I remember the first time I walked through the streets of San Diego. I was in the Gaslamp District, people milling all around me, the seaside smell invading my senses. I turned to my mom and sister, shuffling along as I darted between shops and boutiques. “This is where I'm moving when I grow up!” I hadn't experienced winter in San Diego, but I accurately imagined my someday home to be pretty much the same all-year-round. A place where crisp air meets dry pavement, where the ocean invites and smiles intoxicate. Not so much a snow-falling-on-cedars kind of atmosphere, but quaint nonetheless.
A few friends have recently asked us to highlight our favorite spots during winter in San Diego. I've been really excited to rediscover my city at this time. In spite of the persistent single season that the rest of the country simultaneously mocks and envies us Southern Californians for, I find new reasons to fall in love with winter in San Diego annually. Dig a little deeper, and you'll find that this city has more charm than even Surfing Santa himself.
My Favorite Sights during Winter in San Diego
The Spreckels Organ Pavilion offers up free concerts every Sunday. Pack some cider and bundle up with a loved one for a sight that rivals the most dazzling Nutcracker. Best of all? Pets and kids are welcome. If you feel like braving the crowds, December Nights at Balboa Park is a good time. You can see the organ along with local artisans, free museums and a ton of elaborate exhibitions.
S'mores and cocoa
For an unparalleled family getaway, book yourself a night at La Costa Resort and Spa. Meander the extensive grounds, get the kids involved in some arts and crafts and cuddle up at night with a s'mores roast at the fire pit. They also have a ton of festive opportunities every season including pumpkin bowling and gingerbread house competitions, so call ahead to see what's on the docket for your time there.
Knick knacks aplenty
The infamous home of Surfin Santa, Seaport Village is a favorite touristy spot for seasonal sights. You'll find shops with flavored olive oils, family crafts and photo opps galore. Take a day to make holiday shopping a fun experience, browsing the stores for stocking stuffers and one-of-a-kind finds.
Lights, lights and more lights
The San Diego Botanic Garden offers over 100,000 lights as well as horse-drawn wagons, crafts and falling snow on designated nights.
Most people don't think of San Diego as the place for pines and foliage. However, you can actually find a bursting array of color in our sweet gum, pecan and cottonwood varieties. Head to Kit Carson park to snap family photos on scenic little bridges where the sun hits just right at twilight. Follow the signs to the back of this sprawling expanse and you'll find Queen Califia's Magical Garden. It's open sporadic hours but if you're able to gain access, you'll discover a mystical clearing filled with strange eclectic mosaic structures. Downtown, don't miss the chance to play at the Waterfront Park by Little Italy.
Skating by the ocean
At Hotel Del Coronado, you can go ice skating right next to the sea. Seriously. Ice. Sand. The mind boggles.
Snow and reindeer
Find a wonderland of winter in San Diego at SeaWorld. They have a reindeer training academy, sledding, snowballs and a Christmas village. If you have time, don't miss some of the incredible behind the scenes tours at SeaWorld as well.
Really big balloons
The San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade kicks off every year with the annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals! The bayside comes alive with magnificent floats. Many families make this a part of their annual winter in San Diego traditions.
What are your favorite spots during winter in San Diego?