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Christmas Lights & Events That Are Worth The Drive in San Diego (Dec. 2023)

(photo by @famdiego at Scripps Ranch "Merry-tage Court")

Twinkle Twinkle Christmas lights, where can I find you shining so bright? See below for some neighborhoods + events that are worth the drive, including boat parades, botanic gardens, and private walk-through or drive-through events. 🌟

The list below only includes places with lots of lights; which makes it more worthwhile to pack up the kiddos. It's usually better to get out and walk around, but sometimes parking is hard to find so if you drive around, please watch out for pedestrians who may be out walking around since it'll be dark. And please stay off of other people's' property and don't touch their displays, just admire them from the sidewalks (per special requests by the residents and owners) 🌟

-- DISCLAIMER: This information may change every year or some houses/neighborhoods may no longer participate as they have in years past. It's hard to keep up with each neighborhood specifically every year so please let me know if any of this information changes. Thank you. --


👉 GO EARLY in the month AND evenings before 6pm. Plan your visits between 5-9pm. The car lines get really long after 6pm and the closer it gets to Christmas.

👉 Bring cash as some neighbors sell cookies and hot cocoa for $1 or so. We hit up Starbucks on our way over to grab some vanilla steamers and hot chocolate. 😉

👉 Bring a kids potty or a *pee bag with you or put your kiddies in a pull-up because there are NO bathrooms. 😲

*Amazon affiliate link

👉 Dress kids in their pj’s & pull-ups because they may even fall asleep on the ride home. Hopefully you can just carry them to bed. 😴

👉 Print Out this CHRISTMAS LIGHTS SCAVENGER HUNT to add a little extra fun to your night.

(dates & times are subject to change)


Christmas Light Neighborhoods

Walk-Thru Events

Jingle Jets (USS Midway)

Coastal Christsmas (Del Mar Fairgrounds)

Antique Steam Engine Museum (San Marcos)

CHEAP - Julian Festive Forest

Drive-Thru Events


It takes a lot of time and research to keep this post updated. If you'd like to make a small donation for this Fam Diego content you can share your thanks here. Your contribution is appreciated to help keep this website going. I'm grateful for all the love that comes from this community. Thank you. 💕🤗💕



🌟 CHULA VISTA: “Christmas Circle”

📍 Along Whitney St. + Mankato Circle, between First and Second Ave. off H St. and 1st Ave.

🏠 55+ homes

This is a small but mighty circle drive so it gets pretty jammed with cars the closer it gets to Christmas.



📍 Falling Star Dr. + Porch Swing St. (nearest intersection is Olympic Parkway + Windingwalk St.)

📆 unk

🏠 unk

This is a newer planned community that has taken on the reputation for being one the best in the south. The streets can be narrow with parked cars along the sidewalks and it gets jammed because it's become so popular. Driving through here can be frustrating and hazardous (watching out for kids and parked cars). It's best to park outside this neighborhood and walk around it.



🌟 SOUTHPARK: "Luminaria"

📍 Along 30th St. + Fern St.

You'll find a small-town vibe tucked away here along the tree-lined streets with brightly decorated shops, restaurants & homes.


🌟 CLAIREMONT: “Christmas Park”

📍 Lana Dr. & Jamar Dr. off Mt. Abernathy

📆 Dec. 1-25

🏠 40+ homes

This is a circular street so you can drive around the circle a couple times to see the lights on both sides. Santa is usually in front of one of the houses in the little side culd-de-sac, sitting in a chair and will gladly take free Santa photos with the kids. (Not sure about this year in 2021 though...)

Many houses offer treats & hot chocolate for sale.

If you're nearby, you may want to check out:

Candy Land House

📍 4005 Mount Albertine Ave.

They create a life-size game of Candy Land with activities & lights. It's really fun to do this in daylight, so maybe head here first before it gets dark.


- EAST -

🌟 SPRING VALLEY: “Enchanted Village at Noah Homes”

📍 12526 Campo Rd., Spring Valley

📆 2023: Dec. 15-22 from 5-8pm

🏤 Group home "campus"

*💵 $13.99/child (2-12); $21.99/adult (13+)

Guests will be walking through acres of brilliantly lit trees, magical cottages, light tunnels, live entertainers, hundreds of giant candy canes, over a million lights, interactive displays and other festive decorations. Santa will be at the Enchanted Village every night and would love to get a photo with you! Buy tickets in advance, due to limited capacity they can't guarantee space will be available for walk-ups. website

*Proceeds benefit Noah Homes, a nonprofit that provides housing and care to people with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism. We care for a high-risk population, and along with having a fun time, health and safety are top priorities so please stay home if you're feeling sick.


Park at Steele Canyon High School

Service animals only

This is ADA/Stroller accessible...there's uneven ground, dirt and concrete paths throughout, fyi.


🌟 SANTEE: “Lights at the Lakes”

📍 9120 Carlton Oaks Dr., Santee, Ca 92071 (no access from Fanita Pkwy)

📆 2022: Nov. 25-27, Dec. 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 22-24

🕰 time slots: 6pm, 6:45pm, or 7:30pm

💵 $30/car for 8 or $50/car for 8+

(Personally I don't recommend this event, same for all the comments I've received from my community. It's way overpriced for the value. Go drive around a nearby neighborhood for free.)

This is a new DRIVE-THRU only event that will take about 15-25 minutes. There is no walking or biking through allowed. You must buy a ticket online before the event, there will be no ticket sales on-site. Prices are per car up to 8 passengers or extra cost for large passenger vans. One seat belt is required per person. website


🌟 SANTEE: “Starlight Circle”

📍 off of N. Magnolia Ave. and Tomel Ct.

📆 Dec. 1-31 from dusk-10

🏠 75+ houses

This is an easy circular drive around to see. Many houses offer treats & hot chocolate for sale.


1. Skip the long car lines and turn right on El Nopal to use the back entrance on Josie Jo Lane!

2. If you want to walk around it, park across the street at the church and walk over.

3. Free parking at Santana High across the street.

4. Lots of vendors for drinks & food.


🌟 EL CAJON: “Jingle Bell Hill” (aka Pepper Dr. Lights)

📍 Pepper Dr. + Lindenwood to Solomon Ave. and Pegeen Pl. off 67 and Bradley

🏠 200+ houses w/ various themes


🌟 LAKESIDE: “Tinsel Town”

📍 nearby 10248 Paseo Palmas

🏠 20+ houses



🌟 VISTA: "Jingle Terrace Live"

📍 Moonlight Amphitheater: 1250 Vale Terrace Dr., Vista

📆 20023: Dec. 8-23 from 5:30-8:30pm

Free + Fun! We love this event.

Each evening, the Moonlight Amphitheatre will be adorned in a spectacular holiday light show that you will be able to walk through and inside The Moonlight while you enjoy holiday refreshments, festive displays, live entertainment, family activities and photo opportunities, and other special surprises to be announced! Select dates will have special events as noted below. More info

Jingle Terrace Live Experience: Dec. 8-23,

free walk-thru event

JTL Movie Night (elf): Dec. 9 at 6:30pm

free tickets required

JTL Holiday Concert: Dec. 10 at 6:30pm

tickets required, $17-$42

JTL Movie Night (Grinch): Dec. 17 at 6:30pm

free tickets required

JTL Doo Wop Christmas Concert: Dec. 18 at 6:30pm

tickets required, $27-$52

* Donations will be accepted at the Amphitheatre at all Jingle Terrace Live events. Canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruits, peanut butter, paste and rice, cereal and oatmeal.


🌟 SCRIPPS RANCH: "Merry-tage Court"

📍 Stonebridge Pkwy + Merritage Ct.

👍 Good reports this year! Creative lighting displays includes Disney, Frozen, Star Wars, Cars, The Grinch and other pop culture icons.


🌟 POWAY: “Candy Cane Lane”

📍 Twin Peaks Rd. + Silverset St.

📆 usually starts 2nd week of Dec. from 5-10

🏠 3 large cul-de-sacs

All the cul-de-sacs are lit up along Hickory St., Hickory Ct., Butterwood Ct., Rockrose Ct.


🌟 RANCHO PEÑASQUITOS: “Christmas Card Lane”

📍 Oviedo St. + Black Mountain Rd.

🏠 Over 200 houses!

Can also enter from Twin Trails Dr. + Carmel Mtn Rd. You can park at Sunset Hills Elementary and walk over.


🌟 CARMEL MOUNTAIN RANCH: “Holiday Magic/Fairway Village”

📍 Fairway Village on the East and West sides of Stoney Gate Pl.

🏠 100+ houses



📍 11th St. + Rancho Santa Fe Rd.

🏠 unk


🌟 ESCONDIDO: "Harmony Grove Village"

📍 Starry Night Dr. + surrounding roads, Escondido

This is a fairly new neighborhood and they seem to dress up for every holiday. Halloween is really fun here too! For Christmas there are lots of cute light archway tunnels to walk through that make great photo ops and fun for kids to run through.

🌟 SAN MARCOS: (another) "Candy Cane Lane"

📍 Crimson Dr.

Snow machine, music synced to lights, candy canes line the streets and string over the streets



🌟 ENCINITAS: “Lightscape at San Diego Botanic Garden”

📍 300 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas, CA 92024

📆 2023: Nov. 18-Jan. 1

🕰 5-10pm (last entrance at 8:30pm)

💵 $13-$18 for kids 3-12; $24-$29 for adults; free for 2 & under

A 1-mile trail illuminated after dark with glowing art installations, fire garden, light tunnels, rainbow trees and music along the way. Stop for some eats & treats or sip hot cocoa (parents can spike yours with Baileys!), and be mesmerized by all the light up creations. It'll take around 45-90 minutes to wander throughout, depending how ofter you stop or how fast/slow you walk. website

This exhibit was specifically customized for the San Diego Botanic Garden, as it was during runs in London, Chicago, Los Angeles & New York.

Advanced timed tickets are required. No walk-ups. No refunds. No exchanges.

Parking is $10 pre-paid advance online. It will be $20 on-site and only if there are spots available.

For more specific details, photos from our visit to this event and answers to all of your questions, read this.


🌟 CORONADO: “At First Light" - Lightshow

📍 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, CA 92118

📆 2023: Nov. 18 - Jan. 1 from 5-9

💵 Free

The beautiful Tree Light Show plays every 30 minutes between 5-9pm every night until Jan. 1. (Including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day.) Kids will enjoy the bubble snow and hot cocoa bar on the front lawn next to the trees. website

Their FREE Tree Light Show is spectacular and is best enjoyed lying down. It does get crowded right underneath the trees, but even better views are from the large grassy space behind these trees. You can lie down there too and see the entire tree-length show, not just from underneath.

While you're there, take some time to wander around the gorgeous hotel, or even grab a bite to eat on their restaurants out back.

Here's your route:

1. Go into the main lobby to see THE tree. 2. Walk around the shops and buy their

collective annual ornament (it’s about $38 for the fragile ones, but they have a $9 wooden one that’s just as cute!). 3. Walk out the back door into the courtyard. 4. Then walk back out the main entrance and down the steps to the left is an entryway into more cute shops. 5. Follow all the way out to the back. You’ll see ice cream & treat shop & then all the restaurant options, incl a wood-fired pizza bar. 6.Walk to the right & you’ll see ice skating rink. 7. * Turn right up thru chef’s garden that’ll take you back out to the poinsettia tree on the corner of RH Dana Pl + Orange Ave.

🅿️ Street parking nearby is hard to find. If you just want to pay to park you have 2 options (2021 prices)👇

1. Next to Chipotle on north side of RH Dana Pl. is underground garage. $25 for first 2 hrs, then $5 per 30 min after.

2. Hotel Del has an underground garage near valet on south side of RH Dana Pl. It’s $20, but only $10 w/ purchase validation. (Thank you all for this tip!) 👏


🌟 DEL MAR FAIRGROUNDS: “Coastal Christmas”

📍   2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA, 92014

📆 Dec. 14-17, 21-26, 29-30 from 4-9pm

💵 $20/adults, $15/kids ages 4-12, $20/parking per car

(Personally I don't recommend this event, same for all the comments I've received from my community. It's way overpriced for the value.)

Coastal Christmas promises to be your new favorite holiday tradition. Join us for the warmth of the season, the joy of community and the beauty of the coast. Twinkling lights, holiday cheer, live entertainment, delicious treats, festive drinks.

Stroll through millions of twinkling lights, glide around the ice skating rink with live entertainment, take photos with Santa, shop the holiday market, rent a festive igloo with a private fire pit, make s'mores at the community fire pits, visit the hot chocolate lounge and Frosty's fun zone for kids.

[Note: I don't give my personal opinion very often but my thoughts on this one are that it's really expensive and the parking and all the extras you have to pay for once inside just doesn't have the value for me so my opinion is to skip this one and save your money.]



📍 Marisa Lane, Encinitas

🏠 Has 3 cul-de-sacs all lit up!


🌟 CARLSBAD: "Aviara"

📍 Ammonite Court, Carlsbad

🌟 CARLSBAD: "Ho Ho Highlands"

📍 Highland Dr. between Carlsbad Village Dr. + Hillside

50+ 20ft Santas and lights. Lots of surrounding neighborhoods are highly decorated as well.



📍 6646 Elegant Tern Pl.

This is just ONE house, but it's transformed into Santa's Village complete with a letterbox to drop off your letters to Santa and you'll even get a reply from him!! (Every year on Dec. 14th they host a community party with hot chocolate, mulled wine and other holiday treats!)


🤷🏼‍♀️ REPORTS FROM YOU GUYS SAID THESE NEIGHBORHOODS DON'T GO ALL OUT LIKE THEY USED TO. You might still see a few here and there, but mostly it sounds like these aren't worth the drive anymore.👇

🌟 UTC: “San Diego Temple”

📍   7474 Charmant Dr.

📆 Dec. 1-Jan. 1 from 5-11

💵 Free

(Not happening for 2023 due to construction. Hopefully it'll be back for 2024)

130,000+ lights & nativity scenes, FREE to park and walk around. Everyone is welcome to walk around the grounds outside only, you don't have to practice their religion to enjoy the lights outside. :)

🤷🏼‍♀️ SAN MARCOS: “Christmas on Knob Hill”

📍 1639 Knob Hill Rd., San Marcos

🎅🏼 Santa: (2021 dates) Dec. 13-22 from 6:30-8pm

Christmas on Knob Hill is powered 100% by solar energy! Over 85,000 lights make this neighborhood shine bright every year. Santa can usually be found here the week before Christmas handing out candy canes and taking pictures with the kids. Bring your Christmas wish lists to give to Santa or drop them in his mailbox. 


🤷🏼‍♀️ PT. LOMA: “Garrison Street Lights”

📍 Garrison St. & Chatsworth off Rosecrans St.

🏠 20+ homes

This neighborhood used to be a great spot, but over the last couple of years reports indicate they don't decorate like they used to.


🤷🏼‍♀️ TEMECULA: “Bainbridge Falls”

📍 Bainbridge Circle cul-de-sac

🏠 30+ houses

All the houses are synchronized to music that broadcasts on 88.5 FM.


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