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25 Free Things To Do This Winter In San Diego


From traditional holiday parades and festivals to the migration of California gray whales along the Pacific coast, a visit to San Diego during the winter offers a wealth of free, fun and festive experiences. Visitors to the region can escape overcast skies and the wintry cold for San Diego's brilliant sunshine and temperate climate and enjoy diverse wintertime experiences.

The following suggestions for free activities and events are sure to capture the imagination and lift the spirits of visitors to San Diego during the upcoming winter months.


  • Join the festivities during Balboa Park December Nights, a two-day holiday celebration of food, entertainment and fun on December 7-8. The numerous museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, the nation's largest urban cultural park, open their doors free of charge from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Festivities in the park include carolers, live music, holiday light displays, theater and dance performances and delicious foods from around the world. Also, be sure not to miss the "Whoville" decorations in the plaza outside of The Old Globe theatre, which are on display November 17 - December 29, to coincide with the theatre's annual holiday production of Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"
  • Whale watch from the shores and cliffs of Point Loma, as California gray whales migrate south to the warm water breeding grounds off the coast of Baja, California. Spectators can catch a spectacular show during December through April when these majestic mammals pass through the waters off San Diego's coastline.

  • Enjoy free organ concerts at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park beginning at 2 p.m. each Sunday in November and on Dec. 30, Jan. 20 and Feb. 17. The Organ Pavilion features the world's largest outdoor pipe organ, where organists play holiday favorites, waltzes and show tunes from the organ's monstrous 32-foot lead alloy pipes.
  • See Old Town State Historic Park decked out for the holidays during Holiday in the Park on December 15 and enjoy holiday treats, activities and extended shopping hours, along with strolling carolers. On December 16, can watch the 62nd Anniversary Las Posadas, a centuries-old tradition in which actors reenact the biblical journey of Mary and Joseph through the town of Bethlehem.
 
  • Drive to the mountain town of Julian in San Diego's rural East County for a warm mug of hot apple cider and a delicious slice of Julian's legendary homemade apple pie. On Saturdays, stroll through the quaint neighborhood streets and enjoy the sounds of wandering Christmas carolers and a living nativity scene.
  • Take a walk along of San Diego's 70 miles of coastline, home to 33 unique beaches, all free and open to the public. Explore the tide pools in Point Loma, Ocean Beach and La Jolla when the tide is low to see some of the magnificent creatures of the sea.
  • Visit the village of La Mesa from 5 to 10 p.m. on December 14-15 for Christmas in the Village from 5 to 10 p.m. Enjoy street performers, carolers, carriage rides, entertainment for the whole family and more.
  • Take a drive to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla for a panoramic view of the city all spruced up in holiday decoration. Along the way, enjoy all the beautifully decorated homes in this exclusive community.
  • Drive to the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego's East County to marvel at wildlife and a kaleidoscope of colorful flowers amidst the desert warmth. Anza-Borrego is located just two hours from San Diego via Highway 78 and Interstate 8.
  • Gaze up at the massive balloons during the Big Bay Balloon Parade, the country's largest balloon parade, on December 27. Floats, balloons and marching bands are just some of the offerings in this colorful holiday parade that takes place along San Diego Bay in downtown San Diego.
  • Enjoy the twinkling waters of San Diego Bay and more than 100 private boats decorated with holiday lights for the 41st Annual Port of San Diego Parade of Lights on December 9 and 16. Great views are available on land from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Marina Park and Coronado's Ferry Landing.
  • Experience a white Christmas in San Diego after making the scenic, one-hour drive to the top of Mount Laguna in San Diego's rustic East County. Sled down mountain slopes, build snowmen and have snowball fights (weather conditions permitting).


Rock out at the Poinsettia Bowl Battle of the Bands in the Gaslamp Quarter on December 17. Held two days prior to the annual Poinsettia Bowl, which is played in San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, bands representing the two Bowl football teams line up at opposite ends of Fifth Avenue in downtown's Gaslamp Quarter and face-off in an old fashion battle of the bands.

Happiness is calling in San Diego. For more information on San Diego's offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's website at www.sandiego.org or call (619) 236-1212.
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