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Shine bright! Here are the best places to see holiday lights in San Diego

A photo of PB Holiday Parade
A Christmas tree on the sand in Pacific Beach.
(Howard Lipin/The San Diego-Union-Tribune)

The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to get into the festive spirit than with some twinkling lights?

After lots of socially-distanced and virtual holiday happenings in 2020, this year invites San Diegans out of their cars and off their computer screens. From large-scale events to casual neighborhood set-ups, here’s where you can find holiday lights in San Diego this year.

Public events

Botanic Wonderland at Botanical Garden

Enjoy a dazzling evening in nature and explore the grounds of the 37-acre San Diego Botanical Garden, including a designated one-mile path decorated with holiday lights. Highlights include photos with Santa; hands-on activities like writing letters to Santa; professional carolers; and food trucks. On select nights, the San Diego Woodturners will perform a demonstration and sell their creations. Open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 4 and 5, 10-23 and 26-30. Reservations required and ticket prices range from $10 to $22. Visit the website to buy tickets and check for updates in schedule or activities. 230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas; sdbgarden.org/botanic-wonderland.htm

Enchanted Village

The Noah Homes’ Enchanted Village — which pivoted to A Drive-Thru Holiday Experience for 2020 — is back with its regular format this year. Explore the grounds to see more than 200,000 lights, interactive displays, magical cottages, light tunnels, and various decorations like huge candy canes. Tickets are $12.99 (child) and $19.99 (adult), with all proceeds benefiting Noah Homes. 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 17-22. 12526 Campo Road, Spring Valley; enchantedvillage.org

Holidays at Legoland California Resort

Legoland’s theme park is open again and the resort is ready to celebrate the holidays! Take a trip to Fun Town and marvel at a 30-foot Christmas tree made out of Legos, and decorated in hundreds of Lego ornaments, which will come to life each evening during a Holiday Light Show synced to music. Snap photos in front of a life-size model of Lego Santa, as well as participate in meet and greets with characters like Santa, the Toy Soldier and Gingerbread Man. To attend, theme park tickets are required and must be purchased online; admission prices start at $104.99. Happening through Jan. 2, 2022. Check Legoland’s website for detailed health and safety guidelines due to COVID-19. One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad; legoland.com/california/things-to-do/seasonal-events/holidays

Snow n Glow at Del Mar

Stroll — or drive — through Del Mar Fairgrounds’ family-friendly holiday festival, featuring more than one million lights. Last year’s Holidays In Your Car in Del Mar returns, with an option to walk through the display instead. There will also be snow tubing for all ages, as well as private igloo rentals. Tickets are $12.99-$17.99 for walkthrough glow only experience, $34.99 for both walkthrough and snow tubing, and $45 per car for drive-thru experience. Igloo rentals sold separately. Open 4-10 p.m. on select nights Dec. 4-Jan. 2, 2022. 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar; snownglow.com/delmar

Holiday Market at Petco Park

Visit Gallagher Square to enjoy local and European-themed artisan shops, lighting displays, seasonal characters, food and drinks and unique gifts at the Holiday Market at Petco Park. $10 for kids (age 14 and under) and $14 for adults. Registration required. Reservations are available through Dec. 24; time varies based on reservation. 100 Park Blvd., East Village; mlb.com/padres/tickets/events/holiday-market-and-trail

Jingle Terrace Park

Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park returns Jingle Terrace Park: a drive-through lights display showcasing the city’s various amenities that debuted during the pandemic. The event is free, but food and unwrapped toy donations are encouraged. Happening nightly from 5:30 to 9 p.m through Dec. 23. 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista. cityofvista.com/departments/recreation-comm-services/jingle-terrace-park

Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Lights and Sights Tour
A safe way to see some of San Diego’s seasonal sights? The Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Lights and Sights Tour takes guests on a tour of festive lights throughout Old Town, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Balboa Park and more, while conductors share fun holiday facts and traditions. Dec. 6-24 and Dec. 26-30. 4010 Twiggs St., Old Town; trolleytours.com

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
SeaWorld is celebrating the holiday season this year with its annual Christmas Celebration, featuring a sea-themed Christmas tree and a holiday music-activated tunnel of lights, classic Christmas characters like Santa, seasonal food and drinks and the all-new show, “Santa’s Circus.” Select dates, now through Jan. 2. 500 Sea World Drive, Mission Bay; seaworld.com/san-diego/events/christmas

Wild Holidays at Safari Park
Stop by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park for bright lights and activities to celebrate the season on multiple evenings. Entertainment includes the Bridge of Lights, Nairobi Lantern Walk and the Journey of Light, as well as roaming performances like firefly stilt walkers and an acoustic music duo. Open Dec. 4 and 5, 11 and 12, 18-23, 26-31; and Jan. 1-2, 2022. Tickets or membership to the Safari Park required for entry to Wild Holidays; prices vary. 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido; sdzsafaripark.org/wild-holidays

Winter Wonder Beachside at Belmont Park
Celebrate the holidays in true San Diego fashion: at the beach! Belmont Park’s Winter Wonder Beachside event features 15-foot-tall holiday-themed sculptures and Illuminated Winter Nights, where the sculptures come to life when the sun goes down. Other festivities include a Christmas tree farm, holiday movie nights, face-painting and more. Weekends through Jan. 2, 2022. 3146 Mission Blvd., Mission Bay; belmontpark.com

Home for the Holidays at the Hotel Del
A beachfront Christmas tree and photos with Santa make the Hotel Del Coronado’s Home for the Holidays event a can’t-miss holiday spectacle. Grab a festive drink from the Frostbite Bar or experience the “At First Light” Lightshow Spectacular. And on Dec. 6, watch Santa himself skydive onto the beach for the annual Holiday Festival. Santa photos available from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 1, 3, 6, 9-11 and 22-24 for $25 (reservations for photos required only on Dec. 6; for other dates, first-come, first-serve). Through Dec. 31. 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado; hoteldel.com

Neighborhood happenings
(Note: This list was compiled through word-of-mouth recommendations and is continuously evolving. Please contact nina@pacificsandiego.com if there are any changes, or if you’d like your neighborhood to be included.)

BANKERS HILL: The holidays are lit at the Forward House in Bankers Hill, where homeowner John Olbrich has been decorating his home and de-lighting the neighborhood since 1998. Lights are displayed from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through New Year’s. Located at First and Ivy in Bankers Hill.

CHULA VISTA: Christmas Circle, the South Bay holiday lights favorite, returns on Whitney and Mankato Streets. Lights are displayed from 5 10 10 p.m. nightly from Dec. 11 through 26. Visitors can drive or walk through the circle, located between First and Second Avenues off H Street.

EL CAJON: “Jingle Bell Hill,” also known as “Pepper Drive Lights,” is El Cajon’s own winter wonderland. West entrance is at Pepper and Rockview drives and east entrance is at Pepper and Lindenwood drives.

LAKESIDE: Take the Riverford exit on Highway 67 to “Tinsel Town,” where more than 20 homes on Paseo Palmas Drive participate. Cross streets are Palm Row and Paseo Palmas. This year, the displays are expected to be up by Dec. 5. Check social media for updates at facebook.com/lakesides.tinseltown.

This house in Mission Hills delivers letters to Santa.
(Courtesy of Angela LaChica)

POWAY: Hickory Street turns into “Candy Cane Lane” for the holidays. Most lights stay up until Christmas, and some continue to shine until New Year’s Day. Check social media for updates at facebook.com/powayccl.

RANCHO PEÑASQUITOS: “Christmas Card Lane” on Oviedo Street is a beloved North County spot. More than 200 houses participate in the festivities, and most finish decorating by the first weekend of December.

SAN CARLOS: Extravagant Christmas lights display at 6715 Tuxedo Road. Visitors can tune to 88.9 FM when they’re nearby and they’ll hear festive music synced to the tree’s light show.

Christmas lights in San Carlos
(Courtesy of Caz Gonzalez)

SANTEE: “Starlight Circle” is located at East and West Glendon Circle and officially began on Dec. 1. Check social media for updates at facebook.com/starlightcirclesantee

TIERRASANTA: Since 2006, Randy and Brandon Schimka have hosted a holiday lights display (synchronized to music on FM 106.1) at their home at 5306 Belardo Dr. in Tierrasanta. Lights will display beginning Nov. 27. See belardolights.com for more information and updates.


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