Holiday Escape San Diego
Credit: Michael Wesley

Your Guide to a Festive Holiday Weekend in Downtown San Diego

Add Some Cheer to Your December With This Very Merry Itinerary

Whether you’re snapping a selfie with Santa or sipping and singing to the San Diego Symphony, this season is sure to put a festive pep in your step. Maybe you’re jet-setting to America’s Finest City for the famous boat parade, or perhaps you’re a San Diego native in the market for a spontaneous staycation. Either way, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite festivities to frost the cookie of your December getaway in downtown San Diego. Grab your gang and let’s get “holiday-ing!”


Check-in at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina 

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Holiday Escape San Diego
Credit: Michael Wesley

Eat, drink and be merry at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina! With more than a handful of festive events this season, you won’t want to miss out on a stay or even just a day at this bayfront hotel in downtown San Diego. Swing into the Sleigh Bell Social on Dec. 1, 2, 15 or 16 from 5-8 p.m. for a holly jolly evening of holiday libations. Capture a few photos with Santa, get your face painted by his helpers and enjoy playful performances while sipping on cocoa or a cocktail and snacking on s’mores and other sweet treats. Immerse yourself in Marriott Marquis’ enchanting Snow Globe Picnic and enjoy the magic of a winter wonderland dining experience. Indulge in a cozy night out and savor delicious bites by Marina Kitchen in their picturesque poolside urban oasis. And don’t forget to snag your spot for Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 16 from 6:30-11 a.m., which is another opportunity to snap a few pics with ol’ Saint Nick. As you sit back and relax at the hotel’s Marina Kitchen, festive music sets the tone, and a holiday breakfast buffet tickles your tummy with holiday cheer. All season, this San Diego hotel celebrates with carolers, s’mores, holiday cookies and hot cocoa—as well as beautiful trees and a Snow Globe Picnic dining experience, which can be reserved  by the hour.


Watch the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Sailing straight into the holidays is the 53rd Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights on Dec. 10 and 17. Sporting a fresh theme every year, “Christmas Traditions Around the World” is what’s on the docket for 2023. There are quite a few places to watch this parade, including Shelter Island, which is where activities kick off. The other viewing spots are Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the pier at Cesar Chavez Park and the Ferry Landing on Coronado. Don’t forget to snap some pictures and tag the parade on Instagram!


Enjoy the Little Italy Tree Lighting

Holiday Escape San Diego
Credit: Little Italy Association

Rooted in long-time tradition, the Little Italy Tree Lighting is something to look forward to year after year. Head to the iconic neighborhood on Dec. 3 from 4-8 p.m. to witness the piazza become a winter wonderland before your very eyes. Joshua Hubert’s Aurora tree and a 25-foot permanent tree at Piazza Della Famiglia anchor the space with cheer—and as you take in the sights and sounds of an Italian Christmas, you can shop from seasonal vendors, enjoy live music, indulge in a treat or two and speak to Santa himself. Buon Natale!


Set Sail on a Christmas Day Premier Brunch Cruise

All aboard! This Christmas, clink your glasses and take in captivating views of the San Diego coastline while embarking on the Christmas Day Premier Brunch Cruise. You and your family or friends are sure to have a merry time when partaking in this holiday brunch buffet of entrees, salads and pastries—as well as free-flowing champagne. No stress if you’ve got dietary restrictions, because the crew will do their best to accommodate. This sweet experience will happen Dec. 25, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with boarding beginning at 10:30 a.m. Buy your tickets in advance here


Listen to Holiday Tunes at “Noel Noel

Sip and sing your way into the holiday spirit this year at the San Diego Symphony’s “Noel Noel.” On the weekend of Dec. 15-17, this spectacular event will be held at the iconic Rady Shell—an outdoor venue overlooking the scenic waterfront of San Diego. You’re sure to get in the mood with festive food and all-new scripting on this annual experience. What better way to set the scene for the Christmas season than with stellar views and jolly tunes. “Ho, ho, ho; who wouldn’t go?”


Eat, Drink and Be Merry at Nolita Hall

Deck the “Hall!” Covered from floor to ceiling with fresh foliage and festive decor, Nolita Hall is perfectly primed for a holiday weekend filled with good food galore. Gather your gang for a casual evening out or rent the restaurant’s private event space for larger parties—either way, indulge in one of their pizza or pasta dishes while sipping on a “liquid asset,” aka cocktail. Notable options include their seasonal sangria or the Cuffing Season cocktail, which is a tequila and rum drink infused with peach, cranberry and lime flavors. Merry cuffing season!



Sip in Secrecy at Santa’s Lair

Holiday Escape San Diego
Credit: Alex Vargas

Santa meets speakeasy? Sign us up. Santa’s Lair is an immersive pop-up located inside Parq Nightclub—replete with holiday cocktails and selfie ops with Santa. Reserve your 90-minute time slot and step into a world of nostalgic, ‘50s-style decor that’s wrapped up in the bow of beautiful lighting. Not My Buttons and Winter Wonderland are just a couple of the creative cocktails they serve, channeling flavors like pear, biscotti and cardamom as well as Montenegro and black walnut respectively.


Shop for Fun Gifts at the Makers Arcade

As you hunt for some perfect stocking stuffers this holiday season, consider plunging into the chimney flue of shopping local. Makers Arcade is an artisan fair that meets at the Port of San Diego Dec. 2-3 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.—and the air is not only brewing with beer but also with cheer. Browse local goods while sipping on a holiday cocktail, indulging in gourmet food and soaking up live tunes. Get there early enough and you may even walk out with a swag bag in hand!

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