Top 10 Things to Do in San Diego This December

things to do in san diego this december

The holidays have officially begun, and San Diego is already bustling with festivities! Events start this week and go through the end of the month – everything from Balboa Park’s iconic December Nights to the Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade. We’ve got you covered on how to make the most of these beautiful, chillier winter evenings. Check out our top 10 things to do in San Diego this December!

1. Balboa Park December Nights

Dec 4 & Dec 5
Balboa Park December Nights will take place for the 38th consecutive year on December 4 and 5, when participating Balboa Park museums will open their doors free of charge from 5-9pm both evenings as part of a truly multicultural experience. Enjoy food from around the globe at the International Christmas Festival, shop for unique gifts at the museum stores and the artisans of Spanish Village, and enjoy musical and dance presentations from the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, and more!

2. Holiday Wonderland at Petco Park

Dec 4 – 23
Holiday Wonderland is back at Petco Park for the second year and it’s bigger and better than ever! Be transported through a spectacular holiday wonderland full of fun for the entire family for 12 nights in December. Walk through magical lighting displays themed around some of the holiday’s most iconic scenes, ride the Polar Express, take a picture with Santa, or gather around a bright 40-foot tree.

3. Garden of Lights

Dec 5 – 30
After the sun goes down in December, the Garden is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 100,000 sparkling lights illuminating the Garden for a magical holiday experience! Enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, visits with Santa, live music, refreshments and hot mulled wine. Snow also ‘falls’ on select nights. Adult admission for nonmembers is $14; children ages 3-12 are $8.

4. Old Town Holiday in the Park

Dec 5 – 26
Looking for unique and interesting gifts this holiday season? The Merchants in the Park are extending their hours and will help you find just the right thing for the people on your list. The stores, restaurants, and museums in the park will be decorated to evoke the spirit of the season during the 1800s. From dusk until 9pm you can take a break or end your evening with songs and a special holiday treat around the crackling fire on the plaza sponsored by Fiesta de Reyes.

SEE ALSO: 2nd Annual LJBB Toys for Tots Drive

5. 2015 SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off

Dec 6
Chili + beer + holiday shopping + kids fun fest = one perfect Sunday in December! Mark your calendar for the 6th annual SoNo Fest & Chili Cook Off on Sunday, Dec 6. 40 local restaurants competing in an all out chili smackdown, a craft beer and wine garden, 30 local handmade vendors perfect for holiday shopping, 11 local bands live on two stages, and 9 food vendors- plus a kids fun area complete with karaoke and ping pong. $20 gets you a ceramic chili tasting bowl and a chili pass.

things to do in san diego this december

6. La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

Dec 6
The beloved La Jolla Christmas Parade returns to the Village on Sunday, December 6 as one of the most festive events of the holiday season. Enjoy the afternoon watching beautiful floats, marching bands, grand marshals and honored dignitaries, beauty queens, marching units, cheerleaders, the colorful Silver Saddle Equestrian unit, La Jolla Fire Engines, aircraft flyovers, and of course, Santa Claus! This year’s theme is “100 Years of Holiday Cheer,” which pays homage to a long tradition of holidays in La Jolla.

7. San Diego Santa Run

Dec 12
The San Diego Santa Run is a holiday experience like none other in San Diego! The event will consist of a series of runs that will take place on Garnet Ave. featuring a 5K fun run and 1 mile run waves that include run with your dog, kids run, and a competitive wave. Come out in your finest (or ugliest) Christmas attire as you take part in this one-of-a-kind holiday experience – all participants into the 5K fun run will receive a free Sunny Santa suit: hat, short sleeve jacket, shorts, belt, and beard. Stick around to watch the Pacific Beach Holiday Parade after!

8. Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade

Dec 13
Pet owners and their furry, feathered, and scaled companions are invited to don their favorite costumes for a jolly promenade and pet expo on Sunday, December 13, at MLK Promenade Park, adjacent to the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter (401 K Street, San Diego, CA 92101). Entry* to participate in the Pet Parade is just $15 in advance per pet, $20 on the day of the event.

9. San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Dec 13 & Dec 20
The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is an annual tradition held on two consecutive Sundays in December. More than 80 boats will be lavishly decorated to this year’s theme, Christmas Around the World, and will proceed from Shelter Island past Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, and the Ferry Landing in Coronado. Good viewing spots from land are the north and south ends of the Embarcadero, and the pathway along Coronado Island.

things to do in san diego this december

10. Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade

Dec 30
The scenic, bayside streets of downtown San Diego will come alive with the 2015 Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade (previously the San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade). Enjoy world-class marching bands, magnificent floats, entertaining drill teams, and a procession of enormous balloons – more than any other parade! The parade begins at 10am sharp; grandstand tickets are $20 day of.


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Emily Ruchlewicz

Emily Ruchlewicz

News & Feature Writer at
Emily Ruchlewicz is a News and Feature writer at Blue Book Publishers and has written more than 100 La Jolla-related articles. Follow her blogs to stay informed about new businesses, read exclusive interviews with local business owners, and keep up with community events. (

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