San Diego

Weekend roundup

December 2-5


Holiday Happenings at La Valencia Hotel

Begins Dec. 2. La Jolla’s iconic “Pink Lady” is offering myriad holiday celebrations. Experiences include its annual tree lighting on Thursday, complete with homemade treats, holiday beverages, carolers and children’s crafts (free entry and open to the public); “Holiday Tea at The Med” on Dec. 3 and select dates throughout the month—featuring exclusive French teas, scones, pastries and sandwiches; and “Brunch with Santa” on select dates beginning Dec. 4—showcasing the hotel’s decadent weekend brunch menu. See website for details, reservations and pricing. 1132 Prospect St., La Jolla, 855.476.6870.

“Taste of December Nights” at Balboa Park

Dec. 3-5. In lieu of its traditional annual event that drew 350,000-plus visitors, Balboa Park is instead presenting a drive-thru holiday experience this year (due to uncertainty of public health conditions at the time of planning). Enjoy live entertainment and bites from local vendors and food trucks from the comfort of your car, in a festive setting at the Inspiration Point north parking lot. The park’s International Cottages will also host a drive-thru dessert booth. See website for details. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Inspiration Point Way, Balboa Park.

Holiday Fun at Fairmont Grand Del Mar

Begins Dec. 4. Enjoy “Afternoon Tea” in the resort’s lobby lounge Dec. 4-12 (select dates), and then daily Dec. 18-26. The experience includes teas, sandwiches, scones and sweets (with the option to add bubbly). Or book “Tea With Santa” that includes a photo with Saint Nick. “Holidays at Del Mar Social Club” is back this year, featuring music, carolers, gingerbread-house-making, holiday cocktails and more on the back lawn. See website to book a cabana or private fire pit, and for all holiday reservations. 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, Del Mar, 858.314.2000.

Little Italy Tree Lighting and Christmas Village

Dec. 4. The Little Italy Association officially kicks off the holiday season with its 23rd annual, family-friendly celebration. The ‘hood will be transformed into a winter wonderland featuring 10-foot-tall gold nutcrackers; glittering kinetic spiral trees; the lighting of the permanent 25-foot-tall live tree in Piazza della Famiglia; and the return of the 25-foot-tall Aurora Tree—a Venetian-inspired tree designed by artist Joshua Hubert, located in the Piazza Basilone. The fun also includes holiday treats, seasonal vendors and live entertainment. 4-8 p.m. Free. 523 W. Date St., Little Italy, 619.233.3898.

“Seas ‘n’ Greetings” at Birch Aquarium

Through Dec. 31. Transformed into an underwater winter wonderland, the aquarium hosts a month-long celebration filled with “SEAsonal” family fun. Take advantage of festive photo ops, an interactive scavenger hunt with prizes for kids, holiday music and ocean-themed gifts for purchase in the aquarium’s retail shop. Be sure to check out the new jellyfish exhibit in the Hall of Fishes, and keep an eye out for Scuba Santa. Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $24.95 adults; $19.95 children (see website for required reservations). 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, 858.534.3474.

Food + Drink

Shootz Fish + Bar

Now Open. Executive chef Davin Waite (Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub, The Plot, Whet Noodle) has partnered with pro surfer Cheyne Magnusson and fellow surfer Chris Slowey to bring us this new “Maui meets Baja” counter-style concept. The latest culinary offering at Oceanside’s growing Tremont Collective, Shootz (which loosely means “right on” in Magnusson’s native Hawaii) shares patio and interior space with craft beer tasting room Bottlecraft—serving seafood in the form of line-caught poke, off-the-boat tacos, daily market specials and more. W-Su noon 7 p.m. 602 S. Tremont St., Oceanside, 760.696.3524.

Bull and Bourbon

Open. Did some say surf ‘n’ turf? Sycuan Casino Resort’s glamorous flagship restaurant is offering filet mignon with lobster tail every Wednesday night for just $29; plus acoustic concerts every Friday and Saturday. While the AAA Four Diamond steakhouse is known for its premium hand-cut steaks—including a 36-ounce tomahawk ribeye and 22-ounce porterhouse (complete with an in-house butcher program)—we also love the jumbo-lump crab cakes, wagyu burger with smoked cheddar, and vast selection of bourbons and single-malt scotches. W-Su 4-10 p.m. 5469 Casino Way, El Cajon, 619.659.3374.


Open. With its rich, blue-hued seating and nautical touches, Saltwater looks and tastes like a trip to the Mediterranean. The seafood-focused restaurant features an impressive ice display showcasing local and global catches; plus a glass-enclosed wine room promising the perfect pairing. Chef Christopher Washburn’s menu includes pistachio-crusted tuna with grilled polenta (pictured) and lobster fettuccine; plus caviar, a raw bar and ocean-inspired cocktails such as the Reef cucumber-mint martini. Carnivores will love the bone-in ribeye. W-Su 4-10 p.m. 565 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, 619.525.9990.

RakiRaki Commons

Upcoming | Dec. 6. Chef Junya Watanabe debuts his latest multi-concept outpost in Little Italy. Taking over the space that formerly housed his second Yasai location, RakiRaki Commons houses four eateries. Sample Watanabe’s award-winning ramen bowls at RakiRaki Ramen; his famous karaage (Japanese fried chicken) at JCK; vegan and non-vegan sushi offerings at The Yasai by RakiRaki; and both traditional and plant-based Japanese plates at Matsuoka. And take advantage of grand opening discounts on Sapporo and Harland beers. See website for menus and hours. 2254 India St., Little Italy, 858.240.1445. More Info

Arts + Culture

Cygnet Theatre’s A Christmas Carol

Through Dec. 26. Cygnet Theatre’s annual holiday production of A Christmas Carol returns to Old Town Theatre. Step inside a Victorian Christmas card as we follow cantankerous banker Ebenezer Scrooge through a ghost-filled night that changes his outlook on the holidays and life itself forever. The family-friendly live show features lyrics and adaptation by Sean Murray (who also directs) and an original score by Billy Thompson; plus creative staging, singing, live sound effects and puppetry. See website for showtimes, safety protocols and ticket pricing. 4040 Twiggs St., Old Town, 619.337.1525.

San Diego Concert Band’s “Holiday Reunion”

Upcoming | Dec. 7-8. San Diego Concert Band presents its 32nd annual holiday celebration concerts at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre for Performing Arts—led by Roy Anthony Jr., with Pat Brown as Mistress of Ceremonies. Barbara Allen (pictured) takes the stage as this year’s special guest vocalist. Comprising nearly 100 musicians, the band has been a staple of the local music community for more than 30 years—performing traditional symphonic pieces, show tunes, marches and more. 7 p.m. $20 adults; $15 seniors, military and students. 6611 University Ave., La Mesa. Tickets

Photo credits: All images are courtesy of the venues and businesses featured.

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