• Fam Diego

The Ultimate Kids' Holiday Events Guide in San Diego


Ready or not, the holidays are here! San Diego always has a lot of fun stuff going on and this list of Holiday Events is a mile long! It includes the usual Theme Park events, Balboa Park's Annual December Nights and Tree Lightings, and fun Train Rides with Santa, Christmas plays and ballets (even a toddler time show of the Nutcracker!) and where to find SNOW. Yes, SNOW in San Diego!!

Be sure to bookmark, save or screenshot this post; whatever will remind you about it, so you can refer back to it all month long.

The title says it all! This is the ULTIMATE Guide for Kids' Holiday Events in San Diego. Would you believe there are actually even more events going on than what I was able to list here?! Feel free to comment if you'd like to add any other events that you know of in your part of town. And I'll add my usual disclaimer to confirm dates, times and all info directly with the venue before you go. Sometimes info changes after I gather my research. ;) I tried to link the venues directly so click the titles to find out even more!

Are you ready for this?! Have fun getting your Christmas Cheer on! Here you gooo.....Ho Ho Ho....

THEME PARKS

(click on each title to link)

❄️ SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration (Mission Bay)

DATES: Nov. 17, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019 - Daily during park hours

COST: admission or free with annual pass

WHAT: You'll find special Holiday shows from Clyde & Seamore and one of my favorites A Dolphin Island Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed-Reindeer will be there for meet and greets, have your photo taken with Santa, hear a story read by Mrs. Claus in the Christmas Village with a nightly SNOW fall, see a live nativity show, watch Rudolph's Movie and see the lighted musical Happiest Christmas Tree or have breakfast with Santa and the Orcas.

❄️ Holidays at LEGOLAND (Carlsbad)

DATES: Nov. 17 - Dec. 31, 2018

COST: admission or free with annual pass

WHAT: LEGOLAND: See the LEGO Christmas Tree, live entertainment, new holiday light show, music, twinkling lights, and nightly snow fall in Heartlake City. Enjoy live entertainment with LEGO Friends Live and a life-sized LEGO Brick Santa and Reindeer for a photo. Special holiday treats and a holiday market.

WHAT: SEALIFE AQUARIUM: A special holiday themed daily dive show and décor throughout. Check out the SEA LIFE inspired LEGO ornaments handmade by some of our most loyal fans on the Christmas Tree displayed in the upstairs atrium.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo (Balboa Park)

DATES: Dec. 14, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019

COST: admission or free with annual pass, (buy your tickets online before you go!)

WHAT: The Zoo is transformed into a magical wonderland with lighted animal sculptures, twinkling lights, acrobatic elves, Storytime (hear the zoo’s version of ’Twas the Night Before Christmas), Live music & singing, Reindeer Games with hula hoops and dancing, Gingerbread landing with zoo characters, Animal encounters, Holiday forest at the Northern Frontier, and our favorites the Holiday 4D movies: Polar Express & Happy Feet!

HOLIDAY EVENTS: see below for Ongoing Dates OR Select Dates

-->Ongoing Dates:

Holiday By The Bay (downtown)

DATES: Nov. 21, 2018 - Jan. 5, 2019

(see specific dates of operation below)

TIME: 5-11pm

COST: $20/adults, $15/kids, plus lots of other options and add-ons

WHAT: San Diego’s exclusive holiday adventure park. Create a new family tradition with an exhilarating ride down a two-story 100-foot ice slide and take a spin in an ice bumper car. Toast s’mores, sip festive cocktails, and marvel at a spectacular interactive light show. Gather loved ones for sweet and savory fare and delight in activities of the season from stocking trimming to cookie decorating. Days of operation: Nov. 21-25, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, Dec. 7-9, 14-16, 21-30, Jan. 4-5

Oma's Christmas Tree Farm and Fun (Lakeside)

DATES: Nov. 23 - December 15, 2018

TIME: Tues - Fri from 3-8pm; Saturdays from 10am-7pm; Closed Sundays & Mondays

COST: $5/adults ages 14+; $7/child ages 1-13

INCLUDES: candy cane, water bottle & all the fun activities of their Pumpkin Patch

WHAT: Lots of beautiful trees to choose from. Douglas and Noble Firs. 5 feet tall up to 9 feet tall. Prices start at $24.95. Beautiful Fresh Wreaths available as well. Celebrate your December birthday at Oma's!

Santa Train: the North Pole Limited (Campo)

DATES: Nov. 30 - Dec. 22, 2018

TIME: 5pm and 7pm departures

COST: $10-$65

WHAT: Santa’s elves will sing Christmas carols, read a Christmas story and pass out cookies and hot chocolate. The North Pole Limited will stop at Santa’s Workshop to pick up Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will visit with everyone on the ride back to the Campo Depot.

TIPS: It's advised to arrive 45 min. before departure to find parking and get tickets.

Seas 'n' Greetings at Birch Aquarium (La Jolla)

DATES: Dec. 1-31, 2018

TIME: 9am-5pm (closed Christmas)

WHAT: Birch Aquarium is transformed into a holiday wonderland. Deck the Hall (of Fishes) and get into the holiday spirit every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and check the schedule for special appearances by Scuba Santa as well as themed animal encounters, a scavenger hunt, and fun photo opportunities. On Saturdays and Sundays, things are even more festive with live music and two daily dive shows. The schedule changes daily.

❄️ Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Gardens (Encinitas)

DATES: Dec. 1-23 & 26-30, 2018

TIME: 5-8:30pm

COST: $5-$25, varies based on age, military, regular nights vs. premium nights

Tickets are only available on site the day of, no advance purchase available

Some activities cost extra, bring cash

WHAT: The Garden is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 125,000 sparkling lights illuminating the Garden for a magical holiday experience! Festive holiday activities abound including SNOW SLEDDING (sleds provided) & a TODDLER SNOW PIT!!, horse-drawn wagon rides (Dec. 14-23, & 26-30 from 5:30-8:30 at $3/pp age 3+), holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, musical light show, visits with Santa (FREE pictures, BYO Camera), hot mulled wine ($3-$6), food trucks (see schedule online) and refreshments. Enjoy great holiday entertainment every single night!

Holidays in the Park (Old Town)

DATES: *Dec. 2-17, 2017; Saturdays & Sundays only

TIME: Dusk-9pm

WHAT: The Merchants in the Park are extending their hours and will help you find just the right thing for the people on your list. The stores, restaurants, and museums in the park will be decorated to evoke the spirit of the season during the 1800s.

*This has been an annual event, but I haven't been able to confirm for 2018 yet.

-->Select Dates:

Holiday Marketplace & Tree Lighting (Liberty Station)

DATES: Nov. 30, 2018

TIME: 5-9pm

WHERE: Liberty Station, Point Loma

WHAT: 6:15pm Tree Lighting at North Promenade. Gather your loved ones in Liberty Station’s North Promenade for live entertainment from 5:00pm to 6:00pm and then gaze upon the 88-foot Norfolk Pine Tree as it is lit up by a patient family of Rady Children’s Hospital at 6:15pm. Throughout the evening there will be entertainment, shopping and more throughout the neighborhood. After the lighting, grab a quick snack or bite from the surrounding restaurants or food vendors, spread a cozy picnic blanket out on the lawn, and enjoy an outdoor viewing of a holiday movie, which will be projected onto a custom-made sail by a local craftsman.

Old Fashioned Christmas (Rancho Santa Fe)

DATES: Nov. 30, 2018

TIME: 5-10pm

COST: FREE to the public

WHERE: The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, front lawn

WHAT: Celebrate the season at our 5th Annual Ode Fashioned Christmas Event. Festivities to include: S’mores and Hot Cocoa, Food & Drink Concessions, Visit and Pictures with Santa, Soup Challenge with proceeds donated to Tender Loving Canines, And a Winter Wonderland Surprise!

Christmas on Crystal Pier: Santa Photos & Tree Lighting (Pacific Beach)

DATE: Dec. 1, 2018

TIME: 2-5pm

WHAT: Join in celebrating the holiday season and get a one-of-a-kind photo on historic Crystal Pier taken with Santa, just in time for holiday cards to go out. Photos cost $10, or $5 with a donation of school supplies for Pacific Beach schools. Photos are first-come, first-serve, and will end at 5pm (no guarantees if you arrive after 3:45pm). Be sure to stick around after the photo shoot, because Santa will help turn on the holiday lights along the pier and tree after sunset. (Some needed school supplies include: hand sanitizer (large family size), sanitizing wipes, Kleenex boses, color & white copy paper 8x11.5, staplers & staples, adult scissors, post-its, white cardstock paper, spiral notebooks, glue sticks, colored pencils & markers.)

Little Italy Tree Lighting

DATE: Dec. 1, 2018

TIME: 4-8pm

WHAT: Experience Little Italy’s Christmas magic and will be able to enjoy the community’s festive décor, seasonal vendors, live music and entertainment, horse carriage rides, holiday treats, a tree lighting, a visit from Santa and more! Families, friends and neighbors will experience Little Italy’s Christmas magic and will be able to enjoy the community’s festive décor, seasonal vendors, live music and entertainment, horse carriage rides, holiday treats, a tree lighting, a visit from Santa, and more! Santa will chat and take photos with the kids from 4-6:30pm in “Santa’s Living Room” on India Street. Kid's arts and crafts will be available right next to “Santa’s Living Room” with Washington Elementary STEAM Magnet School and ArtReach. Little Italy’s 25-foot tower Poinsettia Tree at Piazza Basilone will be lit-up all night. The Tree Lighting Ceremony will be at the 2nd tree at the Piazza della Famiglia at 6:30pm on W. Date and India Streets.

❄️ Winter Wonderland (Rancho Penasquitos)

DATES: Dec. 1, 2018

TIME: 11am-3pm

COST: $3 per wristsband, cash only

FREE if you bring in a new toy for Toys for Tots

WHERE: Hilltop Recreation Center

WHAT: Join us for our annual Winter Wonderland at Hilltop Park. Come enjoy tons and tons of snow, train and pony rides, plus air jumps all for only $3 per wristband (cash only please). We will be collecting Toys for Tots this year! Bring in a new, unwrapped toy for a free wristband. Live music provided by the Gordon Kohl Band from 12-3pm. Bring your camera! Santa will be in his workshop between 12-3pm for photos. There will also be food available for purchase. Be sure to bring extra warm clothes, it can get chilly in the afternoon. Avoid the line and purchase tickets online: www.sdrecconect.com - Activity Code: 56600

❄️ Winter Wonderland (Escondido)

DATES: Dec. 1, 2018

TIME: 3pm

COST: FREE

WHERE: California Center for the Arts

WHAT: Every year, the Center brings the North Pole to the heart of Escondido. Children will have the chance to frolic in real snow, create winter-themed arts and crafts, and even rendezvous with live reindeer!The highlight for kids is, of course, Santa Claus himself, but there will also be a number of holiday-themed entertainers—from carolers, to stilt walkers, to hula dancers—for all ages to enjoy.Food and drink will be available to warm your hands and hearts, and a number of local businesses will be displaying their wares for your holiday shopping needs.

❄️ UTC Mall Winter Nights (La Jolla/UTC)

DATES: Dec. 1, 8 & 15, 2018

TIME: 5-8pm

WHAT: Westfield UTC will be transformed into a magical winter wonderland the first three Saturdays in December. Each evening will feature festive holiday entertainment with live musical performances by local choirs, headlining acts in partnership with STAR 94.1, holiday carolers, sweet eats, along with crafts, story time (6pm by the koi pond w/ magical SNOW FLURRIES!), photos with Santa and fun activities for the whole family.

Frosty Farm at Helen Woodward Animal Center (Rancho Santa Fe)

DATES: Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 & 16, 2018

TIME: 9am-1pm

COST: $11/adult; $21/child

Register online

WHAT: This unique event in San Diego combines festive activities with hands-on animal interactions. A member of our cheerful crew will lead you on a 1 hour excursion to see the wintry animals and make some holiday crafts. Lots of other activities while you wait for your excursion include: meet Santa, take photos with many other animals, crafts, elf obstacle course, holiday music, face painting, hot cocoa and games. They also have an evening event detailed below.

Pacific Highlands Ranch Tree Lighting, Santa & Free Train Rides (Carmel Valley)

DATES: Dec. 1, 2018: Tree Lighting from 5-7:30pm

Dec. 9, 2018: Santa Photos from 3-6pm

Dec. 1, 2, 8 & 9, 2018: FREE Train Rides from 11am-8pm

WHAT: TREE LIGHTING: Enjoy live music, photos with Santa & Mrs. Claus – courtesy of Keane Studios – and sweet treats. SANTA PHOTOS: Enjoy Live music and photos with Santa & Mrs. Claus – courtesy of Keane Studios.

Winter Wonders Family Day at The Nat (Balboa Park)

DATE: Dec. 2, 2018

TIME: 11am

COST: Admission

WHERE: The San Diego Natural History Museum

WHAT: ’Tis the season to bundle up & stay out of the cold! We’re pretty lucky here in San Diego, but many animals have to get ready for the winter months ahead. We'll discover animal adaptations and have hands-on activities and make a craft to take home. Brrrrrr!

Santa By The Sea & Christmas Tree Village (Del Mar)

DATE: Dec. 2, 2018

TIME: 3-5pm (tree lighting at 5pm)

COST: FREE to the public

WHERE: L'Auberge Del Mar

WHAT: Enjoy the magic of the holidays in Del Mar Village with a special visit from Santa and an afternoon of activities that lead up to the big event - the annual Tree Lighting.Holiday treats and refreshments will be available as well as fun-filled holiday crafts for all to enjoy. Design your own rad hat and write a letter to Santa’s workshop.. Get into the spirit of giving by bringing new, unwrapped toys for children in need.

Brunch With Santa (Hotel Del, Coronado)

DATES: Dec. 2, 9, 16 & 23, 2018

TIME: 9am-1pm

COST: $105/adults, $40/ages 6-12, FREE for kids 5 and under

WHAT: Kids of all ages can visit with jolly ol’ St. Nick in the Crown Room during The Del’s festive Sunday Brunch on December 2, 9, 16 and 23. Parents will want to bring their cameras to capture the magical moments with Santa.

40th Annual December Nights (Balboa Park)

DATE: Dec. 7, 2018 from 3-11pm

Dec. 8, 2018 from 12-11pm

WHAT: Friends, families and the community are invited to come together for festive fun, food and attractions throughout the park, including complimentary admission to Balboa Park museums from 5-9 pm. They'll feature light displays, inspiration choirs, bands and dancers, festive food and much more. This is the largest free community festival in San Diego and usually attract more than 350,000 visitors.

TIPS: PLAN AHEAD! There is a "Plan Ahead" feature on their website for parking, shuttles, food, entertainment schedule and everything else you need to know before you go.

❄️ Alpine Village Christmas Parade & Snow (Alpine)

DATE: Dec. 7, 2018

TIME: 6-9pm

WHAT: Annual Alpine Village Christmas Parade of Lights & Snow Festival features our holiday parade of lights that starts off at 6:00. The parade begins at the corner of Alpine Blvd. and West Victoria Drive and ends at the festival at the Alpine Creek Towne Center.

St. Nick at Night at Helen Woodward Animal Center (Rancho Santa Fe)

DATES: Dec. 7, 14 & 21, 2018

TIME: 5-6pm OR 6:15-7:15pm

COST: $10/child, adults are free

Register online

WHAT: Join us for the prelude to Frosty Farm: St. Nick at Night! This family event is festive, yet relaxed, and is the perfect place to escape the hectic holiday happenings. Enjoy cookie decorating, hot cocoa, beautiful lights, animal interactions, a craft, and group story time with Santa. Your family can still enjoy the daytime activities at Frosty Farm because there will be different animals to meet, crafts to create, and activities to enjoy!

*Gardens Aglow at the Water Conservation Garden (El Cajon)

DATES: *Dec. 7-9, 14-16, 2017

(This is last year's info, no confirmation of this year's dates yet)

TIME: 6-8pm

COST: $5/adults; $3 kids aged 3-11; FREE for kids 2 and under. FREE Parking!

Single tickets valid for any one night or buy a pass for unlimited visits.

Reserve your spot online!

WHAT: Experience the magic of The Garden aglow with holiday lights! Enjoy festive holiday treats and refreshments as you stroll along gardens each uniquely decorated and illuminated. See The Garden as you have never seen it before and create lasting holiday memories with family and friends. Each night will feature the following activities:

Fridays, Dec. 8 & 15: Kids’ Craft Making

Saturdays, Dec. 9 & 16: Visits with Santa

Saturday, December 16: Kids’ Gift Shop – low-cost items for kids to buy for their family

❄️ Holiday in the Village (La Mesa)

DATE: Dec. 7, 2018 from 4-9pm

Dec. 8, 2018 from 10am-9pm

WHAT: Walk the streets of La Mesa's historic downtown and enjoy live music and dance, cozy fires, craft vendors, carnival games, train ride, food, face painting, Santa's Village and SNOW! (Snow fall times are tba.)

Coaster Holiday Express (Oceanside)

DATES: Dec. 8 & 9, 2018 from 10am, 12pm & 2pm

COST: SOLD OUT!!!

WHAT: Santa Claus, his elves, the Snow Queen, and the Ice Princess just can't wait to sing carols with you, take photos, and hear what you want for Christmas! The train ride is 65 minutes on a nonstop train ride, down the coast and back. It departs from the Oceanside Transit Center and will not make stops at any other station.

❄️ Nightly Snowfall & Holiday Fun at the Village Walk at Eastlake (Eastlake/Otay Ranch)

DATE: Holiday Fun: Dec. 8, 2018 from 12-3pm

Nightly SNOW Fall: Dec. 8 at 1pm, 2pm & 3pm; Dec. 8-24, 2018 at 6pm & 7pm

TIME: 12-3pm

COST: FREE

WHAT: HOLIDAY FUN ON DEC. 8th: Bring the kids and your cameras and snap a photo of your child with Santa. Pick up a free coloring book from Santa’s elf and then take a free train ride around the shopping center. Plus, children ages 12 and under are invited to make a free holiday craft (while supplies last). Special afternoon snowfalls will occur at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Enjoy a leisurely lunch or a quick bite to eat at one of our delicious restaurants or eateries and then spend the rest of the afternoon with us shopping and enjoying one of our many free activities. The event will be held rain or shine; however, some activities may be impacted by weather. NIGHTLY SNOW FALL DEC. 8-24: Experience a Winter Wonderland and watch the snow fall with us. It’s completely free and completely magical.

Gingerbread House Decorating (Del Mar)

DATE: Dec. 8, 2018

TIME: 10-11am

COST: $35

WHERE: L'Auberge Del Mar

WHAT: Join us for a memorable holiday event with your child to create a gingerbread house. Dress for the occasion at the beautiful L’Auberge Del Mar. Ticket includes one gingerbread house for per child, a custom treat and pictures with your child.

Christmas in the Park (Poway)

DATE: Dec. 8, 2018

TIME: 3:30-8:30pm

Christmas Tree Lighting at 5:15pm

Santa arrives by train at 5:30pm

COST: FREE

WHAT: Welcome Santa as he arrives by Train. Help out with the Christmas Tree lighting, Horse-drawn hay and pony rides, petting zoo, face painting, train rides, model trains, and live entertainment. Holiday sweets and warm dinner foods.

TRANSPORTATION: Free Shuttles to and from the event will be available from two different locations. Locations include the Poway City Hall Parking Lot, 13325 Civic Center Drive; with the additional location at the Poway Adult School Parking lot located at 13626 Twin Peaks Road. Shuttles will run throughout the event, beginning at 3:00 PM and leaving Old Poway Park for the last trip at 9:00 PM.

Breakfast with Santa (Fashion Valley Mall)

DATE: Dec. 8 & 9, 2018

TIME: 8:30-10am

COST: $45/adults, $35/kids 3+.

Includes breakfast & photo with Santa.

WHERE: Nieman Marcus Zodiac Restaurant

WHAT: Join us for breakfast with Santa Claus in our legendary Winter Wonderland! Let the kids chat up St. Nick and avoid the long lines at the mall. Call Neiman Marcus to make your reservation: 619-542-4450

❄️ Santa at the Lakes (Santee)

DATE: Dec. 9, 2018

TIME: 10am-3pm

COST: $10/parking, + $1 tickets for activities and rides (1-7 tickets each)

WHAT: Our famous Snow Hill, Story book Island with your favorite characters to meet and greet, crafts, face painting, pony rides and of course Santa and so much more!

(DATE NIGHT: Ales N Rails at San Diego Model Railroad Museum (Balboa Park)

DATE: Dec. 14, 2018

TIME: 6-9pm

COST: Included in regular admission: $11/adults; $5 ages 6-14; Free for kids 5 and under

WHAT: Join us for a super chill event that celebrates ugly holiday sweaters, model trains, and craft beer in one of the largest model railroad museums in North America! Show off your most festive holiday sweater at our Ugly Sweater Contest. Test your observational skills by going on a layout scavenger hunt. And while on your quest, visit local breweries Benchmark Brewing Company, Mike Hess Brewing, Pizza Port Brewing Company, Home Brewing Co, and Thorn Brewing Co. These amazing producers of heavenly nectar will be pouring samples of their delicious brews. Your ticket isn’t just a boarding pass to one of the most engaging fundraisers in San Diego, it is also an opportunity to help maintain the permanent exhibits at The San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Space is limited, buy tickets online.

Las Posadas (Old Town)

DATE: Dec. 15, 2018

TIME: 12-8pm

5pm procession starts, 4:45pm gather if you want to participate

WHERE: Procession starts in front of the print shop

WHAT: A traditional Las Posadas procession is based on the story of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter in Bethlehem. This event has been part of Old Town San Diego’s celebration of Christmas for 69 years. Everyone is invited to join the candlelight procession. Sing traditional holiday songs in Spanish and English as you go from inn to inn, symbolically asking for lodging. The procession culminates with a nativity tableau in front of Casa de Estudillo along with a choir performance. Following the procession there will be a piñata for children at the Wells Fargo History Museum. The day’s festivities will wrap up with a bonfire and s’mores in the Plaza presented by Fiesta de Reyes.

Polar Express Family Day at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (Balboa Park)

DATE: Dec. 15, 2018

TIME: 11am-3:30pm

COST: Included in regular admission: $11/adults; $5 ages 6-14; Free for kids 5 and under

WHAT: Pajama Party! Join us for a magical journey to the north pole. Come in your pajamas, snuggle in your favorite blanket and watch The Polar Express on the big screen. After the movie, kids can make a special keepsake and might get to see a very important friend of the museum. ;) Movie starts at 11:30am.

Wake Up Santa! at Clairemont Town Square (Clairemont)

DATE: Dec. 15, 2018

TIME: 10am

TIME: FREE

WHAT: Shhh, Santa is sleeping – go take a peek. Wake him up on December 15th at 10am and walk with him over to the fountain area near Reading Cinemas to enjoy FREE photos with Santa, kid’s crafts, face painting, balloon art, Holiday music.

Nutcracker Tea Party with San Diego Ballet (Liberty Station)

DATE: Dec. 16, 2018

TIME: 3:30-5:30pm

WHAT: Liberty Station welcomes the community to partake in the magic of the holiday season at its inaugural Nutcracker Tea Party with Santa at Building 177 on Sunday, Dec. 16 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. A new addition to the communities Salute the Season festivities, this seasonal, family-friendly event will encompass an afternoon of tea, hot cocoa and cookies; a narrated, interactive performance of The Nutcracker by San Diego Ballet; a visit from Santa and more!