When it comes to the holiday season, San Diegans do it better than most. Whether with holiday tamales and margaritas, watching the parade of lights on San Diego Bay, or seeking out local holiday traditions, a San Diego Feliz Navidad day is in order. Because of our year-round picture-perfect weather here, sometimes we need reminding when the holidays are approaching. But when they do, we go all out! For a full-on, unique experience in ‘America’s Finest City,’ take an Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Sights & Festive Nights Tour and ride a wave of holiday cheer! Join in sing-along caroling with our Elf conductors as they share fun holiday facts, trivia, history, and traditions. Hop aboard to see the festive holiday sights of Old Town, Little Italy, Banker’s Hill, Garrison Street, and more!
Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Sights & Festive Nights Tour: A Great Way to Celebrate the Christmas and Holiday Season!
By Darlynne Reyes Menkin
For some people, the thought of Christmas means long lines at the store, endless baking and running around trying to finish off that famous “to do” list. But for others, it’s a whole different story. For those folks, it’s all about spending time with family, enjoying the holiday spirit and doing fun activities like the one we did just the other week. This year, Old Town Trolley Tours is doing a wonderful tour called Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Sights and Festive Nights. It’s a great activity for the family, not to mention a good way to get into the holiday spirit.
From the moment you step onto the trolley, the Christmas cheer is on. From the colorful candy canes they hand out to the uplifting holiday music that plays throughout the tour… the Christmas spirit is alive and well on this adventure! We especially liked the song lyric books that were given out, as it allowed us to sing along. The tour guide was also very friendly, informative and had lots of funny stories that complimented the music and tour. Even the guests had a great sense of humor… and didn’t have any problems playing along with the tour guide’s quirky Q&A games.
Old Town Market – 4010 Twiggs Street.
Parking is FREE.
2023: December 1-23, 26-30.
No tours December 24-25.
See online reservations for specific times.
Approximately 90 minutes.
Reservations are required. See online reservations for specific dates and times.
Check-in time with our sales rep at the ticket booth is 30 minutes prior to departure time. Late check-in may result in forfeited seat. First to check-in, first seated. Reservation based tickets are non-refundable. You may reschedule up to 24 hours in advance of tour time by calling (866) 754-0966.
For private tours or groups of 9 people or more, please email us or call 619-298-8687 – press 4 for the Group Sales Department.
Groups are asked to check-in all at the same time at the ticket booth to receive boarding passes to help ensure all are boarded on the same trolley together. Individuals from the group arriving late may be assigned a different trolley from their group.
November 9 – January 1
XMAS Bar San Diego
This all-new Christmas-themed bar is taking over the closed-down Tin Roof live music joint in downtown San Diego which a spectacular, maximum display of Christmas-everything! Baubles and sparkles hang above revelers below ordering Christmas-themed drinks and food. Drinks like a cool jingle juice and a hot Comet’s cocoa are sure to get you in the holiday spirit. If you’re hungry, try their Xmas dinner empanada or an Xmas morning cinnamon roll. The bar opens Wednesday – Friday from 4 p.m. to late and Saturday – Sunday from 12 p.m. to late.
November 10 – January 1
Julain Farm and Orchard Ice Rink
If a rink-side cabana, charcuterie and hot cocoa sounds like your way to join an ice rink, head up to Julian’s first-ever ice rink, which opened this year. This rink boasts fire pits, hot holiday beverages, food vendors, petting zoos, hayrides, hay mazes and more. Both farm and ice rink are open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but the farm is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. while the rink is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.
November 17 – January 1
The stunning landscapes and plants from the San Diego Botanic Garden have been adorned with lights, creating a brilliant experience known as Lightscape. The installation makes the grounds glow with more than one million holiday lights draped over the garden’s tunnels, trees and more. Visitors who meander through the Lightscape walking trail can be dazzled by the displays and have many photo ops along their walk. The experience runs from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on select dates.
Liberty Station Holiday Tree Lighting
Liberty Station will light an 88-foot Norfolk pine tree in the North Promenade during its 2023 Salute the Season main event, the Liberty Station Tree Lighting & Holiday Festivities, on November 24 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Watch the tree lighting as well as live entertainment, festival firetruck rides, free photos with Santa and a viewing of The Grinch! Plus, parking is free in any of the Liberty Station lots.
The sprawling Balboa Park becomes the epicenter of holiday cheer for the annual tradition that is December Nights. Booths will takeover the majority of the park with vendors, food stations, and performers bringing holiday cheer to thousands of San Diegans starting off their holiday season. Four main stages will also host dozens of musical performances over the holiday weekend, including mariachi performers, a tree lighting, Santa, family fun and more. This evening event, which runs from 3 to 11 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, gets packed and there are some rules that you should know before you go.
Tree Lighting & Christmas Village
Deck the halls of Little Italy, which will be garnished with Christmas decor including 10-foot-tall nutcrackers, festive lights, Christmas trees, and even a traditional Italian tree lighting ceremony. While there is never a bad time to visit Little Italy, this event is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. India Street will be jam-packed with artisan vendors, including some of your favorites from the Little Italy Mercato, who are sure to have great stocking stuffers. You can pick up locally designed crafts and delectable food that just tastes like holiday cheer.
Holiday in the Village
For this year’s 7th annual holiday celebration visit La Mesa for their Holiday in the Village. For a day full of Christmas cheer, enjoy selfies with Santa, reminisce in the sounds of a crackling fire and indulge in holiday-themed food and drinks. Guests can even be serenaded by the “Holiday Carol Stroll” where different groups from schools, clubs or churches will perform holiday carols to attendees all along La Mesa Boulevard.
Chula Vista will ring in the holidays at this event along the historic Third Avenue from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Holiday Market kicks off at 3 p.m., bringing unique treasures from local artisans. Enjoy live holiday tunes under the Third Avenue sign before gathering around the 25-foot Christmas tree in Memorial Park for the tree-lighting ceremony at 5:45 p.m. Choo Choo! All aboard the Chula Vista Express! At this year’s Starlight Nights guests can hop on a trackless train and ride through the downtown winter wonderland, right over to Santa Claus for free Christmas card photos. Then finally, the big man of the hour, Santa, will make a grand entrance in a Chula Vista Fire Engine!
At The Del, guests can enjoy performances by Coronado schools as they share joyous holiday carols. You can also strap on your ice skates and take a spin on the rink for skating by the sea from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. This is a great way to take in the winter feel of a chilly ice skating rink while watching the sunset over the pacific waves on the shore. While enjoying the holiday festival make sure to keep an eye out in the sky not for a bright red nose guiding the way, but instead for Santa himself! There will be a jolly man jumping from a plane in the sky and landing on the beach to celebrate the holiday festivities. After Kris Kringle’s grand sky diving entrance, attendees can take photos with him and soon after enjoy the Lightshow Spectacular. Christmas tree lights will coincide with holiday music accompanied by whimsical snow flurries. To close out the night, fireworks will shower the sky above the beach.
The Chabad of La Jolla is hosting its annual Hanukkah celebration. Guests can enjoy classic Hanukkah treats including latkes and donuts. Spin the dreidel, watch a menorah lighting and dance along to live music on Patio Sol at La Valencia Hotel from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Old Town San Diego Tree Lighting Ceremony
Whaley House, 2476 San Diego Ave.
Join us for an evening of sparkling lights and melodious harmony on Thursday, December 7, 2023, from 7:00 to 8:30 PM at the historic Whaley House complex (2476 San Diego Ave). Old Town San Diego Chamber of Commerce and Old Town Trolley Tours are thrilled to usher in our historic community’s holiday season with the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
December 7, 14 and 21
The Gaslamp Holiday Market takes over 5th and Island in the historic Gaslamp Quarter, offering visitors a unique way to holiday shop locally for gifts ranging from unique jewelry to one-of-a-kind home decor and much more. While shopping, guests will be serenaded by live musical performances from holiday mariachis to joyful jazz. And while you’re there, enjoy holiday fare like hot chocolate and pies from Cali Ice Cream. Each Thursday for three weeks, markets run from 4 to 9 p.m.
Head over to Liberty Station’s Central Promenade at 5 p.m. to light the Menorah to kick off the eight-day Hanukkah celebration. Guests will be surrounded by twinkling lights decorating Liberty Station to commemorate the occasion.
65th Annual Las Posadas
Join us in rekindling a cherished tradition as we proudly present the 65th Annual Las Posadas in Old Town San Diego on Friday, December 8, 2023 at the picturesque Heritage County Park. The festivities begin at 7:00 pm, offering neighbors and friends a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a time-honored celebration that echoes with centuries-old Mexican traditions and the warmth of the holiday season.
Parade of Lights
For a spectacular seaside celebration head to Mission Bay for the Parade of Lights. The free event will be filled with festively-decorated boats and capped by a firework light show from SeaWorld. There will be six designated watching spots throughout the 2-hour route with festive foods, jubilant family activities, drinks, bonfires and more nearby. The parade starts at 5:30 p.m. but doors open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
December 10 and 17
Parade of Lights
San Diego Bay
This year’s theme is “Christmas Traditions around the World” and guests should expect nothing less with around 80 extravagantly decorated boats for the 53rd annual Bay Parade of Lights. Since the event starts at 5:30 p.m., guests can expect to see the lights ornamenting the boats illuminated and reflected beautifully off the water in the bay. The parade is free to watch but you’ll want to line up along the parade route early for your chance at a good viewing spot.
For a true holiday classic, head to the Civic Theatre in Downtown San Diego to view a graceful performance of The Nutcracker. Performed by the Golden State Ballet, the night is sure to be on point with elegant storytelling and a breathtaking Tchaikovsky score by the San Diego Symphony. Tickets start at $25.
Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade
Downtown San Diego
Until December 31
Winter Wonder at Belmont Park
Belmont Park is coasting into the seasons with their winter wonderland-decorated amusement park. The park will be making holiday treats and cozy drinks like a Christmas-themed cocktail pop-up.