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13 Things To Do in San Diego This Weekend: Nov. 30–Dec. 3

Start your December off right with a holiday trolley tour, tree lighting ceremonies and a festive chili cook-off
Two little girls sit with their mom infront of a vehicle with flowers at the Makers Arcade event in San Diego
Courtesy of the Makers Arcade

December 1-30

Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Sights & Festive Nights

Taking off from Old Town Market, the Old Town Town Trolley will take San Diegans on a local tour of the area’s Christmas celebrations as the trolley’s elf conductors discuss yuletide trivia, history and traditions. Passengers will see several of the city’s holiday sights as the trolley rides around to the Embarcadero, Little Italy and other areas with a special 15-minute stop at Seaport Village. Tickets for the trolley can be purchased here. Check the schedule for select dates of operation. | 4010 Twiggs Street, Old Town

December 1-2

Community Holiday Parades

As the countdown to Christmas begins, several holiday parades will be marching down the streets of San Diego throughout the weekend. This Friday night at 6 p.m., the annual Coronado Holiday Parade, stretching from Ferry Landing down to the Hotel Coronado, will include live music, a local business open house and a parade including local organizations, lights, holiday costumes plus a tree lighting ceremony.

Beginning at sunset this Saturday, Ocean Beach will host its 44th annual holiday parade with the theme of “Santa’s Disco Luau” with various categories for entries including “most unusual,” “best OB spirit” and “best use of lights.”

Plus, this Saturday in North County, Encinitas will host a tree lighting ceremony and an appearance from Santa Claus followed by a parade that embodies the “Traditions of Encinitas” at 5:30 p.m. | Orange Avenue, Coronado | Newport Avenue, Pacific Beach | Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Things to do in San Diego December 2023: A choir singing at Balboa Park's December Nights Event in front of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Things to do this December 2023
Courtesy of the San Diego Tourism Authority

Balboa Park December Nights 

Balboa Park is throwing a massive two-day holiday festival that’s free for all from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. December Nights will have entertainment from more than 100 different performers at onsite venues like the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, plus more than 200 food and retail vendors selling handcrafted gifts and holiday treats. The festivities also include a family zone where children can enjoy photos with Santa, holiday hat making, a silent disco and pro skateboarding demos. | 6th Avenue at Laurel Street, Balboa Park

December 1 & 3

El Milagro del Recuerdo 

Mariachi opera El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering) is a story of family, love and big decisions set in Michoacán, Mexico during the holidays that will be hosted at the San Diego Civic Theatre this Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The production will be sung in Spanish with English subtitles visible above the stage. There will also be several activities before and after the show in the plaza with a live muralist, music, holiday decor and tamales, Mexican hot cocoa, and specialty cocktails available for purchase. Tickets can be purchased here, ranging from $13 to $270. | 1100 Third Avenue, Gaslamp

December 2

Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Saturday, Little Italy will deck the halls with 10-foot tall nutcrackers, and light-up holiday displays to celebrate the holiday season. There will be Christmas songs, live music, seasonal vendors, and plenty of holiday treats, highlighted by a traditional Italian tree lighting ceremony that commences at 6:30 p.m. The Christmas Village on India Street will offer attendees the chance to search for stocking stuffers and shop from several holiday vendors with items like toys, jewelry and boxed cookies up for grabs. | 523 West Date Street, Little Italy

Things to do in San Diego December 2023: Flyer for the Holiday in the Village event happening December 2024 in La Mesa
Courtesy of the La Mesa Village Association

Holiday in the Village

This Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., downtown La Mesa will resemble the North Pole as attendees enjoy live music, fire pits and photos with Santa. This free community event will feature several local craft vendor stands, holiday crafting, two stages of live entertainment from local schools, clubs and organizations, plus participating downtown businesses will show off their decorated storefronts. | La Mesa Boulevard between Spring Street and 4th Street, La Mesa

Big Hammer Wines Warehouse Tasting and Sale

This Saturday in Poway, Big Hammer Wines will host its first holiday warehouse tasting and sale from noon to 7 p.m., concluding with a party hosted by DJ Chris Cantore taking place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Attendees will get the chance to sample over 50 international wines including exclusive imports and selections of red, white, sparkling and Petit Château Bordeaux. The event will also feature olive oil tastings, charcuterie bites, gourmet tacos, and mixed cases of wine for sale. It will finish with Chris Cantore spinning vinyl for the crowd. Tickets are available here for $20. | 13831 Danielson Street, Poway

December 2-3

Winter Wonderland Festival

Be immersed in all the hallmark elements of Escondido’s free Winter Wonderland Festival this Saturday and Sunday. Once whisked into the winter wonderland, there will be snow for kids to build snowmen and take part in snowball fights, holiday character face painting, seasonal ornament making and Santa Claus. Attendees can also continue their holiday shopping and enjoy student holiday recitals, storybook character performances, and film screenings.  | 340 North Escondido Boulevard, Escondido

Makers Arcade Holiday Fair

If you weren’t able to take advantage of Small Business Saturday and Black Friday deals, this weekend offers a chance for San Diegans to shop holiday items and support more than 100 local businesses at the Makers Arcade Holiday Fair. In addition to highlighting small vendors, there will be craft cocktails, a food truck court, photo booths, interactive live music and more. Held at Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier, tickets are priced at $7 at the door ($6 online). VIP tickets are $50 with front-of-the-line entry, a drink ticket, discount coupons for vendors and handmade goodies included. Kids under 10-years-old and pets are free. | 100 North Harbor Drive, Downtown

December 3

Chula Vista Starlight Parade & Festival

A South Bay staple, the Chula Vista Starlight Parade & Festival returns to Third Avenue for the first time in three years with a whole afternoon of holiday fun. Beginning at 3 p.m., festival goers can enjoy shopping at the holiday market, snapping a few photos with Santa Claus, riding on the Chula Vista Express and taking in live music at Memorial Park. The festival will be followed by the tree lighting ceremony for the 25-foot-tall Chula Vista Christmas tree at 5:45 p.m. and the Starlight Parade commencing at 6 p.m. with 100+ community entries including plenty of classic cars, marching bands and holiday floats. | 353 3rd Avenue, Chula Vista

People being served chili during the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off event in North Park
Courtesy of the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off

SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off

As the city begins to embrace the (subjectively) harsh frost of a SoCal winter, San Diegans can enjoy a day of shopping, live music and hot bowls of chili this holiday season. The SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off will feature local restaurants serving up chili tastings and competing for glory, vendors selling handmade holiday gifts, local bands, food trucks, a craft beer and wine garden, plus a kids fun fest with bounce houses, carnival games, and face painting. Tickets start at $25 and proceeds will benefit the McKinley Elementary School Foundation. | Thorn Street & 32nd Street, North Park

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

The 67th Annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival kicks off at 11:30 a.m. with a wintery Santa’s Village featuring arts and crafts, games, music, face painting and visits with Santa. At 1:30 p.m., the parade will begin and go until around 3 p.m. throughout downtown with a camel, equestrians, marching bands, drill teams, and vintage vehicles roaming the streets of La Jolla. The holiday festival will continue until 4 p.m. following the end of the festival. | Girard Avenue & Prospect Street, La Jolla

Two ballerinas dancing on stage during a production of The Nutcracker from the World Ballet Series performing at Balboa Theatre
Courtesy of the World Ballet Series

World Ballet Series: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker returns with a cast of 50 ballet dancers helping tell the tale of this century-old story. This production from the World Ballet Series is soundtracked by Tchaikovsky’s score and will feature shimmering costumes, snowy hand-painted sets, and elegant choreography. There will be two showings of The Nutcracker at the Balboa Theatre this Sunday, with an afternoon show at 2 p.m. and a night performance at 6 p.m.

868 4th Avenue, Gaslamp

By Ryan Hardison

Ryan Hardison is a freelance arts and entertainment writer and recent graduate of San Diego State. When he's not staring at his laptop, he's likely eating an adobada burrito or getting sunburnt at the beach.

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