San Diego

Weekend roundup

December 23-26


Old Town Trolley Holiday Lights & Sights Tour

Through Dec. 30. All aboard! This uniquely San Diegan experience lets you explore the festive lights and landmarks of the city—including historical Old Town (aka the birthplace of California), Balboa Park, the downtown embarcadero and Seaport Village, where you’ll stop for some extra holiday entertainment. The adventure includes a seat aboard an old-fashioned Old Town trolley, complete with carol sing-alongs and elf conductors who double as tour guides full of fun facts. $30 adults; $25 kids ages 4-12; free ages 3 and under. 4010 Twiggs St., Old Town, 866.754.0966.

Winter Wonderland at Belmont Park

Through Jan. 2. Celebrate the holidays by the beach! The oceanfront amusement park is offering myriad festivities—including its “Illuminated Winter Nights” experience, 15-foot-tall holiday sculptures, kids’ activities, special movie nights and an interactive holiday map with fun stops throughout the property. Most of the park’s usual attractions and rides are also open, including the historical Giant Dipper roller coaster; along with many restaurants, such as Cannonball, Draft and Beach House. Open daily (see website for hours). Free general admission. 3146 Mission Blvd. Mission Beach.

Coronado Cays Gondola Tours

Ongoing. If you squint hard and use your imagination, the Coronado Cays can transform into the canals of Venice (sort of) with this romantic experience. Book a cruise for two (or up to six passengers) via The Gondola Company aboard a Venetian-style gondola for a 50-minute tour through the Silver Strand’s luxury marina community. Packages comprise daytime tours, sunset cruises and upgrades that include a professional live mandolin player or violinist to serenade your party. W-Su (see website for required reservations). 503 Grand Caribe Causeway, Suite C, Coronado, 619.429.6317.

Whale-Watching Kayak Tours

Ongoing. It’s officially whale-watching season! Imagine the awe of spotting a 45-ton gray whale while aboard a kayak in the calm waters of La Jolla Shores. Everyday California is offering guided, two-hour kayak tours during which the chances are good. (The whales migrate every winter from Alaska to the warm lagoon waters of Mexico, passing by California along the way.) The ocean-adventure company is limiting tours to small groups and also offering stand-up paddleboard rentals. See website for reservations and pricing. 2261 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla Shores, 858.454.6195.

Food + Drink

Holiday Cheer at Nason’s Beer Hall

Through Jan. 3. When a beer hall decks its halls for the holidays, consider the assignment understood. Head to Pendry San Diego’s casual hangout for some holiday cheer—including over-the-top festive decor, beers, bites and libations. Specialty cocktails include the Merry & Bright with Casamigos reposado, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram and hibiscus; I’ll Have S’More Booze with Baileys, Saint George coffee liqueur and marshmallow syrup; and Santa’s Little Helper with Irish whiskey, crème de cacao, maple syrup and egg whites. See website for hours. 570 J St., Gaslamp Quarter, 619.738.7060.

New Cocktails at Rare Society Solana Beach

Now Available. Channeling a nostalgic-glam, Rat Pack-era vibe, the new steakhouse has launched an elevated cocktail program. The Rare Old Fashioned (pictured) is the star—made with dry-aged, fat-washed bourbon, charred rosemary, crispy bacon, largo and wagyu-bourbon cherry. Other new libations have a local spin, such as The Coaster, Solana Highlands and 75 & Sunny. On the food menu: premium steaks, seafood, Caesar salad and decadent desserts; plus specialties such as dry-aged meatballs and roasted bone marrow with chimichurri. W-Su 5-10 p.m. 333 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, 858.771.0181.

Bernardo Winery 

Open. As SoCal’s oldest operating winery (founded in 1889 and family-owned), Bernardo Winery offers it all. Enjoy a quaint wine-tasting experience amid landscaped gardens; and dine on woodfired pizzas, salads and small plates at The Kitchen restaurant. It’s also an ideal place to shop for holiday gifts for the wine lover in your life. Inside the Village Shops, you’ll find wine gift baskets, gourmet foods, coffee, sweets such as old-fashioned butter caramels, home and garden accessories, jewelry and other gift items—all locally made. 13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte, Rancho Bernardo, 858.487.1866.

Kenzi Coffee & Tea Garden 

Open. Translating to “my treasure” in Arabic and “symbol of wisdom” in Japanese, Kenzi is a community cafe offering coffee, tea, baked goods and fresh flowers. We love the minimalist, urban feel of the space; and the assortment of loose-leaf teas and creative coffee drinks. Try the honey-lavender latte; the chai tea steamed with rose petals and milk; or (if you’re especially sleepy) the Keith Richards—four espresso shots with Mexican hot chocolate. Order from walkup counter enjoy on the sidewalk patio. Open daily 8 a.m.-3 p.m. 319 Elm St., BankersHills, 619.629.2545.

Arts + Culture

A Magical Cirque Christmas

Upcoming | Dec. 27. Experience some electrifying holiday magic at the Civic Theatre with A Magical Cirque Christmas—produced by the same minds behind the Broadway smash hit The Illusionists. Cirque performers from all over the world will dance, sing and showcase jaw-dropping stunts and acrobatics in a spellbinding production hosted by Lucy Darling. The family-friendly production also features classic holiday music performed live and plenty of comedic moments. See website for theater safety protocols. 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $27.50. 1100 Third Ave., downtown, 888.973.7469.

Shen Yun Dance Performance

Upcoming | Dec. 28-29. New York-based dance company Shen Yun stops by the Civic Theatre with its new touring production that takes us into magical ancient China—exploring its history, spiritual roots and culture. (Founded in 2006, Shen Yun has been banned from performing in China, prompting fans to travel to the U.S. to see it over the years.) The show features classical Chinese dance and folk-dance choreography; along with history-rich, story-based dance, high-tech backdrops, jaw-dropping acrobatics and vivid costumes. See website for times and pricing. 1100 Third Ave., downtown, 888.973.7469.

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

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