The holidays are a wonderful time of year for anyone, but especially so for the little ones in your life! Each holiday season, San Diego comes to life with dazzling lights, live shows, outdoor markets, and sweet treats. Experience the best of this year’s holiday magic with the whole family at these kid-friendly holiday events and activities in San Diego — from nighttime fun at the San Diego Zoo to a LEGO themed holiday wonderland! Whether you’re a San Diego expert looking for fresh ideas, or simply coming into town for the holidays we’ve got you covered!
La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival
Spread some holiday cheer at one of La Jolla’s most beloved traditions: the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival! Complete with marching bands, floats, vintage automobiles, and of course, Santa Claus, this is a family-friendly event that shouldn’t be missed.
You’ll see floats, marching bands, community groups, drill teams, vintage vehicles, horses, and more. There will also be a Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting Ceremony, featuring children’s arts and crafts, live entertainment, educational exhibits, and photos with Santa, all steps away from one of the most magnificent ocean views San Diego has to offer. Stay tuned for the lighting of La Jolla’s official Christmas Tree at the La Jolla Rec Center!
SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration
Starts November 17
SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration is a great way to spend the day with kids; complete with seasonal shopping, festive food and drinks, and fun live shows. Holiday music will fill the air and guests will walk through a sea of lighted trees sparkles, transforming the park into a wintery, watery wonderland. Visit Santa’s Christmas Village to see Santa himself, meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends, and savor holiday flavors as you shop for unique gifts and decorations. Don’t forget to check out the massive 40-foot Christmas tree!
Balboa Park December Nights
December 7 & 8
Balboa Park December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego. This event is one of the most popular kid-friendly holidays in San Diego and is entering its 40th year with festive fun, food and attractions throughout the park. This event includes complimentary admission to Balboa Park museums from 5-9 p.m. Be sure to arrive early because December Nights draws thousands of visitors. Consider parking off-site and taking advantage of one of the complimentary shuttles.
Holiday Festival at Hotel Del Coronado
Join the Hotel Del Coronado for its Annual Holiday Festival! The evening will feature the season kickoff of Skating by the Sea, professional ice skating demonstrations, and spectacular fireworks displays. Children will delight at Santa’s Village, which will be filled with games, prizes, and photos with St. Nick. Best of all, families and friends will be front row at a holiday performance by Coronado’s schools. Afterwards, don’t miss out on the carnival games and the chance to make magical holiday memories with roasting s’mores on the beach! Tickets are available to purchase online.
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Holidays at LEGOLAND
Through December 31st
Enjoy holly jolly fun throughout LEGOLAND with festive shows and dÃ©cor all month long. The whole family will feel the holiday spirit when they see the 30-foot LEGO Christmas tree trimmed with awesome LEGO ornaments as it sparkles each night with music and light. This year, there will be new shows and live entertainment including a new holiday light show; LEGO Holiday character meet-and-greets at the new Holiday Village; special holiday treats and food offerings, including peppermint shakes, Nutella and peppermint crepes, and more; and a Fun Town Holiday Market on select days with limited time food offerings, such as grilled sausages, giant Bavarian pretzels, and spiced wine. LEGOLAND Hotel is also a great place to stay with kids, as it’s possibly the most kid-friendly hotel in all of the hotels in San Diego. The LEGO themed hotel fully adopts the LEGO theme throughout the guest rooms to the outdoor swimming pool.
Tree Lighting at La Valencia Hotel
Join La V’s annual family-friendly holiday tradition in La Sala Lounge at La Valencia Hotel (1132 Prospect Street), complete with warm holiday beverages, homemade cookies, classic carols, and children’s arts and crafts. The La Jolla Country Day School Madrigal Singers will begin caroling at 5pm, and the official Tree Lighting will be held at 6pm. Live entertainment from Roman Palacios will follow to complete the evening.
North Park Toyland Parade
Unwrap some magic this holiday season and partake in festive fun at the 55th Annual North Park Toyland Parade & Festival! Gliding down University Ave. between Utah and Iowa Streets, this cheerful Parade will feel like a Winter Wonderland, as marching bands, upbeat dance groups, cool vintage cars, beauty queens, city officials and more, warm your spirits. Santa Claus will be riding atop his merry red fire engine, and kids will delight in the colorful, festive floats and live music. All-day parking will be available for $1 at the North Park Parking Garage. The parade will be from 10am-1pm.
Seas ‘n’ Greetings at Birch Aquarium
Through December 31st
The magic of the holidays meets the magic of the underwater world at Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla during Seas ‘n’ Greetings, a month-long holiday celebration featuring SEAsonal activities for the whole family! Birch Aquarium will be transformed into a holiday wonderland all month long. Deck the Hall (of Fishes) and get into the holiday spirit every day from 9am to 5pm and check the schedule for special appearances by Scuba Santa, as well as themed animal encounters, a scavenger hunt, and fun photo opportunities. All Seas ‘n’ Greetings activities are included with admission ($19.50 for adults, $15 for children ages 3-17).
Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo
December 8 – January 1
This holiday season, the San Diego Zoo will be transformed into a wild wonderland of twinkling lights, merry-making performances, and festive foods. Santa will be on hand before Christmas to visit with the little ones, and some of his elves keep things hopping with an energetic trampoline performance, the Toy Shop Hop. For more Santa-themed adventures, there will be two special 4-D experiences: a train ride to the North Pole through the magic of The Polar Express and Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas, where guests join Manny, Sid, and Diego on a fun adventure.
From Dr. Zoolittle’s animal-themed version of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the Northern Frontier Holiday Forest aglow with stunning, specially decorated and lit trees, Jungle Bells is a fun event for the whole family! Sounds of the season will fill the air with an interactive jingly, jazzy carol session and a strolling musician engages guests in songs of the season. Don’t miss the two “dancing light” experiences set to holiday music.
Garden of Lights at San Diego Botanic Garden
December 1-23 & 26-30
Each December, the San Diego Botanic Garden is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 125,000 sparkling lights for a magical holiday experience. Festive holiday activities for the whole family include sledding, holiday arts and crafts, a Nutcracker display, marshmallow roasting, food trucks, hot mulled wine, beer and refreshments, as well as visits with Santa (Dec. 1 — 23) and horse-drawn wagon rides. Enjoy great live entertainment, including local blues and jazz bands, every night from 6pm-8pm, as well as delicious treats and food from Isaac’s Catering and local food trucks.
Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Balloon Parade
If your little ones love all things balloons, this is the holiday event for you! This New Year’s Eve, the scenic, bayside streets of downtown San Diego will come alive with the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade. As always, this exciting family event brings together world-class marching bands, magnificent floats, entertaining drill teams, and a procession of enormous balloons — more than any other parade in the western United States!
More than 100,000 street-side spectators will enjoy the parade this year, along with a nationwide television audience, to celebrate the big Holiday Bowl game with the parade. Street side viewing of the parade is totally free, so bring the whole family! The parade starts at 10am, but we recommend arriving early as parking downtown can be even more difficult during big events.
Frosty Farm at Helen Woodward Animal Center
December 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15 & 16
This festive event in San Diego combines hands-on animal encounters with family-friendly activities, which makes it the perfect place to create new memories! In addition to fun activities that you can do at your own pace, families will also get a one-hour excursion led by a member of their crew; this includes season’s greetings with a variety of animals, and a holiday craft that is yours to keep. “Santa’s helpers” will be at Frosty Farm from 9am-1pm each day, so you can arrive before your excursion starts or stick around after to enjoy several activities, including a personal meet-and-greet with Santa, photo ops with animals, a petting zoo, a variety of arts and crafts, an elf obstacle course, cookie decorating and hot cocoa, holiday music, face painting, and outdoor games.
For more San Diego holiday ideas, visit our events page!