Top San Diego Things to Do in December

Spindrift Seafood Crepes shine on The Marine Room’s limited-time holiday lunch menu.

Ice skating, December Nights, an ugly sweater holiday cruise and more fun things to do are on tap this month. Here are the top 30+ San Diego things to do in December.

Edited by Jordan Fraser.

North Park Toyland Parade
Dec. 1. This annual parade features a slew of celebrations, beauty queens, dance groups, vintage cars, bands and parade floats. Plus, Santa Claus will be riding atop his merry red fire engine and bells will be ringing as loved ones snuggle up in the bright, frosty air. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Free. University Avenue between Utah and Iowa streets, North Park, 619.269.7880. 


San Diego Botanic Garden lights up with more than 125,000 lights during Garden of Lights.

San Diego Botanic Garden’s Garden of Lights
Dec. 1-30. After the sun goes down, the San Diego Botanic Garden will transform into a dazzling winter wonderland with more than 125,000 sparkling lights illuminating the flora of this fantastic 37-acre urban oasis. Bring the family and experience the magic as you wander down the beautifully lit paths of several spectacular garden areas. Nightly entertainment, including local blues and jazz bands, as well as hot coffee and treats from the Feel Good Coffee Cart, will be available. Closed Dec. 24-25. 5-8:30 p.m. $5-$25. 230 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas, 760.436.3036.


South Park Holiday Walkabout
Dec. 1. Head to South Park for a fun-filled evening festival that showcases the unique architecture, independent businesses and restaurants of this quaint neighborhood. Enjoy complimentary treats, live entertainment, a tree lighting ceremony, pictures with Santa and special offers. 5:30-10 p.m. Free. Grape St. Square.


Teddy Bear Teas
Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15-23. Bring the little ones to this long standing Christmas tradition that culminates with a visit from Santa Claus. Holiday beverages, premium teas, fresh housemade pastries and desserts will be available. Each child will get a one-on-one with Santa and receive a keepsake teddy bear. 2:30-5 p.m. $59 adults, $39 children ages 4-12, free for children 3 and under. The Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Ave., downtown.


Winter Nights at Westfield UTC
Dec. 1, 8, 15. Westfield UTC kicks off the holidays during Winter Nights on the first three Saturdays in December. This annual holiday celebration includes live musical performances in Palm Plaza, festive entertainment, family-friendly activities and tasty bites for all to enjoy. 5-8 p.m. 4545 La Jolla Village Dr., University Town Centre.


La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival
Dec. 2. Experience the holidays in San Diego’s crown jewel with vintage automobiles, equestrian units, floats, marching bands and an appearance from Santa Claus. 1:30 p.m. Free. Girard Avenue, La Jolla.


Sono Fest and Chili Cook-Off
Dec. 2. Head to the border of North Park and South Park where a variety of restaurants will face off to create a unique, chef-driven take on the traditional stew. Up the block, an expansive beer garden pours local favorites including Modern Times Beer, Fall Brewing and Cutwater Spirits. Also enjoy a holiday craft market, two music stages, a food truck court and a kids play zone. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $6. 32nd at Thorn St., North Park.


Holiday Lunch at The Marine Room

Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21. Take advantage of the only time of year this San Diego dining institution is open for lunch. The a la carte menu is filled with favorites such as the restaurant’s signature Spindrift Seafood Crepes, Pistachio Crusted Maine Lobster Tail and more. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, 2000 Spindrift Dr., La Jolla, 858.459.7222.


December Nights
Dec. 7-8. Attracting more than 350,000 visitors annually, December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego. Savor international delicacies, sample homemade treats or sip on something to keep you warm from one of many food and drink vendors. Plus, live music, dance performances as well as 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.


“The Nutcracker”
Dec. 7-23. Channel your inner sugar plum fairy and follow Clara’s magical journey at this elaborate and elegant production of the holiday classic by the San Diego City Ballet. Spreckles Theatre, 121 Broadway, downtown, 619.235.9500.


Urban Arctic
Dec. 8. Stylus Park’s central plaza will be filled with more than 100 tons of snow to create a festive winter scene and play land for the community to enjoy. Family-friendly activities include a visit from Santa, his reindeer and ice princess friends. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. Stylus Park, 2003 Artisan Way, Chula Vista.


National Pastry Day
Dec. 8. Celebrate the season and National Pastry Day with treats from Chef Melanie Dunn during a holiday open house at her eponymous pastry shop, Patisserie Melanie. The current selection of seasonal offerings includes pumpkin spice and apple cider macarons, pistachio croissants, chocolate and lemon tarts, caramels and assorted cookies. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. 3788 Park Blvd., Suite 4, University Heights, 619.677.2132.


Parade of Lights Dinner at Maritime Museum
Dec. 9, 16. Explore the entire collection of historic vessels from sail to steam to submarine with just one admission ticket and watch the annual Parade of Lights from the Maritime Museum’s premier waterfront location while enjoying a buffet dinner with no-host bar. 5-8 p.m. $50 adults, $25 children. 1492 N. Harbor Dr., Embarcadero, 619.234.9153.


Cathy Barnett stars as Louise Seger in the story of Seger’s friendship with legendary singer Patsy Cline.

“Always… Patsy Cline”
Dec. 12-30. Based on the touching story of Patsy’s friendship with Louise Seger, a fan who continued a correspondence with her to the end of her life, this song-filled dramatic musical experience is certain to thrill fans of the iconic singer. Always… includes a host of enduring Cline hits including “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Walking After Midnight.” $45. North Coast Repertory, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Plaza, Solana Beach, 858.481.1055.


Michter Whiskey Dinner at Stake
Dec. 13. Stake Chophouse and Bar’s Executive Chef Andrew Kedziora showcases the historical legacy of America’s first whiskey company with a curated dinner expertly complemented by Michter’s whiskey. Expect dishes such as dry aged beef roast with mushroom panisse and barrel aged soy sauce alongside pours of Michter’s American Unblended Small Batch whiskey, Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon and Small Batch Sour Mash. 6:30 p.m. $150. 1309 Orange Ave., Coronado, 619.522.0077.


Taste ‘n’ Tinis
Dec. 13. Make your holiday season fabulous with this self-guided walking tour of attractive drinks, captivating eats and local shopping. Participants can also grab a picture with Naughty Santa. Participating vendors include Village Hat Shop, Baja Betty’s, Manfest, Fiesta Cantina, Hillcrest Brewing Company and many more. 4-9 p.m. $25 in advance, $30 day-of. Check in at 535 Robinson Ave., Hillcrest.


Among The Pines 
Dec. 14-15. Trek through a snow-blanketed forest, uncover secret passageways and discover a movie experience like no other at this interactive movie screenng. Embark on an enchanted journey to reach your seat inside the cinema, where you can enjoy hot cocoa, popcorn and sweet treats. Eight movie showings include classics like Elf, The Polar Express, A Christmas Story and Home Alone. See website for showtimes and tickets prices. 325 15th St., East Village.


“Noel Noel”
Dec. 15, 21-22. The San Diego Symphony is set to deliver a particularly memorable holiday season with four showings 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 with the magic of music. See website for show times and prices. 750 B St., downtown, 619.235.0804.


Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade
Dec. 16. Jingle all the way through the Gaslamp Quarter with pooches dressed up as Santa, elves, reindeer and more. Furry, feathered and scaled companions are all welcome to attend. After the parade, enjoy a free pet expo with goodie bags, treats and various pet products. Noon-5 p.m. March starts and ends at MLK Promenade Park, 401 K St., Gaslamp Quarter.


“Looking For Christmas”
Through Dec. 16. This world-premiere musical about family, loyalty and the magic of Christmas centers around country music legend Clint Black and his 1995 chart-topping holiday album. White Theatre at the Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, 619.234.5623. 


Nutcracker Tea Party with Santa
Dec. 16. Partake in the magic of the holiday season at Liberty Station’s inaugural Nutcracker Tea Party with Santa, a new addition to the Salute the Season festivities. This seasonal, family-friendly event will encompass an afternoon of hot cocoa and sweets; a narrated, interactive performance of The Nutcracker by San Diego Ballet; a visit from Santa and much more. 3:30-5:30 p.m. $55. Building 177, 2875 Dewey Road, Liberty Station.


BO-beau’s Bon Anniversaire
Dec. 17-19. Ocean Beach French favorite BO-beau celebrates its eighth birthday with a selection of $8 bites and libations during happy hour, as well as complimentary birthday cupcakes. Bites include lamb sliders, goat cheese and pancetta flatbread, and crème brûlée, while sippers include the BO-beau mule, summertime sangria, and Cepage du Reve GSM red blend. 4:30-6:30 p.m. 4996 W. Point Loma Blvd., Ocean Beach, 619.224.2884.


Gingerbread Classes
Dec. 21-23. Adults and children alike are welcome to join in the spirit of the holidays with the Park Hyatt Aviara’s expert pastry team as they cheerfully guide you through a festive gingerbread decorating class. Reservations are required and space is limited. 1:30-3:30pm. $60. Avalon Ballroom, 7100 Aviara Resort Dr., Carlsbad.


Ugly Sweater Holiday Cocktail Cruise
Dec. 22. Don your ugly holiday sweater aboard the only floating holiday happy hour in San Diego with radio personality guest hosts Tati and Frankie, plus DJ Gigi from JAM’N 95.7. The cruise includes a boarding holiday cocktail, passed and stationary appetizers, and a cash bar with plenty of drink specials. Boarding 6 p.m., cruising 7-9 p.m. $40. Pier 2, 970 N. Harbor Dr., San Diego.


Free Day of Dance
Dec. 26. The Arts District’s Dorothea Laub Dance Place opens it’s doors for a free day of classes for enthusiasts of all levels and abilities across genres from ballet to tango to jazz. Feel the rhythm, meet the instructors and take sample classes during this annual dance day presented by San Diego Dance Connect, Malashock Dance, San Diego Ballet and San Diego Dance Theater. Plus, pop-up showcases will take place throughout the day on the Community Stage between the Rady Children’s Ice Rink at Liberty Station and The Lot movie theater. 2641 Truxtun Road, Liberty Station.


San Diego International Auto Show
Dec. 27-30. Be the first to see the model-year vehicles on display for 2019-20 with new technology, driver experience enhancement, luxurious interiors and cutting-edge designs. Plus, check out the entire exhibition of more than 400 vehicles from 40 global manufacturers. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. $11-$15. San Diego Convention Center, 111 W. Harbor Dr., downtown.


“Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas” 
Through Dec. 29. The perfect holiday tradition for spirited kids young and old, Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas is a colorful production of the heartwarming Dr. Seuss classic. See website for show times and ticket prices. Shiley Stage at the Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, 619.234.5623.


1500 OCEAN Best of Europe Menu
Through Dec. 30. Hotel del Coronado’s newly promoted Executive Sous Chef Patrick Ponsaty debuts a five-course menu special for December. Decadent dishes include foie gras and smoked eel Napoleon, Maine scallop pithivier, Marseille-style seafood stew and a seared venison chop served with winter root vegetables. The menu is available a la carte or in a prix-fixe five-course format with optional wine pairings. Not available Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. T-Sa 5:30-10 p.m. Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, 619.522.8490.


“A Christmas Carol” brings music, ghosts and a little redemption to the holiday season.

“A Christmas Carol”
Through Dec. 30. Expect 19th century tradition with a 21st century twist in this completely reimagined Dickens classic adapted for the stage by Cygnet’s resident director Sean Murray. This holiday musical features an original score, puppetry, live sound effects and a heart-warming tale of redemption. Cygnet Theatre at Old Town Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St., Old Town.


Skating by the Sea
Through Jan. 1. Hotel del Coronado’s Windsor Lawn transforms into an outdoor ice skating rink that overlooks the beach and Pacific Ocean. New this year, reserve your own rink-side lounge at Frostbite, a plush place to chill and enjoy full food and beverage service. Visit website for schedule and pricing. Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado.


Holiday on the Bay
Through Jan. 5. Ignite your holiday spirit with a ride down a two-story 100-foot ice slide, drive Iceberg Bumper Boats, visit Santa’s workshop, experience an interactive light show featuring a 30-foot Christmas tree and much more at this holiday extravaganza that transforms Bayfront Park into San Diego’s ultimate holiday destination. 5-11 p.m. See website for ticket prices. 1 Park Blvd., downtown, 619.564.3333.


A tech-enhanced exhibition, “Rising Tide” will take your mind to new spaces.

“Rising Tide”
Through Jan. 6. This interactive, multi-media exhibit features three distinct exhibitions by Francisco Eme, Jacob Sundstrom and Jana Brike, each of which creates an immersive environment that evokes stillness or space for contemplation. This tech-enhanced show will be like no art exhibit you’ve experienced before. San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado, Balboa Park, 619.236.0011. $5 GA, free SDAI members.


Holiday Lunch at Marine Room photo courtesy C3 Public Relations. Garden of Lights photo by John Bryant. “Always…Patsy Cline” photo courtesy New Theatre. “A Christmas Carol” photo by Ken Jacques. “Rising Tide” photo courtesy San Diego Art Institute.


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