Top San Diego Things to Do in December

Head to Hotel Del Coronado for ice skating that overlooks the beach.
Head to Hotel Del Coronado for ice skating that overlooks the beach.

From holiday festivities and parades to light shows and ice skating rinks, check out San Diego’s top December events.

Edited by Madelyn Harris.

Coronado Holiday Parade and Open House
Dec. 1. Be a part of the annual festivities, which include a nighttime parade along Orange Avenue, the lighting of a 50-foot Christmas tree and holiday concert. Coronado Ferry Landing, 1201 1st St., Coronado.

December Nights
Dec. 1-2. Attracting more than 350,000 visitors, Balboa Park December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego. Festivities include live music, dance performances, holiday light displays and many museums open their doors free of charge from 5-9 p.m. F 3-11 p.m., Sa Noon-11 p.m. Balboa Park.

19th Annual Little Italy Tree Lighting and Christmas Village
Dec. 2. Families, friends and neighbors will experience Little Italy’s transformation into a winter wonderland and enjoy the community’s festive decor, seasonal vendors, live music and entertainment, horse carriage rides, holiday treats, a tree lighting, a visit from Santa and more. 4-8 p.m. Free. India Street between W. Cedar and W. Grape Street.

54th Annual North Park Toyland
Dec. 2. This annual parade features a slew of celebrations, plus beauty queens, dance groups, vintage cars, bands and parade floats. 11 a.m. Free. University Avenue, North Park, 619.269.7880.

South Park Holiday Walkabout
Dec. 2. Head to South Park for a fun-filled evening festival that showcases all the unique areas and independent businesses. Enjoy complimentary treats, live entertainment, a tree lighting ceremony, pictures with Santa and special offers. 5-10 p.m. Free. Grape St. Square.

Holiday in the Park & Las Posadas
Dec. 2-17. See Old Town decked out for the holidays with extended evening shopping hours and strolling carolers. On December 9 at 5 p.m., join a candlelight procession and celebrate Las Posadas—a centuries-old tradition in which actors re-enact the biblical journey of Mary and Joseph through Bethlehem. Old Town State Historic Park, San Diego Avenue and Twiggs Street.

Head to the San Diego Botanic Garden for a dazzling winter wonderland.

Garden of Lights
Dec. 2-23, 26-30. After the sun goes down in December, the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland. More than 125,000 sparkling lights illuminate the flora of this fantastic 37-acre urban oasis each evening for a magical holiday experience. Families will also enjoy nightly entertainment, food, hot coffee and treats and a variety of activities including horse-drawn wagon rides, crafts, marshmallow roasting, snow sledding and more. 5-9 p.m. $10 members, $15 non-members.

Latin Nights
Dec. 2, 9, 15, 23. Experience Latin Nights at the Gaslamp’s newest nightlife destination. December’s theme is Cuban-inspired, providing a glamorous, avant-garde, cosmopolitan dining and dancing experience. Grab your dancing shoes and get ready for a night of exotic beats. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. No cover admission. Osetra Seafood & Steaks, 904 Fifth Ave.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
Dec. 3. Treat yourself to an unforgettable and magical experience for the entire family. The beloved film It’s a Wonderful Life will be screened while the cherished score is performed by the San Diego Symphony orchestra live. 2 p.m. $20-$71.

La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival
Dec. 3. Experience the holidays in La Jolla glory, with vintage automobiles, equestrian units, floats, marching bands and a Santa Claus appearance. 1:30 p.m. Free. Girard Ave., La Jolla.

‘The Nutcracker’
Dec. 8-24. Channel your inner sugar plum fairy at two stagings of the timeless holiday classic presented by the City Ballet of San Diego (Dec. 8-24) at the historical Spreckels Theatre (Dec. 9-23), and by the California Ballet at the Civic Theatre. Spreckles Theatre, 121 Broadway downtown; Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown.

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights
Dec. 9. More than 100 illuminated vessels parade along Mission Bay, followed by a fireworks show at 9 p.m. above SeaWorld. 6 p.m. Free. Mission Bay.

Toast of Gaslamp
Dec. 9. Don your festive attire, round up your friends and head downtown for a self-guided walking tour that will have you tasting, toasting and shopping with 20 sips, 20 bites and 20 shopping deals around the Gaslamp Quarter. Wear your favorite ugly holiday sweater to receive entry into the Gaslamp grand prize giveaway. 1-5 p.m. $25 in advance, $30 day-of event. El Chingon, Gaslamp District, 560 Fifth Ave.

Dress up your pooch and participate in a festive Christmas parade around the Gaslamp.
Dress up your pooch and participate in a festive Christmas parade around the Gaslamp.

Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade
Dec. 10. Pooches will dress up as Santa, elves, reindeer and more and march down the festive streets of the Gaslamp. After the parade, enjoy a free pet expo. 3 p.m. March starts and ends at MLK Promenade Park, 401 K St., Gaslamp Quarter.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Dec. 10, 17. See San Diego Bay twinkle with more than 100 private boats decked out with holiday lights for a festive night on the water. This year’s theme is “Arrrgh! A Pirate’s Christmas”. 5 p.m. Procession begins at Cesar Chavez Park before making the turn to Coronado.

Christmas Devil’s Exchange
Dec. 13. Little Italy hot spots Devil’s Dozen Donut Shop and award-winning Kettner Exchange will team up to host a holiday-inspired event. The evening will include a five-course dinner by Kettner Exchange executive chef de cuisine, Nick DeVries, plus beverages, wine and dessert. 6:30 p.m. $95. 2001 Kettner Blvd., 619.780.0914.

‘An American Christmas’
Dec. 14-24. Step back to 1917 for a memorable feast. Lamb’s Players Theatre presents this delectable four-course holiday meal in a unique setting of festive dance and song. Guests are encouraged to dress up in festive attire. View website for complete schedule and pricing. The US Grant, 326 Broadway, downtown. 

Noel Noel
Dec. 16, 22, 23. The San Diego Symphony is set to deliver a particularly memorable holiday season with four showing of San Diego’s favorite holiday music tradition. The performance will feature your favorite songs of the season and demonstrate the quest for the true meaning of the holidays. Visit website for schedule and prices. 750 B St., 619.235.0804.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
Dec. 20-Jan. 7. Featuring classic songs such as “God Bless America,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “White Christmas,” this wonderful one-man show celebrates the life and music of famed composer Irving Berlin. View website for full schedule. San Diego Rep, Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza.

‘Black Pearl Sings’
Through Dec. 17. Featuring over 20 folk and spiritual songs, this transcendent tale of an unlikely friendship between two strong women reveals the bridges that can be built through the power of song. San Diego Rep, Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, downtown,

Experience a Dickens classic at the Cygnet Theatre in Old Town.

‘A Christmas Carol’
Through Dec. 24. Expect 19th century tradition with a 21st century twist in this completely reimagined Dickens classic—now a new musical featuring an original score, puppetry and live sound effects. Cygnet Theatre at Old Town Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St., Old Town.

‘Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Radio Broadcast’
Through Dec. 24. San Diego Musical Theatre presents the heartwarming holiday classic retold as a live 1940s-era radio broadcast—with live Foley effects and a score of holiday songs. Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Ave.

Skating by the Sea
Through Jan. 1. See Hotel del Coronado’s Windsor Lawn transform into an outdoor ice skating rink that overlooks the beach and Pacific Ocean. Visit website for full schedule and pricing. Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado.

Rady Children’s Ice Rink
Through Jan. 7. Celebrate the holiday season by lacing up your skates and gliding away at this outdoor ice rink located in the historical NTC at Liberty Station. $14 adults, $12 kids. View website for full schedule. 2640 Historic Decatur Road, Point Loma.



Sign up for FREE to receive our exclusive Weekend Roundup!

Get the best things to do in our favorite SoCal spots delivered to your inbox every week

Los Angeles

Orange County

San Diego