San Diego Thanksgiving Traditions & Things to Do 2023

See how San Diego celebrates Thanksgiving. Plan the ideal holiday outing for you and your family with turkey trots, dinner buffets, scenic cruises & more.
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.
Thanksgiving Traditions & Things to Do 2023
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Create New Traditions this Thanksgiving in San Diego

Great Views at Oceans Coastal Kitchen at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and SpaKids Surfing on the Oversized Little Italy Chair

If you’re planning on visiting San Diego in the fall, you’ve got a lot to look forward to!

San Diego’s weather is often warm with clear skies and plenty of sunshine in the months around the holidays. A trip to the area during the fall months also means there’s a good chance you’ll be in San Diego during the holiday season!

San Diego is well-known for its Christmas extravaganzas and New Year’s parties toward the end of the year, but the fun starts as early as October at local pumpkin patches. From mid- to late-November, visiting families may be looking for a way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Luckily, San Diego’s restaurants, parades, and other seasonal events have you covered!

Most Thanksgiving activities take place on the holiday itself. In 2023, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, November 23rd. While a family dinner at home might be the most traditional way to celebrate, going out to eat in search of one of the city’s enormous Thanksgiving sit-down meals or at one of many tasty buffets is also a unique way to spend the day with friends and family.

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Head to Downtown for the Best Parade
San Diego's Thanksgiving Day Parade features colorful floats, marching bands, and community groups, creating a joyful atmosphere that kicks off the holiday season with enthusiasm.

In the morning and early afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, we recommend you check out the local parades and other celebrations to get into the spirit and snap some commemorative photos. Then take the kids to a restaurant for an unforgettable meal. There are also plenty of chances to do some shopping as the Christmas season draws ever-closer!

11 + 1 Incredible Things to Do this Thanksgiving in San Diego

Start planning your Thanksgiving season getaway now with our picks for the 11 best things to do on and around Thanksgiving in San Diego County. Create new traditions with your family that you’ll reminisce about fondly for years.

Our list was created by a longtime local with the hope that you will enjoy Thanksgiving in San Diego more than ever before! Also, make sure to read to the end of our list for a bonus activity we’re confident you won’t want to miss!

San Diego Champagne Brunch Cruise
San Diego Champagne Brunch Cruise

1) Take a Thanksgiving Day Buffet Brunch or Dinner Cruise on the San Diego Bay

San Diego Tours: 13 Best San Diego Harbor Cruises & Boat Tours
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Cost: $56.70 per person

It’s safe to say that many of the best Thanksgiving traditions involve an incredible meal! With the Thanksgiving Day Buffet Brunch or Dinner Cruise on San Diego Bay, you and the family can enjoy that meal in a truly unique way: from a ship as you cruise around the harbor!

Head to the San Diego Bay on Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd, to board the boat and embark on a two-hour cruise. It’s easy to think of things to be thankful for when you’re overlooking the bay, like the incredible sights, San Diego’s beautiful weather, and excellent company.

One reason we love the Thanksgiving Day Cruise is because it offers flexible options that fit into any schedule. The brunch cruise runs from 1:00-3:00 pm, but there’s also a dinner cruise held later that day if you’re already planning some afternoon activities.

The $56.70 ticket price per person includes buffet-style salads, entrees, and desserts, as well as bottomless mimosas during the brunch cruise. Children under three can cruise and eat for free, making this an excellent choice for families with young kids.

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Surf Art in Oceanside
Surf Art in Oceanside

2) Run in the O’side Turkey Trot

Neighborhood: Oceanside
Date: Nov 23, 2023

2023 marks the 18th annual O’side Turkey Trot fundraising event. All registered participants who pay to join the run or walk will receive a series of perks including a commemorative shirt and photo, but if you’d just like to watch from the sidelines, that’s fine too.

The O’side Turkey Trot consists of four different events with staggered start times so you can watch or participate in as many trots as you wish. All races will take place on the morning of November 23rd. In 2023, the start times are listed below.

  • 5 Miler: 6:45 am
  • 5K: 8:05 am
  • Kids 1 Mile (7-12 Years Old): 10:00 am
  • Kids 1/5 Mile (6 and Under): 10:25 am

In addition to being one of the biggest holiday events in Oceanside, earning it a spot on our Complete Guide to All the Holidays in San Diego, the Turkey Trot is the perfect way to pregame for a Thanksgiving dinner.

With options for both adults and kids to get active before the biggest feasting day of the year, you can chow down guilt-free afterwards. In fact, the Turkey Trot benefits the Move Your Feet Before You Eat!® foundation which encourages regular physical activity as a healthy habit, especially for kids.

3) Have Dinner in Little Italy at Herb & Wood

Neighborhood: Little Italy San Diego
Address:
2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Cost: $92 per Adult; $38 per Child

San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood is a popular location for foodies, with many classic Italian restaurants to choose from. Among them is Herb & Wood, which has a charmingly rustic atmosphere and a menu filled with delightful Mediterranean fare.

While Herb & Wood is worth a visit any time of year, what nets it a spot on our article A Complete Guide to All the Holidays in San Diego is it’s incredibly delicious, specialty Thanksgiving dinner. Meals are $92 per adult and $38 per child, and include two starters, your selection of a main course (with a vegan option), family-style sides, and pie or cake for dessert.

Going out to eat on Thanksgiving is a convenient option that allows you to spend more time with family and less time doing dishes. But if you’d rather gather at home, Herb & Wood also offers Thanksgiving takeout with all the traditional fixings.

Herb & Wood is located at 2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101. Dinner is served from 1:00 to 7:00 pm on November 23rd, 2023. If you’re planning on dining at the restaurant this Thanksgiving, you’ll want to make a reservation in advance, as tables fill quickly.

This is one of the best restaurants in San Diego and one of my personal favorites. Their Thanksgiving spread is truly delicious, so I had to include it on our list!

Statue at El Prado at Balboa Park
Statue at El Prado at Balboa Park

4) Take Part in the Father Joe’s Village Thanksgiving Day Run for Hope - 5k Run & Walk

Neighborhood: Balboa Park
Date & Time: Nov 23, 2023; Check-In Starts at 6:30am; Race Starts at 7:30am
Cost: From $30 to $50

Many turkey trots are held in San Diego each Thanksgiving, but the original and longest running event is Father Joe’s Village Thanksgiving Day Run for Hope. This is a 5k run and walk that includes both timed and “fun run” options for youths and adults.

For those looking to take part in this year’s race on November 23rd, 2023, check-in starts at 6:30 am. If you and the family prefer to cheer on the runners from the sideline, the race begins at 7:30 am. From 8:00 to 10:00 am, you can have fun at the post-race festival at Plaza de Panama, which is filled with fun and games for all ages.

Participants can delight in supporting Father Joe’s turkey trot, as proceeds go toward the Father Joe’s Villages’ meal program for feeding San Diego’s homeless population. Runners are encouraged to fundraise and will receive merch at check-in as a thanks.

Through getting active and getting involved with charity work, joining Father Joe’s Village Thanksgiving Day Run is a tradition you can feel good about participating in each year, which makes it one of our favorite ways to start the holiday!

Race Track at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Race Track at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

5) Go to the Del Mar Horse Races Bing Crosby Season on Thanksgiving Day!

San Diego Popular Events: Del Mar Horse Races & Thoroughbred Club 2023
Address:
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, 92014
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Time: Gates Open 9:30 am, First Race 11:00 am

Attending a race at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club track lets you get a taste for high society, especially when you visit during this special event. While the grandest party takes place on Opening Day, wearing your fanciest clothes and visiting during the Thanksgiving season can be just as fun!

Tables at the racetrack are typically reserved for Turf Club members only, but on Thanksgiving, even guests without memberships can have an elevated experience enjoying a three-course Thanksgiving brunch. You can enjoy a picturesque view of the races as you dine and sip on bottomless mimosas.

Thanksgiving brunch takes place on November 23rd, 2023, starting at 11:00 am. Advanced tickets of $125 are required, and all attendees must follow the Turf Club dress code.

This event is held during the Bing Crosby race season, which lasts from November 10 through December 3. Whether you’re here to gamble or just to watch the horses and jockeys at work, spending a day at the races is an unbeatable experience that’s as fun for families with kids as it is for couples in search of a new, unique Thanksgiving tradition.

Great Views at Oceans Coastal Kitchen at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
Great Views at Oceans Coastal Kitchen at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa

6) Celebrate on the Bay at Oceana Coastal Kitchen at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa

Neighborhood: Mission Bay Park
Hotel: Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
Address:
3999 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Cost: $80 to $110 per Adult; $55 per Child

Have you ever considered dining bayside on Thanksgiving? Or are you looking for a way to kick back and relax this holiday season without having to cook or clean?

Thanksgiving meals are served overlooking Mission Bay at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa. You can expect exceptional service with no chance of needing to wash a single dish! The hotel also offers diners a stellar menu from the hotel’s Oceana Coastal Kitchen and complimentary champagne.

Bay cruises are complimentary for brunch attendees and set sail from 3999 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109. For $110 for adults and $55 for children (kids under 5 eat free), you’ll get access to live entertainment, a seafood cold bar, a dessert bar with a hot cocoa station, cooked-to-order omelets, and both traditional and non-traditional meal options served buffet-style. Brunch is served from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

If your afternoon is already booked, stop by for dinner instead. From 5:30 to 10:30 pm, Oceana Coastal Kitchen serves a three-course Thanksgiving dinner for $80 per guest. Options include a typical turkey dinner with classic sides, grilled swordfish, or sweet potato stew, plus an appetizer of your choice and pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.

Oysters at JRDN Restaurant at Tower 23 Hotel
Oysters at JRDN Restaurant at Tower 23 Hotel

7) Dive into a Thanksgiving Feast at Tower 23 JRDN Restaurant

Neighborhood: Pacific Beach
Hotel: Tower 23 Hotel
Address:
723 Felspar St, San Diego, CA 92109
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Cost: $69 to $74 per person

Located just off the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, Tower 23 Hotel is a boutique hotel that’s all about the beach-going lifestyle!

As a seaside community, we wanted to include a Thanksgiving activity that would make it easy to feel like you were a born-and-raised San Diegan! Thanksgiving dinner at Tower 23 JRDN Restaurant is a beachside affair, so gather the entire family to add some extra pizazz to your holiday celebrations.

The oceanside property of Tower 23’s JRDN Restaurant is located at 723 Felspar St., San Diego, CA 92109. In 2023, Thanksgiving dinner will be served on November 23rd from the afternoon to the evening, with reservations available from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Thanksgiving can often be a hectic event (especially if you’re the host!), but when you dine out, it doesn’t have to be. Experience a laid-back meal where you don’t need to stress over washing dishes, cooking, or deep-cleaning the house in preparation for guests. We love Thanksgiving at JRDN because it is relaxed and lets guests focus on the part of the holiday that really matters: spending time with family!

Plates are $69-74 per person and include an appetizer, two sides, and a dessert alongside your choice of entree from turkey, ham, salmon, and pumpkin risotto.

Cart Path at the Coronado Golf Course
Cart Path at the Coronado Golf Course

8) Run, Jog or Walk in the Coronado 5K Turkey Trot

Neighborhood: Coronado Island
Address:
Tidelands Park; 2000 Mullinex Dr. Coronado, CA 92118
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Cost: $55 for Adults; $25 for Kids (6 to 18), Kid 5 & Under Free

We love Turkey Trots as a family-friendly holiday activity. Not only are they fun for all ages, but they’re also a great way to give back to the community. The Coronado 5K Turkey Trot is held by the Coronado Unit of the Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, and all net proceeds are donated to the local hospital.

Spots are limited and tend to run out each year, so it’s a good idea to register in advance on the race’s website. Kids 5 and under can attend for free. Children ages 6-18 can register for $25, and adult tickets are $55 per runner.

In 2023, the Coronado 5K Turkey Trot will be held on November 23 at Tidelands Park, located at 2000 Mullinex Dr. Coronado, CA 92118. The walk begins at 8:00 am and continues until 11:00 am.

If you’re looking for more ways to stay active and want to save money during the holiday season, we recommend you take a look at the Go City San Diego pass! Coronado Island is your playground, with discounts on a full day bike rental, 90-minute tandem kayak rental, and much more.

Biking and kayaking around the neighborhood are excellent ways to work off the calories from Thanksgiving Dinner while also having fun with your family.

Main Sign at Lauberge Del Mar Resort and Spa
Main Sign at Lauberge Del Mar Resort and Spa

9) Dine Upscale Style at the Adelaide at L'Auberge Del Mar

Neighborhood: Del Mar
Hotel: L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa
Address:
1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Cost: $170 per Person

The defining factor of L’Auberge Del Mar’s Adelaide restaurant is upscale dining with a coastal influence. Locally-sourced ingredients and fresh seafood are a tempting array no matter the time of year, but their Thanksgiving menu is a real treat.

Adelaide’s Thanksgiving dinner is one of the pricier options on this list at $170 per person, but in exchange, the restaurant offers an elevated quality of dining. The menu includes soups and salads, a variety of protein carving stations and traditional sides, and seasonal desserts, as well as charcuterie and a selection of seafood from the raw bar. Come hungry and you’ll certainly get your money’s worth!

The Thanksgiving dinner will be held on November 23, 2023, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The hotel is located at 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014.

Adelaide also offers a 4-person to-go Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey, sides, dessert, rolls, and even a bottle of champagne. We added this bonus option to our list for the Adelaide at L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa for small families, empty nesters or even couples that like leftovers that are looking to take the stress out of the holiday season.

Restaurant Dining Room at La Valencia Hotel
Restaurant Dining Room at La Valencia Hotel

10) Have a Classy Dinner at the La Valencia Hotel

Neighborhood: La Jolla
Hotel: La Valencia Hotel
Address:
1132 Prospect St La Jolla,CA, 92037
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Cost: $130 per Adult and $40 & $60 option for Children 12 and under

This Thanksgiving, it’s easy to find something to be thankful for when you and the family are dining in luxury at the La Valencia Hotel. Pull up a chair at the hotel restaurant’s classy dining room and let the chefs and staff of La Valencia cater to your every need.

2023’s Thanksgiving dinner is a sit-down three-course meal for $130 per adult and a $40 & $60 option for children 12 years and under. Alongside holiday favorites like turkey and pumpkin pie, you’ll have your choice of upscale options including lobster tail and pumpkin bisque as a first course.

Dinner reservations are available from 12:30pm to 7:00 pm on November 23, 2023.

The address for La Valencia Hotel is 1132 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037. Situated just a short walk from the La Jolla coastline, the dining room’s wide windows offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean while you eat.

After dinner, visit the beach at nearby La Jolla Cove and make use of Go City San Diego pass discounts throughout the weekend to save on surfing rentals, lessons, and more to make the time with loved ones truly memorable.

11) Have a Unique Thanksgiving Meal at the Animae Restaurant

Neighborhood: Embarcadero San Diego
Address:
969 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA 92101
Date: Nov 23, 2023
Cost: $110 per Adult and $42 per Child

The classic Thanksgiving fare is turkey and mashed potatoes, but many San Diego restaurants are changing up the formula and reinventing traditions. One such restaurant is Animae at 969 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA 92101.

This year, Animae is putting a Filipina-American twist on Thanksgiving. Join chef Tara Monsod on November 23, 2023 for a four-course meal with sides. Standout options on the menu include short rib kare kare, beef tartare, ube bread, and red bean tarts.

Dinner is served from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Prices are $110 per adult and $42 per child.

Thanksgiving dinner was included on our list because we love the multicultural feel of the menu and Animae’s unique approach to an old-fashioned holiday. By combining flavors from Filipino cuisine with an all-American holiday, Animae’s menu stands out among other Thanksgiving offerings.

Sunset at the Koi Pond at Westfield UTC Mall
Sunset at the Koi Pond at Westfield UTC Mall

12) BONUS: Go Black Friday Holiday Shopping

Best of Things to Do: 12 Best Malls & Shopping Areas in San Diego
Address:
Locations throughout San Diego

Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas gift-giving season, but for savvy shoppers, deals are available well before Thanksgiving and well after it too!

Traditionally, most San Diego stores have only offered Black Friday deals during the holiday weekend. However, this trend has been changing in recent years, with many stores extending sales to run through the whole month of November. This means you can comfortably take a post-turkey nap without worrying about missing out on many one-day-only discounts.

If you still enjoy the rush of Black Friday shopping, though, don’t worry; while most malls will be closed Thanksgiving day, spots like North County Mall and San Diego's Fashion Valley will open bright and early at 6:00 am on Friday, November 24th. We also recommend doing some shopping at Westfield UTC shopping center and Las Americas Premium Outlets, which open at 8:00 am and 9:00 am respectively.

For more recommendations on shopping spots, check out our list of the Best Malls in San Diego.

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Attractions that you can visit with a Go City San Diego pass include:

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Recommendations and Things to Know about San Diego this Thanksgiving

What Attractions are Open on Thanksgiving?

Most of San Diego’s malls and shopping centers are closed on Thanksgiving, but if you’re looking for something to do after dinner, the San Diego Zoo is still open for business!

Grab a Go City San Diego pass for discounted tickets, or visit one of San Diego’s beaches to walk or bike ride along the shore. Alternatively, we love to get a jumpstart on the Christmas celebrations by taking our families for a visit to the Surfin’ Santa at Seaport Village. Locals know that Jolly Old St. Nick tends to make an appearance over the holiday weekend!

How Cold is San Diego in November?

The fall in San Diego is actually our favorite time of year due to the smaller crowds, great deals and of course, warm yet pleasantly refreshing weather!

It’s an excellent season for visiting one of San Diego’s more than 75 beaches. We love to rent a surfboard and take advantage of the winter swells, but the beaches are also open for sunbathing, picnics or just to take a simple sunset stroll.

November chills are common in most of the US, but San Diego enjoys pleasant weather year-round. You likely won’t need more than a light jacket, as November temperatures average out at about 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit in most regions.

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Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
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