7 Ways To Experience ‘Winter’ In San Diego


Many people, particularly those who have never lived here, of course, will say that San Diego doesn’t have a ‘winter’.

But it does! Winter in San Diego has always been a special time of year; our unique blend of cultures is on full display, and we take full advantage of the uniqueness of the season.

From the Big Bay Parade to neighborhood chili cook-offs, college bowl-games to easily getting parking at your favorite beach, this may just be our favorite time of year here in America’s Finest City.

There is certainly no shortage of great experiences to be had! You can even find snow!

Check out our list featuring just a taste of the unique activities going on this season.

1) Ice Skating on the Beach at the Hotel Del

Open through January 6th, if you’ve never gone ice skating while watching waves crash on the beach you’ve got to check this out.

Great for impressing a date or playing with your kids -this is an experience they will remember for a lifetime!

2) Big Bay Parade of Lights

On December 9th & 16th our bay-front gets lit-up in this festive display of nautical pride. Viewing of this uniquely San Diego parade on water can be viewed from downtown, Coronado and the pier at Cesar Chavez Park.

This year’s theme is Tropical Island Christmas. The 80-boat parade starts its journey through the bay at 5 pm.


3) Oceanside Harbor Parade

On December 8th you can celebrate the holidays in true San Diego style in North County. With boats of all kinds, wrapped in lights, flowing through the harbor; this is a unique and a bit more intimate experience than the Big Bay Parade.

Grab a beer and a burrito then head to the waterfront to view this beautiful spectacle, starting at 7 pm. Be sure to arrive early to get a prime viewing spot.


4) Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Garden

After the sun goes down in December, the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland! More than 125,000 sparkling lights illuminate the flora of this fantastic 37-acre urban oasis each evening from 5 – 8:30 pm for a magical holiday experience.

Between horse-drawn wagon rides, visits with Santa, sledding on real snow, marshmallow roasting and more seasonal events, there’s something for everyone! Check the activities schedule to confirm which of the winter activities will be available when you plan to visit.

The Garden of Lights is open December 1-30 but closed on Christmas Eve and Day. Prices vary by day, membership and other factors but vary between $5 and $25.


5) America’s Largest Balloon Parade

On December 31st the San Diego bay-front becomes the scene of our countries largest balloon parade (yes, even bigger than Macy’s in NYC) when the Holiday Bowl rolls into town with marching bands, floats, drill teams and, of course, gigantic balloons.

This parade kicks off at 10 am, get there early for a good spot; last year had an estimated 100,000 people in attendance. You can guarantee your seat with a $22 grandstand ticket or try your luck at scoring a free seat along the street.


6) Whale Watching

From Torrey Pines to Point Loma, from mid-December to April it’s estimated that 20,000 gray whales pass by our shores.

This annual migration from Alaska to the warm waters of Baja is an almost life-changing experience -and it’s free to view from the shore! If you want a closer look, there are several whale watching boat tours available for a fee too.



7) Visit One Of Our Nearby Mountains!

Okay, that’s not technically ‘in’ San Diego, but we have snowy mountains that are just as close and easy to get to as the Rockies are for people living in the Front Range of Colorado…but they get all the credit!

Leave San Diego after breakfast and you can be playing in snow by lunch! Check out Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Palomar Mountain or Mount Laguna for a potential snow day within a one or two hour drive of the city.


These are but a few of the incredible options we have right here in our own backyard.

We hope you have a great winter and Holiday Season; enjoy this magnificent place we call home!

And for one final idea on how to experience winter this year in San Diego: If you have the chance, help someone in our community that is less fortunate than yourselves this year – it is the season of giving after all.

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