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Where Military Families Can Enjoy the Holidays Around San Diego

by PCSgrades Staff - December 1st, 2021

Where Military Families Can Enjoy the Holidays Around San Diego

Season’s greetings from sunny San Diego! As a military family, you may be new to celebrating Christmas on the Pacific Coast. Sure, this isn't the Northeast with snowmen and mulled cider. Though you won’t find Jack Frost nipping at your nose, the entire area has a way of transforming into its own version of a winter wonderland. Here are our suggestions for enjoying the holidays in San Diego.

Out & about San Diego- holiday edition

For foodies

Take a drive to Julian. This picturesque mountain town will be full of holiday delights between their legendary pies (I hear that Moms Pies are the best!) and their warm apple cider. Saturdays are a treat in December! As you walk through town, you’ll hear Christmas carolers singing and you’ll also find a live nativity scene.

Enjoy a magical night during the annual San Diego Boat Parade. Sip champagne as you take in the display of lit boats. On the Saturdays in December, you can climb aboard the dinner cruise, and feast on a three-course meal. Christmas lights and sparkling cider? Sign me up!

Of course your children will squeal with delight as they meet Santa for brunch. On specific days in December, Hotel Del Coronado will host a Sunday brunch with Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, himself.  Here’s a treat: Little ones under age five are complimentary!

For the traditionalists

Ice skating outdoors under the palm trees? Yes, it's possible! Skating by the Sea is the Hotel Del Coronado’s dreamlike ice-rink, located seaside, with views of the Pacific and Coronado beach. The famous Victorian building will be decked out in white lights, and will provide just the right atmosphere with hot chocolate, Christmas music, and fun family activities. The Hotel Del also features traditional seasonal events like a Victorian Tea and tree-lighting, along with non-traditional events, like holiday movies on the beach!

If you miss snow, take a family road trip to Mount Laguna and experience an authentic White Christmas. What says Christmas more than sledding down mountain slopes, snow fights, and building snowmen? The hour drive is worth the magic that will surely ensue.

Want to enjoy Christmas lights in the mild jacket weather? The San Diego Zoo has special events called Jungle Bells on select days in December and January, so you can visit the animals while enjoying the sights and sounds of the holidays. Tickets are required.

San Diego's largest free lights display is in Balboa Park. December Nights is usually a one-weekend free family-friendly event. Surrounded by the gorgeous architecture of the Balboa Park buildings, you can stroll through light displays, enjoy food truck delights, and purchase food, drinks, and gifts from local vendors. Be forewarned--this can be a popular and very crowded event, with shuttle busses carrying people to various satellite parking areas. So plan accordingly.

For history buffs

For those who want to experience how Californians celebrated the holidays in the 1800s, you don’t want to miss the Old Town Holiday in the Park. This beautiful event--full of fires, shoppers, and carolers--will usually lasts through mid-December.

For art lovers

If you’re looking for the perfect, from-the-heart gift for any member of your family, attend the San Diego Made Holiday Market in downtown San Diego. Beginning each year in November and lasting through mid-December, this spectacular event has 60+ local vendors PLUS craft beer, taco bars, sweet stations with hot coffee, as well as holiday-inspired craft cocktails. Your children will love the photo booths, face painting, and coloring stations. Happy holidays to all!

One should never miss the theater during the holidays. The most popular holiday shows are A Christmas Carol, and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Your best chance to view them in San Diego is through the Cygnet Theater or the San Diego Civic Theater. is a review platform for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station and read the reviews for wherever you are PCSing next. Home is where the military sends us and together we can make a difference!

PCSgrades Staff