“Don’t you miss the holidays?” I hear this frequently from friends and family on the East Coast. My response, a colorful description of snow-free fun, is so enthusiastic that more than a few fly out and join us — and that’s the best part. My holiday highlights tour starts at the Hotel del Coronado and, once our guests have seen the skating rink by the sea, they realize that I wasn’t pulling their leg. Imagine coming from gray skies and zero degrees to a beachfront ice rink with views of the blue Pacific and an iconic Victorian hotel. In addition to skating, families can also enjoy a private beach bonfire with all the makings for s’mores and, new last year, private beachside igloos that offer cozy seating on chilly evenings. I know from past experience that it’s best to make advance reservations for these popular activities.
Inside the hotel, the traditional focal point is the 21-foot decorated tree displayed in the historic lobby. Outside, a grove of Norfolk pines on the lawn is transformed into a brilliant light show orchestrated to music that takes place every 30 minutes from 5 to 9pm. Last year our guests got the giggles over the manmade snowflakes that are part of the grand finale.
Even before I mention it, many of our visitors who are golfers request a stop at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. They’ve watched the annual Farmers Insurance Open and other tournaments and want to see for themselves if the course is really as beautiful as it appears on TV. It is, of course, but at this time of the year, the hotel’s seasonal decorations get all the attention.
The warm and welcoming timbered design of The Lodge is the perfect setting for a towering Christmas tree, gorgeous garlands draped on the mantel of the main fireplace, elaborate oversized wreaths, an ornate Hanukkah menorah display, and a plethora of poinsettias. A.R. Valentien, The Lodge’s signature restaurant, is one of my favorite places to take out-of-town guests.
More Ways to Enjoy the Season
The William D. Evans Sternwheeler will be operating one-hour Jingle Belle Family Cruises on Mission Bay December 21-25. Trips departing from the Catamaran Resort and the Bahia Resort include a visit with Santa Claus and his elves, carolers, face painting, cookie decorating, holiday beverages, and more.
Lest our guests think we lack low-key community events, I take them to the La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival, which takes place on December 3 this year. They inevitably comment on the members of the Windansea Surf Club as they go by with their boards, which leads me into a monologue about the relevance of surfing in San Diego and the fact that the surf shack at Windansea Beach, originally built in 1946, is an official Historical Landmark. In addition, the Encinitas Holiday Parade and the Del Mar parade will both take place on December 2.
The bakers I know really appreciate the life-size gingerbread house produced by the Rancho Bernardo Inn. It’s made by a team of wizards from about 4,000 pounds of ingredients, including 2,000 pounds of powdered sugar, 750 pounds of granulated sugar, 800 pounds of flour, and 2,200 eggs.
The Old Globe in Balboa Park has two family-friendly shows this year: Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (through December 31) and Ebenezer Scrooge’s Big San Diego Christmas Show (through December 24). Even if we aren’t going to the show, I just love showing off our wonderful park. The Nutcracker ballet will be performed at the Balboa Theatre on December 3, and Noel Noel will be presented by the San Diego Symphony at The Rady Shell on December 15-17.
San Diego After Dark
December Nights in Balboa Park is the city’s largest holiday festival. This free, family-friendly event brings San Diegans together to enjoy the lights, the sounds, and delicious food. In addition, all of the museums are open and free of charge from 5 to 9pm, which adds to the popularity of the event.
The Parade of Lights, December 10 and 17 this year, is another favorite event that we like to share with guests. There’s something about watching 80 or so sailboats, kayaks, and yachts — decked out in myriad colored lights — making their way around San Diego Bay in the dark. The parade starts at Shelter Island and proceeds to Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the pier at Cesar Chavez Park, and ends at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Along the way, merrymakers on board shout holiday greetings to spectators on the shore and a good time is had by all.
Do I miss the holidays? Is it possible to enjoy the season without snow? I think our guests know the answer to those questions well before they board their flights back home.