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13 Family-Friendly Holiday Shows to See in San Diego in 2023

Theater performers sleigh with festive favorites across the county
How the Grinch Stole Christmas theatre play at the Old Globe theatre in San Diego
Courtesy of The Old Globe

By Cassiopeia Guthrie

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (or so the carols claim). Though the San Diego weather hasn’t quite gotten the holiday memo, there’s nothing like kicking off the season with a healthy dose of Christmas cheer—and the local theater scene can help with that. 

Whether you’re hoping to take in a 1950s jukebox musical or want to witness Scrooge’s big redemption, there’s no need to wait until St. Nick comes to town to catch your favorite holiday classic. Grab the fam and head to the theater to see one of these 13 festive shows in San Diego.

Courtesy of The Old Globe

Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show

The Old Globe, Balboa Park

Nov. 17–Dec. 24

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol gets a San Diego–specific treatment in The Old Globe‘s returning comedy Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show, told in the round at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. Join Scrooge on a raucous journey to Christmases Past, Present, and Future, set entirely in our own backyard. 

Courtesy of The Old Globe

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The Old Globe, Balboa Park

Nov. 8–Dec. 31

Young fans of the animated Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas will eat up the stage version like a sugarplum as the grouchy, green Grinch returns to cause some holiday ruckus. This Old Globe favorite, taking place on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage, includes all-ages showtimes, a sensory-friendly performance, and ASL-interpreted showings by request.

Poster for Elf The Musical at the Theatre at the Welk in San Diego
Courtesy of the Theatre at the Welk

Elf the Musical

Welk Resort Theatre, Escondido

Nov. 18–Dec. 24

Based on the beloved Will Farrell movie, Elf The Musical arrives at the Welk Theatre for its San Diego regional debut. The play follows Buddy, a human boy raised by elves at St. Nick’s North Pole workshop after he climbs into Santa’s sack of toys. When a grown-up Buddy discovers his true roots, he heads to New York, but the trip to reconnect with his birth family turns out to be a disastrous comedy of errors. 

Members of the Plaid Tidings singing together at the San Diego Musical Theatre
Courtesy of the San Diego Musical Theatre

Plaid Tidings

San Diego Musical Theatre, Kearny Mesa

Nov. 24–Dec. 24

Barbershop Christmas classics will have audiences tapping their toes through San Diego Musical Theatre’s Plaid Tidings. This jukebox production, a sequel to fan-favorite Forever Plaid, features a lineup of heavenly harmonies performed by a ghostly quartet returning to Earth to share one last Christmas special. It’s a nostalgic nod to times past. 

Poster for Respectfully Chrismas a play at the Lamb's Player Theatre, San Diego
Courtesy of Lamb’s Player Theatre

R•E•S•P•E•C•T•F•U•L•L•Y Christmas

Lamb’s Players, Coronado

Nov. 25–Dec. 24

The actors behind Lamb’s Players’ show-stopping R-E-S-P-E-C-T and Million Dollar Quartet productions join together for an evening of Christmas carols. R-E-S-P-E-C-T-F-U-L-L-Y Christmas makes its world premiere at the Spreckels Building in Coronado. 

Poster for El Milagro del Recuerdo opera at the San Dievo Civic Theatre
Courtesy of The San Diego Opera

El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering)

San Diego Civic Theatre, Downtown

Dec. 1–3

Mariachi meets pastorela in El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering), San Diego Opera’s collaboration with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. Set in Michoacán, Mexico, and sung entirely in Spanish, this prequel to Cruzar la Cara de la Luna delves into family dynamics for two bracero wives and their response to the holidays in a world that cannot stay the same. 

Poster for Star of Ocotillo at OnStage Playhouse, San Diego
Courtesy of OnStage Playhouse

Star of Ocotillo

OnStage Playhouse, Chula Vista

Dec. 1–23

Chula Vista’s OnStage Playhouse’s new nativity play, Star of Ocotillo, is a dark comedy that follows a Hollywood couple who must confront hidden truths when they discover an undocumented child sequestering herself on their opulent border property. 

Old man in old clothes singing on stage for A Christmas Carol at Cygnet Theatre, San Diego
Courtesy of Old Town San Diego Chamber of Commerce

A Christmas Carol

Cygnet Theatre, Old Town

Dec. 1–30

Fans of Cygnet Theatre’s family-friendly iteration of A Christmas Carol will be delighted to hear that it’s back for the ninth year running. This adaptation of the Victorian classic includes puppets, music, and live Foley sound effects. A sensory-friendly performance is available.

Male and female ballerinas on stage performing for Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland at Harrah's Resort, San Diego
Courtesy of Ticketmaster

Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland

Harrah’s Resort, Valley Center

Dec. 2–3

Cirque Musica’s Holiday Wonderland is a two-act celebration of holiday cheer. Jugglers, acrobats, and other performers will tackle spectacular stunts amid falling snow and familiar carols. 

Poster for the 1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas at the New Village Arts in San Diego
Courtesy of New Village Arts

1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas

New Village Arts, Carlsbad 

Dec. 2–24

In this locally developed musical, matriarch Dorothy Black welcomes her family to her Carlsbad home for the holidays. As everyone joins together to celebrate their favorite Christmas traditions, they find magic in the surprises that materialize. 

Contortionists on stage performing for the Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the San Diego Civic Theatre
Courtesy of All Events

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

San Diego Civic Theatre, Downtown

Dec. 9–10

Holiday spirit meets circus artistry in Cirque du Soleil‘s touring production of Cirque Dreams Holidaze. Featuring singing, dancing, stunts, juggling, and acrobatics, this winter production by the renowned circus group is sure to leave audiences gasping in awe. 

Band on stage in 1960s attire performing the Million Dollar Quartet Christmas at Balboa Theatre
Courtesy of Million Dollar Quartet Christmas

Million Dollar Quartet Christmas

Balboa Theatre, Downtown

Dec. 11–12

San Diego’s historic Balboa Theatre will be home to chart-topping favorites and celebrity lookalikes when the brand-new musical Million Dollar Quartet Christmas opens for its two-day tour stop in downtown. Lovers of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley will thrill at this rock n’ roll story inspired by true events that took place in December 1956.

Poster for Amahl and the Night Visitors play at the Genesis Opera Theatre
Courtesy of Genesis Opera Theatre

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Genesis Opera Theatre, Star Repertory Theatre, Escondido

Dec. 22–23

Amahl and the Night Visitors is returning to Escondido with Genesis Opera Theatre! An accessible opera written for television, this one-act production introduces Amahl, a young boy known for his, ahem, flexible approach to the truth. Watch happens when a star “as big as a window” appears over his home. 

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