ICA North (Encinitas) hosts the Cog•nate Collective in December as part of their ongoing “Growth Unlimited, World Limited” exhibit.
Starting in November and running through January 1, Lightscape at the San Diego Botanical Garden in Encinitas is a mile-long illuminated trail after dark that features more than a million twinkling lights. Brimming with color, imagination, sound and, of course, light, attendees will enjoy stunning art installations by international artists that have been custom designed for San Diego. Guests can also roast marshmallows over the fire, sip hot chocolate, and snack on other seasonal treats along the trail.
San Diego’s largest free holiday festival in Balboa Park, December Nights is a family-friendly event featuring beautiful light displays, music, special museum admission, and food. Parking can be tricky, but there will be transportation to get people where they need to go.
An annual holiday event for more than 100 independent creators, the Makers Arcade Holiday Fair is the region’s best place for unique gifts, craft cocktails, gourmet food trucks, live music, photo previews and more. It’s on the Broadway Pier, kids 10 and under are free, and the first 100 people to arrive each day receive a goodie bag.
This year’s SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off in North Park features restaurants and breweries from neighboring communities, including 35 local chefs, 22 breweries and a Bivouac Ciderworks cider house. A Christmas craft market, two music stages featuring local bands, a kids’ zone and a food truck yard will also be on site for the all-ages event.
Through Jan. 1 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds is the Snow n Glo family event, which also has an outpost in Ventura. In the absence of a true winter here in San Diego, kids and adults alike can tube on real snow, take a ride on the carousel or Ferris wheel, sip hot chocolate while walking through the light display and even hanging out in a real, honest to God, private igloo made of ice.
There’s plenty of handmade greatness at East Village Holiday Market and Tree Lighting, including beautifully patterned leather goods, jewelry, knitwear and more. There will be a lighting ceremony with music provided by the Voices of our City Choir Homeless Choir. Event guests can also donate to Rachel’s Women’s Center, a safe place for homeless women.
Watch the 52nd annual San Diego Parade of Lights, which features boats decorated with lights around San Diego Bay. The marine procession begins on Shelter Island and passes Harbor Island, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, and the pier at Cesar Chavez Park before ending at Coronado Ferry Landing Marketplace.
California Dreaming’s version of a winter wonderland returns to The Del, where people can ice skate while watching the waves crash on Coronado Beach. Rink hours vary, but no matter what, there’s always hot chocolate waiting at the hotel after the skaters get off the ice. The rink closes on January 1st.
The Golden State Ballet at The Civic Theater comes to San Diego to perform The Nutcracker. The San Diego Symphony performs Tchaikovsky’s classical score, accompanying the dazzling choreography of the beloved story of Clara and her toy prince. Children must be at least four years old to attend most performances. Running until the 23rd.
Love, actually, everyone’s favorite modern holiday rom-com, is brought to life in The Rady Shell by the San Diego Symphony, which plays Craig Armstrong’s now-classic score along with a live screening of the film. Get ready to sob as you murmur, “You’re perfect to me,” alongside hundreds of strangers-turned-friends overnight.
Once the excess of Christmas activities is over, it’s time to look towards the New Year. The Port of San Diego hosts the traditional family Holiday Bowl Parade with marching bands, magnificent floats, drill teams, huge balloons and a pre-parade 5K run. The festivities continue afterwards at the Broadway Pier. Seats in the grandstand are available by reservation.