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San Diego Reader 2018 Holiday issue

SD Mission candlelight, Borrego's Christmas Circle, Oceanside boat rides, Rose Parade floats, Jewish Christmas, Julian tea, Tierrasanta lights, North Pole train, Kumeyaay solstice, Irish New Year

Legoland Christmas
  • Legoland Christmas
  • Photograph by Matthew Suárez

You don’t have to do anything this holiday season. Despite what the song says, you don’t have to deck the halls, join the chorus, or don any sort of gay apparel. You don’t have to honor old traditions or forge new ones, or feast your eyes, or thrill your ears, or tickle your taste buds, or any of it. You don’t have to do a single thing; you can just go about your business and let the time go by until it’s all over and every day is just like the next and the next one after that. Or you can get out there and make some meaning, make some memories, and above all, make some merry. From classy to kitschy, from spiritual to sensible, from parades to parties — opportunities abound to close out the year in happy holiday fashion.

yelet istock getty images plus

Summer tourists who flock to the amusement resort that plastic bricks built may enjoy warmer weather and its adjacent water park, but they miss out on one of the best times of the year to visit. The festive spirit returns this season with a newly constructed Lego Holiday Village, housing the park’s annual holiday programming, highlighted by appearances of Lego Santa Claus, and the 30-foot tall “world’s largest Lego Christmas tree.” Admission to the park through December includes musical light shows and special treats, including peppermint crepes and milkshakes. Perhaps the best part is a seasonal discount: choose your day in advance and reserve special holiday tickets for $75, a bargain compared to the usual $98-and-up pricing.

Legoland Christmas

Legoland Christmas

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

First of the California missions, founded in 1769, San Diego’s namesake celebrates 250 years in 2019. An annual tradition for over 40 years, the mission’s Christmas Candlelight Meditation fills the winter night with warm light. Scripture readings and live musical accompaniment in the historic church followed by reception in La Sala. Friday December 15 and Saturday December 16, 7:30 pm.

Barrio Logan hosts Noche Buena Market

Barrio Logan hosts Noche Buena Market

Photograph by Irvin Gavidor

The Nativity Scene comes to life with “O Wondrous Night,” a light-hearted musical show featuring over 30 Christmas carols and live animals (including camels) to help tell the story of Christmas. The entire park will be decked out in sparkling lights. Here you can visit Santa’s Christmas Village and meet not only the big guy from the North Pole but also Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Catch story time with Mrs. Claus, and stop by Dolphin Island for a special tropical Christmas performance. Before heading home, be sure to walk by the Christmas tree that can be seen from miles away, 400 feet tall and festooned with lights from top to bottom.

The Bill Caballero Sextet will play at the North County Food Bank Gala

The Bill Caballero Sextet will play at the North County Food Bank Gala

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

For a slightly more theatrical performance of holiday music, head over to Coronado’s premier playhouse, where the Lamb’s Players present a musical “tradition that’s different every year!” This season’s show, dubbed Reaching for the Stars, is written and directed by Lamb’s resident Kerry Meads. It promises fresh, modern arrangements of traditional Christmas carols, interwoven though a narrative establishing Father Christmas as resident of a hip, urban neighborhood. The roughly two-hour play and sing-along, deemed appropriate for all ages, runs through December, including matinees on weekends and a 4 pm performance on Christmas Eve. Tickets start at $24 for weeknight shows, and range up to $78 for prime seating, with discounts available for youth, seniors, veterans, and active military.

Holiday hideaway at Clark Ranch Vineyard

Holiday hideaway at Clark Ranch Vineyard

The only thing that could make thousands of sparkling lights more spectacular is seeing their glittering splendor reflected in the Bay. Have a glass of your own sparkles (champagne) and be transported, literally, for a close-up view of the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights from your front row seat on the water. Choose from the Spectator Cruise (a narrated night tour of the harbor and this year’s boats, decorated in a tropical island theme) or the Dinner Cruise, which also includes a three-course meal and live entertainment, as if gazing upon the colorful luster from all those tall masts isn’t entertaining enough.

Death Cab for Cutie headline the 2nd Annual Wrex the Halls concert and toy drive

Death Cab for Cutie headline the 2nd Annual Wrex the Halls concert and toy drive

Tradition says that Christmas Circle Community Park in downtown Borrego Springs was named to honor the birth of Salvador Ignacio Linares on Christmas Eve 1775. Child of a Native American father and an Española mother, Salvador was born during a Spanish settlement expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza. The trek, from Sonora to Monterey, took the homesteaders through the winter wilderness. On a frigid and foggy Noche Buena, Salvador’s mother María went into labor in the saddle. They stopped for the night in what is now Borrego Springs, where she had a healthy Christmas nativity. Pack a picnic and get literal with a visit during the Christmas season — when Borrego Springs is an oasis of calm.

California Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker

California Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker

Santa ditches the sleigh for a luxury catamaran. Cruise around Oceanside Harbor for 20 minutes of sparkling views, spirit-lifting crisp ocean spray, and just enough Santa to satiate the kids and snap some photos. Oceanside Adventures offers this very affordable activity as a fundraiser for Friends of Oceanside Parks. Saturday, December 8, 11 am - 3 pm. $3 per person, kids 2 and under free. No reservations required. Bonus: free parking through the blue tunnel near Joe’s Crab Shack. Make a day of it and visit New England-style Harbor Village for lunch or treats al fresco. Look for the letters that spell “Oceanside” along the east side of the harbor mouth.

Brujitxs Del Barrio is a well-curated bonanza of covetable goods

Brujitxs Del Barrio is a well-curated bonanza of covetable goods

Birch Aquarium celebrates the “SEAson” for the entire month of December with holiday-themed crafts, activities, live music, and even a scuba-diving Santa. Even the jellyfish seem to swim among snowflakes, thanks to the winter-themed decor throughout the space. There will be themed animal encounters, a scavenger hunt, and unique photo opportunities. At Holiday Night Lights, you’ll get to see underwater creatures that glow in the dark, such as bioluminescent sharks. Members who go early enough in the season (Through December 8) get 20 percent off of ocean-themed holiday decor and more at the gift shop.

San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus presents Jingle

San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus presents Jingle

The Rose Parade floats are a marvel to behold once they are complete, but the building process is just as astonishing. With this Five Stars Tour, you will visit the construction zones where these floats are being assembled. Two days before the parade, you will watch as a slew of volunteers and professionals apply “a variety of fruit, seeds, bark, grasses and of course, breathtaking flowers” to each innovative, larger-than-life design in the final moments before they are completed. As a bonus, head back on January 2 for the Post-Parade Float Tour, where you can step right up to take in the design and workmanship of these floral masterpieces before they are disassembled.

December Nights in Balboa Park

December Nights in Balboa Park

Photograph by Andy Boyd

Gingerbread Victorian charm and sweeping gardens make a beautiful backdrop for the annual brunch with Santa at Grand Tradition Estate in Fallbrook. Enjoy holiday festivities for all ages throughout the morning: dancing ballerinas, carolers, crafts, and storytelling. Brunch in the Beverly Mansion Ballroom, overlooking the heart-shaped lake. Saturday, December 15, 10 am to 1 pm. Adults $59, children 5-10 $35, 4 and under $10. Reservations required, call 760-728-6466.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe Theater

How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe Theater

Photograph by Jim Cox

Ever wonder what Jewish people do on Christmas? Go to a movie and eat out Chinese. The Meetup group Jewish Seculars for Food, Film, and Friendship and the Lawrence Family JCC have organized this informal tradition into an annual gathering. This year, Funny Girl will show on the big screen at the Garfield Theater, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Barbra Streisand film. Chinese buffet (yes, it’s kosher) before the movie. 4:30-10 pm, December 25. $38 per person or a four-pack for $100. Reserve by December 18. For other tasty Chinese food on Christmas, visit Panda Country on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. Be prepared to wait in line — the idea is catching on.

“We’ll throw in a few jingles, why not?” organizer April Ramirez said of the second annual Noche Buena Market. Look for the holiday-themed iteration of the Barrio Logan Flea Market: December 8, 4-9pm on Logan Avenue (during Barrio Art Crawl) and December 22, 12-6pm at Mercado del Barrio on Cesar Chavez Parkway. Up to 30 vendors and artisans from Mexicali, Arizona, Los Angeles, Tijuana and other locales gather for the party. Find a varied menu of foods for all palates: deep-fried quesadillas and elotes, pizza and vegan pozole, tamales (of course), and more. Shop for colorful gifts, piñatas, tees, and gear (need a Tijuas beanie?), handmade soaps (perhaps a peppermint Christmas edition?), and — for the pickiest tweens — buttons galore. Free admission.

Classical music lovers will enjoy this opportunity to join hundreds of voices in belting out Handel’s Messiah. On Sunday, December 16, at 4 pm, the La Jolla Symphony Chamber Orchestra, led by guest conductor Ruben Valenzuela, will be performing portions of this classic, along with soloists and the audience. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Carlsbad will be the location of this songfest, and tickets are $18 for general audience, $10 for students or youth. Scores can be rented for $5, or bring your own.

Almost-16-year-old Frock You Vintage Clothing is, by itself, a treasure trove of vintage finds for yourself and for outside-of-the-big-box gifts for others. Every few months, though, they invite guest vendors to set up in the tent-covered lot next to their shop to hold what they dub a Huge Frocking Sale. Now in it’s 8th year, December’s Frock The Halls version not only promises gorgeous vintage fashions, housewares, and gifts galore, but the ever-coveted Ugly X-mas Sweaters. Details for this holiday-themed incarnation are: December 7th & 8th from 12 pm to 6 pm and Sunday, December 9th from noon until 3 pm.

The historic King House, built in 1898, home to Julian Tea & Cottage Arts, will be offering a Victorian Christmas tea daily from December 6 through Sunday December 23. Reservations are required for their seatings, which are offered at 11:30 am, 1:15 pm and 3 pm. All the tea time fixings will be on display in this 24-years-running holiday event, including scones, jams, finger sandwiches, savories, and desserts. Tickets are $29.95 for adults, $12.95 for children.

From Combine & Create’s one-of-a-kind gemstone-rich jewelry pieces to Open Apothecary’s CBD products to local art and t-shirts by Irie Iye to La Flor’s ethical smudge sticks, this shop is a well-curated bonanza of covetable goods. A natural apothecary section has an array of homemade tonics, tinctures, potions, and syrups to keep the body and heart healthy and supported. Custom tea blends, sustainable crystals, mystical handmade dolls, and energy candles round out their eclectic offerings. They also offer workshops and an array of rotating, on-site massage therapists, healers, psychics, tarot readers, reiki masters, and more. Check out the shop’s Healers Collective Binder to peruse bios and contact info to find your perfect fit and to make appointments outside of store hours.

This time of year, the chilly mountain town of Julian is the perfect locale for us sun-drenched San Diegans to get in the holiday mood. On December 8, 15 and 22, at 5 pm, church groups will be performing a living nativity scene at the Julian Cider Mill. Arrive a bit early at the Mill and pop in to get some cider, homemade goodies, or local honey to enjoy while you watch Joseph and Mary welcome the baby Jesus. This free event is sure to bring the imagination right back to Bethlehem 2018 years ago.

Lace up your skates and hit the ice as Salute the Season kicks off with Rady Children’s Ice Rink at Liberty Station’s Central Promenade from now until January 6th, 2019. The ice rink is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas from 10 am and 10 pm and closes at 5 pm on Christmas Eve. All proceeds from the ice rink benefit the Rady Children’s Hospital’s Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, which has raised more than $1 million over the past 19 years. Skate as long as you wish, then visit one of Liberty Station’s restaurants, breweries or the Liberty Public Market for nearly unlimited food and beverage choices. Tickets are $13 - $15 and include skates and helmet rental.

Holiday by the Bay provides San Diego’s ultimate winter adventure through January 5th. Thrill to Reindeer Run, a bone-chilling two-story, 100-foot ice tubing slide, slip and slide in Ice Bumpers, an exhilarating twist on an old fan favorite, gaze at the hourly dynamic light show SHINE featuring a 30-foot Christmas Tree, frolic in spontaneous “snow” flurries, decorate gingerbread inside Claus Kitchen, trim stockings at Santa’s Workshop, test your skills on The Bucking Reindeer, or sip festive holiday cocktails inside Yule Lodge. General admission is $15-$20, Ultimate Cheer admission runs $33-$38 and includes seven activity tickets.

North County Food Bank Season of Giving Gala will be held on Saturday, December 15 in the ballroom at Cal State San Marcos. The elegant affair will have a cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner, and dancing. Live music will be provided by the San Diego Harmony Ringers (a handbell choir group) and the Bill Caballero Sextet, a Latin jazz group. The event will raise funds for the Food Bank. Tickets are $250.

Treat the whole family to the magic of the holiday season at the inaugural Nutcracker Tea Party with Santa on Sunday, December 16th from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. You’ll be greeted by the Nutcracker characters and shown to a delectable hot chocolate bar to enjoy during the Nutcracker performance. The fully immersive, narrated show begins at 4 pm with vignette performances by the San Diego Ballet, who will be interacting directly with the audience to tell the classic story of The Nutcracker. Afterwards, Santa will arrive from the North Pole to take pictures with families and guests. Tickets are $55.

The Old Globe Theatre once again transforms into a snowy Whoville for the 21st season of Dr. Seuss’s classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, now through December 29th. Veteran Broadway actor Edward Watts reprises his role as everyone’s favorite holiday grouch, and popular San Diego actor Steve Gunderson will return for his 15th appearance as the show’s narrator, Old Max. Tickets start at $24 for children and $39 for adults.

Clark Ranch is a truly historic estate, complete with charming original (1885) farmhouse and descendants of the original family still running the joint. They used to be renowned for their beef, plus fresh fruit and veggies and specialties like pickled figs. Now they’re pioneering grapes, making well-regarded wines. But the jewel in the crown is their guest house. Stay, right in the “spice room” of the pickle house. Up to three people. It has its own kitchen. Bring your own supplies. They also have a barbecue area. And feel free to pluck away at pomegranates, peaches, plums, or apples in the orchard. Sample the wines. After all the season’s festivities, this is the perfect country escape. Bonus: they say Dulzura/Potrero has the cleanest air in the county, if not the country.

Whether your best friends have fur, feathers, or scales, they can show off their sartorial flair at the 11th annual Vet + Pet West Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade on Sunday, December 16th, starting at the corner of Fourth Avenue and K Street at the Gaslamp Hilton Park. Prizes are awarded for the best pet, human, and group costumes in nine categories, and the Best in Show winner is invited to be the grand marshal of the 2019 pet parade. Entrants receive a goodie bag full of fun samples, toys, coupons, and other gifts for your festive fur friends. There’s also free live music, a holiday pet market, and a pet expo. Viewing stations around the Gaslamp Quarter providing patios to watch the pets on parade, with the best vantage points along 4th & 5th Avenues between E and K Streets. The expo and parade are free to view, pet participation is $15 per pet in advance, and $20 the day of.

To enjoy the most spectacular home holiday light show in town, head to Tierrasanta between now and Christmas day. Since 2006, Randy Shimpka and his autistic son Brandon have devised ever more elaborate displays. They spent all of 2018 planning this year’s show, which has grown to include over 100,000 lights, nine miles of wire, and 2500 channels of computer automation. Dancing elves, singing reindeer, and a family of animated snow people are synced to a short-range broadcast of holiday songs, so drive by after 5:30 pm, tune to 106.1 FM, be mindful respecting the neighbors, and consider a donation. The Shimpka’s have raised $50,000 and counting for autistic charities. This year’s show benefits the Stein Education Center in Mission Valley.

Ring in 2019 while enjoying spectacular 360-degree views of the San Diego skyline aboard Hornblower’s $25 million party yacht, Inspiration. Start with a champagne toast as you board, then stroll up to one of three dance decks, featuring a hip-hop dance deck, a legendary ‘80s all-stars cover band, and smooth tunes on the open air upper deck. A huge variety of gourmet appetizers and twelve open bars ensure that you won’t be standing in endless lines for cocktails. Upgrade to VIP status for early boarding and an extra hour of drinking and mingling on the upper deck. Tickets are $159 for general admission, add $40 for VIP early admission.

On December 14 at 5:30 pm, 91X partners with Valley View Casino Center and the Salvation Army for the 2nd Annual Wrex the Halls concert and toy drive. If you bring a new, unwrapped toy, parking will cost only $10 (instead of $20) per car. The headliners for the holiday concert are Death Cab for Cutie and Third Eye Blind. Other musicians featured are Billy Eilish, Lord Huron, The Interrupters, and Barns Courtney. Tickets are on sale for $59 and up. Do a good deed by bringing a Christmas toy to a child and start your holidays cheer off with rock and roll.

Who doesn’t love a train ride — especially to Santa’s Workshop? This 90-minute train ride is sponsored by the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association’s volunteers in cooperation with Mountain Empire and Bonita Vista Valley High Schools. Upon your arrival, Santa’s elves’ will greet you in the train station waiting room and bustle you onto a 1920s restored vintage commuter car — the North Pole Limited. Besides looking out the window at the high desert scenery as the engine chugs along, the elves will pass out cookies, hot chocolate, and read holiday favorites aloud. The train’s magical destination will be to Santa’s Workshop to pick up Mr. and Mrs. Claus who will ride back with the passengers to discuss wish lists and pose for photos.

The train runs from Friday November 30 through Saturday December 22. Prices vary with dates.

Owner Janeesa started her responsibly-sourced, aromatherapy and plant-infused, hemp-derived CBD bath products and topicals company more than two years ago before opening up her storefront on October 27th. Already sold in shops worldwide, these non-psychoactive, handmade, all-natural bath bombs, lip balms and scrubs, healing body oils and body butters, and beauty tonics offer the ultimate in relaxing, nourishing, and therapeutic options outside of the pharmacological sphere. Most prevalent, her bath spheres come in 13 different varieties to align with possible ailments (pain, eczema, insomnia or others) and desired results (detoxifying, energizing, etc). Also check out the shop’s growing collection of jewelry, apparel, home accessories, and art.

On December 8 from 7 to 9 pm, the harbor in Oceanside becomes a sparkling festival of lights when the yachts are adorned with colorful lights for the annual Parade of Lights, sponsored by the Oceanside Yacht Club. Bundle up in your fleece or flannel to watch the multitude of boats float by, decked out in an array of colors and themes. If you’re looking to find Santa, he can usually be found this special night piloting a fishing boat. His helpers will navigating a kayak, motorboat, or dinghies. Snowmen, penguins, and even flamingos can be seen floating on the calm waters. Get there early to claim a spot on the sidewalk or grab a table at one of Oceanside Harbor’s restaurants and pubs.

The ultimate gift-buying paradise, Blind Lady Ale House’s annual December-time shopping event — cleverly named Craft & Draft — is back for its 7th year. The entire side room is turned into a “crafter’s holiday wish list” filled with tables of handmade wares from 12 local vendors. All of these artists offer up unique treasures that are not to be missed. To name a few, expect heavenly soaps and body butters from Soap to Please, Ceramic Heights’ lovely pottery, simple and elegantly edgy jewelry from Grey Theory Mill, and Two Hermanas’ laser-cut greeting cards. Also of note are the adorable, whimsically-illustrated onesies, t-shirts, pins, and paper products from illustrator Suzie Ghahremani’s brand Boygirlparty. Sunday, December 9th from 11:30 am until 4 pm.

December Nights, held on Friday, December 7 and Saturday, December 8, is San Diego’s largest holiday festival — last year more than 350,000 people came to the free holiday event — so take an Uber, a bus, or walk. Of course, parades will be featured, but so will food, music, ballet dancers, puppets, clowns, and still scenes from the story of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Zumba fitness instructors will perform belly dances and the salsa, while the Kaibigan Dance Company will perform Filipino Cultural Dance. All of the museums will be open for free from 5 to 9 pm. Check out the site for parking and transportation ideas so you don’t miss this San Diego tradition to kick off your holidays in style.

The Zoo’s annual Jungle Bells celebration, free with admission, transforms its 100 acres into a wild winter wonderland of “twinkling lights, merry-making performances, and festive foods.” Expect “seasonal decorations, animal experiences, costumed characters, lighted displays and live entertainment – including [their] zany Dr. Zoolittle... and Santa.” A highlight is the interactive Jingle Brass Band on the stage at the front entrance, which is guaranteed to get your young ones, and you, singing and dancing along. Runs Dec. 14, 2018 through Jan. 6, 2019 from 9 am to 8 pm, although the real fun happens after sundown when the colorful lights and animal-shaped light sculptures brighten the zoo grounds. Closes at 5 pm on December 24.

So many Nutcracker performances to choose from this season, it can be hard to decide which one to attend. If you need help, California Ballet Company’s version of the holiday classic has the most offerings – 12 showings across 7 days – with a cast of over 150 participants. Also, Tchaikovsky’s score will be expertly executed by the San Diego Symphony, so there’s that added bonus. Show runs December 14th thru the 23rd with tickets starting at $25. Children 12 and under receive a 25% discount. Must be 4 years old to attend, although there are two toddler-friendly performance dates offered.

Promising to be a more intimate, holiday-themed version of their bi-monthly shopping event, San Diego Vintage Flea Market invited more “makers and creatives” to their December incarnation. Usually showcasing hand-picked vendors selling fabulous vintage wares, clothing, furniture, and knick-knacks, this ‘For the Holidays’ market is “especially geared towards gifts and gift ideas.” A few known goodies include holiday treats (like peppermint bark!) from Spoonful, vintage finds from new-to-the-market Brown Bird Co., amazing bath & body creations from Soap to Please, and up to a 100 more vendors selling their unique goods. Sunday, December 16th from 9 am to 3 pm. Free Admission. Rain or shine. Well-behaved, leashed dogs welcome.

Yes, this is as touristy as you can get, but go with the flow. It turns out the lush garden, surrounded by shops and eateries, is probably just how the original Californios dreamed of a perfect Town Plaza. The best feature? The stage in the middle. It hosts live entertainment: folkloric dancing, a big mariachi band (weekends), historical plays. There’s something every night of the week. Best of all, it’s free. And, touristy or not, it provides really good cultural insights. In the chilly months, garden dining is well-stocked with heaters. Check website for details.

Hikers will tell you this is an easy one. It’s also an ancient and awesome one. Kumeyaay have been coming up here to observe the winter solstice (“solstice” means “sun standing still”) for millennia. It’s a 30-40 minute walk up the Cowles Mountain trail, just under a mile, until you hook right off the main track and head for a small flat area on the south ridge of the mountain. Get here around 6:30 am. You won’t be alone. Ask around for where to look and where to stand. If you’re in the right position, the rising sun will be split into two laser beams of light by a distant boulder summit. It’s an awesome beginning for a new year. Good group to go with: San Diego Natural History Museum Canyoneers.

Bernardo claims to be Southern California’s oldest operating winery, and they make a big effort for the holiday season. Between December 17-22, they bring in carolers, carriage rides, and craft vendors, plus food trucks and live music. But the most romantic deal is to zero in on their mulled wine. This ancient winter treat (also called wassail) is hot red wine with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon mixed in with slices of slow-roasted orange, stuck with cloves. Grab a goblet and then hail down a carriage ride to spoon in with your honey. Doesn’t matter where you are going. You’ll be surrounded by vines, animals, the clip clop of the horse, and the pitty-pat of your heart.

There’s no feeling like floating in a wind tunnel. For starters, you don’t have to jump out of a plane. Indoor skydiving has taken off across the world. As an exclamation point for your celebration, it can’t be beat. And even if you’re a first-timer, you can fly together with friends or family after you have mastered basic skills. Kids? They take ’em from three years old and can float anybody weighing under 300lbs. Birthday parties can be the funnest to do or watch. Each flight lasts 60 seconds. You get two flights. Basic cost is $60, but there are lots of group deals. Thing you’ll be secretly most proud of: the flight certificate with your name on it.

On December 7-8, a few blocks of downtown La Mesa close down for a holiday party straight out of a Hallmark movie. School kids and church groups will perform Christmas songs, while clowns will offer face-painting and carnies provide rides. Although it typically attracts crowds looking for a bit of Americana, this year’s party will also give attendees a close-up look at the downtown area, which has been revitalized with new restaurants and shops in recent months.

Santa isn’t the only person working Christmas Eve — so are some of San Diego’s finest musicians. It’s “Exile On Kettner Blvd,” a two-decade tradition where a host of musicians sing the music of the Rolling Stones. Nationally known singers like Steve Poltz, El Vez, and Cindy Lee Berryhill have been known to jump on stage to get some satisfaction.

  • Big Night
  • San Diego New Year’s Eve Gala
  • Hilton Bayfront
  • Downtown

For those looking to go big on New Year’s Eve, Big Night San Diego can’t be beat. The event (now celebrating its 15th year) will feature eight dance floors and ten separate “party areas.” If you tend to get thirsty, all drinks are included with every ticket purchase. The cheapest entry into the event is (currently) $89.99 with admittance after 11 pm. On the other end of the spectrum, the “Velvet Rope” option will cost you about $240 and features “an additional 1 hour of upscale food & beverage service from 8:00 - 9:00pm.” If you are planning on partying into 2019, the Hilton is offering discounted rooms for Big Night guests. All ticket prices will be increasing as the event approaches.

  • Holiday Bowl
  • San Diego County Credit Union Stadium
  • Mission Valley

If you are looking for a late-afternoon activity to serve as a warm-up on New Year’s Eve, consider the 2018 Holiday Bowl. The event, known for it’s exciting games over the years, will feature the Northwestern Wildcats and the Utah Utes and will take place at the San Diego County Credit Union Stadium. Currently, Field Level tickets are still available for less than $200. Nosebleeds are as low as $40 each.

Worried about all those heavy meals between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Burn off some of those celebratory calories at the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon. The race takes place on Saturday, December 15. It begins at the Hotel Karlan on Peñasquitos Drive (near Interstate 15) and finishes at the Torrey Pines beach east parking lot. The course travels east to west, with the majority of the running (nine miles) taking place on the Highway 56 bike path. The course drops over 700 feet as it heads towards the ocean. As a result, the organizers promote the course as “a potential PR” (personal record) for interested runners. Registration is $109 and includes pre and post transportation to the start line, a dry-tech running shirt, a finisher’s medal and (of course) some sweet race swag.

  • Jingle
  • 868 Fourth Avenue
  • Gaslamp Quarter

This annual performance produced by the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus bills itself as “the holly jolliest holiday show of the year!” The performance at Balboa Theatre features more than 200 singers, dancers, and musicians, including a bell choir and children’s choir, covering holiday staples such as “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “O Holy Night,” as well as campier modern-day classics including “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Guaranteed to sell out each year, this season’s tickets are already going fast at $25 to $70 apiece for shows scheduled on Saturday December 15 at 8pm, and Sunday, December 16 at 3pm.

Venture a bit outside of San Diego to catch one of seven special shows, from the ice dancing event, “Merry Christmas, Snoopy,” to the stage productions, “It’s the Merriest Christmas Show Ever, Charlie Brown” and the comedic Old West revue, “Calico Saloon Christmas Show,” which takes place in Ghost Town. Also in Ghost Town each night during the season, the streets are lit and real snow flutters down from the sky. In addition to shows, there are Christmas-themed activities and attractions, such as decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus and visiting Santa’s Christmas Cabin, where you can sample sweet treats and sip seasonal craft beers, hot chocolate with marshmallows, or spiced holiday wine.

  • Irish New Year’s Eve
  • Locations county wide

The Field Irish Pub and Restaurant

544 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

Hooleys Irish Pub & Grill La Mesa

5500 Grossmont Center Drive #277, La Mesa

O'Sullivan's Irish Pub of Carlsbad

640 Grand Avenue, Carlsbad

O'Sullivan's Irish Pub Escondido

118 East Grand Avenue, Escondido

The Ould Sod

3373 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

If you don’t plan to stay up past midnight to ring in the new year, but still want to party, visit a traditional Irish pub during the afternoon of December 31, and raise a glass to 2019 at midnight Dublin time (that’s 4 pm to us). Pubs around the county will be offering the likes of Irish ales, corned beef, and live traditional Irish music. Plan to show up by 1 pm, and make reservations if available, as these events always fill up, whether it’s The Field Irish Pub, Hooleys Irish Pub, O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, or The Ould Sod.

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