photo: California Center for the Arts, Escondido

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! This first weekend of December is filled with holiday-inspired activities your whole family will enjoy. From the Winter Wonderland Festival and tree lightings to Frosty Farm and Christmas on the Prado, here’s where to start the countdown to Santa’s big visit!

Balboa Park

ChIMES Holiday Music Class
Join the San Diego Youth Symphony for a unique 45-minute Chimes holiday music class featuring seasonal songs and activities, plus special take-home crafts, holiday snacks and more!  Chimes (Childhood Introduction to Music Education, with Smiles) classes are designed for children ages 0-5 and their parents/caregivers and provide meaningful music-making experiences that encourage family bonding, at-home learning and pave the way for future musical development. The interactive classes develop motor and aural skills by incorporating singing, movement, rhythm activities, hands-on instrument play and lots of fun! Register at to learn more and reserve your spot! Fri. Event details.

5th Annual Children’s Coalition Christmas on the Prado
Get in the holiday spirit at the 5th Annual Children’s Coalition Christmas on the Prado, featuring a toy drive to benefit Toys for Tots at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in historic Balboa Park! The charity event is a fun-filled, family-friendly evening with Christmas music & entertainment, photos with Santa, an elf contest, tree lighting, kids crafts and Nativity scenes. Sat. & Sun. Event details.

Liberty Station

Liberty Station’s Tree Lighting
Celebrate the season at Liberty Station’s Annual Tree Lighting & Holiday Festivities in the North Promenade. The community is invited to enjoy the holiday magic with an 88-foot Norfolk pine tree lighting, a Holiday Marketplace with local vendors, Christmas carolers, pictures with Santa, a viewing of How The Grinch Stole Christmas and more! Live entertainment will kick off the evening at 5 p.m., and at 6:15 p.m., the tree lighting ceremony will commence as a patient family of Rady Children’s Hospital lights the towering Christmas tree from top to bottom. Peruse the Holiday Marketplace for holiday goodies, gifts and more in the Central Promenade, before the outdoor viewing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Ice skating at Rady Children’s Ice Rink at Liberty Station will be open the whole evening for families and the community to enjoy. Fri. Event details.

Little Italy

20th Annual Little Italy Tree Lighting
On December 1, the community is invited to kick off the holiday season at the Little Italy Association’s 20th Annual Little Italy Tree Lighting and Christmas Village happening from 4-8 p.m. Family, friends and neighbors will experience the holiday joy at the family-friendly event and enjoy the neighborhood’s festive décor—including two Christmas trees, seasonal vendors, live music and entertainment, horse carriage rides, holiday treats, a tree lighting, a visit from Santa and more! The streets of Little Italy will be filled with twinkling lights, 10-foot tall nutcrackers on street corners, Christmas carolers and more! The neighborhood’s two Christmas trees this year are a 25-foot tower of more than 1,100 beautiful Poinsettias, located in the center of Piazza Basilone and a permanent 20-foot tall live tree in the Piazza della Famiglia. Come enjoy a winter wonderland in San Diego and get in the holiday spirit with the Little Italy Association! Sat. Event details.


Holiday by the Bay
Slide into the season at San Diego’s exclusive waterfront holiday adventure park – Holiday by the Bay! Hilton San Diego Bayfront’s newly re-imagined holiday tradition features Reindeer Run, an exhilarating two-story 100-foot ice tubing slide, the Iceberg Bumpers ride, plus Shine, an hourly interactive dynamic light show. Celebrate the season with stocking decorating at Santa’s Workshop, cookie decorating at Claus Kitchen and festive craft cocktail flights at Yule Lodge. Gather the family for sweet and savory treats from Elven Eatery and Kringle Bakery or sip cocoa and toast s’mores at a private Fireside Lounge. Holiday by the Bay runs on select dates from Nov. 21-Jan. 5. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

South Park

Holiday Walkabout & Tree Lighting
The South Park Holiday Walkabout & Tree Lighting is here! The community will be hosting a tree lighting (Grape St. & 30th St./Fern St. at the clock), with Santa and the Grinch making appearances. They will have a decorated trolley to shuttle folks from the North and South ends of the neighborhood. Businesses will be open late and hosting a variety of festive activities (kids too), specials, live music and pop up events. The neighborhood lights will be on and holiday cheer will fill the neighborhood. Get a start on your holiday shopping too. Fun for all ages! Sat. Event details.


The 2nd Annual Crafter’s Showcase
The Carlsbad Village Association’s (CVA) Crafter’s Showcase will return, bringing 50 local and regional artisans specializing in handcrafted items, for a one-day, open-air Makers Market in downtown Carlsbad. Celebrating the dynamic arts and craft culture in Carlsbad Village and the surrounding areas, this annual event features handcrafted jewelry, leather goods, beading, soaps, furniture, mixed media, pottery, garden art, succulents, hand-painted clothing and accessories, packaged sweets and other hand-made food items, and much more. Live music will be featured throughout the day, including holiday carolers to start the season off in style. Nearby Village eateries, including several new breakfast and lunch venues, coffee shops and wine bars, are conveniently located on State St. and Grand Ave. just steps from the Crafter’s Showcase. Sat. Event details.


Winter Wonderland Festival
The North Pole comes to the heart of Escondido! Kids have the chance to play in real snow, create winter-themed arts and crafts and visit with live reindeer! Santa Claus himself will make an appearance, along with carolers, stilt walkers, and even hula dancers. Food and drink will be available to warm your hands and hearts, and a number of local businesses will be displaying their wares for your holiday shopping needs. Make sure to stick around til dusk when the Winter Wonderland Forest will come alive with twinkling lights and even more holiday spirit. Sat. Event details.

Rancho Santa Fe

Frosty Farm
There’s no holiday stress here, Frosty Farm will have your whole family in good cheer! This festive event in San Diego combines hands-on animal encounters with family-friendly activities, which makes it the perfect place to create new memories. In addition to the activities that you can do at your own pace, you will also get a one hour excursion that is led by a member of our cheerful crew; this includes season’s greetings with a variety of animals and a holiday craft that is yours to keep (or gift!). You can register online or sign up on the day of the event. Sat. & Sun. Event details.

––Beth Shea