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Enjoy the Wealth of Ways to Celebrate in San Diego

Holiday happenings to add to your calendar this month

The Craftsman design of The Lodge at Torrey Pines creates a cozy atmosphere
Image Credits Photography courtesy of Rancho Valencia, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Hotel del Coronado, Rancho Bernardo Inn, Adams/Hansen, San Diego CONVIS, and La Valencia

Season’s greetings! This year’s festivities will be coming to you live and in person. Unlike 2020, we won’t be limited to Zoom gatherings and drive-by visits. In 2021, we can deck the halls, hang our stockings, and enjoy eggnog with friends and family. Hallelujah, right? And, in addition to home-based activities, San Diego’s best hotels and resorts provide a plethora of ways to have fun on their turf. 

The Hotel del Coronado will, once again, be holiday headquarters for many San Diegans. Its skating rink opened in late November, and thousands of sparkling white lights and multiple decorated Christmas trees will be on display through New Year’s Day. In addition to the beautiful beachfront ice rink, guests can cuddle up around private bonfires with s’mores, watch holiday movies on Del Beach, and have a photo with Santa on the Paseo Lawn. The hotel is also offering a Victorian tea in the Coronet Room and a chance to decorate a gingerbread house in the Ocean Ballroom. hoteldel.com/experience/holidays

At the Rancho Bernardo Inn, a life-size gingerbread house is on display beginning December 15 in the lobby. Baked and built on site, the creation took months to construct and consists of 4,000 pounds of delicious ingredients — including one ton of powdered sugar. In 2020, the resort was limited to delivering holiday meals, but this year both of its restaurants are taking reservations, where diners can look forward to enjoying great flavors and winter wonderland decorations. ranchobernardoinn.com 

A life-size gingerbread house is on display at the Rancho Bernardo Inn
A life-size gingerbread house is on display at the Rancho Bernardo Inn

On December 1, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe’s Olde Fashioned Christmas takes place at 5pm and features culinary creations from the Inn’s team, s’mores, and cozy holiday beverages for purchase. Live caroling takes place at 5:30pm, and Santa arrives at 6:30pm for visits and photo opportunities. The festivities also include a bounce house, hot chocolate, sledding, and Santa’s workshop at this family-friendly affair. theinnatrsf.com 

The holiday season at Rancho Valencia starts on December 6 with a festive Christmas tree lighting, pictures with Santa, and house-made hot chocolate. On December 25, the grand buffet in Veladora will be served with live music, seasonal sweets, horse-drawn carriage rides, cookie decorating, and carolers. If you opt for a staycation, a twinkling tree can add holiday glow to your cozy casita. ranchovalencia.com

Holiday activities at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar will take place on the Front Lawn in the Del Mar Social Club Friday to Sunday throughout the month of December from 4-10pm. On December 17, an ice rink — open daily from 4-10pm until January 2 — will be added to the options. Reservations are encouraged for a cabana or fire pit, but walk-ins are welcome. granddelmar@fairmont.com

At the lovely Park Hyatt Aviara, guests have a choice between a fun Teddy Bear Tea and a traditional afternoon High Tea. The Teddy Bear event, which takes place in the morning, includes entertainment by the Peppermint Princess and holiday-themed food items. Each child is asked to bring a teddy bear to be donated to the Ronald McDonald House. The Park Hyatt’s pastry team is also offering gingerbread decorating classes. parkhyattaviara.com/about/upcoming-events/holiday-offerings

La Valencia’s annual tree lighting, which is free and open to the public, will take place on December 2 and includes holiday refreshments, live music, carolers, and children’s crafts. The Pink Lady is also offering Holiday Tea at The Med and Storytime Brunch with Santa on selected dates throughout the season. On December 24 and 25, a three-course menu by Chef Timothy Ralphs will be offered at The Med. Make reservations through OpenTable. lavalencia.com

The Craftsman design of The Lodge at Torrey Pines is the perfect backdrop for holiday decorations. Stained-glass doors open into the lobby where a towering Christmas tree is the center of attention. Nearby, garlands are draped on the mantel over a cozy fireplace. A Hanukkah-inspired menu will be offered in A.R. Valentien through December 6. Holiday events for hotel guests this year include s’mores at Hughes Cottage, cookie decorating and holiday arts and crafts, singalong with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and scavenger hunts. If you decide to stay overnight, use promotion code JOY21 for the best rate. lodgetorreypines.com/holiday-events

Whether you opt to staycation at one of San Diego’s beautiful hotels or sleep at home and enjoy activities offered around town, this holiday season is a time to fully appreciate the joy of being with family and friends up close and in person.

Holiday Calendar

Not only does San Diego have the best winter weather, we also have an enviable assortment of December events and activities. 

Ice skating on the Rady Children’s Ice Rink at Liberty Station

Skate into the holidays at the Rady Children’s Ice Rink at Liberty Station from 10am-10pm. All net proceeds from the event will benefit the Thriving After Cancer program at Rady Children’s. Through January 9. radyfoundation.org/icerink 

December Nights in Balboa Park is a beloved San Diego tradition

For more than 40 years, the San Diego community has welcomed the holiday season by celebrating the annual December Nights in Balboa Park. For the second year in a row, the event will be a drive-through experience, “Taste of December Nights,” featuring food vendors, food trucks, and entertainment from years past in a festive setting at the Inspiration Point parking lot near Balboa Park. December 3-5, 11am-10pm. balboapark.org/december-nights

The Snow N Glow Holiday Festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds includes glowing lights, private igloo rentals, and snow tubing. Select nights from December 4-January 2, 4-10pm. snownglow.com/delmar

The La Jolla Christmas Pparade will take place on December 5
The La Jolla Christmas Pparade will take place on December 5

The La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival starts in downtown La Jolla at 1:30pm. After the parade there will be a festival with crafts, games, fun, food, and photos with Santa at the Rec Center, with the tree lighting at 5:30pm. December 5. ljparade.com

The Makers Arcade Holiday Fair will be held inside the Broadway Pier on the Embarcadero. This holiday event will feature more than 95 makers, craft cocktails, beer, gourmet food trucks, and live music. December 10, 1-7pm and December 11, 11am-6pm. makersarcade.com/holidayfair

Holiday programs at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park abound where, for the first time, the Symphony will perform holiday concerts at their new waterfront venue. Don’t miss Noel, Noel (December 10-12, 5pm) and performances with the movies Disney’s The Muppet Christmas Carol (December 18, 5pm) and Disney’s Frozen (December 22, 5pm). theshell.org

The Parade of Lights starts at Shelter Island
The Parade of Lights starts at Shelter Island

The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights will take place on two consecutive Sunday nights starting at 5:30pm. Presented by the Port of San Diego, the parade of decorated boats will start at Shelter Island and proceed to Coronado via Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, and Cesar Chavez Park. December 12 and 19. sdparadeoflights.org 

The Candlelight Holiday Special features works by Tchaikovsky in the North Chapel at Liberty Station. December 16, 7pm and December 17, 9:15pm. feverup.com/m/99117

Finally, the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas live concert takes place at Civic Theatre, December 30, 7:30pm. broadwaysd.com   Elizabeth Hansen


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