Holidays at the big attractions

Legoland, Zoo, Seaworld, Liberty Station, La Mesa Village

Besides the usual attractions, Legoland has added some holiday attractions to the mix, including a 30-foot Lego Christmas tree.
  • Besides the usual attractions, Legoland has added some holiday attractions to the mix, including a 30-foot Lego Christmas tree.
  • Image by Matthew Suárez

San Diego’s mild winter climate makes it an attractive spot for people who don’t want a white Christmas. So that means there is a good chance you’re hosting out-of-towners over the holidays. That means that in between shopping for gifts, you may have to do some tourist stuff. Here’s what some of the city’s top tourist attractions are doing in December. Also, for a change-of-pace, there’s some good old-fashioned small-town fun.

Legoland California

One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad

Considering how many kids get Legos for Christmas, a stop here before the holiday could be a fun plan. Besides the usual attractions, Legoland has added some holiday attractions to the mix, including a 30-foot Lego Christmas tree, complete with Lego ornaments. You can also sit on the lap of a life-size Lego Santa, who, being inanimate, won’t be on a break when you want to take that Christmas photo. There will also be a German-themed holiday shop and a performance by the Yule Tides, a singing group of elves. The SeaLife Aquarium next door will also be celebrating the holidays with a Christmas-themed dive show featuring Santa.

San Diego Zoo

2920 Zoo Drive, Balboa Park

The Zoo’s seasonal Jungle Bells celebration is a pretty chill time, as it plays up animals from colder climates while staying open until 8 p.m. The Northern Frontier’s Holiday Forest (open between 3 and 8 p.m.) features a trail through specially lit trees to the winter-loving animals. During the evening hours there are special presentations where zookeepers show off animals such as cheetahs or raccoons and explain their unique features. Non-animal attractions include acrobats, musicians, a 4-D ride that duplicates the Polar Express, and a zoo-themed version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” recited by a guy named Dr. Zoolittle (who may or may not be a real doctor).


500 Sea World Drive, Mission Beach

More than the other local theme parks, SeaWorld is honoring the religious aspects of Christmas with a new show, “O Wondrous Night,” that tells the story of the Nativity with puppets, 30 carols, and live animals (camels, not killer whales). On the secular side, there is Rudolph’s Christmastown, a place where fans can take photos with the characters from the beloved animated special. There are also holiday shows featuring dolphins and seals. For people who want a one-of-a-kind experience, there is the option of having a special breakfast with Santa next to the tank with killer whales.

Arts District Liberty Station

2640 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station

In recent years, Liberty Station has come on strong as a destination for tourists and locals alike, especially with the opening of Liberty Public Market. There will be a Holiday Marketplace on weekends next to the skating rink that will showcase local vendors and entertainers. A giant menorah to honor Hanukkah will be lit December 12. The day after Christmas will be Free Dance Day during which instructors at the Dorothea Laub Dance Place will teach visitors the finer points of tango, tap, ballet, and modern dance.

La Mesa Village

Spring Street at La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa

For people who want to celebrate the holidays in an approximation of those mythical small towns that appear in Christmas movies, Holiday at the Village (December 9–10) may be the closest thing to the Hallmark Channel. Musicians from local schools and churches will sing carols while friends and neighbors warm up at fire pits set up along La Mesa Boulevard, and local vendors sell homemade crafts. There will be plenty of activities for kids and Santa will be in attendance.

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