Part of the fun of the holidays is making sure the whole family gets into the Christmas spirit in the lead up to the big day. And nothing says holiday cheer like a festival parade. San Diego’s local communities from Encinitas to El Cajon love to get into the celebrations with parades full of marching bands, pageant queens and of course a visit from St. Nick himself. So fill up the thermos with hot cocoa, grab a spot on the sidewalk and start that festive season.

mother goose parade 645x340Photo: San Diego Tourism Authority

Mother Goose Parade
Start the holiday period off with San Diego’s largest and well-known parade. Traditionally held the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the Mother Goose Parade is a sizable celebration that honors both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Located in East County’s El Cajon, thousands of people flock to see more than 100 parade entries from all around the country. Marching bands, drill units, horse brigades, clowns, performing artists, giant balloons, celebrities and of course Santa Claus all join together to walk down Main Street. The parade can get busy so make sure you are packed up with snacks, hats, sunscreen, water and bring your own seats if you want to avoid the grandstand seating.

Parking Info: There is parking is on street and in limited parking structures. With the large number of spectators, allow time to find a spot or have someone drop you off.

Date: Sat., Nov. 21, 10 a.m.

Mother Goose Parade
Main St.
El Cajon, Ca 92020
Online: mgpelcajon.com

Screen shot 2015-10-20 at 8.33.32 PMPhoto: Charlie Vergara via Flickr Creative Commons

North Park Toyland Parade
San Diego’s oldest Christmas parade, the North Park Toyland Parade, started in 1936 and has been delighting kids and adults ever since. On Dec. 5, the 52nd annual Christmas celebration will weave its way down University Ave. between Utah and Iowa Streets. Watch a winter wonderland come alive with marching bands, dance groups, vintage cars that herald back to the parades history, as well as a very special visit from Santa riding atop his merry red sleigh. Following the parade, North Park will hold a day-long festival to keep the Christmas cheer going strong. The parade kicks off at 11 a.m. and the Christmas festival will follow until 3p.m.

Parking Info: All-day parking is available for the very festive price of $1 at the North Park parking garage.

Date: Sat., Dec. 5, 11 a.m.

North Park Toyland Parade
University Ave.
San Diego, Ca 92104
Online: toylandparade.com

Screen shot 2015-10-20 at 8.41.28 PMPhoto: Blue Comanche via Flickr Creative Commons 

Encinitas Holiday Parade
As the sun sets and a brisk night starts, head north to Encinitas for a night of Christmas fun. Cheer as the city’s Christmas tree is lit at the Lumberyard and then head to the Coast Highway 101 to watch the North County parade unfold. You’ll see thousands of locals on floats, in bands and marching the streets with a huge crowd of 10,000 watching the holiday festivities.

Parking Info: Parking can be tricky close to the parade, so take advantage of the free parade parking shuttles that run from Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas or from the YMCA / Ecke Sports Park parking lot. Shuttles run every 20 minutes between 4 and 8.30 p.m.

Date: Sat., Dec. 5, 5 p.m.

Encinitas Holiday Parade
Coast Highway 101 (D Street to J Street)
Encinitas, Ca 92024
Online: encinitasca.gov

Screen shot 2015-10-20 at 8.48.11 PM Photo: Cjbphotos1 via Flickr Creative Commons

La Jolla Holiday Parade
The annual La Jolla holiday parade kicks off the festive season with a huge celebration of the 100th anniversary of La Jolla Recreation Center. Christmas cheer will spread with a wide range of parade entrants, including horses, vintage cars, drill units, marching bands, pageant queens and locals will all make their way through La Jolla Village. The fun kicks off at 1.30 p.m. and a festival will follow with entertainment, food, photos with Santa and arts and crafts. The day concludes with a Christmas tree lighting at 5 p.m.

Parking Info: Parking is available on the street and will get busy. So allow extra time to park, find the perfect spot and get settled in.

Date: Sun., Dec. 6, 1.30 p.m.

La Jolla Holiday Parade
Girard Ave.
La Jolla, Ca, 92037
Online: ljparade.com

Screen shot 2015-10-20 at 8.51.36 PMImage Credit: Port of San Diego via Flickr Creative Commons

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
This wouldn’t be San Diego without the beautiful beaches and waterfronts, so it makes sense that we’d have to our own Christmas Parade on water. The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights brings together more than 80 boats decorated to the hilt in Christmas lights and cheer for a procession from Shelter Island past Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport  Village, and Ferry Landing in Coronado. Viewing spots are best either on the water or on the park behind Seaport Village, Harbor Island and Shelter Island.  Other excellent land-based viewing spots include the north and south ends of the Embarcadero, as well as the pathway along Coronado (these areas tend to be less crowded). The boating procession will take an hour and a half to spread its Christmas cheer along the nautical route. Check the website to see when the floats will be scheduled to be in your location. It’s truly a sight to see!

Dates: Sundays, Dec. 13 and 20, 5.30 p.m.

Shelter Island Dr.
San Diego, Ca 92106
Online: sdparadeoflights.org

ADVERTISEMENT

What’s your favorite Christmas Parade? Let us know in the comments below!

— Lenya McGrath