Santa Claus is coming to town! We know where your eager elves can whisper their wish lists and get a snapshot with the jolly old fellow. Make a day of it at a local holiday event where Santa is the headliner and kids can mingle with Kris Kringle for longer than a flash. We’ve also listed our favorite malls to visit If it’s a quick pic with St. Nick you seek. From the beach to the winery and the nut farm to the Safari Park, read on for where to get a Christmas picture with Santa in San Diego.

photo: Hotel del Coronado

Santa Brunch & Holiday Festival at Hotel del Coronado

Head to Hotel del Coronado's Holiday Festival for a merry start to the holiday season! Spend time in Santa’s Village and enjoy a professional ice skating show, carnival games and prizes, skating by the sea, fireworks, a holiday performance by Coronado's schools, visits and photos with Santa and much more.

Event details.

Date: Dec. 11
Time: 4-7 p.m.
Cost: Varies based on activities; photos with Santa are $15/photo

The Del also offers a Sunday Brunch with Santa! Kids of all ages are invited to meet St. Nick in the Crown Room during this festive meal. Parents, be sure to bring your cameras to take photos of your little ones catching up with Mr. Claus.

Event details.

Date: Dec. 1, 8, 15, 22
Cost: Adults/$105; Kids 4-10/$40; Kids under 3/free

1500 Orange Ave.
Coronado, CA 92118

photo: Del Mar Village

Santa by the Sea, Del Mar

Santa Claus is coming to Del Mar Village! Before the big meet and greet, kids can create holiday crafts including Rad Hatter Holiday hats and write notes to be delivered to Santa's workshop while enjoying holiday treats like soup shooters and hot chocolate. Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch and Candy Land’s Mr. Mint will join in the fun. Revelers are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to benefit children in need.

Event details.

Date: Sun., Dec. 8
Time: 3-5 p.m. (tree lighting is at 5 p.m.)
Cost: Free

Del Mar Village
Camino Del Mar & 15th St.
Del Mar, CA

photo: Beth Shea

Santa Breakfast, Bernardo Winery

Wake up, smell the coffee and enjoy a mimosa and brunch while the kids mingle with Kris Kringle at Bernardo Winery. In addition to face-time with Santa, kids will also enjoy face painting, crafts, and animal encounters with creatures from Wild Wonders. Book your reservation soon because the tickets go fast.

Dates: Dec. 16-21
Cost: Presale only, tickets via Eventbrite––no tickets day of event

13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte
San Diego, CA



Do you have a LEGO fanatic in your house? If so, a photo op with the LEGOLAND brick Santa and the reindeer pulling his sleigh will be a super fun option this year. Plus, you're at LEGOLAND! Check out the 30-foot tall LEGO Christmas tree, then head to Heartlake City for the LEGO Friends holiday show and meet your favorite LEGO holiday characters at the new Holiday Village. Be on the lookout to indulge in the Park's yummy seasonal holiday treats while you're there!

Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 31
Cost: Admission to park

1 Legoland Dr.
Carlsbad, CA
Online: legoland/holidays

photo: Bates Nut Farm Facebook page

Christmas in the Valley, Bates Nut Farm

Your little helpers will be amazed as Santa arrives by fire truck. Then they get to take a Polar Express ride to visit Old Saint Nick himself. There are also crafts, carols and plenty of holiday fun. Bonus: you can check a few people off your holiday gift list at the cute shops. 

Event details.

Dates: Dec. 13 & 14
Time: Fri., 3-8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

15954 Woods Valley Rd.
Valley Center, CA

Santa at Santee Lakes

This amazingly festive winter event is not to be missed! Santa will be at 'snow hill' at Santee Lakes and look-out––there may even be a snowball fight! Your little elves can do crafts, ride a pony and carnival rides and meet and greet storybook characters. Snap a shot with the big guy before the merrymaking begins. Good to know: the line for Santa can be a long wait.

Event details.

Date: Dec. 8
Time: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: Parking is $10

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve
9310 Fanita Pkwy.
Santee, CA

Botanic Wonderland: Holiday Nights in the Garden

Gather your family and friends and come spend an evening (or two!) at the all new Botanic Wonderland! Held in the Garden's brand new Dickinson Family Education Conservatory, this family-friendly festival contains many of the holiday traditions you’ve come to know and love over the years at the Garden, as well as some fantastic new ones! For the first time ever, select areas of Hamilton Children’s Garden and Toni’s Treehouse will be lit up and ready to play in during December evening hours. Go celebrate and explore the new educational space filled with unique and unusual tropical plants, many of which have never been displayed before at the Garden.

Event details.

Dates: Various dates in Dec., 5-8:30 p.m.
Cost: Prices vary. Cost breakdown available here.

San Diego Botanic Gardens
230 Quail Gardens Dr.
Encinitas, CA

Jungle Bells, San Diego Zoo

Ring in the holiday season at the Zoo’s annual celebration, Jungle Bells. The Zoo will be transformed into a wild wonderland with twinkling lights, animal-shaped light sculptures, special animal experiences and holiday-themed entertainment, including music, high-flying acrobats, the zany Dr. Zoolittle and the Zoo’s costumed characters. Santa, the jolly ol’ elf himself, will be there too, through Dec. 25! Something new has been added this year: Aurora—a multi-sensory winter spectacular with lights, projections, music and more—will transport guests to a world they’ve never seen before, filled with wonder, wildlife, and winter charm. Guests also can enjoy tasty holiday treats at the Zoo’s many 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 3-5 p.m. each day of Jungle Bells.

Event details.

Dates: Dec. 13-Jan. 5
Cost: Jungle Bells activities and attractions are included with Zoo admission or membership. Parking is free. (Santa photos cost extra).

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego, CA

Santa Breakfast, Safari Park

Santa Claus is coming for breakfast at the Safari Park and would love to take a picture with the whole family. After the snapshot, gather together at the scenic Kilima Point for a hearty breakfast buffet with Santa himself. Stay for the winter festivities and wild animals at the park.

Event details.

Call 619-718-3000 to reserve your spot.

Dates: Dec. 7 &; Dec. 8
Time: 9-10:30 a.m.
Cost: $29.95/adult; $18.95/kids ages 3-11; Plus Safari Park admission

San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The Grove
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.
Escondido, CA

Santa's Village in San Marcos

Head to Santa's Village and Tree Lighting at San Marcos Civic Center. This free event includes fun for the whole family. Get a photo with Santa Claus between 1-4:30 p.m. There will be free festive crafts and activities, as well as vendors selling their wares and snacks. Entertainment will be featured in the courtyard, and the tree lighting is at 5:35 p.m. Don’t miss the ‘snow’ right after the tree lighting!

Additionally, the City offers a Breakfast with Santa which includes a free photo! The breakfast is from 7:30-11 a.m. on Dec. 14 and tickets may be purchased here.

Date: Dec. 7
Time: 1-7 p.m.

San Marcos Civic Center
1 Civic Center Dr.
San Marcos, CA

Little Italy's Christmas Village

Start the holiday season with festive fun in Little Italy at the 21st Annual Little Italy Tree Lighting and Christmas Village.

Enjoy the reveal of a new custom Christmas tree, and experience a magical evening filled with festive decor, seasonal vendors, a tree lighting ceremony (at 6:30 p.m.) in the Piazza della Famiglia with a live Christmas tree over 25-feet tall, live music and entertainment, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday treats, a surprise visit from Santa and more!

Santa will make an appearance to chat and take photos with children starting at 4 p.m. In “Santa’s Living Room” little ones can share their Christmas wishes until 6 p.m. and get their picture taken with the man from the North Pole. Kids can also participate in arts and crafts activities next to “Santa’s Living Room.” Stroll Christmas Village, which will feature holiday goodies and perfect stocking stuffers from seasonal vendors.

Event details.

Dates: Sat., Dec. 7, 4-6 p.m. to visit with Santa. Tree lighting is at 6:30 p.m.

Piazza della Famiglia
India St.
San Diego, CA 92101

Kringle Mingle

Cardiff-by-the-Sea welcomes you to a free festive holiday celebration for the entire community. Come get free photos with Surfing Santa in his vintage Camera Camper Sleigh. Listen and dance to lively musical performances throughout the afternoon with kid favorites Bucket Ruckus and Hullabaloo Band. Sample açaí bites from Sambazon, sip on hot coffee or hot chocolate for the kiddos from Starbucks, provided free to guests thanks to the generous support of these local businesses. Drink up for a cause at the Lost Abbey Confessional, they will be hosting a Happy Hour fundraiser to benefit the Cardiff community from 1-5 p.m. Bring your reusable mugs and bottles to fill up as well! For the big finale, stay nearby as they flip the switch at 5 p.m. for the festive tree lighting ceremony.

Event details.

Dates: Dec. 1, 1-5 p.m.

Cardiff Town Center
North Courtyard
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

Liberty Station Tree Lighting & Holiday Festivities

Free photos with Santa and festive firetruck rides will delight the kiddos at this holiday extravaganza! Celebrate the holiday season at Liberty Station’s Tree Lighting & Holiday Festivities on Friday, November 29 in the North Promenade from 4 to 9 p.m. with entertainment, a Christmas Tree Lighting, ice skating, an outdoor movie showing and more! Friends and families are invited to gather at 6:15 p.m. for the annual tree lighting of Liberty Station’s iconic 88-foot Norfolk Pine. The 88-foot Norfolk Pine will  come alive with holiday spirit as a patient family from Rady’s Children Hospital lights the towering tree. Afterwards, guests are encouraged to stop at any of the neighborhood's eateries to grab a bite to eat. The evening will end with an outdoor viewing of The Grinch that will be projected onto a custom-made sail movie screen. Guests can also ice skate at the Rady Children's Ice Rink at Liberty Station, which will be open the entire night.

Event details.

Dates: Nov. 29, 4-9 p.m.

2848 Dewey Rd.
San Diego, CA 92106

Breakfast with Surfin' Santa

Have breakfast with Surfin' Santa! This special morning with everyone's favorite jolly guy includes a full breakfast, picture with Santa, face painting, balloon artists and kids show. Don't miss it!

Dec. 14; $25/person

Event details.

For double the fun, before you head to breakfast with Surfin' Santa, watch him arrive to shore in San Diego. The longstanding Seaport Village tradition of Santa surfing in to greet revelers returns for the 14th year on Nov. 30, 2019 at 1 p.m. Named one of the ten best Santa sightings by USA Today, Santa will break out his boardshorts and favorite Hawaiian shirt to visit Seaport Village. Arrive early to see Surfin’ Santa cruise in from the San Diego Bay by watercraft, and enjoy a day of live music by the Surfin’ Santa Band, free photos with Santa on his giant surfboard, and more!

Nov. 30; free

Event details.

Simply a Snapshot with Santa

Westfield UTC
Santa lands his sleigh near Pottery Barn, so head on over to greet him. When done with your holiday pics, stop by the new playground so your little snow angels can run around. Finally, it's time to get that holiday shopping in!

Dates: Nov. 15-Dec. 24

4545 La Jolla Village Dr.
San Diego, CA 92122

Seaport Village
Perfect professional photos of your little tykes with Mr. Claus are taken at this festive outdoor shopping spot. Pay $35 for a flash drive with all captured photos.

Dates: Nov. 16-Dec. 23; Weds.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Seaport Village
849 West Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101

Grossmont Center
Dash into Santa's festively decorated hut for that special photo-op. Let your little ones tell Santa what’s on their list. You can book an appointment or just show up. Pics available for purchase.

Dates: Nov. 29-Dec. 23, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Grossmont Center
5500 Grossmont Center Dr.
La Mesa, CA 91942

The Shoppes at Carlsbad
We may not get snow in San Diego, but we have plenty of Santa sightings in town. Find Santa waiting on the lower level near Macy's Court. Pictures are available to purchase. Also, sign-up for a fast pass and skip the line!

Pet pictures with Santa are also available Dec. 2-16!

Dates: Nov. 29-Dec. 24

2525 El Camino Real
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Fashion Valley
Ready, set, smile! Grab the crew and take a family photo with Santa. You'll find him ready to listen to lists and smile for that famous photo in front of Macy's. 

Dates: Starting Nov. 7

7007 Friars Road
San Diego, CA 92108
Online: fashion-valley/santa-photo-experience

––Nikki Walsh & Beth Shea


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