A Complete Guide to All the Holidays in San Diego

The holidays are a magical time to visit San Diego! From limited-time themed events to seasonal celebrations, enjoy our guide to the holidays in San Diego.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
A Complete Guide to All the Holidays
Ring in the Holidays
Top Holiday Festivities
Go City Pass & Save
Featured Hotel
Tours & Adventures

Ring in the Holidays in San Diego

Santa's Sleigh at December Nights in Balboa ParkEl Campo Santo Cemetery in Old Town San Diego

No matter the season, there’s always something fun to do in San Diego, especially around the many holidays celebrated in and around the city!

Watch the area transform into a winter wonderland during the lead-up to Christmas, or experience a Día de Los Muertos makeover around Old Town San Diego in the fall. See the skies light up during the Fourth of July festivities, and ring in the New Year along one of San Diego’s picturesque beaches.

If you’re in search of the best of the best ways to celebrate each major holiday in San Diego, you’ve come to the right place! Our complete guide to celebrating the holidays highlights the best attractions, parties, and other seasonal events that are sure to put you in the holiday spirit!

Read on to explore San Diego’s most popular seasonal activities and hidden secrets alike with our guide to the holidays in San Diego!

San Diego’s Top Holiday Festivities

A Holiday Season Guide to San Diego Christmas Activities

Snow may be a rarity, but the Christmas spirit remains strong in San Diego. Prepare for the winter holidays and create new traditions with your family when you visit in December.

Whether you’re a local or you’re vacationing in San Diego around Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, check out our picks for the best things to do in our Holiday Season Guide to San Diego’s Christmas Activities.

Posing in Front of the Christmas Tree at How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe
Posing in Front of the Christmas Tree at How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe

1) See Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park

San Diego Theaters: Old Globe Theatre San Diego

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is one of the most famous Christmas tales. See this classic storybook live on stage at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park with a yearly performance based on the 1966 movie adaptation.

Sing along to all your favorite songs and a few new ones as you and the family watch a charming tale sure to make your heart grow three sizes. This is an excellent way to get in the spirit, and it also makes for a charming new tradition your family can share for generations to come.

Buy Grinch Tickets
The Start of the Santa Run in Pacific Beach
The Start of the Santa Run in Pacific Beach

2) Watch or Race in San Diego Santa Run

Neighborhood: Pacific Beach
Holidays in San Diego: A Holiday Season Guide to San Diego Christmas Activities 2023

If you’re looking for a unique San Diego holiday experience, the San Diego Santa Run is the perfect event for you!

Each year thousands of people clad in Santa costumes fill the streets of Pacific Beach during the annual Santa Run. This run is a 5k marathon that takes place on December 9 this year.

All are invited to watch the Santa Run, and if you register ahead of time, you can join in! Be sure to wear a costume if you plan on participating.

The Santa Run holds an afterparty with fun themed events and the Pacific Beach Holiday Parade following the conclusion of the run.

Register for the Santa Run

Best New Years Eve Parties in San Diego

Just because the year is ending doesn’t mean the party’s over! On New Year’s Eve, San Diego’s liveliest gatherings and hottest events can be found all over the city.

Attend a huge party with an energetic atmosphere, enjoy live music and DJs, and party long after the sun goes down as you wait for midnight. There’s nothing quite like watching the ball drop surrounded by a crowd of people, all in high spirits.

Big Night San Diego New Years Eve Party
Big Night San Diego New Years Eve Party

3) Big Night San Diego at Hilton Bayfront

Holidays in San Diego: Best New Years Eve Parties in San Diego 2024
Date: Dec 31, 2023

The Hilton Bayfront San Diego hosts one of the biggest bashes of the year on Big Night San Diego. This massive party begins in the evening on New Year’s Eve and continues straight on until midnight. Dance all night, sing your heart out to the year’s hottest songs, and enjoy the rush of being part of the crowd during this pulse-pounding celebration.

Perks of attending include an open bar, experienced DJs, multiple dance floors, and VIP options with upgrades including private rooms and access to a buffet. Big Night is the ultimate in New Year’s Eve parties and can’t be missed.

Buy Tickets to Big Night San Diego
Sunset on a Harbor Cruise in San Diego Bay
Sunset on a Harbor Cruise in San Diego Bay

4) New Year's Eve Dinner Cruise

San Diego Tours: 13 Best San Diego Harbor Cruises & Boat Tours
Date: Dec 31, 2023

If loud parties aren’t your scene, a cruise around the bay might be more your style. Relax to the soothing sounds of live music and stunning views of the bay’s landmarks on a New Year’s Eve Brunch or Dinner Cruise. All meals are freshly prepared with many options to choose from.

Guests on the cruise will enjoy a multi-course meal as they tour the San Diego Bay, plus a complimentary champagne toast for those 21 and older. We love this cruise as a more family-friendly way to celebrate New Year’s Eve, as all ages are invited, with free admission for kids under three.

Buy Tickets to the New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise

Celebrating Thanksgiving in San Diego with the Best Things to Do

Are you planning on spending Thanksgiving in San Diego this year with family or friends? The area offers options above and beyond the traditional meal at home. This Thanksgiving, we guarantee that you’ll be thankful for the restaurants, local organizations, hotels, and stores all getting in on the fun.

Explore our list of Things to Do in San Diego this Thanksgiving for a sneak peek at all the best ways to celebrate Turkey Day, including fun runs, delicious buffets, and exciting holiday cruises around the bay.

Street Entrance to the Oceanside Pier
Street Entrance to the Oceanside Pier

5) Run in the O’side Turkey Trot

Neighborhood: Oceanside

Start a tradition of incorporating healthy habits into the holiday season when you sign up for the O’Side Turkey Trot. This annual event held in Oceanside is a great way to get your family active before sitting down for a big Thanksgiving meal, and since the proceeds go toward charity, you’ll get to give back too!

The O’Side Turkey Trot has four unique races, with two options for adults and two for kids, letting the whole family get in on the fun. Live entertainment and a costume contest round out the experience as a rapidly-growing new Thanksgiving tradition.

Register for the O’side Turkey Trot

6) Have Dinner in Little Italy at Herb & Wood

Neighborhood: Little Italy San Diego
Address:
2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101

San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood is best known for its Italian fare, but restaurants like Herb & Wood serve up Thanksgiving dinner in style too. Enjoy all the classic desserts and sides - plus turkey, of course - infused with a subtle Mediterranean flare for a truly unbeatable menu.

Herb & Wood is one of my personal favorite restaurants in all of San Diego. Eating Thanksgiving dinner there comes with the added benefit of getting to skip out on all the tidying and washing-up of eating at home. I say save yourself the hassle and spend the extra time with your family instead. Your stomach will also thank you!

Experience the Día de Los Muertos Celebration in Old Town San Diego

The neighborhood of Old Town San Diego is a hub for history and culture, especially when it comes to San Diego’s Mexican heritage. Never is this more true than around the traditional Mexican holiday of Día de Los Muertos.

Bring the whole family along at the end of October and start of November for a Día de Los Muertos Celebration in Old Town San Diego. These activities offer a unique cultural perspective while also being tons of fun.

Family with Face Painting As Catrinas at the El Campo Santo Cemetary
Family with Face Painting As Catrinas at the El Campo Santo Cemetary

7) Get Your Face Painted as a Catrinas

Holidays in San Diego: Día de los Muertos Celebrations in San Diego 2023

Skull face paint is one of the most recognizable symbols of any Día de Los Muertos celebration. The decorative skull pattern evokes the image of La Catrina, a famous character from Mexican folklore who has long been associated with the holiday.

If you want to celebrate Día de Los Muertos like the locals do, getting Catrinas face paint is a fun activity for both adults and kids. You can find face painting booths around Old Town during the days leading up to the holiday, as well as during the festivities on Día de Los Muertos itself.

Dancers at the Dia De Los Muertos Procession in Old Town San Diego
Dancers at the Dia De Los Muertos Procession in Old Town San Diego

8) Participate in or Watch the Procession to the El Santos Campo Cemetery

Holidays in San Diego: Día de los Muertos in Old Town San Diego 2023

Join in a massive parade right after sunset, starting at the Immaculate Church on San Diego Ave. and continuing all the way to El Santos Campo Cemetery. This candlelight procession features dancers in full regalia, a live Mariachi band, and a large public altar located inside the cemetery.

The El Santos Campo Cemetery parade takes place annually on the evening of Día de Los Muertos, which is on Nov. 2nd every year. Both watching the parade and participating are completely free, as well as suitable for all ages.

To learn more about the festivities before and during the celebration, including this year’s specific times, performers and more, check out our Complete Guide to the Día de Los Muertos Celebration in Old Town San Diego.

Explore the Array of Día de los Muertos Celebrations Throughout San Diego

Old Town holds the most well-known Día de los Muertos celebrations in San Diego, but it’s far from the only area neighborhood to hold themed gatherings for the traditional Mexican holiday. Decorations begin to appear as early as mid-October. Some of the festivities start in late October, while the majority of the events fall on the holiday of November 2nd itself.

Whether you’re bringing kids to learn about the holiday for the first time, or you’re looking to get in touch with your own heritage, these community-centric celebrations are a cultural delight.

Barrio Logan Dia de los Muertos Celebration
Barrio Logan Dia de los Muertos Celebration

9) Barrio Logan Día de los Muertos - Espíritu de Xochimilco

Holidays in San Diego: Día de los Muertos Celebrations in San Diego 2023

Día de los Muertos celebrations in Barrio Logan are annual events that center around culture and tradition. Altars or ofrendas decorated with marigolds and themed painted skull decorations line the streets of the Cultural District of Barrio Logan. For a few weeks each year, the area transforms into a depiction of the Day of the Dead that’s right out of the history books.

Barrio Logan’s annual festivities are dubbed Espíritu de Xochimilco, or “Spirit of Xochimilco,” a name that calls back to the holiday’s roots and celebrates its Mexican origins. With two blocks of vendors, food trucks, and decor, families can’t go wrong by spending the holiday in Barrio Logan.

Posing for An Old Time Photo in Fiesta De Reyes
Posing for An Old Time Photo in Fiesta De Reyes

10) Annual Día de los Muertos Celebration in Downtown Chula Vista

Neighborhood: Chula Vista
Holidays in San Diego: Día de los Muertos Celebrations in San Diego 2023

While many San Diego celebrations have all the trappings of Día de los Muertos - complete with face paint, sugar skulls, and Catrinas costumes - few bring the soul of the holiday to the forefront quite like the festivities in Chula Vista.

Community ofrendas and live performances by musicians and dancers make the celebration one to remember. Walk the rows of vendor stalls or settle in to watch a family-friendly movie with the kids in the evening. Chula Vista’s Día de los Muertos event isn’t the biggest party in the city, but its wide range of activities and shows more than make up for it!

Find the Best Pumpkin Patches in San Diego

Even though San Diego is sunny all year, the fall season still marks the beginning of seasonal traditions. One tradition beloved by people of all ages is visiting a local pumpkin patch to select the best pumpkins for the fall season.

There are numerous spots to pick and decorate pumpkins around the San Diego area. Some of the Best Pumpkin Patches in San Diego also include fun activities themed around the season, such as hayrides and petting zoos.

Toms Adventures Pumpkin Patch
Toms Adventures Pumpkin Patch

11) Visit Pumpkin Station

Holidays in San Diego: Best Pumpkin Patches in San Diego 2023

Are you looking to pick your own pumpkins this season for decorating or carving? Look no further than one of our favorite pumpkin patches in all of San Diego!

The pumpkin patch at Pumpkin Station allows visitors to select their own pumpkins from the field or sort through pre-picked gourds. The patch has a variety of shapes and sizes, color and more so you can carve your spookiest jack-o-lantern or paint a funny face instead!

Pumpkin Station has three locations in San Diego, with two “station” style sites in Del Mar and Mission Valley. These stations have farm-fresh pumpkins ready to go, as well as rides, a bouncy castle, and a small petting zoo. Visit the location at Rancho Bernando for the full farm experience, which includes a larger petting zoo, train rides, hayrides, and a corn maze.

Summers Past Farms
Summers Past Farms

12) Explore Summer Past Farms

Holidays in San Diego: Best Pumpkin Patches in San Diego 2023

Summers Past Farms is a family-owned farm that hosts pumpkin picking and other fun activities for kids every fall. The pumpkin patch is open for visitors each October, while the farm’s store and gardens are open to visitors all year long.

Pick up a few seasonal gifts and homemade treats at the quaint shop, or head out into the field to select your own pumpkin. Other Halloween and fall-themed activities hosted at Summer Past Farms include a hay fort and a corn maze. Snap some pictures and make it a trip you’ll never forget!

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Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Old Town / SeaWorld Area
Exterior Font at Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Old Town / SeaWorld Area
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Hop On & Off Narrated Trolley Tour
Hop On & Off Narrated Trolley Tour
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Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
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More Holidays in San Diego