Holiday Activities in San Diego to Get You into the Festive Spirit

The winter weather in San Diego is anything but frightful, but that doesn’t mean the city ignores the holiday season. In fact, San Diego is a fantastic place to be during the holidays, in part thanks to the mild temperatures that make outdoor activities that much more fun. Check out these COVID-safe holiday activities in San Diego and how you can join in on the spirit of the season this year.


Get Festive in Little Italy

Activities in Little Italy, San Diego are not hard to come by, and the holiday season is no exception. Kick things off with the annual tree lighting in the center of Piazza della Famiglia on Dec. 5. The event is virtual this year, but the Little Italy Association promises the 45-minute program will make for some quality holiday entertainment.

The neighborhood will also host a Little Italy Wednesday Holiday Market through December, much like their popular Saturday markets, the Little Italy Mercato. Limits in place at the weekly event promise a safe space for those looking for ways to get out during the holidays and pick up a few artisan treats while maintaining social distancing rules.

Holiday market

Taste of December Nights

December Nights, one of the most popular free holiday events in San Diego, will look a little different this year. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get to experience the Balboa Park festival at all. Taste of December Nights will be offered as a drive-thru experience instead, with over 20 food vendors on hand offering their most delicious eats to kick off the start of the holiday season.

The three-day event from Dec. 4-6 will be held in the Inspiration Point parking lot near Balboa Park.

Balboa Park, San Diego during the holidays

Host a (Small) Holiday Party

You may be missing out on the big family gatherings and work parties this holiday season, but you don’t have to miss out on holiday festivities completely. Host a small holiday party with your nearest and dearest filled with your favorite beverages and holiday snacks that are perfect for the season.

If you’re living downtown, consider taking advantage of your apartment amenities. Those at the Ariel Apartments have access to both a clubhouse and recreation room, spaces where you can host a small gathering and impress guests with your hospitality.

Small, outdoor holiday party

See the Lights Safely

Considering the impressive Halloween decorations around San Diego through the month of October, residents of the city’s most festive neighborhoods will still offer up their displays for those looking for a tour of San Diego’s best Christmas lights.

The most popular neighborhoods for light-spotting in and around San Diego include Christmas Card Lane on Oviedo Street and Black Mountain Road in Ranchos Penasquitos, Candy Card Lane in Poway, and Christmas Park on Lana and Jamar Drives in Clairemont.

Those looking for more of a holiday light show complete with the best holiday classics will want to check out the drive-thru event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds throughout December. The aptly-named “Holidays in Your Car” will boast more than 1 million LED lights, in addition to those holiday tunes.

Houses with Christmas lights

Get a Local Gift at a Magical Market

Adopt a new holiday tradition this year at the Holiday Market and Trail at Petco Park. Guaranteed to be safe and festive fun for the whole family, this socially distanced trail at Gallagher Square will be a one-stop-shop to get you in the holiday spirit.

At this market, you’ll be able to pick up the perfect stocking stuffer or a special gift from the artisan huts. Think local and European-themed gift shops selling handmade soaps, ornaments, and one of a kind arts and crafts. While wandering through this enchanting trail, you’ll also be treated to magical light displays and have the chance to meet Santa and his merry band of elves. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll find an assortment of seasonal refreshments, like crepes, strudel, gingerbread, sugar cookies, truffles, and more.

This COVID-safe holiday event will run December 3-6 and 9-23 from 4:00-9:30 pm. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the festive season!

Buying treats at a holiday market

Walk in a Winter Wonderland

Skating by the Sea, the annual ice skating event at the Hotel del Coronado and one of the most popular San Diego Christmas events, won’t be happening this year. But the historic hotel has a family-friendly replacement through December.

Walk into a Winter Wonderland on the hotel’s beachfront Windsor Lawn to see their 35-foot Christmas tree and take socially-distanced photos with Santa with the city’s best backdrop. The event will be held entirely outdoors, with snacks, drinks, and festive holiday crafts available to-go.

Hotel del Coronado during the holidays

Go to the Theater, Without Leaving Home

Unfortunately, San Diego residents won’t be able to go to the theater this year to see the traditional holiday performances on the city’s stages. The Old Globe, though, is looking to remedy that with a performance of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! On the Radio.

The musical will be available as an audio-only performance in a few different ways and on dates throughout December. Listeners can catch it on KPBS Radio 89.5 FM, on the KPBS website and app, and smart speakers. Best yet, the performance is free, so you can be as loud as you want while having your popcorn.

Christmas Tree in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Support a Good Cause

There are so many ways to give and support your local community this holiday season. The Little Italy Association’s annual toy drive for foster children at New Alternatives, Inc., will run through Dec. 14. Food banks are holding drives all over the city and urging donors to consider monetary donations, as well, during this uncertain time.

Another way to give is to support small businesses that may be struggling at this time. Buy locally when you’re looking for that perfect gift for a loved one. Purchase meals from struggling local eateries. Your dollars will go a long way to ensuring your favorite establishments are around for the next holiday season.

People volunteering at a food bank

Bring the Holiday Spirit Home

When spending more time at home, getting into the holiday spirit can be as easy as adding some holiday decor to your space. Make the most of your apartment space with decorations that feel festive without the clutter. Think twinkle lights, scented candles in the most delightful holiday fragrances, and wreaths or a Christmas tree if that’s part of your tradition.

Home decorated for the holidays

If you’re looking for the perfect downtown San Diego apartments to call home this holiday season, consider taking a tour of the Ariel Luxury Apartments, a Little Italy complex with all of the amenities you’ll need to bring the holiday spirit home.