• 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....


(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


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)