Ready, set, “flip that switch!” From awe-inducing twinkling lights and jovial Santa Claus to singing carolers and (faux) snow, it’s time to gather round your family to kickoff the holiday season with tree lighting ceremonies. We’ve found 22 trees that will soon shine bright throughout the city. Read on to see where to take your little elves for the festivities.

photo: Kevin Baird

North County Inland

Poway Tree Lighting & Festival
Even Scrooge would be impressed with this free festival in Old Poway Park. From Santa and the missus to horse rides, face painting and model trains, little helpers will have plenty to do at this annual celebration. Free event. Sat., Dec. 9, 3:30-8:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 5:15 p.m.). 14134 Midland Rd., Poway.

Escondido Tree Lighting & Winter Wonderland
Snow kidding! Your little angels can meet a real reindeer and frolic in the snow at this tree lighting ceremony. Plus, there are hula dancers, stilt walkers and you can decorate your own Christmas cookie. Free event. Sat., Dec. 2, 3-8 p.m. California Center for the Arts, 340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido.

San Marcos Tree Lighting & Santa’s Village
It’s an all-day extravaganza starting with breakfast with Santa for wee ones and ending with an early tree lighting. Perfect for little elves with an early bedtime. Free event. Sat. Dec. 2, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., (tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.). 3 Civic Center Dr., San Marcos.

photo: Sally Montiano

Fallbrook Tree Lighting
From the moment your little snow angel spots this 50-foot tree their face will light up. Add in caroling, face painting, holiday games and good food and you’ve found the holiday spirit. Free event. Fri., Dec. 1, 5-7:30 p.m. 341 Heald Lane, Fallbrook.

Vista Village Winterfest & Tree Lighting
Delight in the horse-drawn carriage rides, hot chocolate fountain (with marshmallows on top!), a holiday arts and crafts fair, caroling and a Christmas movie. Top it with an extravagant tree lighting ceremony sprinkled with snow. Free event. Sun., Dec. 3, noon-6 p.m. (tree lighting show at 5:30 p.m.). Vista Village.

North County Coastal

Omni La Costa Resort Tree Lighting
Celebrate the start of the season with a festive tree lighting. Shop the holiday market, sip hot chocolate and cider, sing with the carolers and little hands can make holiday crafts. Free event. Sat., Dec. 2, 3-7 p.m. 2100 Costa Del Mar Rd., Carlsbad.

photo: Legoland

Legoland® Tree Lighting
Join fellow brick-lovers to see this 30-foot Christmas tree made from over 245,000 Lego® bricks light up. Say hello to Santa, then enjoy the entertainment and fireworks that follow. Included with admission. Mon., Nov. 27. One Legoland Dr., Carlsbad.

Encinitas Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting
Watch your little elf’s face light up with excitement when Santa arrives and the tree sparkles, followed by a festive holiday parade. Free event. Sat., Dec. 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 5 p.m.). Lumberyard courtyard, 937 S. Highway 101, Encinitas.

15th Annual Lighting of The Forum
The 15th Annual “Lighting of the Forum” will feature a live stage show by the Crown City Bombers, Santa’s Grand Arrival on a horse-drawn sleigh and Holiday Light Show and Magical Snowfall just after Santa flips the switch to light the tree. Santa will be welcomed in style with an escort by the La Costa Canyon High School Marching Band. Complimentary refreshments will be available after the tree lighting provided by some of the restaurants at The Forum Carlsbad. Prize drawings held after the tree lighting and throughout the rest of the evening will give guests the chance to get a jump on their holiday shopping or just to treat themselves! Once Santa fulfills his tree lighting duties and oversees the Holiday Light Show and Magical Snowfall, he will visit with children for the rest of the event listening to gift requests!  Free event. Sat. Nov. 25. 1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad.

Del Mar Tree Lighting & Santa By the Sea
Holiday photo-op with Santa and the Missus at this festival by the sea. There’ll be caroling, letters to Santa, making crazy Christmas hats, free refreshments and of course the finale lighting of the holiday tree. Free event. Sun., Dec. 3, Starts at 3 p.m. (tree lighting at 5 p.m.). Northwest corner of Camino Del Mar and 15th St., Del Mar.


photo: VENUES Liberty Station via Yelp

Solana Beach Tree Lighting
There’ll be beautiful views and a brilliant tree lighting. Join Santa for live music, cookies, holiday treats and merrymaking. Free event. Sun., Dec. 3, Begins at 4:30 p.m. Fletcher Cove Park, 111 S. Sierra Ave., Solana Beach.

Oceanside Tree Lighting
Come for the tree lighting countdown, stay for the music, milk, cookies and a special visit from our friend Old St. Nick. Free event. Thurs., Dec. 7, 6 p.m. Regal Cinemas Plaza, 401 Mission Ave, Oceanside.

San Diego

Liberty Station Tree Lighting & Festivities
This 88-foot Norfolk Pine lights up to usher in holiday cheer. Pack a picnic and stay for the showing of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on the lawn. Free event. Weds, Nov. 29, 5-9 p.m. (tree lighting at 6:15 p.m.). 2816 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego.

photo: Kathy S. via Yelp

Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village
Santa arrives by horse and carriage and there’s plenty of shopping to do. Head to the Piazza for the tree lighting, and kiddos can do crafts. Free event. Sat., Dec. 2, 4-8 p.m. (tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.). Piazza Basilone, Fir St. and India St., Little Italy.

Pacific Beach Tree Lighting
A uniquely SoCal holiday gathering. Meet Santa & Mrs. Claus, enjoy food and entertainment and a lighting of the pier tree at sunset. Professional pics with the big guy are $10 or $5 when you bring school supplies to support the schools. Sat., Dec. 2, 2-5 p.m. (tree lighting at sunset). End of Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach.

MCAS Miramar Holiday Festival
A huge draw for military families with tree lighting, crafts, activities and more. Sat., Nov. 18, 2-6 p.m. Palms Park at MCAS Miramar (across from the Bob Hope Theater), San Diego.

Christmas on the Prado & Tree Lighting
‘Tis the season for the 4th Annual Children’s Coalition Christmas on the Prado. Bring a gift for Toys for Tots and enjoy music, entertainment, photos with Santa, an elf contest, tree lighting, kids crafts and Nativity scenes. Sat., Nov. 25, 2-9 p.m. Balboa Park, Spreckels Organ Pavillion, San Diego.

photo: City of Santee

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting
When it comes to holiday spirit, La Jolla shines brightly. From a parade and kid’s zone to tree lighting and entertainment this day is just jolly good fun. Free event. Sun., Dec. 3, 1:30-5:00 p.m. (tree lighting at 4:30 p.m.). La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St., La Jolla.

East County

Santee Holiday Tree Lighting
Not only are there snow sledding, train and trolley rides, there’s also a petting zoo, crafts and a firetruck at this annual tree lighting. It’s sure to amp up your holiday spirit. Nov. 17, 5:30–8:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 6:15 p.m.). Santee Trolley Square, 9884 Mission Gorge Rd., Santee.

Julian Tree Lighting & Country Christmas
Country Christmas commences the holiday season with music, dancers, the arrival of Old St. Nick (and the Mrs.) and lighting the town Christmas tree. Sat., Nov. 25, Pioneer Park, 2811 Washington St., Julian.

photo: Otay Ranch Town Center

South Bay

Otay Ranch Town Center
Santa Claus arrives by firetruck just in time for this tree lighting ceremony. Little hands get crafty, eat cookies, drink cocoa, while you cross a few names off your shopping list. Free event. Tues., Nov. 21, 4-7 p.m. (tree lighting at 7 p.m), Otay Ranch Town Center, 2015 Birch Rd., Chula Vista.

Coronado Tree Lighting & Holiday Parade
Watch the mayor (with a local family) flip the switch at the 42nd Annual Christmas tree lighting festivities. Come early to see Santa (he arrives by firetruck), then stay for the holiday parade. Free event. Fri., Dec. 1, Parade starts at 6 p.m. Rotary Park, Orange Avenue at Isabella Avenue, Coronado.


Do you have a favorite tree lighting ceremony? Share it with us below.

––Nikki Walsh