When it comes to living that laid-back West Coast lifestyle, San Diegans do it better than most. Whether it’s sunbathing with the seals in La Jolla or seeking out the hottest regional Mexican food, easy and breezy is the order of the day. Because of the 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 Lights & Sights Tour and ride a wave of holiday cheer! Join in sing-a-long caroling with our Elf conductors as they share fun holiday facts along with the history of this great city. You’ll also get to see the festive Christmas lights of Old Town San Diego, the Embarcadero, Balboa Park, Coronado and more!
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 Lights and Sights Tour. 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.
My favorite part was seeing all the fantastic Christmas lights that were on display. Garrison Street in Point Loma was a nice touch. Other highlights include the Gaslamp Quarter area and some of the beautiful neighborhoods near Balboa Park. It was a chilly night but it was fine because the trolley was nice & warm.
Old Town Market – 4010 Twiggs Street.
Dec. 5-23 and Dec. 26-30, 2019.
Approximately 75 Minutes.
$25 for adults
$15 for kids ages 3-12 (2 & under – free)
Adults are asked to hold their infant child on their laps during the tour. Seats are for paid guests.
*Closed December 24, 25 & 31.
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.
This tour is not included with the Hometown Pass Program.
Parking is FREE at Old Town Market – 4010 Twiggs Street.
Balboa Park closed December 6 & 7 for December Nights event.
For private tours or groups of 15 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.
Come to San Diego and experience an unforgettable ride on a Holiday Lights & Sights Tour this season! Need more holiday cheer? Check out these holiday events going on throughout San Diego.
Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas
When: November 10, 2019 – December 29,2019
Did you know that Whoville is actually in San Diego’s Balboa Park? Every holiday season, the plaza outside Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theatre is transformed into the town that came from the mind of San Diego’s own Dr. Seuss. And every holiday season, the Theatre puts on an unbelievable production of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Skating By The Sea
When: November 22, 2019 – January 5, 2020 11am – 10pm
At the Rink: $35/person
The breathtaking charm of Hotel del Coronado is undeniable any time of the year, but when it dons its lights and sparkles next to the water on a warm December night, it’s unbeatable. It paints the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable—and completely San Diegan—experience as you ice skate right between the hotel and the ocean. Skating by the Sea, the outdoor seaside ice-skating rink, offers three-hour skate sessions daily. Check out the other outdoor skate rinks, too, at Liberty Station and Hilton Bayfront downtown.
Seas ‘N’ Greetings, Birch Aquarium
When: December 1 – 31, 2019
Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is always a place of wonder, learning and adventure, but during the holidays it really gets into the spirit of the season. Enjoy different themed animal encounters, a scavenger hunt, live holiday music and, of course, Scuba Santa. Yes, Santa actually goes scuba diving in the tanks.
Balboa Park December Nights
When: December 6, 3pm – 11pm & 7 Noon – 11pm, 2019
Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the country and the cultural heart of San Diego. The park’s two-day holiday celebration does not disappoint. Free of charge, this event lights up the night with bright decor, carolers, performances and delicious food and drinks from around the world.
Little Italy’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
When: December 7, 2019 4pm – 8pm
San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood always brings the charm, so it’s no surprise that their Tree-Lighting Ceremony is a site to behold. The tree is actually a 25-foot tower of more than 1,000 vibrant Poinsettias, and the event includes live music, entertainment, holiday beverages and more.
Ocean Beach Holiday Parade
When: December 7, 2019 4:30pm – 7:30pm
Nothing says “a San Diego holiday” like watching the festive celebration—which includes classic Woody cars as well as Kris Kringle himself—just steps from the beach. The surfer town of Ocean Beach has been a local holiday staple for nearly 40 years.
Port Of San Diego Bay Parade Of Lights
When: December 8 & 15, 2019 4pm – 8pm
The magic of the holiday season meets the beauty of San Diego Bay with more than 100 private boats, decorated and twinkling with holiday lights. The annual Port of San Diego Bay Parade of Lights takes place over two weekends in December, with great places to take in the show on Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Marina Park and Coronado’s Ferry Landing.
Jungle Bells, San Diego Zoo
When: December 13, 2019 – January 5, 2020 9am – 5pm
This is the meeting of two awesome things: animals and holidays. The world-famous San Diego Zoo is transformed into a magical winter wonderland during the season, with lighted animal sculptures, festive music, special holiday treats and a bunch of animals that really, really love the holidays.
San Diego Santa Run 5K and 1-Mile Race
When: December 14, 2019 8am
Santa Claus is coming to town, and he’s lacing up his running shoes. Join him, beard and all, in San Diego’s Pacific Beach. Every 5K racer gets Santa shorts, a short-sleeve jacket, a hat, sunglasses, a belt and a big, white beard. The sea of Santas is a sight to see, and even more fun to be a part of.
Old Town Holiday In The Park & Las Posadas
When: December 14, 2019 Noon – 8pm
Old Town San Diego was the site of the first Spanish settlement on the West Coast, and today buzzes with 12 acres of Mexican heritage and historic sites. Join the seasonal festivities at Old Town Holiday in the Park to learn how residents celebrated the holidays in the 1800’s with candlelight tours, holiday singers and more. Then join for the tradition of Las Posadas, a walking reenactment of the Christmas story.
Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade
When: December 15, 2019 Noon – 5pm
It’s well-known that San Diego is a pet-lover’s paradise, and the holiday season is no exception. The annual Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade marches one paw at a time through San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter. Owners dress up their pets for the event—upping the cuteness even more—all ending at a Pet Expo featuring an award ceremony for best-dressed pets.
Port Of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade
When: December 26, 2019 3pm
The morning of the SDCCU Holiday Bowl—one of the great annual college football showdowns—the parade takes to the streets along San Diego Bay in beautiful downtown San Diego. Not to be missed, this procession is the largest balloon parade in the entire country, with float after float moving to the beat of the marching bands.
*Please note, events are subject to change and cancellation. Please confirm the event information by visiting the event website.