top of page

Christmas Lights & Events That Are Worth The Drive in San Diego (Dec. 2022)

San Diego's Best Christmas Lights Neighborhoods and Events by Fam Diego

(photo by @famdiego at Clairemont "Christmas Park")

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. 🌟

-- 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

south, central, east, north inland, coastal

Boat Parades

Mission Bay

San Diego Bay


Walk-Thru Events

San Diego Botanic Garden Lightscape, Encinitas

Enchanted Village at Noah Homes, Spring Valley

Hotel Del Coronado Lightshow (free)

Jingle Terrace Live at Moonlight Amphitheater, Vista (free)

Drive-Thru Events

Santee Lakes




🌟 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.

[back to top]



*(The annual Christmas Show at the Legacy International Hotel in Mission Valley has not been listed and likely won't be happening this year. I'll update this if I hear otherwise.)

🌟 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.

[back to top]


🌟 MISSION BAY & SAN DIEGO BAY: "Boat Parades!"

📆 2022: Dec. 10, 11, 18 from 5:30-7:30pm


Christmas Light Boat Parades are a San Diego tradition, some going back over 50 years! There are 4 boat parades in San Diego. The longest running and most popular one (ie. crowded) is on the San Diego Bayfront; they have two parade nights. A smaller one but still popular is on Mission Bay. The least crowded is along the Oceanside Harbor.

Re: Kids

I may be the only one to admit this...these are kind of boring for kids. Or for mine at least. It can take several long minutes in between each boat and my kids lose interest in this really quickly. Bring some activities to keep your kids busy.


BYO chairs & blankets or else you'll sit on the pavement, wet grass or hard rock jetties. Dress warmly because it WILL be cold. Bring food, drinks, hot cocoa and potties or pee bags for the kids...there's no telling if you'll end up near a bathroom or not.



2022: Sat. Dec. 10 at 5:30pm

The Mission Bay Boat Parade is a fun one to watch if you're trying to figure out which one to attend. This year they have some super fun viewing parties at various hotel resorts all around the bay! Enjoy the best views of the decorated boats while you enjoy Mission Bay hospitality, including food & beverage service, holiday music, bonfire seating, entertainment for kids, giveaways, and even a visit from Santa at participating resorts! website

PARADE ROUTE (approx. times):

It starts in front of SeaWorld and circles counter-clockwise around the bay, times are very approximate noted below.

  • Fiesta Island/SeaWorld, 5:30pm

  • The Dana on Mission Bay, 5:45-6:15pm

  • Paradise Point Resort, 6-6:30pm

  • Bahia Resort, 6:15-6:45pm

  • Mission Bay Yacht Club

  • Catamaran Resort, 6:30-7pm

  • Ski Beach, 6:45-7:15pm

  • Fiesta Island, 7-7:30pm

  • Mission Bay Beach Club, 7:15-7:45pm

  • parade map


Every spot along the route will be great! Depends on your get to the first spots for an early evening or end at the later spots for a later evening. Some hotels noted above are having super fun viewing parties. Click here to read all about them.

  • The Dana Viewing Party: An all-ages experience, the Winter Wonderland will have exciting food and beverages including a holiday picnic menu from the Firefly Eatery and a Snow Cone Truck. Cash bars are available throughout the resort. A DJ will set the mood with a dance party, playful winter activities, craft-making and a snowball fight with special appearances by Buddy the Elf, Princess Elsa, and a Winter Fairy.

  • VIP seating for purchase is available for hotel guests and the public, and includes a heated seating area, a signature picnic blanket, hot cocoa, apple cider and picture perfect parade views. In addition, general viewing is available – bring your own blankets and chairs!

  • Paradise Point Viewing Party: Perfect for families, you will be able to conveniently order festive food and drinks for kids and adults straight from your phone. Plus enjoy S’mores, bonfires, a hot cocoa bar and a special appearance by Santa! Seating available on a first come first serve basis. Bring blankets for extra ground seating.

  • The Bahia Resort: There'll be lots of fun happening over here. Visit their Air Stream out front (next to the harbor seals ;) for holiday music, burgers & fries, holiday cookies accompanied by a full bar with cozy holiday-flavored coffee options available for purchase. High Top Tables. Bring your own blankets and chairs for beachside viewing!

  • You can also view the parade from the Bahia Belle Sternwheeler's Holiday Cruise. Come aboard an illuminating holiday cruise for an up-close experience set to festive holiday party music, with cash bars available onboard. The Bahia Belle boarding begins at 4:45pm and returns to the Bahia at 8:30pm. Tickets can be purchased at $35 for Hotel Guests and $50 for General Admission. Reservations Required. Views of parade boats expected between 5:35pm and 7:30pm during bay cruise.

  • The Catamaran Resort: They'll have holiday treats for purchase as well as cash bars featuring special seasonal hot cocoas, hot toddies, mulled wine and non-alcoholic beverages. Holiday music will surround you as you arrive and find your seating. Beach chairs will be available on a first come first-served basis. The holiday movie will begin following the parade.

  • Mission Bay Beach Club: Get there early for the Candy Cane Lane Holiday artisan market with food and beverages available for purchase. Hot Cocoa and Cider Stations, S’mores fire kits, Cookies and Panini Pop Ups. Santa will be there from 1:30pm – 4:30pm (NOTE the boat parade won't pass by until approx. 7:15pm). View the parade from coffee shop tables or bring your own blankets and chairs!

[back to top]



2022: Dec. 11 & 18 from 5:30-7:30pm

starts at Shelter Island, ends at Coronado Ferry Landing

The 52nd annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights promises to dazzle and entertain bayfront crowds. Boats will be decorated to fit this year’s theme: "FantaSEA on the Bay". The procession of approximately 80 lavishly decorated boats has become one of the most iconic events in the region. website

PARADE ROUTE (approx. times):

  • Shelter Island, 5:30pm

  • Harbor Island, 6:00pm

  • The Embarcadero, 6:30pm

  • Seaport Village, 7:00pm

  • The Pier at Cesar Chavez Park, 7:15pm

  • Ferry Landing on Coronado, 7:30pm

  • parade map

The parade takes about an hour to pass any given point and there are many comfortable waterfront viewpoints along the route. Due to increased traffic and parking demand, observers are encouraged to plan ahead or take the trolley. (It WILL be crowded and parking will be hard to find. When the parade is over, it WILL take a while to exit to be patient.)

The announcers will be located at the Maritime Museum on the Embarcadero and at Coronado Landing. As each boat passes these viewing points, the announcers offer a brief history and description of the participating vessels.


  • Shelter Island & Harbor Islands are the best viewing spots in my opinion; there's a playground on Shelter Island, both have free close-by parking...BUT these are the hardest places to get out of when it's over because they only have one way on and one way off the islands. So I would avoid these spots just for this reason.

  • The Embarcadero will be tricky to find a good spot unless you go early. You'll have to pay for a parking lot or feed the meter until the time ends and you'll likely have to walk 2-4 blocks over.

  • Seaport Village has great viewing spots, paid parking lots aren't too far away and it's the easiest place to exit with multiple roads to choose from. There's lots of good food options here so you can grab dinner and go find a spot to sit and watch from. If you can't find a parking spot at Seaport Village, I like the parking garage at the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel (pull into the hotel's main entrance and look for the Self-Parking entrance on the left) because it's the closest parking garage to Seaport Village.

  • The Pier at Cesar Chavez Park - sorry I don't have any insight for this location.

  • Ferry Landing on Coronado can be busy because the roads and parking are limited. You'll likely have to walk several blocks over to the waterfront BUT there is a playground nearby (about 10 minute walk south of the ferry dock!) and there are some good food options to choose from nearby. You can always find a spot on the beach, but you know what that means...sand everywhere. It may take some time to exit and get over the bridge to head home.

[back to top]


- EAST -

🌟 SPRING VALLEY: “Enchanted Village at Noah Homes”

📍 12526 Campo Rd., Spring Valley

📆 2022: Dec. 16-22 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+

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.


🌟 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

[back to top]



🌟 VISTA: "Jingle Terrace Live"

📍 Moonlight Amphitheater: 1250 Vale Terrace Dr., Vista

📆 Dec. 7-10, 14-18 from 5-9pm

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. 7, 8, 14, 15, 16

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

[back to top]



📍 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.


(photos via Christmas on Knob Hill, swipe)

🌟 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.

[back to top]



🌟 OCEANSIDE: "Boat Parade!"

📆 2022: Dec. 10 at 7pm


A fun spectacle with boats of all shapes and sizes decorated in their finest holiday attire, including lights, ornaments and lots of holiday trimmings. In addition many of the captains and boat crews dress up in their holiday best, with a few jolly Santas joining to take part in the festive parade celebration. website


I couldn't find this info.


There are several restaurants and shops located within Oceanside Harbor if you would like to dine and watch the event, please call for availability. View Oceanside Harbor Merchants.


One of the best viewing spots is along the side of the Oceanside Harbor near the fishing dock and police station. From this vantage point, you can see the parade twice! The concrete walkway that surrounds much of the harbor is also good for viewing the parade.

Where to Park?

City of Oceanside Parking Map

[back to top]


🌟 ENCINITAS: “Lightscape at San Diego Botanic Garden”

📍 300 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas, CA 92024

📆 2022: Nov. 18-20, 23, 25-27

📆 2022: Dec. 1-4, 8-11, 14-23, 26-31

📆 2022: 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.

[back to top]


🌟 CORONADO: “At First Light" - Lightshow

📍 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, CA 92118

📆 2022: Nov. 17 - 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!) 👏

[back to top]


🌟 UTC: “San Diego Temple”

📍 7474 Charmant Dr.

📆 Dec. 1-Jan. 1 from 5-11

💵 Free

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. :)



📍 Marisa Lane, Encinitas

🏠 Has 3 cul-de-sacs all lit up!



📍 Ammonite Court, Carlsbad



📍 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!)

[back to top]


🤷🏼‍♀️ 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.👇

🤷🏼‍♀️ 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.

[back to top]



If you'd like to make a donation for this Fam Diego content you can share your thanks here. Your contribution is truly appreciated to help keep this website going. I'm grateful for all the love that comes from this community. Thank you. 💕🤗💕

Venmo @famdiego

bottom of page