Put a warm glow in your family’s hearts this holiday season at a tree lighting ceremony that will elicit bright smiles. From 88-foot tall trees decked-out in bedazzling ornaments and twinkling lights to meeting Mr. Claus himself or sipping cocoa while listening to carolers, we’ve found 25 tree lighting festivities that shine across San Diego. Read on to see where to take your little snow angels to kick off your Christmas season this year.

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. 8, 3:30-8:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 5:15 p.m.). 14134 Midland Rd., Poway.

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. Breakfast $5 per person. Tree lighting free event. Sat. Dec. 1, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., (tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.). 3 Civic Center Dr., San Marcos.

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., Nov. 30, 5-7:30 p.m. 341 Heald Lane, Fallbrook.

photo: Sally Montiano

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. 2, noon-7 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. 1, 3-7 p.m., 2100 Costa Del Mar Rd., Carlsbad.

LEGOLAND® Tree Lighting
Join fellow brick-lovers to a celebrity guest light up the 30-foot Christmas tree made from over 245,000 LEGO® bricks. Say hello to Santa, then enjoy the entertainment and fireworks that follow. Included with admission. Mon., Nov. 26. 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 huge festive holiday parade. Free event. Sat., Dec. 1, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 5 p.m.). Lumberyard courtyard, 937 S. Highway 101, Encinitas.

Holiday at the Rancho
Head to Leo Carillo Ranch this holiday season for the annual tree lighting. Even more, there will be train rides, games, crafts, face painting, holiday shopping, cookie decorating and more, including a showing of The Muppet Christmas Carol. The tree lighting is at 5:45 p.m. $10/person. Sat., Dec. 1, 5-8 p.m., Leo Carrillo Ranch and Historic Park, 6200 Flying LC Lane, Carlsbad.

16th Annual Lighting of The Forum
The 16th Annual “Lighting of the Forum” will feature a live stage show by the Upstream, 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. 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. 24. 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. 2, Starts at 3 p.m. (tree lighting at 5 p.m.). Northwest corner of Camino Del Mar and 15th St., Del Mar.

Solana Beach Tree Lighting
There’ll be beautiful views and brilliant tree lighting. Join Santa for live music, cookies, holiday treats, and merrymaking. Free event. Sun., Dec. 2, 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. 6, 6 p.m. Regal Cinemas Plaza, 401 Mission Ave, Oceanside.

photo: VENUES Liberty Station via Yelp

The Village Pacific Highlands Ranch
Enjoy live music, photos with Santa & Mrs. Claus, sweet treats, and, of course, a tree lighting ceremony. Free event. Sat., Dec. 1, 5-7:30 p.m. Village Square, 13490 Pacific Highlands Ranch Pkwy., San Diego.

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. Fri., Nov. 30, starts at 5 p.m. (tree lighting at 6:15 p.m.). 2875 Dewey Rd., San Diego.

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. 1, 4-8 p.m. (tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.). Piazza Basilone, Fir St. and India St., Little Italy.

photo: Richard Benton on behalf of the Balboa Park Conservancy

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. 1, 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. 17, 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., Dec. 1, 1-8 p.m. & Sun., Dec. 2, 1-4 p.m. Balboa Park, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, San Diego.

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. Fri., Nov. 16, 5:30–8:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 6:15 p.m.). Santee Trolley Square, 9884 Mission Gorge Rd., Santee.

photo: City of 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. 24, 2-7 p.m., Pioneer Park, 2811 Washington St., Julian.

Lakeside Spirit of Christmas Tree Lighting
Get spirited away with the sounds and sights of the Holidays. From school performances and Santa to crafts and lighting of the Christmas tree, you’re sure to have a good time. Sat., Dec. 1, 3:30-8:30 p.m., Maine Ave., Lakeside.

Lemon Grove’s Annual Bonfire
The 21st Annual Community bonfire is lit (they skip the tree!) and other holiday festivities bring everyone together to start the season. Come join! Fri., Dec. 7, 3-8 p.m., Civic Center Park, Lemon Grove.

photo: Otay Ranch Town Center

Ramona Christmas Tree Lighting
Head to downtown Ramona on Main Street for the 21st Annual Tree Lighting and holiday fun. You can shop, take a sleigh ride, do a winter craft and more. Sat., Dec. 1, 5-8 p.m., 645 Main St., Ramona.

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. 20, 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. 7, Parade starts at 6 p.m. Rotary Park, Orange Avenue at Isabella Avenue, Coronado.

––Nikki Walsh



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