Where to See Christmas Lights in San Diego
Looks like many of us will be “home for the holidays” this year. But that’s ok. Though we don’t get the snow, but the Christmas lights San Diego puts up around the city still turn it into a winter wonderland of shimmering lights, colorful decorations, and stunning displays. All helping us to get into the holiday spirit!
One of our favorite traditions is visiting both venues and neighborhoods that put their time and their hearts into stringing Christmas lights. Why do they do it?
As one homeowner from Poway’s Candy Cane Lane said last year “It brings families together, and to see the awe-inspired faces of the children and their excited smiles, believe me, it’s makes it all worthwhile.”
Though some holiday events have been cancelled due to COVID-19, one tradition that hasn’t changed is that we can hop in the car (with people in our own household, of course) put on our favorite Christmas tunes, and drive out to see some amazing Christmas lights and displays.
Here are some recommended places to see the Christmas lights in San Diego. These include both businesses and private neighborhoods. From spirited communities to outdoor events at amusement parks, there’s enough out there to set the mood for a happy holiday!
Before you go, please remember check websites to confirm dates, times, and in some cases, ticket costs, and the most updated information possible.
Old Town Holiday Lights Trolley Tour
A great way to celebrate the holiday season and view the best San Diego Christmas lights all in one evening is by hopping on Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Lights and Sights Trolley Tour.
Join the elf conductors as they share fun holiday facts and traditions and introduce riders to the festive lights of Old Town, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Balboa Park and more.
Tickets for the 75-minute tour running Dec. 3-24 and Dec. 26-30, 2020 must be purchased 24 hours in advance.
Cost: Cost: $25, children ages three and under free (on an adult’s lap).
Coronado Christmas Lights
Hotel Del Coronado – Coronado Island
The Hotel Del Coronado is a place we visit every holiday season because the lights and displays are absolutely breathtaking.
This year, the Del has transformed the beachfront Windsor Lawn into a magical winter wonderland of sparkling lights, enormous, decorated trees, and snowy surprises. We can’t wait to see it! Even with the changes, it’s bound to be magnificent.
Christmas Lights San Diego Central
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights draws in 100000 visitors each year. Watch this beautiful boat parade along the San Diego Bay and get into the holiday spirit.
Update: Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the 2020 Bay Parade of Lights has been canceled. However, if you don’t want to miss out, you can go to Newport Beach for their Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Book your tickets here>> And if you want to experience it from the water, you can even do a Holiday Lights Cruise!
Illuminated Winter Nights-Mission Bay
Though visitors can’t the amusement rides, you can still celebrate the holidays with a beachside winter wonderland-themed event at Mission Beach’ Belmont Park. Thousands of lights and 15-foot-tall holiday-themed sculptures that come to life when the sun goes down are just some of the magic you’ll find at the park.
Dates: Saturdays & Sundays, Dec. 5-27, 2020 – 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
No admission cost.
Jungle Bells-San Diego Zoo
How fun to ring in the season at one of the places we San Diegans are most proud of —our world-famous San Diego Zoo. And in the evening, the park transforms into a magical winter wonderland.
The December annual celebration known as Jungle Bells features twinkling lights, seasonal decorations, holiday music, and joyful roaming entertainers. And of course, we can’t forget the stars of the show, our beloved zoo animals.
Tickets can be purchased here.
Cost: Included with park admission.
Seaport Village is always beautifully decorated during the Holidays. Definitely add this to your list of places to check out the San Diego Christmas Lights.
Clairemont Christmas Park
For years, over 40 residents of Lana Drive and Jamar, off Abernathy Circle have been hanging holiday lights in their “Christmas Park” to the delight of visitors.
Dates: December 5-25, 5-9 pm.
Christmas Lights San Diego South/East County
Jingle Bell Hill- El Cajon
Residents in 75 homes from Pepper Drive to Solomon Avenue in El Cajon happily participate in this annual event during the holiday season. From gigantic lighted trees, creative scenes representing Disney and comic-book characters all synchronized with music, and colorful lights, it’s obvious this neighborhood loves the holidays.
Dates: December 5-25, Monday-Thursday 6-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 6-10 pm.
Starlight Circle/Starburst Santee
75 homes in all their holiday lighted glory welcome visitors to this Santee neighborhood along Tomel Court. It’s an easy circled drive filled with amazing displays and twinkling lights.
Dates: December 1-31, dusk to 10 pm.
Enchanted Village- Lemon Grove
Noah Homes’ annual Enchanted Village returns for a third year, this time with safe, socially distanced modifications. This year visitors can ooh and aah over 500,000 lights, interactive displays, and fun attractions from the safety of their vehicle.
The event begins at Steele Canyon High School winding through a fun, picturesque drive-thru candy cane light tunnel, 18-foot Christmas tree, holiday celebrities like Buddy the Elf, plus themed zones like Holidays Under the Sea and Candyland.
Proceeds support the residents of Noah Homes, a nonprofit that provides housing, services, and advocacy for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Dates: December 18-23 5-8 pm. Reserve a time slot online.
Cost: $65 per vehicle
Christmas Lights San Diego North County Inland
Candy Cane Lane-Poway
Made up of three neighboring cul-de-sacs, Candy Cane Lane is an impressive array of festive lights. Hickory Street turns into an absolute holiday wonderland as residents go all out with themed displays, accompanied by thousands of twinkling lights, and holiday tunes.
Dates: December 5-25. 6-9 pm.
California Center for the Arts- Escondido
San Diego’s “The Peace Family” produces a fun theatrical light show experience featured on ABC’s Great Christmas Light Fight in 2018. With over 36,000 red, green and blue LED lights, the family lit up their home for years with unique theatrical displays never seen before.
However due to the popularity of the show, and respect for their neighbors, the show moved from their home to California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Now visitors can experience a twinkling lights tunnel, sparkling lights that dance to music, and a blowing snow machine on this self-guided tour.
Dates: November 28-3. Check website for times.
Cost: Non-members: $18 for adults, $10 for children; Members: $10 for adults, $7 for children
Safari Park Wild Holidays-Escondido
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrates the holidays with a ton of bright sparkling lights and activities for the season at the park located at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road.
Entertainment includes an Enchanted Lagoon, Safari Base Camp Light Show, Bridge of Lights, and Nairobi Lantern Walk. There will be roaming performances including firefly stilt walkers and an acoustic music duo. And did I mention there will be lights?
Tickets can be purchased on the website.
Cost: Included with park admission.
Christmas Card Lane- Rancho Peñasquitos
This stunning display of Christmas card cut-outs against a backdrop of thousands of lights is the effort of 200 families each year. Oviedo Street off Black Mountain Road turns into a holiday wonderland and most lights stay up until Christmas, and some through New Year’s Day.
Dates: December 7-21, dusk-10 pm.
Fairway Village- Carmel Mountain Ranch
100+ homeowners participate in this holiday magic lighting event spectacular in Carmel Mountain Ranch’s Sabre Springs along Stoney Gate Place.
Dates: Dec. 1 to Jan. 1 from dusk to 10:30 p.m.
Merry-tage Court-Scripps Ranch
The streets of Stonebridge Parkway and Meritage Court present creative lighted displays themed to pop culture hits like Cars, Frozen, The Grinch, and Star Wars. The lights are absolutely magnificent and remain up throughout the entire month of December.
Dates: December 1-31, 6:30 to 9:30 pm.
San Diego Christmas Lights North County Coastal
Botanic Wonderland, Holiday Nights in the Garden-Encinitas
This outdoor holiday lighting experience covers 37 acres of festive holiday lights where visitors can stroll amidst displays of lighted animals, laser lighting, and illuminated plant collections. Other garden areas like the rainforest and waterfall, and Canary Island/Cork Oak Grove are also adorned with lights. Tickets are available on-line.
Dates: December 2-6, 9-13, 16-17, 18-31, January 1-10. 5-9 pm.
Holidays at Legoland-Carlsbad
Though rides are not currently open at Legoland, the resort is still open, and guests can enter the park to see holiday characters, and an impressive night-time light show accompanied by Christmas songs. The famous LEGO Christmas tree is a sight to see. Tickets are available online for purchase.
Dates: December 4-6, 11-13,18-31, January 1-10.
‘Holidays in Your Car’ Light Show-Del Mar
A holiday lights spectacle featuring more than one million lights is happening at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Visitors drive through a mile-and-a-half of LED lights accompanied by holiday music. Multi-colored projections and 40-foot holograms feature images of the season. Reservations are mandatory. Get your tickets on Groupon for big savings (up to 40% off)>>
Dates: Mondays-Thursdays: 5-9 pm, Fridays-Sundays 5-10.
Cost: $49-64 per car (all must be in safety belts). Remember to Check Groupon for big savings!
Willow Walk Road-Oceanside
Over 30,000 lights go into creating a spectacular show at 5279 Willow Walk Road with 13,000 digital lights featuring mega board arches and singing Christmas trees.
Dates 1-31. 6:30 to 10 pm.
No matter what your holiday plans, hope you’ll get a chance to get out there to see some of these amazing San Diego Christmas lights displays.
Let us know if you found some beautiful Christmas Lights in San Diego you loved that we didn’t cover!
Best Places To See The Christmas Lights San Diego was written by Noreen Kompanik for San Diego Explorer.