photo: Helen Woodward Animal Center

All aboard for this weekend’s Polar Express Holiday Family Day, Poway’s Christmas in the Park where Santa and the Mrs. arrive by train, the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, a Holiday Pet Parade you can’t miss and so much more! Read on for the scoop.

Balboa Park

Dance Away with The Nutcracker
Take an extraordinary journey to the magical Land of Sweets with Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. Witness the epic battle between toy soldiers and mice before away to an enchanted land of falling snow, waltzing flowers, and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Set to the timeless music of Tchaikovsky, this classic holiday production is a cherished San Diego family tradition. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

Jungle Bells
Go wild this holiday season at the San Diego Zoo’s annual celebration, Jungle Bells! Jungle Bells guests will be treated to seasonal decorations, animal experiences, costumed characters, live entertainment and more. The Zoo will be aglow with holiday cheer and activities to keep the whole family jolly. Guests can watch as animals enjoy unique enrichment treats and guests can sample treats of their own offered at many of the Zoo’s restaurants and food stands. Don’t miss out on holiday shopping at the Zoo’s retail locations, or the holiday happy hour at Albert’s Restaurant—Happy Holidays Happens—with discounted drinks and appetizers available from 3 to 5 p.m. each day of Jungle Bells. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

Polar Express Holiday Family Day
All aboard! Get in the spirit of the holidays and head out in your pajamas to enter a magical world full of holiday treats and trains. Feel the chilly weather, smell the hot cocoa in the air and immerse yourself this holiday season as the San Diego Model Railroad Museum welcomes guests to enjoy The Polar Express. Relax, bring a pillow, blanket and enjoy the show starting at 11:30 a.m. There will be games, a holiday keepsake to make and a special visitor from the North Pole. This is a cold winter’s journey sure to warm your heart and make you believe. Activities and movie included in admission price. Note: Kids age 5 and under are free for this event, adult admission is $11. Sat. Event details.

Rancho Santa Fe

Frosty Farm
Frosty Farm will give your whole family even more reason to smile this holiday season! This unique event gives you the chance to pose for pictures with Santa, interact with cute critters, enjoy holiday treats, create crafts, excel in our elf obstacle course and more! Sat. & Sun. Event details.

Valley Center

Christmas in the Valley
Get in the Christmas spirit! This magical event is especially for children. It features Santa arriving by fire engine, a Polar Express ride to visit with Santa, crafts, carols and holiday fun. Craft and resale vendors will be selling a variety of holiday items. Do you like to sing? Share your talent in the Bates singing contest called “The Christmas Voice!” Fri. & Sat. Event details.

Pacific Beach

San Diego Santa Run
The San Diego Santa Run is a holiday experience like none other in San Diego! The event will consist of a series of runs that will take place on Garnet Ave. featuring a 5K fun run and 1 mile run waves that include run with your dog, kids run and a competitive wave. Come out in your finest (or ugliest) Christmas attire as you take part in this one-of-a-kind holiday experience. Then stick around to watch the annual Pacific Beach Holiday Parade! Sat. Event details.


Christmas in the Park
Traditions come to life during Christmas in the Park. The day is filled with fun activities including a Christmas tree lighting, Santa and Mrs. Claus arriving by train, horse-drawn carriage rides, face painting, ornament decorating, entertainment and lots more. Enjoy the tree lighting and welcoming Santa as he arrives on the train at 5:15 p.m. Sat. Event details.


Makers Arcade Holiday Fair
Returning for its fourth successful year, the Makers Arcade Holiday Fair offers extended hours, creating an enchanting twilight holiday shopping experience on the Bay. This year’s event brings more makers than ever to the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier, with expanded food and drink offerings. The Holiday Fair features a curated selection of unique handcrafted goods from favorite local makers. In addition to craft cocktails and Half Door available for purchase, gourmet food trucks onsite will include Sushi Uno, Buona Forchetta, Mastiff Sausage and Eat Your Heart Out. Shoppers will enjoy s’mores by Mallow Mallow and coffee drinks by Communal Coffee. There is plenty of outdoor seating on the back deck of the Port Pavilion, which will be strung with market lights, creating a festive holiday atmosphere as the sun sets. Sat. Event details.

Multiple Waterfront Viewing Spots

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Continuing its long-standing San Diego tradition, the 46th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights promises to dazzle and entertain bayfront crowds this holiday season. Participants in this year’s highly anticipated holiday boat parade will decorate their boats to fit this year’s theme: “Arrgh! A Pirate’s Christmas!” The procession of approximately 80 lavishly decorated boats has become one of the most iconic events in the region. This year, for the 2nd time, the parade will proceed to the pier at Cesar Chavez Park before making the turn to Coronado, giving spectators another area to view the parade. Spectators can view the parade from any of the following waterfront viewpoints: Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the Pier at Cesar Chavez Park and the Ferry Landing in Coronado. Beginning at 5 p.m. each night, the parade starts at Shelter Island and proceeds to Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the Pier at Cesar Chavez Park, and ends at the Ferry Landing in Coronado. The parade takes about an hour to pass any given point and there are many comfortable waterfront viewpoints along the route. A map of the route is available on the San Diego Bay Parade of Light’s website. Due to increased traffic and parking demand, observers are encouraged to plan ahead or take the trolley. Sat. Event details</a>.

La Jolla

Superhero 5K/Fun Run
Family-friendly event that includes FREE children’s activities such as rock-climbing wall, obstacle course and crafts table. Run entry fee includes free Snooze breakfast and race swag bag filled with sunblock, biofreeze packets, granola bar, and more! Every participant earns a race medal. Superhero costume encouraged but not required. Sun. Event details.


Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade
All pet owners and their furry, featured and scaled companions are invited to don their favorite costumes and put their best paw, wing and fin forward for this jolly promenade and pet expo, which starts at MLK Promenade Park, adjacent to the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. Sun. Event details.

Where are you having fun this weekend? Let us know in the comments!

––Beth Shea