Things To Do In San Diego in December

Ali Sullivan
surfing san diego in december

Plan on enjoying the sunshine and being outside in San Diego in December!

Get ready to swap snowflakes for sunshine as December unfolds in San Diego! While other parts of the world may be bundling up, America’s Finest City invites you to embrace the holiday spirit in flip-flops and sunglasses.As winter gently graces Southern California, San Diego comes alive with a festive flair that’s uniquely its own. From dazzling light displays to sandy beaches peppered with Santa hats, December in San Diego is a magical fusion of coastal charm and holiday cheer.

Whether you’re a local looking for new traditions or a visitor eager to experience the city’s laid-back holiday vibe, we’ve curated a list of the absolute best things to do in San Diego in December. So, pack your sunscreen along with your holiday spirit, because we’re about to unwrap the sun-soaked wonders of San Diego’s delights!

Top Events happening in San Diego In December

Surf Big Waves in San Diego in December

Pacific Ocean

The time of year has come that all San Diego surfers wait for. The big waves are finally in, crashing on the west coast. You can ride a variety of different waves along San Diego’s 70 miles of coastline. Follow the winds to find what waves are breaking where on any given day. Check out this list of surf spots in San Diego for more information on where to go to find your perfect wave this winter.


surfing in december in san diego

Go Hiking in San Diego in December

All Winter

Torrey Pines State Park or East County Trailheads

The wintertime is the best time of the year to take on San Diego’s numerous hiking trails. The cooler conditions and recent rainfall make it the perfect time of year to get outdoors and explore nature. Some of my favorite hikes in San Diego include Three Sisters Waterfall, Cedar Creek Waterfall, Iron Mountain and Torrey Pines State Park.

san diego in december

Ice Skate by the Beach

Nov. 17- Jan. 1st

Hotel Del Coronado

Skating by the Sea is back at the beautiful Hotel del Coronado. Enjoy the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean you as you skate. The Hotel’s iconic victorian building gets adorned with twinkling lights and there is hot chocolate available to warm you up. If you are looking for a magical winter wonderland here in San Diego this season, this is a must-do!


Parade of Lights

The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights takes advantage of the waterfront location that makes San Diego famous. Watch the boats sail across the bay as the lights reflect off the water and shine for the entire pier to see. This event is a time-honored holiday tradition brought to San Diego by the boating community and it without a doubt one of the best things to do in San Diego in December.

Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade 

December 16, 2023

Get ready to deck the paws in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter as December brings a furry, festive spectacle to the streets – the Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade! This whimsical event turns the city’s historic district into a runway for our four-legged friends, showcasing their holiday spirit in style. It’s a tail-wagging, paw-some affair that not only brings joy to participants but also spreads smiles throughout the crowd.


Balboa Park December Nights

December Nights in Balboa Park is San Diego’s festive love letter to the holiday season, where the iconic park transforms into a twinkling, joy-filled wonderland. As the sun sets and the stars emerge, the heart of the city comes alive with a magical glow, featuring thousands of dazzling lights that turn Balboa Park into a radiant spectacle.

Sono Fest & Chili Cook-Off

December 3, 2023

Spice up your December with a sizzling fiesta at the SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-Off. This flavorful extravaganza turns the streets of North Park into a chili lover’s paradise, where the aroma of simmering pots and the sounds of laughter create a festive symphony.From mouthwatering red chilies to zesty green varieties, it’s a culinary showdown that’ll leave your taste buds doing the cha-cha. But the SoNo Fest is more than just a chili cook-off – it’s a community celebration with live music, craft beer gardens, and a lively artisan market.

Go Whale Watching in San Diego in December

Whale Watching in san diego in december

While the rest of the world may be bundling up, San Diego’s coastal waters play host to magnificent gray whales on their annual migration. Whales appear in San Diego from December until April, making it the perfect time to experience and photograph these enormous creatures. Grab your binoculars, channel your inner marine biologist, and get ready for a front-row seat to nature’s grand spectacle. It’s not just a whale of a time; it’s a San Diego December delight that’ll have you shouting ‘whale, whale, whale, what do we have here?’ as you witness these majestic creatures dancing through the deep blue waves!

Weekly Local Events in San Diego in December:

Tuesdays: Pacific Beach Farmers Market 

Wednesdays: Ocean Beach Farmers Market and Drum Circles

Saturdays: Little Italy Farmers Market

Sundays: Hillcrest Farmers Market

Everyday – Locals Ride Free – San Diego Trolley Tours


san diego in december

San Diego is a great destination year-round. Many other extraordinary events are happening and listed on the San Diego Events website.

For info on the live music scene, the San Diego Reader has a great list of upcoming shows.

If you have any questions about other events happening in San Diego in December, please contact our receptionist at any of our local hostels.

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san diego in december



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