Winter break starts late in the holiday season when many festive events have wrapped up––but fret not––there are still plenty of ways to enjoy your kids’ time off school with seasonal adventures big and small all over town. Read on for magical ways to spend the days, from whale watching and America’s largest balloon parade to New Year’s Eve parties and an oceanside sing-along.
photo: Birch Aquarium
1. Go Whale Watching. Have a whale of a time watching Gray Whales pass through San Diego on their 10,000-mile round-trip journey from the Bering Sea to Baja California’s lagoons. Whale watching season is now in full swing and you can hit the waves aboard Flagship Cruises & Events’ Marietta boat on a 3.5 hour cruise led by expert naturalists from Birch Aquarium, which also includes a San Diego Bay harbor tour. You may even spot newborn calves and Common Dolphins! The Marietta is family-friendly, featuring 360-degree views from the upper sun deck, multiple restrooms and free WiFi. The onboard snack bar offers lunch items, snacks and drinks for purchase. Book your whale watching adventure here.
2. Eat Your Way Through Balboa Park’s Holiday Food Truck Festival.
Take family and friends to feast under the iconic Balboa Park’s dazzling holiday light display. For five days and evenings between Christmas and New Year’s Day (Dec 26-30), the annual Holiday Food Truck Festival serves up gourmet food from 15 of San Diego’s top food trucks, along with free live entertainment and fun activities for families. Food trucks will be in the park beginning at noon, with live entertainment and other activities starting at 2 p.m. For a listing of food trucks for each date, entertainment schedule and other event details, click here.
photo: Liberty Station
3. Bundle Up & Go Ice Skating Outdoors.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year––when ice rinks pop up outdoors in sunny San Diego! Go skating by the sea at the iconic Hotel Del Coronado or glide across the ice at Liberty Station’s beautiful Rady Children’s Ice Rink, or head to the largest outdoor ice skating rink southern California at Viejas Casino & Resort. You’ll get to bundle up and enjoy a chilly, wintry activity right here in the SoCal sunshine.
4. Watch in Wonder at the Holiday Bowl Parade.
What could be more exciting to a kid than watching America’s largest balloon parade? The scenic, bayside streets of downtown San Diego come alive for the Holiday Bowl Parade. The exciting family event brings together world-class marching bands, magnificent floats, entertaining drill teams and a procession of enormous balloons – more than any other parade. Over 100,000 street-side spectators enjoy the parade along with a nationwide television audience. Street side viewing of the parade is free.
photo: San Diego Ballet
5. Get Carried Away by The Nutcracker.
This classic tale never fails to deliver all the spirit and warmth of the holidays. Many productions have ended for the season, but you can still catch San Diego Ballet’s performances of The Nutcracker on Dec. 29 & 30. The international cast of talented dancers and the wow-worthy, colorful costumes will be a delightful feast for the eyes for your little sugar plums.
6. Join Hullabaloo in a Winter Solstice Sing-Along
Join Hullabaloo for a Winter Solstice sing-along! Gather at 4 p.m. in Powerhouse Park to sing winter songs, holiday songs and a few songs about the moon, sun and stars to celebrate the official beginning of Winter. The Del Mar Foundation will provide a photo, cocoa and treats. Bring a canned food donation for the San Diego Food Bank for free admission.
photo: Beth Shea
7. Escape to the Children’s Nature Retreat.
You’ll feel a world away from the city upon arriving at the Children’s Nature Retreat after a quick road trip to Alpine. Open Thurs.-Sun. from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., plan on packing a lunch and spending several hours strolling the idyllic setting where kids can feed and interact with over 120 domesticated livestock and exotic animals from around the world. Camels, zebra, Friesians horses, miniature horses, potbelly pigs and so many more fantastic creatures call this lovely place home.
8. See Mary Poppins Return to the Big Screen.
You won’t need a spoonful of sugar to convince your kids to head to the movie theater to see what’s sure to be a huge holiday hit: Mary Poppins Returns. After the show, grab a cup of hot cocoa at one of our favorite places to talk about the film.
photo: The New Children’s Museum
9. Bask in the Glow of Christmas Lights.
Put together your favorite holiday songs play list and pile into the family car to go see the best Christmas light displays in the city. You can park up and stroll along the sidewalk or slowly drive along these neighborhood streets that have transformed into sparkling winter wonderlands!
10. Ring in 2019 at an epic New Year’s Eve Party!
No need to burn the midnight oil to ring in 2019 with your kids (although we’ve found 11 fantastic New Year’s Eve parties where you can do that too), but many shindigs like The New Children’s Museum’s Family Night Out Pajama Jam are catering to little ones with countdowns that happen long before the clock strikes twelve.