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5 Reasons to Put Christmas in San Diego on Your Travel Wish List!

San Diego Coronado The Sand Castle Man Snowman, Chris, and Melissa

Sunshine and Christmastime don’t really go together in our Midwestern minds, but last Christmas we learned how much they do belong together – at least in San Diego. Cheerful decor is displayed throughout the city and its surrounding communities. People are merry and the lights are bright. We had a delightful time. While there are many, many reasons to put Christmas in San Diego on your Travel Wish List, we’ll give you our top five.

5 Reasons to Put Christmas in San Diego on Your Travel Wish List:

1. Hotel Del Coronado Ice Skating by the Sea and Frostbite Lounge

Ice skating as palm trees sway, waves roll in on one side of the rink and the glamorous Hotel Del Coronado stands full of swank on the other is one of the most extra experiences one can have. It definitely tops my life’s list. Completing the extravagance of the early afternoon Skating by the Sea outing my husband and I went on with a couple of our friends last year, was the rink side lounge, Frostbite. Its service was attentive, drinks innovative and tasty, and the food, oh my goodness, the food. They even had Milk and Cookies for us to end our meal with! If that doesn’t say Christmas, I don’t know what does! 


Skating by the Sea has been a holiday tradition in San Diego for almost twenty years. We sure hope its around for another twenty. When I dream holiday dreams, its of gathering our spread-out family for a week of holiday fun at Hotel Del Coronado. There’s an abundance of family activities to get everyone in the spirit: Gingerbread House Making, Victorian Tea, Visits with Santa, A Christmas Day Buffet… 

2. San Diego Botanic Garden

Last year, we went to San Diego Botanic Garden’s annual Botanic Wonderland – great for both a romantic date night and a family fun night. When we went, we were on a double date. We all had a grand time walking along more than a mile of pathways decked out for the holidays. We noticed a large area full of children’s activities and a line up of children waiting to chat with Santa Claus. 

This year (Nov ‘22 – Jan ‘23), Botanic Wonderland has been replaced by Lightscape, which has put on sold-out runs in London, Los Angeles, and New York. It looks just as delightful. Perhaps it’s more. 

3. Polite Provisions Miracle on 30th Street

Polite Provisions seems to be the place for imbibing festive drinks. It certainly was last year and from the looks of one of their recent Instagram posts, it’s sure to be again this year. They’ve transformed their location into “Miracle on 30th Street.”  We spent December 2022 living just a few blocks from the place. There seemed to be a line outside their door every time we passed it. 

We went there at 4 o’clock on a Saturday looking for a table for 4. We were told there’d be about a 2-hour wait. Since we lived close by, we went back to our place and relaxed for an hour. When we returned and made it in, the place was packed full of good cheer – festive people, festive decor, and festive drinks. 

NOTE: They do not take reservations, so arrive as early as you can and get your name on their list!

San Diego Polite Provisions Cheers

4. San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

As people who grew up in the Midwest, we haven’t seen many boat parades. Sure, in Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes, there were some around the Fourth of July, but none in winter. While in San Diego, we couldn’t miss out on seeing the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights – a boat parade with a route along the bay. The parade did not disappoint and we hope to go again someday. 

When we go again, we’ll be prepared for an even better experience. Last year, we did two things right: 

  • We arrived early.
  • We took public transportation. Not only is it hard to find parking during such a popular event, parking in that area is incredibly expensive. 

Next time we will:

  • Bundle up more. It gets cold sitting by the water as the sun sets. 
  • Bring blankets, warm drinks, and snacks. 

Parade dates for 2022 are December 11th and December 18th. It’ll be the parade’s 52nd year. Quite the tradition! 

5. Ice Cream from Salt & Straw in San Diego’s Little Italy

I can see that The Great Cookie Swap flavor is on this year’s list of holiday flavors again! Would it be crazy to fly from Faro, Portugal to San Diego, California for a bite? Yes! Worth it? Yes! Oh my gosh, it’s so good. I haven’t tried any of their other holiday flavors, but they include: Peppermint Cocoa, Dwanta’s Teremana Spiked Eggnog, Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache, Gingerbread Cookie Dough, and The Great Cookie Swap (which happens to be vegan – though that does not influence my love for it). 

Want to see more of the festive fun that can be had in San Diego over the holidays? Check out our We’re on a Mission to Find Holiday Cheer in San Diego video. 

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