photo: Balboa Park Conservancy

Holiday spirit is in full swing all over the city this weekend with Balboa Park December Nights, Liberty Station’s Holiday Extravaganza and the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights to name just a few festive events on tap. Read on for the cheery details!

Balboa Park

Balboa Park December Nights
San Diego’s favorite kick-off to the holiday season, will celebrate 41 years of bringing friends, families and the community together. In the spirit of the holidays, participating Balboa Park museums open their doors free of charge both evenings. The largest free community festival in San Diego, December Nights will bring more than 350,000 visitors to the park to revel and enjoy the season over two days, featuring dazzling lights, dancers, choirs, and bands incredible food and amazing attractions, December Nights is a treasured tradition that kicks off the holiday season for young and old alike. Fri. & Sat. Event details.

Liberty Station

Holiday Extravaganza at Liberty Station
Experience all the Arts District has to offer at Friday Night Liberty – Holiday Extravaganza! Explore the District decorated in its holiday finest. Sip and stroll while you shop for creative holiday gifts, enjoy lively entertainment and revel in some of the best food options in the city. Meet working artists, enjoy dance performances and visit museums and galleries. Each year, Arts District Liberty Station invites the community to Salute the Season, a calendar of events celebrating the holidays from November-January. With so much to see, shop, and do, you may be able to wrap up all your holiday shopping while enjoying a festive night out! Enjoy festive outdoor ice skating at Rady Children’s Ice Rink. Capture your holiday memories with photos by the 90 ft. Norfolk Pine tree. Visit a new holiday light art installation by San Diego based artist Nico Meyer. Fri. Event details.

Clairemont Mesa West

Holiday Happiness Chocolate Making Class
San Diego’s colorful chocolate shop Sweet Petite Confections is celebrating all the wonderful flavors that mark the holidays with a “Holiday Happiness!” themed chocolate making class. Secure your spot at this reservations-only class to learn the art of making fantastically flavored chocolates and bark over the course of two hours while creating nearly 1.5 pounds of confections. During this class, students will play with guest-favorite flavors like salted caramel and peanut butter cup alongside pumpkin caramel ganache, spiked eggnog ganache, and cranberry caramel made by chocolatier Michelle Lomelin. Students will also select from more than two dozen ingredients as they personalize a chocolate bark – with options including freeze dried tart apples, candied walnuts, candied ginger, crushed peppermint candy, alongside savory pretzels, potato chips, nuts and more. Sat. Event details.

Multiple Waterfront Viewing Spots

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
The 47th Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights announces the theme for its 2018 holiday boat parade – “A Tropical Island Christmas.” The dates for this year’s parade are December 9 and 16, 2018. This family-friendly event is free and brings more than 100,000 spectators to the San Diego Bay waterfront each year. Viewing areas include Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Cesar Chavez Park and the Ferry Landing at Coronado. A variety of prizes and awards are presented to the best decorated boats and those that best capture the parade’s theme. All participants will receive a participant plaque and are invited to the awards dinner. The Presenting Sponsor for this year’s San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is the Port of San Diego. Also, this year’s Awards Banquet Sponsor is the USS Midway Museum and this year’s Grand Prize Sponsor is Royal Caribbean Cruises. For more information and parade details, visit Sun. Event details.

La Jolla

Seas ‘n’ Greetings Holiday Celebration
Celebrate the Holiday SEAson with Birch Aquarium! The magic of the holidays meets the magic of the underwater world at Birch Aquarium during Seas ‘n’ Greetings, a month-long holiday celebration featuring SEAsonal activities for the whole family. Birch Aquarium is transformed into a holiday wonderland. Deck the Hall (of Fishes) and get into the holiday spirit every day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and check the schedule for special appearances by Scuba Santa as well as themed animal encounters, activities, and fun photo opportunities. All Seas ‘n’ Greetings activities are included with admission. Check the schedule of Seas ‘n’ Greetings events before your visit. Fri.-Sun. Event details.


Christmas in the Park
Traditions come to life during Christmas in the Park. The day is filled with old-fashioned fun activities including caroling, live music, horse-drawn hay rides and so much more. Purchase tasty holiday treats, finish your Christmas shopping at the craft boutique, or board the Poway Midland Railroad for a night-time ride around the park. Kids of all ages will enjoy the free crafts, model trains and of course a visit with Santa. The annual lighting of the community Christmas tree is at 5:15 p.m., followed by Santa’s arrival. Sat. Event details.

Sorrento Valley

Breakfast with Santa
Enjoy a full hot breakfast with none other than Santa himself! In addition to the meal, there will be Santa photo opps, a performance by Hullabaloo Band, an appearance by Else from Frozen, cookie decorating, stations to write letters to the troops and for an added cost kids can paint ceramic holiday gifts. Sat. Event details.

Valley Center

Christmas in the Valley
Christmas in the Valley is a free event for children in the community and their families.  Live music, face painting, Snows Pony rides & petting zoo are among the many free activities that are offered.  Also taking place are free crafts provided by local clubs, gingerbread house making, shopping with local crafters and vendors and a special Polar Express Hayride to visit Santa.  The “Christmas Voice” singing contest will also take place during the event.  See for event lineup each day. Fri. & Sat. Event details.

––Beth Shea