Best Places to Celebrate the Holidays in Southern California

When you think of magical holiday destinations, SoCal may not come to mind immediately. However, once you get past the lack of snow, incredible sunshine, and warm days, you may be pleasantly surprised at just how many ways you can celebrate this festive season in or near San Diego. From holiday San Diego harbor activities to peaceful moments in nature, Southern California can make your holidays memorable.

How to Get Into the Holiday Spirit in SoCal

From LA to San Diego, you have plenty of opportunities to get into the holiday spirit. Here are some sites that are popular with visitors and locals:

Amusement Parks – Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Legoland, and SeaWorld all throw fantastic holiday celebrations, complete with festive shows, decoration, and holiday treats. Plan your visit during the week to avoid the busiest times.

Beach Piers – Manhattan Beach, Pacific Beach, and other communities with piers pull out all the stops with holiday lights and decorations. Check with your local coastal spot to see if they host a tree lighting or present a festive display that is worth a drive-by or walk in the sand.

Ice Skating – What better way to feel frosty than by strapping on ice skates and doing a twirl or two? Two favorite spots to find ice rinks outside are the ice rink at Liberty Station and the Skating by the Sea rink presented by the Hotel Del Coronado. If you head out to Coronado Island, be sure to stop inside after you skate to see the upside-down Christmas tree and other fun decorations at this iconic destination.

Where to go in SoCal to Celebrate Christmas

Embrace the beautiful winter weather of San Diego and the rest of SoCal by enjoying the great outdoors. Residents do not stop surfing or snorkeling; they just zip up their wet suits and continue to enjoy what makes this area of the country so magical.

For example, the best hikes San Diego and Los Angeles are even better without worrying about the heat. Some popular hiking trails are waiting for you in these locations:

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Sunset Cliffs Trail

Inspiration Point Trail

Bronson Caves

Balboa Park

Another must-do activity over the winter is going whale watching. In addition to the local seals, sea lions, and dolphins that you can spot all year long, gray whales migrate along the SoCal shore this time of year. Why not book a tour with Next Level Sailing whale watching or charter a private boat to search for these majestic sea mammals?

If you prefer to stay on land, check out the Seas ‘N’ Greetings at Birch Aquarium to see Santa scuba diving, or head over to San Diego Zoo for the Jungle Bells celebration. Closer to LA, you can plan to see the light display at The Mission Inn to the east in Riverside or take a day trip to Cabazon to see the famous Cabazon Dinosaurs.

These festive events and activities are just the tip of the (figurative) iceberg. SoCal is genuinely a paradise any time of year, and the holidays are just as merry and bright in sunny San Diego as they are at the North Pole.