Disclaimer: Due to COVID-19 concerns, many events might be canceled, postponed, or changed into limited versions, sometimes at very short notice. Please check with event organizers directly for the latest updates (view the "External Resources" section below).
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights (December 8 & 15, 2019)
The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is one of the oldest holiday traditions of San Diego, supported by its boating community. For over 40 years, every December, the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights dazzles, illuminates, and entertains the people who come to the bayfront to enjoy the lovely views. Every year participants of the holiday boat parade decorate their vessels according to a previously selected theme.
More than 100,000 visitors come to see the festivities on the shores of San Diego Bay each year. The procession of up to 100 beautifully decorated boats is genuinely one of the most popular holiday events in the San Diego area. The parade's route lies along the bayfront. It proceeds to the pier at Cesar Chavez Park before making the turn to Coronado—another great spot to view the parade. The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is organized by the Port of San Diego.
Botanic Wonderland at San Diego Botanic Garden (December 2–30, 2020, selected days)
In addition to lights on the water, there are plenty of Christmas light displays on San Diego land. More than 125,000 lights illuminate the San Diego Botanic Garden every winter. The fascinating Botanic Wonderland holiday nights in the Garden, formerly known as Garden of Light, display covers the 37-acre (16-ha) oasis, creating a fairy-tale experience. You can also enjoy live jazz, Christmas carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, and a Santa Claus residence.
Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo (December 4, 2020–January 3, 2021, selected days)
The "Jungle Bells" holiday extravaganza at the San Diego Zoo features lavish seasonal decorations, costumed characters, and live entertainment. “Celebration of Lights” is the combination of music and light show which occurs at the zoo every 30 minutes from 4:55 pm. You can buy tickets to the San Diego Zoo online to skip the line.
Garrison St Lights (December, dates TBA)
Garrison Street Lights in Point Loma will definitely leave you impressed. The 3D sparkling display covers the marvelous street from dusk till 10 p.m. every December.