Traditionally, the holiday season kicks off with a grand celebration in Balboa Park. Balboa Park December Nights is a two-day gift to the community that brings out the holiday spirit in all, this year taking place December 7 and 8, 2012. The beloved San Diego event features sparkling lights, theatrical and musical entertainment, and exotic Food/Spirits throughout the Park.
We San Diegans are notorious for using the drive-thru lanes, so why not to see Christmas lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds' Holiday of Lights display? With more than 400 lighted and animated scenes, this 1.5-mile drive around the world-famous Del Mar Racetrack is sure to get everyone from ages 1 to 100 into the holiday spirit. With returning holiday favorites such as Toyland, Candy Cane Lane, Treasures by the Lake and Elves at Play, the 2012 holiday tradition continues with opening night on November 22 (Thanksgiving) and running through Tuesday, January 1, 2013 (closed on Mondays, November 26, December 3, and December 10).
It's our own version of the Rockefeller Center ice rink - the downtown ice rink at Horton Square is a perfect holiday setting, nestled between Horton Plaza and the NBC 7/39 TV studios (can you see the Rockefeller Center parallels?). Beginning Nov. 15 through Jan. 6, 2013, bring the family downtown, in the evening, so you can bundle up in stocking caps and mittens, pretend you're in Rockefeller Center and skate away. It's only $14/$12 and proceeds benefit Children's Hospital. In addition, the Hotel del Coronado offers ice skating by-the-sea with an outdoor ice rink overlooking the ocean through Jan. 5. And Viejas Outlet Center boasts San Diego's largest outdoor ice skating rink.
Now this is quintessential San Diego: the 2012 annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. On Dec. 9 and 16, 2012, 5:30 - 9 p.m., see over 80 boats, all decked out in lighted glory, cruise a 7.5 mile route on San Diego Bay. This year's theme is a "Our 41st Anniversary, USS Santa Claus" and it promises to be better than ever. Best vantage points from the shore are along the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Harbor Island and Coronado.
Speaking of parades...the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl Parade at 10 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2012 is known for one thing: balloons. Dubbed "America's Largest Balloon Parade," more than 30 giant balloons will float down the one-mile route along the Embarcadero, along with bands, drill teams and more. It's the precursor to the evening's main event: the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, one of college footballs most exciting and successful bowl games. After the parade, hit the Family Festival at the Broadway Pier.
The Old Globe Theater production of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" has established itself as an annual holiday classic. The musical, directed by acclaimed director Jack O'Brien, brings to life the classic Dr. Seuss book with incredible sets and memorable performances. The 2012 production runs through Nov. 17 through Dec. 29.
Of course, what's Christmas without the Nutcracker? And there is no shortage of performances of this venerable classic. This year, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet is proud to present the premiere of a totally revised Nutcracker. Performances will be held at the Casa del Prado Theater in Balboa Park on December 9-22, 2012.In addition, the City Ballet presents its performance of The Nutcracker, Dec. 14-22. The San Diego Ballet performs the ballet on Dec. 1 & 2, and 16 & 21. The West Coast Ballet presents their production of The Nutcracker on Dec. 15 & 16. The California Ballet performs the event on Dec. 15-16, 19-23.