Make this holiday season merry and bright by taking your family to one of these festive locales to behold gorgeous Christmas lights. We’ve found neighborhoods that are aglow with twinkling lights that will make everyone’s eyes sparkle. From dazzling houses to a drive-through event you don’t want to miss, read on for where to see the best Christmas lights in San Diego.

Candy Cane Lane, Poway

Around the second week of December, this neighborhood transforms into a twinkling wonderland. You'll be amazed by grandiose light displays, giant inflatables and holiday decorations that will delight your whole family. If you're viewing lights from your car, pack your patience and plan on moving at a very slow pace. Many opt to park their car, bundle up the kids in strollers and walk through the neighborhood to see the lights at their own speed.

Hickory St., Poway

Online: facebook.com/powayccl

Christmas Card Lane, Rancho Peñasquitos

Nothing says larger than life than the colossal cards that grace these landscaped lawns. Your little angels will sing with joy at the hundreds of giant Disney greetings on display. Clippity-clop on a horse-drawn carriage or warm-up to a bountiful bonfire. Dawdle or drive-down this magical street. Neighborhood typically lights up the first weekend in December.

Insider's Tip: Best time to go is between 7-8 p.m. (it’s crowded, but all lights are on).

Oviedo St., just off Black Mountain Rd.
Rancho Penasquitos, CA

Carlsbad Home Offers Lights AND Photos with Santa!

For a truly charming experience, take your little elves to mail their very own letter to Santa at his real mailbox located curbside at 6646 Elegant Tern Pl. in Carlsbad. Not to mention, this home is completely decked out with an endless array of twinkling lights and holiday decor. See a preview of it here. Learn more about the secret-Santa mom behind this memorable holiday excursion here.

Save the date! Dec. 19 from 5-9 p.m., Covid-safe masked Santa will be on site to take pictures in person, and to hand out candy canes to families in the drive through lane.

Read more about the Carlsbad mom who decks out this house and knows the true meaning of the holiday spirit here.

Lights will be on December 5-25, 5-9 p.m.

Online: californiachristmaslights.com

Belardo Lights, Tierrasanta

This one-house masterpiece at 5306 Belardo Dr. is truly a must-see. It started in 2006 as a way for the Schimka family to give their two autistic sons, Brandon and Stephen, their very own light show for the holidays. This labor of love has more than 100,000 lights and is a heartwarming tradition for many families and continues to be an anxiously anticipated event each holiday season. Tune your car radio to 106.1 FM to hear holiday music played in sync with the lights.

Note: This year there will be some safety measures in place due to Covid-19, so please bear with the organizers who know everyone needs some holiday cheer in 2020 and they're doing their best to make this event safe and fun for all.

Date: The house lights up starting Nov. 28th at 6 p.m.

Online: belardolights.com

Botanic Wonderland

Gather up your family and friends and come spend an evening (or two!) at Botanic Wonderland. Stroll outdoors amidst festive holiday lights strung throughout several garden areas on the 37-acre property, including the Dickinson Family Education Conservatory.

Note! This year advance reservations are required to visit Botanic Wonderland. Secure your reservations here.

Due to COVID, this year’s Botanic Wonderland will be limited to an outdoor holiday lighting experience for visitors to walk amidst with appropriate social distancing to keep everyone safe.

Please visit the Garden's website for updated information before making the trip there.

Dates: Regular Priced Evenings: Dec. 2-6; 9-13; 16 & 17; 26-30; Peak Priced Evenings: Dec. 18-23
Time: 5–9 p.m.

San Diego Botanic Garden
230 Quail Gardens Dr.
Encinitas, CA 92024
Online: sdbgarden.org

Carmel Mountain Ranch

Almost 100 homes on this friendly residential street turn up the wattage and amp up the brightness to really shine. You can drive on out to what is known as one of the best neighborhood light displays in the county. Cocoa, cookies and music can be found in this happenin’ hood during their annual block party event. (Whether this event will take place due to Covid-19 is still TBD). When the weather is right, some say Santa’s red fire truck is spotted scurrying little elves down the street.

Fairway Village at Stoney Gate Pl.
Dec. 1-Jan. 1
Time: dusk-10:30 p.m.

Online info: fairwayvillagenews.com

Knob Hill, San Marcos

Clocking in at over 85,000 lit-up lights, hundreds of fun-figurines and a whole lot of electrical wiring, this Knob Hill neighborhood is a go-to for brilliant displays. Don't miss the home of who the locals have dubbed "Mr. Christmas." For the past 30 years Bill Gilfillen has spent three months decorating his home with over 100,000 lights. Visitors have come from as far as Australia and Japan to behold the stunning splendor.

Lights-on between 5-9 p.m. nightly around Thanksgiving-Dec. 30

1639 Knob Hill Rd.
San Marcos, CA 92069

Online: christmasonknobhill.com

Holidays in Your Car

Discover a symphony of sight and sound at one of southern California's largest Drive-Thru Holiday Light Spectaculars! Experience Holidays in Your Car at the Del Mar Fairgrounds featuring more than one million LED lights, holograms, and projection mapping animated to the tunes of holiday classics! Be sure to purchase your tickets online beforehand!

Online: holidaysinyourcar.com

––Leah R. Singer & Beth Shea

featured photo: iStock

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