now open. Photos take place Sat. & Sun only beginning Nov. 26-Dec. 18

15263 Lawson Valley Rd.

5. Surfin Santa at Seaport Village

Old St. Nick is ditching the heavy red suit and will be breaking out his board shorts and Hawaiian shirt for the 15th annual Surfin’ Santa celebration at Seaport Village. If your family would like to take some not-so-wintery photos with the jolly surfer himself, he'll be hanging in his lifeguard tower, ready to snap a few poses. Photos with Santa start at 1:45 p.m. Named one of the 10 best Santa sightings by USA Today, the event begins at noon with live music and entertainment

Date: Nov. 26; 1:45 p.m. to 5 p.m.

849 W Harbor Dr.
San Diego

6. Santa Visits the Forum

Every Sat. and Sun. through Dec. 18, you can stop by to see Santa at The Forum Carlsbad. Find St. Nick in the Garden Area between YETI and Allbirds, and bring your camera. Visits are complimentary. Guests can also enjoy holiday characters on Sat. and strolling carolers on Sun. from 1-4 p.m.

Dates: Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18; 1-5 p.m.

1923 Calle Barcelona

7. Santa Cares Day at The Shoppes at Carlsbad

Children within all spectrums of special needs and their families are welcome to visit Santa during Santa Cares Day at The Shoppes at Carlsbad. The event takes place before the mall opens on Dec. 4 for a sensory-friendly, less hectic event to experience the time-honored tradition of a visit and photos with Santa.  This unique opportunity is specially designed to create a comfortable and inviting environment so all children can feel comfortable with Santa. Reservations are encouraged.

Date: Dec. 4; 9-10 a.m.

2525 El Camino Real

8. Santa Paws Pet Night at Westfield UTC

Santa is available for photos throughout the month (beginning Nov. 17-Dec. 24) but on special nights, he'd love to meet your favorite four-legged pal. Westfield UTC invites families to enjoy the the special Santa Paws Pet Night, a fun, furry twist on the time-honored tradition of taking photos with the man in the big red suit—although everyone is welcome, even without pets. The mall will also collect donations these evenings on behalf of The Humane Society. Reservations recommended.

Dates: Dec. 5, 12, and 19; 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

4545 La Jolla Village Dr., Suite E-25
San Diego

9. Photos with Santa at Hotel del Coronado

If you are looking for a more refined setting to meet with Old St. Nick this holiday season, visit him at the sprawling Hotel Del Coronado. Here you can take a picture with him in the charming Garden Patio that sits in the central courtyard of a majestic Victorian building. For those that simply can't wait to see the big guy, head over to the hotel's holiday festival on Dec. 7. Online reservations required.

Dates: Dec. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, and 24; Times vary

1500 Orange Ave.

10. Christmas in the Park

Don’t miss your chance to visit with Santa at Old Poway Park. This free event will take you back in time with caroling, live music, and horse-drawn hayrides. You can also purchase holiday treats, shop at the craft boutique, or board the Poway Midland Railroad for a night-time ride around the park. Free shuttles to and from the event will be available from two locations: Poway City Hall parking lot and Poway Adult School parking lot. 

Dates: Dec. 9; 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and Dec. 10; 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

14134 Midland Road


Related: Merry & Bright! Must-See Holiday Light Displays in San Diego

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