Pacific Beach is ready for the holidays

People take photos of Crystal Pier at sunset in Pacific Beach on Tuesday, December 10, 2019
People take photos of Crystal Pier, with a Christmas tree at the end of it, at sunset in Pacific Beach on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 in San Diego, California.
(Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Discover Pacific Beach has not given up on its plans to celebrate the holidays — and small businesses — in 2020


Good news: the holiday spirit is alive and well in Pacific Beach this year.

First, let’s rip the band-aid off: festive floats, marching bands, color guards and other community groups will unfortunately not be marching down Garnet Avenue in the beloved Pacific Beach Holiday Parade, which was forced to cancel due to COVID-19.

And the San Diego Santa Run, which usually brings 4,000 runners dressed as Santa to Garnet Avenue, has also had to pivot. However, rather than outright cancelling, San Diego Running Co. organizers turned the event virtual.

Instead of running in a sea of Santas, festive runners can tackle the 5K challenge on their own anytime between Dec. 12 and 25. All participants will receive a race packet with swag including a Santa suit, sunglasses and custom bib, with optional candy cane socks available for purchase. (Registration is available at

A photo of San Diego Santa Run
Last year’s San Diego Santa Run was held in Pacific Beach on Dec. 14, 2019. This year, participants can complete the race on their own from Dec. 12 to Dec. 25, 2020.

Luckily, other traditions in Pacific Beach will return including the annual Christmas on Crystal Pier.

In collaboration with Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages, Discover Pacific Beach — the local business improvement district — will once again decorate the pier with Christmas lights and wreaths, as well as the large tree placed at the end of the pier. (While Christmas on Crystal Pier is still happening, pictures with Santa have been cancelled due to COVID-19.)

Sara Berns, the executive director of Discover Pacific Beach, said that the neighborhood business district hopes the sight will draw more visitors to the area for some socially-distanced holiday cheer. In addition to providing holiday décor, the wreaths aim to provide Pacific Beach businesses with more exposure.

Discover Pacific Beach is offering more than 30 wreaths for local retailers and restaurants to purchase at $20 each. Each business decorates its unique wreath, which will receive prime placement along the pier from Dec. 5 through the end of the month.

A wreath decorated by local clothing store lotus and luna
(Courtesy photo)

One of the wreaths belongs to California Sock Company. The apparel business, whose flagship location is on Garnet Avenue, is also taking part in the business window decorating contest.

Fifteen to 20 contestants are anticipated to participate in the contest. During the weekend of Dec. 4, businesses will decorate their storefront windows to match this year’s theme: “Spending the holidays separate but together.” On Dec. 7, Discover Pacific Beach will judge each window’s creativity and adherence to the theme.

California Sock Company’s CEO and founder Bernard Lebel said his shop has been involved with the Pacific Beach holiday festivities ever since it opened five years ago.

“For us, we go corny Christmas,” Lebel said of his shop’s decorating plans. “We have a lot of punny stuff in the window to make you laugh ... our whole store is just a funny joke, really. We transpose that directly into Christmas, for sure.”

“I do think the window decorating competition is just a fun family thing to go do,” Lebel added. “Just stroll Garnet [Avenue], stroll the main Mission Boulevard, and just look at the windows and see what people do. My wife and I do it every year; it’s similar to a restaurant tasting [event].”

Though Lebel is disappointed about the cancellation of the Holiday Parade, which often brings a lot of foot traffic, he is hopeful that the community will still come out to Garnet Avenue for socially-distanced shopping and dining, attracted by either the window decorations or the Shop Local Discount Card.

Discover Pacific Beach’s discount card features a dozen businesses — including Aztec Graphics, The Village Hat Shop, and Yogurt on the Rocks — that are offering deals for the holiday shopping season. The cards were widely distributed to residents in late November and is also digitally available on Discover Pacific Beach’s website and social media channels.

“We really hope people understand that if they see [the discounts] in one spot that there could be a good day of shopping in PB that can knock off some of your list,” Berns said.

mimi & red, another business on the discount card, is new to the neighborhood and holiday festivities this year. After 13 years in La Jolla, the boutique moved to Pacific Beach last March and is excited to be involved in neighborhood happenings. (mimi & red also had another location in North Park, but it shuttered in June because of the pandemic.)

The Cass Street boutique, along with Atlas Decorum and Uncle Keith’s Gourmet Foods, is also taking part in “Shop Small at the Market.” For the holidays, Discover Pacific Beach has opened up a section of the weekly Pacific Beach Farmers Market to a handful of businesses from Nov. 17 to Dec. 15.

“[Shop Small at the Market] was really fun — everyone was so nice,” mimi and red’s co-owner Rhondda Begley said, noting that this was her first experience selling in a farmers market setting.

“I felt like the turnout last night [Nov. 17] was better than expected … there were people there consistently, coming through the doors,” Begley said, noting that the nice weather and picturesque sunset likely encouraged attendance. “We were placed right by the entrance, so that helped.”

Begley added that shoppers are required to social distance and cannot touch the items in the booths. Though the no-touch rule made it a little awkward for her to sell mimi & red’s clothing and accessories, she said the experience was still worth it and looks forward to returning on Dec. 8.

The Farmers Market is open every Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m. As for the rest of the neighborhood, shoppers can find an updated list of open businesses in Pacific Beach at

“This shop local season when everyone’s at home working on their computer it might be really easy to just ‘click to cart,’ and we want to remind people that you can still get out and walk social distancing around our business district and get some great deals [locally],” Berns said.

And for those who prefer to avoid crowds this holiday shopping season, Berns encourages San Diegans to utilize delivery, curbside pickup or online stores of local businesses.

“It might take a couple extra clicks to find them but it’s worth the [extra] time,” Berns continued. “They live in Pacific Beach, they work in Pacific Beach, they employ Pacific Beach residents. And it’s really important to support them through the holiday season.”