San Diego Reader 2016 guide to Holiday Fun

Santa run, holiday roasts, parades of lights, holiday vespers

Fantasy on Ice in Point Loma
  • Fantasy on Ice in Point Loma

I read somewhere that the reason you’re sad around Christmastime is because it’s a reminder of what you’ve lost since childhood: the belief that the world is a magical place that is interested in your personal happiness. (I mean, I guess it’s possible to reach, say, 40 years of age still convinced that even the sorriest effort will be lavishly rewarded, and that the universe has a special place in its heart for you — but it ain’t easy, not if you’re paying attention.) It’s a fair point, but it comes with a fair rejoinder: there are still children in the world. You may know some of them. And if you do your bit to give them that sense of magic and speciality, who knows, you might not be quite so sad this Christmastime. The following activities are here to help with that. And if you don’t know any kids, well, the first step to getting out of your head (you know, where the sadness lives) is getting out. Go, lose yourself in the season. You might be pleased with what you find. — Matthew Lickona

Get your cheer here

Get your cheer here

Cool Creations Pottery Studio & Cafe

1753 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach

Paint your own pottery gifts at Cool Creations

Immortality, anyone? As every archaeologist knows, it’s the pottery that lasts. And the art painted on it. Here you can create your own painted pottery and ceramics. The deal is you buy a generic plate (or picture frame or collectable), then paint your own designs onto it. The staff will help out, or maybe if you’re a klutz, you can just wrap your paint-slathered hand around the coffee cup you’re painting and put a handprint on it. Makes a surprisingly cool gift, when it comes back from firing. Also fun: pottery-painting parties. Plus, it’s a café with wine nights, weekends. — Ed Bedford

Laguna Mountain Lodge

10678 Sunrise Highway, Mount Laguna

Real winter at Laguna Mountain Lodge

Standing 6000 feet above sea level, the Laguna Mountains are probably your best chance at experiencing true winter weather in San Diego. Located about an hour east of downtown, the lodge offers 17 cabins and 12 rustic motel rooms (many pet-friendly and with wood-burning fireplaces) with a general store, nearby access to hiking trails, and, if you’re lucky enough to catch snowfall during your visit, sledding hills. The popular mountaintop destination town of Julian is a scenic 30-minute drive. — Dave Rice

Old Town State Historic Park

4002 Wallace Street, Old Town

Las Posadas

Las Posadas is the traditional reenactment of Joseph and Mary searching for shelter in Bethlehem before Jesus was born. Some accounts have this tradition taking place back to 400 years ago. Head down to Old Town on December 11 for the 65th anniversary of the event. The candle-lit procession begins at 4:45 p.m. with English and Spanish holiday songs and moves along from inn to inn. The event concludes with a live nativity reenactment in front of the Casa de Estudillo. — Eve Kelly

Frock You Vintage Boutique

4121 Park Boulevard, North Park

Ugly Christmas Sweaters at Frock You

Ugly-sweater parties have become the 21st Century’s contribution to American holiday traditions, and in doing so has revealed a decades-long cultural epidemic of horrible sweater design. Want to see for yourself? All year, this vintage apparel shop buys up every ugly sweater it can find, unleashing them in December for seasonal customers in need of something more hideous. The worse these secondhand sweaters get, the more in demand they are, so waste no time rifling Frock You’s special inventory, or you may find slim pickings and have to settle for a pretty, still fashionable sweater. — Ian Anderson

Buffalo Breath Costumes

5630 Kearny Mesa Road, Kearny Mesa

Go caroling in Victorian costumes from Buffalo Breath

There’s nothing more Christmasy or more daunting than making yourself sing in public. So find friends to help, and rent Victorian costumes from Buffalo Breath. Ask for “Dickens Caroler” rental outfits (usually $79 for male, $89 for female). The magic? Dressed in the style, you find courage. Now hit the streets of, say, Coronado, feel the exhilaration of singing to unsuspecting homeowners when you knock at their door and burst out into “We WISH you a merry Christmas!” End up with a hot toddy, if you’ve scored enough donations, at the Hotel Del. In those costumes, you’d fit right in. — Ed Bedford

Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Garden

Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego Botanic Garden

230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas

Garden of Lights — San Diego Botanical Garden

Someone counted them all: 175,000 colored lights are hung with care each year from the limbs and branches at the San Diego Botanic Garden for the holidays. There, Santa’s helpers shovel 60,000 tons of manmade snow, serve 750 bottles of mulled wine (21+only,) help roast 23,000 marshmallows, and distribute 300,000 candy canes. This family holiday tradition includes live entertainment and horse-and-wagon rides throughout the compound’s 37 acres of winding trails. December 5–23 and 26–30; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission Sunday–Thursday $10/members, seniors, active military, students. Nonmembers $15, Friday–Saturday $20, children 3–12 $6. Additional fees for some activities. — Dave Good

Gift bags from Bryer Leather

Online store only.
Alpine-raised craftsman Thomas Brierton has had a knack for woodworking since he was 12, when he carved out custom spoons for his mother after she lamented that the store-bought utensils weren’t deep enough. This passion led him and a friend to form Natural Log Skateboards and handcraft vintage-style decks from vertical-grain bamboo. About three years ago, Brierton turned his focus to hidework under the brand Bryer Leather. Today, the 27-year-old tailors weekender bags, backpacks, briefcases, bracelets, wallets, aprons, wine slings, and minimalist log and Edison-bulb lamps. Perfect for holiday trips and local-made gifts. — Chad Deal

Skating by the Sea

San Diego may not be blessed with the traditional white Christmas, but we do have something better; ice skating at the beach. Skating by the Sea is hosted by the Hotel del Coronado and runs through January 2. The rink faces the Pacific with the Hotel Del serving as a stunning backdrop. Sip on hot cocoa and watch the waves crash on the shore while performing a lutz. Skating by the Sea is open weekdays from 4–10 p.m., Saturdays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Starting December 19; January 2, the rink will extend their hours during the week from 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Skating is $25 per person (for 90 minutes), which includes skate rental. — Siobhan Braun

Old Poway Park

14134 Midland Road, Poway

Poway Christmas in the Park

Old Poway Park will be transformed into the proverbial winter wonderland on December 12, when you can not only witness the tree lighting, you can decorate your own tree and win a prize. Bring your best baubles; prizes are awarded for Best Overall Tree and Most Creative Tree. Other events include horse-drawn hay rides, pony rides, a petting zoo, and face painting. Train buffs will love the steam locomotive train rides and the model trains. Santa will be there, as will live entertainment. — Deirdre Lickona

SDRL Recording Studio

8859 Balboa Avenue, Suite A, Kearny Mesa

Record your own Christmas song

Yes, you could gather ’round Johnny’s guitar and sing a shaky version of “Happy Holidays” with Aunt Martha a half-beat behind and a semi-tone off. Or you could shell out $100 and spend two and a half hours with SDRL house engineer Brad Lee and astonish yourselves. SDRL (Stereo Disguise Recording Laboratories) is owned and run by local musicians, so you’re among friends. And it’s cheaper than most to make a CD. This’d be a perfect gift for restless teens who want to become the next great rock and roll band, or to harness the fantastic voices of that large family of yours. — Ed Bedford

37th Annual Ocean Beach Holiday Parade

4800-5000 Blocks of Newport Avenue
The seaside community’s annual parade (Saturday, December 3) is the culmination of a weeklong celebration that begins November 29, when a massive tree (donated from within the community) arrives at the beach; schoolchildren decorate it at 11 a.m. on November 30, the same day as an annual charity auction at local saloon Sunshine Company. The day of the parade, Newport Avenue plays host to arts and crafts vendors, music, and a children’s fun zone. The often-eclectic (watch for the “We just want to be in the parade!” float) procession kicks off at 5:05 p.m., or thereabouts. — Dave Rice

San Diego Santa Run

Racing down Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach in a Santa suit — is there any easier way to throw yourself right into the holiday spirit? On December 10th, the San Diego Santa Run kicks off another festive race. Choose from the 5K race or the 1-mile run. With the registration for the 5K, runners get a Sunny Santa suit (short sleeved with shorts), a hat, white beard, and a pair of sunglasses. The 1-mile racers get the Santa hat and sunglasses. Proceeds from the race go to the Pacific Beach Holiday parade, which marches down the avenue right after the race — and there will be a collection for canned goods for the San Diego Food Bank at the event. Registration for the 5K is $50 on race day, $30 for the 1-mile run. — Eve Kelly

The dark chocolate chile burnt caramel, and milk chocolate cardamom rose petal.

The dark chocolate chile burnt caramel, and milk chocolate cardamom rose petal.

Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro

2145 Fern Street, South Park

Eclipse Drinking Chocolate

What’s the best way to pretend we have winter in San Diego? Hot chocolate. Sorry — drinking chocolate. Eclipse Chocolate offers ten flavors to choose from (e.g., smoked brown sugar, cardamom rose petal, chili burnt caramel) at $5.50 a cup. Explains a waitress, “We use big chunks of our homemade chocolate that we put into steamed milk, and the chocolate melts as we stir it. It gives a deeper flavor than powdered cocoas. And if you choose one with a higher percentage of dark chocolate, it will be even thicker.” Add a shot of espresso or two vanilla-bean marshmallows for 50¢ extra. — Deirdre Lickona

Jingle Bell Hill

Solomon Avenue and Pegeen Place, El Cajon
The residents of Jingle Bell Hill display epic amounts of holiday cheer during the Christmas season. Their homes are donned with elaborate light displays, inflatable snowmen and Santa Clauses, nativity sets, and homemade Christmas decor to delight the masses. This lit-up neighborhood is located on the border of Santee and El Cajon on Solomon Avenue and Pegeen Place. For generations, Jingle Bell Hill has been an East County Christmas staple. Park your car and stroll through the neighborhood, or if you’d prefer, stay in the comfort of your vehicle and roll through the streets while taking in the twinkling lights. — Siobhan Braun

Christmas cookie decorating in Baja

Visión de Dios, Tijuana
They’ve been doing this for three years: a handful of members from the Canyon Springs church in Scripps Ranch, baking cookies and wrapping donated toys and gifts and carpooling to the border where a bus transports them the rest of the way to Visión de Dios. That’s where the real fun begins. Upwards of 60 Tijuana children gather at the church and help decorate the cookies. Eat them, too, I’d imagine, before getting to select gifts. The half-day event takes place on Saturday, December 10. $10 donation per volunteer or $20 per family helps cover expenses. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Dave Good

Benchmark Brewing Co.

6190 Fairmount Avenue, Suite G, Grantville

Santa at Benchmark Brewery

Santa will be sledding into Grantville-based Benchmark Brewery’s tasting room on December 11 at 10 a.m. To make the visit even tastier, there will be a sign-up sheet at the front, which means no lines, and parents can grab one of Benchmark’s brews while their kids wait their turn to sit on Saint Nick’s lap. Bring your own camera, as there will be no photographer. The price of admission is a five-dollar donation to “Santa’s travel fund.” — Dorian Hargrove

Holiday in the Village

La Mesa Boulevard, Downtown La Mesa
The last time snow fell on La Mesa was in December 1967. Since, they’ve had to import manmade snow for the holidays. But it does get frosty, and on a crisp winter night, what has been called “the new Little Italy” will put chic on hold for at least one long day. On Saturday, December 10, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., village merchants will slow it down to Victorian mode and host what they’re calling Holiday in the Village. Fire pits, caroling, crafts, kid-sized events, and street vendors are all a part of the mirth scheduled to take place on those shiny new sidewalks. — Dave Good

CoLab

6160 Fairmount Avenue, Grantville

CoLab Holiday Craft Fair

Open-to-the-public art collective CoLab will be holding their third annual holiday craft market on Saturday, December 10, from noon ’til 11 p.m. Browse through one-of-a-kind gifts to the pulse of local DJs in CoLab’s industrial workspace, which serves as a hub for the nonprofit San Diego Collaborative Arts Project and our regional Burning Man community event, YouTopia. Gift your friends and family with colorful accessories, handcrafted jewelry, and Mad Max–inspired leather wear while empowering CoLab to continue offering free laser cutting and CNC router classes along with brewing, CPR, and dance workshops. — Chad Deal

Heart & Trotter

Heart & Trotter

The Heart & Trotter Butchery

2855 El Cajon Boulevard #1, North Park

Holiday Roasts from the Heart and Trotter Butchery

Leave the turkeys to Thanksgiving. This whole-animal neighborhood butcher shop has a few tasty alternatives for your special holiday dinner, and none of them are honey-baked hams. If you’re determined to stick with fowl, maybe go old-school and get a Christmas goose. Or, make it a beefy holiday with a pair of prime-rib options — fully grass-fed if you like it lean or grain-finished to boost the fat content for an especially delicious rib roast. Whichever you choose, quantities are limited, so make sure to order well ahead of time to claim yours. — Ian Anderson

Ayaka Ito Beshock Sake Master

Ayaka Ito Beshock Sake Master

BeShock Ramen & Sake Bar

1288 Market Street, East Village

Sip sake with master Ayaka Ito at BeShock Ramen and Sake Bar

Remember sommeliers, gods of the wine world? Now, sake has its sake masters. And BeShock founder Ayaka Ito is one, although she sees herself more as sake missionary. She’s young but has traveled her native Japan, tasting and learning, until she became a certified sake master. “Sake was always served hot, to disguise poor quality. Not today. We have an explosion of interesting, individual sakes,” she says. Now she wants to educate the rest of us. She’ll walk you through BeShock’s 30 varieties. And go ahead, be traditional. Drink it from the wooden masu (box) just like the samurai did. — Ed Bedford

SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-off

Where hipsters go for Christmas: 20,000 people attend this annual holiday fundraiser for McKinley Elementary School. Now in their seventh year in this configuration, the chili cook-off is between 40 participating area restaurants. With 19 beer brewers on hand, the four-block street fest also features a dozen bands performing on two stages. Free admission. $20 to sample the chili entries, and an additional $5 per pour of beer or wine for guests who are 21 and up. You say chili’s not your thing? SoNo organizers promise there will be food trucks on hand, with an enclosed carnival area for children. Sunday, December 4, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Dave Good

San Diego Holiday Half-Marathon

If you’re in the market for a December run longer than your typical jog, and less body-annihilating than a full marathon, try the San Diego Holiday Half-Marathon. It takes place on December 18 and begins at the Doubletree Golf Resort on Carmel Mountain Road near I-15. The course then heads west, following the bike path on the south side of Highway 56 until it hits the final stretch on Carmel Valley Road, and, finally, Torrey Pines State Beach. The race is capped at 3500 runners, which means the participants should have plenty of personal space to utilize their smart phones to order last-minute Christmas gifts on Amazon. — Dryw Keltz

iFly Indoor Skydiving

2385 Camino Del Rio North, Mission Valley

Skydive indoors at iFLY

Come fall with me — at 120 mph through the air. Except, you’re not. The air is rushing upward at 120 mph, exactly the speed your body free-falls. This is indoor skydiving. But even four feet off the net, the thrill is awesome. The good news? Kids as young as three and oldies in their eighties can do it safely. All you need is ten minutes of instruction and $79.95 (for two flights, the minimum). Some fanatics advance to ballet-like competitions. But any moment now, iFLY gets its own competition: a new facility that Airborne America’s opening at 1401 Imperial Avenue, Barrio Logan. — Ed Bedford

Fantasy on Ice

Fantasy on Ice

Fantasy on Ice

Grab your skates (or your rental fee) and head to this outdoor rink, where you can skate for a good cause. (All proceeds go to benefit the Peckham Center for Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital.) General admission is $12 for kids, $14 for adults, $10 for military; sessions run from 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Monday–Sunday. Be sure to stop by the decorated 100-foot Norfolk pine. Also visit the Holiday Block Party on December 10, when Liberty Station’s halls will be filled with holly, shops will be including special gifts with purchases, and restaurants will be proferring complimentary bites. — Deirdre Lickona

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

This family-friendly favorite that’s become a tradition for many San Diegans is now in its 19th year. The musical adaptation of La Jolla local Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel’s 1957 book has stayed true to much of the formula that’s drawn audiences since its 1998 debut, but a fresh cast of young actors and the addition last year of former college fullback and Broadway veteran J. Bernard Calloway in the title role bring fresh personality to a time-honored classic. Children under two are admitted free on weekend matinee performances; show runs through December 26. — Dave Rice

Little Italy tree lighting

Seasonal vendors as well as Little Italy Mercado regulars will be selling stocking stuffers and holiday treats on December 3rd, and there will be live entertainment throughout the day. But the festivities really kick off when Santa arrives on Little Italy’s Fire Engine 3. After the kiddies get their photo with the jolly elf, take them to Santa’s Living Room for crafts, but be sure to be at the Piazza by 5:30 for the 18th annual lighting of the 25-foot poinsettia tree. — Deirdre Lickona

San Diego Made holiday market at Lafayette Hotel

Local art promoters and cultivators San Diego Made are throwing their third annual holiday fair at the Lafayette on Sunday, December 4, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the theme “A Mid-Century Holiday.” Pop in for live music, drink specials, food stations, courtyard games, a wreath workshop hosted by the Tiny Bloom, a homemade stamp workshop by Local Home Girl, and wares from over 50 homegrown artists. Shop for everything from candles to jewelry to threads to pottery to baked goods to assorted knickknacks. $5 entry includes raffle ticket for prizes. First 100 in the door get a free swag bag. — Chad Deal

Retro Candy & Toys

213 N. Main Avenue, Fallbrook

Retro Candy and Toys

Remember the Slinky, that floppy spring toy that seemed to walk on its own? Or Lionel trains, or die-cast Model T Fords? Or Snoopy Sniffer? Or Lincoln Logs? Or View Master 3-D viewers? Or doctor and nurse bags? Or the original ant farm? Retro Candy and Toys does. Gags, too. If it’s from the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, or the ’80s, they’re sure to have it. You can spend a gift-buying afternoon going gooey-eyed in their store. They have retro candy, too, like BB Bats from the 1940s and their very own Fallbrook’s Famous Avocado Fudge. Think of it as a museum you can eat. — Ed Bedford

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

In its 45th year, the bay will dazzle with decorated boats on the evening of December 11 and December 18. This year’s theme for the parade is “It Began with a Roar — San Diego Zoo Celebrates 100 Years.” The 80-boat procession will begin at 5:00 p.m. and this year proceed to the pier at Cesar Chavez Park and then turn to Coronado. The festivities attract around 100,000 viewers and dozens of prizes are awarded to the decorated vessels. — Eve Kelly

Campo Railroad Park & Museum

750 Depot Street, Campo

North Pole Limited train ride

The North Pole Limited train ride sends Southern California kids on a magical and memorable journey to Santa’s village. Rides are offered on Saturdays and Sundays, November 25th–December 17th, leaving at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance via the North Pole Limited website. Onboard, Santa’s elves sing carols, read a Christmas story, and pass out cookies and hot cocoa to passengers. The train makes a pit stop at Santa’s Workshop, where Santa and Mrs. Claus climb onboard. The duo join the passengers for the remainder of the ride, visiting with all riders on the journey back to the Campo Depot. — Siobhan Braun

Hornblower Cruises

970 North Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego

New Year’s Eve Cruise on the Hornblower

If you really want to step up your game on New Year’s Eve this year, consider a dining cruise on one of the Hornblower’s yachts. Six options are available that range from a two-hour-long brunch cruise ($67.95), to a four-hour-long “VIP Celebration Dinner” ($275). The latter includes a five-course meal, unlimited premium drinks, and tables set up with chocolate truffles. Their most intriguing option for a unique New Year’s is probably the Gatsby New Year’s Eve Cruise. This selection ($209) is a four-hour cruise on a yacht (High Spirits) that was built in 1929. Roaring ’20s-era attire is suggested for this trip back in time. — Dryw Keltz

Panama 66

1450 Plaza de Panama, Balboa Park

Holiday Joy Ride at Panama 66

Hit the streets for a festive bike ride and burn some calories in anticipation of your winter glut at the sixth annual Holiday Joy Ride on Thursday, December 8, at 5:30 p.m. Grab a meal and a beer on Panama 66’s outdoor patio before hopping on two wheels to spin around the park and uptown with fellow riders. The family-friendly event costs $20 and includes a raffle ticket, a beer token, appetizers, and participation in the Golden Gear Awards ceremony acknowledging people who have made exceptional efforts to make the San Diego region more bicycle-friendly. — Chad Deal

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

11480 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla

Carolers and S’mores at the Lodge

The Lodge at Torrey Pines keeps the holiday spirit going for children in the days leading up to Christmas, beginning with carolers, fruitcake, and hot-cider service each Thursday through Saturday from 5–8 p.m. beginning December 9th. They’ll be roasting s’mores at sunset on the 18th and 21st, decorating holiday cookies at 4 p.m. on the 20th and 23rd, and hosting storybook readings with Santa Claus at 4 p.m. on the 17th and 23rd. Space may be limited for some of these activities, so if you plan to attend, contact the resort’s concierge beforehand. — Ian Anderson

First Presbyterian Church

320 Date Street, Downtown San Diego

Jazz Vespers: Tribute to A Charlie Brown Christmas

Each holiday season for five years running now, the trio behind the jazz vespers series at First Presbyterian uncorks their Vince Guaraldi chops and let fly with some of that wonderful Charlie Brown Christmas music. Think “Linus and Lucy,” “Christmas Time is Here,” “Oh, Christmas Tree,” and more. The feature-length holiday cartoon premiered in 1965. But in place of the traditional network standard canned laughter is jazz, mixed in with your basic traditional Christmas standards. Saturday, December 10. Music starts at 4:30 p.m. With Archie Thompson on keys, Jason Littlefield on bass, and Danny Campbell on drums. No cover. — Dave Good

Little Dame Shop

2942 Adams Avenue, University Heights

Happy her-lodays from Little Dame

For the kick-ass ladies in your life, check out this sasstastic boutique stocked with quirky girl-power goodies from about 30 local and international artists. Launched just over a year ago by ex-baristas Katie and Simone, Little Dame curates unconventional taxidermy that ranges from adorable to downright outlandish, punk and flower-fueled feminist art, and all manner of handmade goods. Treat your loved one(s) to an in-shop taxidermy class or surprise them with a mounted ferret head, guinea-pig foot necklace, ceramic knickknacks, Stranger Things holiday cards, tote bags from Katie’s brand CrimsinClover, or Little Dame logo-emblazoned panties. — Chad Deal

Belly Up Tavern

143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach

A John Waters Christmas and Brian Setzer 19-Piece Orchestra at the Belly Up

The Belly Up is offering up two intriguing options this holiday season. The first is “A John Waters Christmas” on 12/4. Waters, best known for campy Hollywood films such as Pink Flamingos and Hairspray, will perform a one-man show in which he “pokes fun at the holiday season with adult-appropriate humor, effectively ‘putting the X in Xmas.’” The venue has also snagged former Stray Cat Brian Setzer with a full 19-piece orchestra for what will undoubtedly be a rollicking New Year’s Eve blowout. — Dryw Keltz

Pet portraits by Acamonchi Art SD

Pet portraits by Acamonchi Art SD

Pet portraits by Acamonchi and Walter Sutin

Make it a holiday to remember with a stunning likeness of your furry sidekick custom-made by local artists. Ensenada/San Diego fixie punk painter Gerardo Yepiz, aka Acamonchi (whose graphic design résumé includes projects for Nortec Collective, MTV, Osiris shoes, and Obey Giant) creates mixed-media wood panel commissions starting at $250 (12˝x12˝) up to $850 (24˝x24˝). His unique street-art-influenced portraits take about one week to complete and require 50 percent up front and 50 percent upon completion. Walter Sutin’s intricate works of pen and ink are already in high demand, but he is available for rush orders upon inquiry starting at $500. — Chad Deal

Jacobs Music Center/Copley Symphony Hall

750 B Street, Downtown San Diego

San Diego Symphony

Fill your ears with the songs of Christmas: Noel, Noel is a concert special featuring San Diego native vocalist Brian Stokes Mitchell, the San Diego Master Chorale, and the San Diego Children’s Choir, running December 16–18. Holiday favorites will include “Merry Christmas” from Home Alone, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” “Noel, Noel,” “Silent Night,” and “The Little Drummer Boy.” December 18 also offers a one-hour Family Holiday Concert at 2 p.m. (with a one-hour pre-concert program), featuring traditional Christmas music from the San Diego Master Chorale and a visit from Santa. — Deirdre Lickona

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights

On December 10th from 7–9 p.m. the Oceanside Harbor hosts the Parade of Lights. Fishing boats, sailboats, yachts, kayaks and even dinghys parade through the harbor decorated in bright lights and Christmas decor. You might even catch a glimpse of Santa captaining a boat. Boats circle the Oceanside Harbor to the delight of spectators. Viewers have the chance to catch the parade on the pier, on the beach, or in the restaurants that look out over the harbor. Pack your lawn chairs and blankets. The concrete walkway that runs the length of the harbor offers a great location for taking in the parade of boats. — Siobhan Braun

The Casbah

2501 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

X at the Casbah

The legendary Los Angeles punk rock band X seems to always make it down to San Diego around holiday time. This year is special in that the group is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Four nights (12/15-12/18) have been booked at the Casbah to commemorate the occasion. Opening acts include band compadres such as legendary Minuteman Mike Watt, who even gets his own chapter in X bassist/singer John Doe’s new book, Under the Big Black Sun. If you notice X guitarist Billy Zoom flashing that trademark grin even brighter than usual, it might just be because he beat bladder cancer last year. Show him some love and celebrate the fact that all four members are still sharing the stage. — Dryw Keltz

Señorita Sensi’s medicated tamales and Christmas candy

November’s vote in support of legalized marijuana was 2016’s headiest holiday treat for California residents, but you’ll still need a valid doctor’s recommendation (~$30) to legally obtain your medicine while the state sorts out the details. For now, registered MMJ patients can celebrate the yuletide with a seasonal onslaught of cannabis-infused tamales made locally by Señorita Sensi. Accompany with medicated quesadillas and elotes until your chestnuts are thoroughly roasted. Stuff a stocking with the gift of joy by throwing in a few Remedy Plus Adios Muddasuckas chili-mango and watermelon pops. Contact your favorite dispensary for availability. — Chad Deal

26th Annual Surf and Slam San Diego Hoop Classic

University City, Scripps Ranch, and Mission Bay High Schools
Professional and amateur basketball scouts may want to take a peek at this post-Christmas national competition that pits top high-school basketball teams from all over the United States against one another. Both boys and girls teams will compete in games that will take place at University City, Scripps Ranch, and Mission Bay High Schools from 12/26 through 12/31. It appears as if the boys from Mission Bay have been pretty impressive in this tournament in the past decade, having won their divisions in 2014, 2011, and 2006. One must conclude that home court (and home crowd) advantage comes in handy. — Dryw Keltz

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve

9310 Fanita Parkway, Santee

Santa at Santee Lakes

Santa lands at Santee Lakes on December 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to getting their picture snapped with Santa, kids can sled down manufactured snow hills, ride carnival rides, hop on a hayride, pet animals at the petting zoo, and snack on s’mores. There will be booths for arts and crafts and plenty of food vendors. Entrance to the event is free, but there is a five-dollar charge for parking. Tickets for rides and activities must be purchased. — Dorian Hargrove

Cook like a French chef — the Good Food Factory

The Good Food Factory

777 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas

Best way to get the kids to eat their veggies? Teach them how to cook ’em. In, say, the French style. And a whole lot of other dishes. The Good Food Factory holds “silly, educational, and delicious” after-school cooking classes for kids from 5 to 12. They learn “traditional cooking techniques, theories, history and practice” in a working kitchen. Emphasis is on “garden to table.” Each four- to six-week program concentrates on one type of cuisine. Some kids can even reach sous chef skill level. But, keyword? Fun, emphasizes chef-teacher Amanda (Curry) Mascia. “The FOOD is the only thing we take seriously.” — Ed Bedford

U.S. Grant Hotel

326 Broadway, Downtown San Diego

An American Christmas at the U.S. Grant

Lamb’ Players Theatre presents An American Christmas at the US Grant, running from December 17 through December 26. In its 25th year, the production, set in 1916, is a three-hour dinner theater variety show of singing, dancing, and storytelling. The four-course feast begins with hors d’ouevres in the Palm Court and on to dinner in the Presidential Ballroom. Formal attire required. Ticket prices start at $158 with discounted tickets for children age 5 to 12. — Eve Kelly

California Wolf Center

18457 Tall Pine Road, Julian

California Wolf Center

Nestled in the backroads of Julian sits the California Wolf Center. The conservation center has several wolves on site for viewing. It’s a great family excursion for the holidays. The center offers private and group tours that give guests the opportunity to see Rocky Mountain gray wolves and the endangered Mexican gray wolf. Public tours take place Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Sundays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., $20 for adults; $15 for seniors, military, students, and children. — Siobhan Braun

California Center for the Arts, Escondido

340 N. Escondido Boulevard, Escondido

Carols by Candlelight

The 27th anniversary of the holiday concert is being held on December 9 and December 10th at the Escondido California Center for the Arts. The concert benefits Rady Children’s Hospital and is performed by celebrities singing their favorite holiday songs. This year, B.J. Thomas, Brandy Clark, and Colin Raye are just a few of the singers serenading the concert hall. Box-office number for tickets is 800-988-4253. — Eve Kelly

Big Night San Diego New Year’s Eve at the Hilton Bayfront

Looking to go BIG on New Year’s Eve? Big Night San Diego is back and is once again offering up a gigantic party for those willing to throw down the bucks for it. The final line-up of bands and deejays should clock-in at around 12 acts, with artists such as La Croix and DJ Bakspin having already been confirmed. One interesting twist is the “silent disco,” which is “a dance party where music is transmitted directly to headsets. Guests wear wireless headphones and a silent atmosphere instantly transforms in to a high energy musical performance.” That should make for some interesting people-watching. Besides free drinks from 9:00 p.m.–1:30 a.m., complimentary food is on the menu until 11 p.m. — Dryw Keltz

North Park Toyland Parade

Santa Claus on a fire truck. Local newspapers once called the North Park Toyland Parade the biggest such Christmas display in San Diego, right before it went dark for 20 years in 1968. Construction on the 805 freeway interrupted the event that began in 1936, shuttered temporarily during WWII, and came back to life with inflatable balloon figures and upwards of 300,000 spectators. This year features marching bands, beauties, politicos, vintage autos, and more. Saturday, December 3. University Ave between Utah and Iowa streets. Parade from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Neighborhood festival from noon to 3 p.m. Free. — Dave Good

The Donkeys Live New Year’s Eve

Ring in the New Year with a show by San Diego’s very own Donkeys. Their tasty musical offerings walk the perfect line between psychedelic rock, shoreline sing-alongs, and Jerry-approved jams. Plus, the performance is a mere $20. An excellent bargain-basement price for a New Year’s Eve outing. The band has a loyal following in San Diego, so getting tickets ahead of time is recommended. A recent pic on the band’s Facebook page shows the boys in the studio along with new album hash-tagged. Looks like attendees may be treated to some tunes fresh outta the oven. — Dryw Keltz

The LOT: Liberty Station

2620 Truxton Road, Liberty Station

The LOT

Pamper yourself this holiday season with a movie at the LOT, a posh theater in Liberty Station that offers big reclining seats. Each chair is equipped with a button that when pressed will beckon a waiter who can bring you sodas, the alcoholic beverage of your choice, gourmet popcorn, or even a steak, if that’s your style. No need to slum it at the mall fighting the masses of Christmas shoppers. Instead, take in a laid-back holiday flick. — Siobhan Braun

A Christmas Carol at Cygnet Theatre

A Christmas Carol at Cygnet Theatre

A Christmas Carol

It’s Charles Dickens’s classic tale of Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future — all in a re-imagined production with original music. The Victorian-setting show runs at the 246-seat Old Town Theatre through December 24. Suitable for ages 5 and up. — Eve Kelly

Fashion Valley Mall

7007 Friars Road, Mission Valley

Breakfast with Santa at Nieman Marcus

Have a gourmet breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus on December 10th or 17th from 8:15–10 a.m. Grownups get poached eggs over salmon with Hollandaise sauce, new potatoes, and fruit, plus bottomless coffee and mimosas. Kiddies will dine on french-toast fingers, scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit, plus milk or orange juice. Carolers will be on hand to sing and interact with families. Cost is $45 for adults, $35 for kids (children under three are free), and includes a picture with Santa. Call for reservations: 619-542-4450. — Deirdre Lickona

The Haven in Golden Hill

The Haven in Golden Hill

The Haven

2515 B Street, Golden Hill

The Haven

Those who prefer their winter solstice more macabre than merry will appreciate this new boutique behind Pizzeria Luigi’s. The Haven curates an eclectic collection of giftables inspired by the occult, Victorian-era pseudomedicine (ceramic phrenology skulls, anyone?), and obscure taxidermy. Buck racks and b-movie imagery abound at this hidden temple of the off-beat. Doll heads floating in aqua-terrariums. Gothic Virgen de Guadalupe statuettes. Mink bones. Stained-glass pagan moon mobiles. Día de los Muertos thank-you cards. If Christmas music burns your cochlea on contact, the Haven may just be your sanctuary. — Chad Deal

Spreckels Organ Pavilion

1549 El Prado, Balboa Park

Free Christmas-day concert at Spreckels Organ Pavilion

The Organ Pavilion’s weekly Sunday concerts will continue through the season despite the recent departure of civic organist Carol Williams. The schedule features a couple of holiday-themed performances, and since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, that show will provide a unique afternoon activity the whole family may enjoy. Civic organist emeriti Robert Plimpton and Jared Jacobsen will be returning for these shows, with Plimpton offering a Christmas Carol Singalong December 18th and Jacobsen putting together the Christmas Day set list. All shows start at 2 p.m. and are always free. — Ian Anderson

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