Ring in the holiday season by cozying up amidst the warm glow of a tree lighting ceremony. Beyond the mesmerizing, twinkling lights, kids can also whisper their wish lists to Santa, sip warm cocoa, sing with carolers, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride and so much more. Read on to see where to take your little snow angels to pave the path to Christmas at tree lighting occasions that shine bright across San Diego.
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. 14, 3:30-8:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 5:15 p.m.). 14134 Midland Rd., Poway.
San Marcos Tree Lighting & Santa’s Village
Head to Santa’s Village and Tree Lighting at San Marcos Civic Center. This free event includes fun for the whole family. Get a photo with Santa Claus between 1-4:30 p.m. There will be free festive crafts and activities, as well as vendors selling their wares and snacks. Entertainment will be featured in the courtyard, and the tree lighting is at 5:35 p.m. Don’t miss the ‘snow’ right after the tree lighting! Sat. Dec. 7, 1-7 p.m., (tree lighting at 5:35 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., Dec. 6, 5-7:30 p.m. 341 Heald Lane, Fallbrook.
photo: Sally Montiano
Vista Village Winterfest & Tree Lighting
Roaming mariachis, holiday movies, ugly sweater contests, homemade tamales, kids activities, arts and crafts and meeting Santa all add to the magic of this festive SoCal tree lighting event. Free event. Sun., Dec. 8, 2-7 p.m. Vista Village
North County Coastal
Omni La Costa Resort Tree Lighting
Celebrate the start of the season with a festive tree lighting and a visit from skydiving Santa! Shop the holiday market, sip hot chocolate and cider, sing with the carolers and little hands can make holiday crafts. Free event. Sat., Dec. 7, 3-8 p.m., 2100 Costa Del Mar Rd., Carlsbad.
One Paseo Tree Lighting
At One Paseo’s first Small Business Saturday, several shops will be offering exclusive specials and discounts to encourage guests to shop small. Following Small Business Saturday shopping, One Paseo invites guests to stay for the center’s tree lighting ceremony. The ceremony will take place from 5-7 p.m., and feature live musical performances from the San Diego Children’s Choir and FROSTBITE, visits with Santa, and festive photo opportunities while snow cascades from the rooftops. Free event. Sat., Nov. 30, 5-7 p.m., 3725 Paseo Pl, Carmel Valley.
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. 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 5 p.m.). Lumberyard courtyard, 937 S. Highway 101, Encinitas.
17th Annual Lighting of The Forum
The 17th 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. 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. 30, 6-9 p.m., 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. 8, 3-5 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 a brilliant tree lighting. Join Santa for live music, cookies, holiday treats, and merrymaking. Free event. Sun., Dec. 8, 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 live music, family-friendly entertainment and games, horse and carriage rides, amusement rides, zip lines, bounce houses and more. There will be free cookies and milk for kids and free holiday arts and crafts projects. There will even be a special visit from Old St. Nick who arrives via firetruck. Free event. Thurs., Dec. 5, 5-9 p.m. (tree lighting at 6 p.m.) Regal Plaza, 401 Mission Ave., Oceanside.
photo: Venues at Liberty Station
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., Nov. 30, 5-7:30 p.m. Village Square, 13490 Pacific Highlands Ranch Pkwy., 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. 29, starts at 4-9 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. 7, 4-8 p.m. (tree lighting at 6:30 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. 7, 2-5 p.m. (tree lighting at sunset). End of Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach.
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. 30, 1-8 p.m., Balboa Park, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, San Diego.
Santee Holiday Tree Lighting
From snow sledding and train and trolley rides to a petting zoo, crafts and a firetruck, this annual tree lighting is sure to amp up your holiday spirit. Fri., Nov. 22, 5:30–8:30 p.m. (tree lighting at 6:30 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. 30, 1-7 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. 7, 3:30-8:30 p.m., Maine Ave., Lakeside.
photo: Otay Ranch Town Center
Ramona Christmas Tree Lighting
Head to downtown Ramona on Main Street for the 27th Annual Tree Lighting and holiday fun. You can shop, take a sleigh ride, do a winter craft and more. Sat., Dec. 7, 5-8 p.m., Main Street, Ramona between 6th Street & 8th Street.
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. 19, 5-7 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 (along with a local family) flip the switch at this Christmas tree lighting festivities. Come early to see Santa (he arrives by firetruck), then stay for the holiday parade. Free event. Fri., Dec. 6, 5 p.m. Rotary Park, Orange Avenue at Isabella Avenue, Coronado.
featured image: Liberty Station