Holiday community festivities, many free, are back across North County. Here’s a guide.

Holiday parades in San Diego North Santa with skateboard downtown Encinitas.
Santa with skateboard, surfboard and bells leads a holiday parade in downtown Encinitas. Holiday festivities are planned across North County this year.
( Courtesy of City of Encinitas)

Holiday community festivities, including parades, light shows, Christmas tree lightings, drive-thru Nativity scenes and community holiday shows, are back across North County


Holiday celebrations are getting into full swing in communities across North County. Here’s a guide to parades, light shows, Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, community holiday shows and festivals to celebrate the season. Check the venues’ websites for health protocol updates.

Winter Wonders tour: Wild Wonders hosts a Winter Wonders and Holiday Lights tour of its Bonsall wild animal refuge, which will showcase its nocturnal animals. Visitors meet several animal ambassadors while strolling the 5-acre facility that has been decorated for the season. Each family will be led one at a time by a keeper. Tours are at 4:30 or 5 p.m. Dec. 17 - Jan. 2, excluding Dec. 25. Cost is $250 for a family of up to four people. Cost for additional members ages 12 and older is $30, and $20 for additional children ages 5-11. Visit

Kringle Mingle and Taste of Cardiff: The annual Kringle Mingle starts at noon Dec. 5 with live music, children’s crafts and holiday treats, hot coffee and hot chocolate hosted by Cardiff 101 Main Street and makers’ booths for holiday shopping until 5 p.m. in downtown Cardiff along South Coast Highway 101. Santa and his vintage Camera Camper sleigh will be ready for photos from 1 to 4 p.m. Taste of Cardiff with samplings from local restaurants, sip stops and live music is from 3 to 6 p.m. Folks can nominate restaurants for the Taste of Cardiff Golden Fork Award. Taste tickets are $30; Taste & Sip, $40. Kringle Mingle is free. Visit

Drive-thru live Nativity scene at church: Christ Presbyterian Church hosts a free drive-thru live Nativity scene from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at 7807 Centella St. Highlights include a Bethlehem scene and costumed actors portraying biblical characters, such as Emperor Augustus, Joseph and Mary, who interact with people in their cars at each stop. There will be singing angels, a live mini donkey for the “Road to Bethlehem” and two live sheep with shepherds. The church campus will be lit with white lights in trees, and there will be a live Christmas tree and garland. Visit

Holiday Fest with Santa: The Rotary Club of Carlsbad’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony is from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 5 in the south parking lot of Carlsbad Village Faire shopping center, 300 Carlsbad Village Drive. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive at 2:15 p.m. in an antique fire engine, followed by Mayor Matt Hall. Highlights include free photos with Santa, and entertainment by Renaissance Institute of Music Orchestra, Carlsbad High School Band and Lancer Dancers and XCalibur dance teams. There will be free cookies, cider and coffee along with storytelling and crafts. Visit

Holidays at Carrillo Ranch: Holiday at the Rancho is from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 4 at Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, 6200 Flying L.C. Lane. The event features a tree lighting at 5:45 p.m., visit from Santa, a plush snowball arena, crafts, face painting, cookie decorating, photos and a classic holiday movie on the outdoor screen at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10; free for ages 3 and younger. Visit

Lighting of The Forum: Santa’s arrival at The Forum Carlsbad mall on Nov. 27 will be led by the La Costa Canyon High School Marching Band. Highlights include lighting of the Christmas tree along with a light show, snowfall and visit with Santa from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Forum Carlsbad, 1923 Calle Barcelona. Visit

Hanukkah celebration: Chabad La Costa hosts a lighting of the menorah from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 30 with live music, kids’ games and free refreshments at The Forum Carlsbad, 1923 Calle Barcelona, in the courtyard between Chico’s and White House Black Market. Visit

Holidays at Legoland: Live entertainment, twinkling lights, holiday treats and some snowfall through Jan. 2 at Legoland California, One Legoland Drive. Nightly tree lightings at the park’s 30-foot-tall Lego tree decked with lights and Lego ornaments. Photos can be taken with life-size Lego models of Santa and his reindeer in Fun Town or costumed characters such as Lego Santa, toy soldier and gingerbread man. The annual Kids’ New Year’s Eve Party is Dec. 31. Activities inside the park are included with regular park admission. Visit or call (760) 918-LEGO (5346).

Holiday movie: A holiday drive-in movie fundraiser featuring the holiday comedy “The Elf” is at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3 on a 40-foot screen at the Shoppes at Carlsbad behind the Sears building, with sound to each car radio. The parking lot opens at 5:45 pm. There will be a popcorn cart and food vendors. Suggested donation is $25 per car, benefiting the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation. Space is limited to the first 200 cars that RSVP at


Winter WonderLights: Holiday light show from 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 3-11, at the The Forum Carlsbad, 1923 Calle Barcelona. The light show will be choreographed to holiday music and there will be a “magical snowfall” throughout the mall. Visit

Kids’ “Toy Story” Scavenger Hunt: A free scavenger hunt for “Toy Story” friends is from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 5 outside on the patio of Saddleback Church at Canyon Crest Academy, 5951 Village Center Loop Road. After finishing, participants receive a Christmas stocking with candy and prizes. There will be arts and crafts and games. Visit

Santa visits shopping center: Santa will be stopping for meet and greets in front of Tilly’s at Del Mar Highlands Town Center, 12925 El Camino Real. The mall is decked with ’Tis the Sea Sun-themed holiday decorations, including a 36-foot Christmas tree made of 44 surfboards with inlaid LED lights and music with a 15-foot surfing Santa pulled by four reindeer on top of the Sky Deck roof. Meet “Delmer” the talking penguin, tour a gigantic igloo, snap a selfie with huge starfish, send letters to Santa and drive through lighted candy canes with sparkling stars. Take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, 5, 8, 12, 19, 22 and 23. Visit

Christmas caroling and crafts: Free traditional caroling performed by the King’s Carolers will be from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 12 after services on the patio of Saddleback Church at Canyon Crest Academy, 5951 Village Center Loop Road. There will be arts and crafts for kids along with free 12 Days of Christmas coloring books. Gift wrapping is offered. Visit

Holiday festivities: The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch hosts a tree lighting ceremony and holiday festivities from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Village Square, 13490 Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway. Highlights include live music, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and hot cocoa and cookies. Free photos with Santa and live music will also be offered from 3 to 6 p.m. Dec. 12 and free train rides will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 5 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 11-12. Visit

Pony rides, petting zoo: A family-oriented Christmas celebration with pony rides, a petting zoo and other surprises is from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 19 in the parking lot of Saddleback Church at Canyon Crest Academy, 5951 Village Center Loop Road. There will be arts and crafts for kids along with free 12 Days of Christmas coloring books. Gift wrapping is offered. On Dec. 24 from 5 to 6 p.m., after the 4 p.m. service, the Polar Express Christmas Train will be running in the church parking lot. Visit

North Pole by the Sea: Family-friendly festivities from 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 5 throughout the Del Mar Village “North Pole Loop,” including letters to Santa from 3 to 5 p.m. and story time (4 p.m.) at Sandcastle Tales, holiday music, drink specials for adults at L’Auberge Del Mar, Camino Del Mar and 15th Street, and holiday characters. Tree lighting at 5 p.m. with hot chocolate for kids and a special appearance by Santa himself in the Jim Watkins Amphitheater at L’Auberge. Visit

Snow N Glow: The Del Mar Fairgrounds hosts a Snow N Glow Holiday Festival with three holiday attractions from 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, Dec. 4 through Jan. 2, and daily Dec. 20-23 at 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. Holidays in your Car features a 1.5-mile drive through a display of a million holiday-themed LED lights accompanied by music, holograms and lasers. Drivers can get out of their cars and stroll through a walk-thru Snow N Glow display of lights, sipping hot cocoa. In addition, there will be a Snow Tubing & Play Area where kids and adults can snow tube down a snowy hill and play in the snow, made daily. S’mores kits, food and drinks will be sold, and private igloos will be rented out. Tickets to the walk-thru Snow N Glow path are $17.99 for adults and $12.99 for children ages 3 to 10. Tickets to both Snow N Glow and the snow activities are $34.99 for adults and children. Admission is free for children ages 2 and younger. Holidays in Your Car tickets are $45 per carload. COVID-19 guidelines are observed. Visit

Parade and tree lighting: Encinitas’ annual holiday parade kicks off with a tree lighting and appearance from Santa at 5 p.m. Dec. 4 in The Lumberyard shops courtyard, (between H and I streets) followed by the parade at 5:30 p.m. featuring floats, marching bands and decorated cars along Coast Highway. The theme is “Encinitas Rocks!” with Grand Marshal Earl Flores. Free parade shuttles will run from 4 to 8:30 p.m. from the San Dieguito Academy High School parking lot at Melba Road and Nardo Road and the YMCA/Ecke Sports Park parking lot on Saxony Road to the North County Transit District bus station on Vulcan Avenue a half-block from the parade route. ADA-accessible buses run from San Dieguito Academy. Wear face covering. Visit

Botanic Garden Wonderland: Holiday nights at the San Diego Botanical Garden features a more than one-mile path decorated with holiday lights that winds through the garden with seasonal carolers and Santa from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 300 Quail Gardens Drive. There will be seating on the Gazebo Lawn near food trucks and Letters to Santa and other activities offered for children. Some nights the San Diego Woodturners will give a demonstration and will sell wood items to benefit Turn Around for Veterans (see schedule at Reservations are required and tickets range from $10 to $22; free for kids 2 and younger. Visit

Annual Northern Lights: The California Center for the Arts, Escondido features a light show designed by the Peace Family from 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 27 to Jan. 3. Visitors can walk around the center’s 12-acre campus through tunnels of twinkling lights, by giant LED Christmas trees and themed light displays at the historical train depot. Light shows with synchronized music will be in the Lyric Courtyard and Center Theater Courtyard. A countdown lighting ceremony will be at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 27 in the Lyric Courtyard, 340 N. Escondido Blvd. Hot beverages and cookies will be sold Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free. Visit

Winter Wonderland: Visitors to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido can play in snow, join holiday crafting activities led by artists, browse for gifts made by local artisans and buy holiday-themed drinks and treats at Santa’s Corner Café from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 4, 11 and 18 at 340 N. Escondido Blvd. Free crafting workshops include Winter Woodland Wildlife on Dec. 4, creating a menagerie out of chenille stems; Festive Winter Trees on Dec. 11, making holiday decorations out of recycled materials; and Upcycled Paper Stars on Dec. 18, creating decorative paper stars. Admission is free. Visit

Safari Park features Wild Holidays: The San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrates the “wild holidays” with an expedition of light and travel through places that twinkle, holiday tunes and seasonal foods from 4 to 8 p.m. Nov. 26-28, Dec. 4-5, 11-12, 18-23, 26-31 and Jan. 1-2 at the park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road. Entertainment includes Light Up the Holidays choreographed lighted tree show with holiday music at Safari Base Camp, Santa at Village Market, Holiday Troubadour, Bridge of Lights, Firefly Stilt Walkers and Journey of Light decorated pathways and Nairobi Lantern Walk, among other attractions. Tickets or membership to the Safari Park are required for entry to Wild Holidays; prices vary. Visit

Concert of Christmas and Hanukkah music: A concert of joyous music of the season will be presented at 3 p.m. Dec. 5 by the Center Chorale with the San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir at Trinity Episcopal Church, 845 Chestnut St. Tickets are $10-$25. Visit

No Jaycee’s Christmas parade: The Jaycee’s annual Christmas parade is not planned this year. Visit

Christmas parade: Fallbrook’s 40th annual Christmas parade, themed “Miracle on Main,” starts at 5 p.m. Dec. 4 on Main Street in downtown Fallbrook, hosted by the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce. The parade features Santa, lighted floats, music, marching bands and dancers along with classic cars, led by Grand Marshal Vince Ross. Visit

Annual Holiday Express: North County Transit District’s annual Holiday Express runs at 10:15 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4-5 and Dec. 11-12, featuring Santa Claus, carolers and holiday characters for an hour of songs and tales from the North Pole. Tickets are $20 for all ages. Register at

Parachuting Santa Claus: St. Nick will make a parachute landing at noon Nov. 27 at Mission Marketplace, 471 College Blvd., for the free family-oriented Jingle Bell Jump event from noon to 3 p.m. Highlights include visits with Santa, carnival games and rides, holiday crafts and cookie decorating, Bingo for prizes, free churros and cotton candy along with a petting zoo, pony rides, carolers and balloon art. Visit

Santa and tree lighting: Santa arrives by firetruck for the annual Holiday Tree Lighting at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 at Regal Cinema Plaza, 401 Mission Ave. Kids activities are from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Highlights include holiday music, carolers, cookies and milk, jump houses, bungee run, kids zip line and giant slides. From 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays in December, the Sunset Market becomes the Holiday Gift Market downtown with 200 artisans and merchants, an international food court, live music and children’s activities at Pier View Way and Coast Highway. Visits with Santa are from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2, 9 and 16. Visit or

Christmas in the Park: The annual old-fashioned holiday celebration from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 11 includes caroling, a craft boutique, holiday sweets and warm dinner foods, visits with Santa, horse-drawn hayrides and steam locomotive rides around Old Poway Park, 14134 Midland Road. Christmas tree lighting is at 5:15 p.m. with arrival of Santa at 5:30 p.m. Admission and rides are free. Free shuttles from 3 to 9 p.m. from two Poway City Hall parking lot, 13325 Civic Center Drive and Poway Adult School parking lot, 13626 Twin Peaks Road. Visit

Christmas tree lighting: The 29th annual Christmas Tree Lighting is at 6 p.m. Dec. 4 outside the Guy B. Woodward Museum, 645 Main St., with activities from 5 to 8 p.m. Highlights include carolers, sleigh rides, vendors and pictures with Santa along with music performed by the Gin ‘N Tonix band at the Town Hall stage. Visit

Drive-thru Nativity scene: A drive-thru Nativity scene with angels, kings and a stable full of live animals, including camels, hosted by Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church is set for 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 19 in the upper parking lot at 17010 Pomerado Road. Listen to the Nativity narrative in your car by tuning into the sound via phone. There will be directions on how to access the YouTube playlist at the event. Drive through the upper church parking lot any time between 5 and 9 p.m. and tune in to the sound via your phone and enjoy being transported into another time courtesy of the Rancho Bernardo Community Family. Visit

A Village Family Christmas: The free communitywide event for families is at 4 p.m. Nov. 28 on the Village Church’s patio lit up for the Advent season at 6225 Paseo Delicias. Highlights include Christmas cookies, cocoa and coffee along with traditional carols and jingle bell pop songs performed by soloists. Make Christmas ornaments and wreaths to decorate for the holidays. Reservations are required at

Breakfast in Bethlehem: The Village Church’s annual Breakfast in Bethlehem for families is at 9 a.m. Dec. 4, with the Christmas story read by Senior Pastor Jack Baca and several Bible character friends. Children can make ornaments and Christmas crafts, and there will be a picnic-style breakfast. Admission is free; reservations are required at

Tree lighting and vendor market: The family event with dance performances, school choirs, crafts and vendors is set for 1 to 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at the San Marcos Civic Center, 1 Civic Center Drive. After Santa lights the tree at 5:35 p.m., there will be “snowfall.” Admission is free. Visit

Community tree lighting: The annual free Holiday Tree Lighting at Fletcher Cove Park, 111 S Sierra Ave., is from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5 with sweets, treats, cider and hot cocoa, hosted by the city of Solana Beach’s Parks and Recreation Commission. There will be live music by pianist Robert Parker, children’s band Hullabaloo and the youth choir of Saint James Academy. Santa is slated to arrive by a firetruck escort, 5:20 p.m. Visit

Santa’s Sleigh Run: Santa will be riding through Solana Beach with firefighters, sheriff’s and marine safety personnel from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Dec. 17, starting and ending at the Solana Beach Fire Station, 500 Lomas Santa Fe Drive. Attendees should stay on the sidewalk when Santa passes by, and kids are encouraged to make posters thanking first responders. Check the city website to find out the estimated time when Santa will be in your neighborhood. Visit


Christmas Parade: Vista Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas parade is back from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 4 in downtown Vista. This year’s theme is “Come Together,” celebrating the Vista community coming back together for the family-friendly event. The parade starts at 1 p.m. on Civic Center and Alta Vista and will end on Main Street at the Wave Water Park. There will be floats, music and marching bands along with Santa. Visit

Jingle Terrace Park: The free holiday-themed drive-thru light show is from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Nov. 26 to Dec. 23 with light displays showing many of Vista’s unique amenities, along a driving loop in Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive. Volunteers from the San Diego Food Bank will accept donations from your car. Visit

Holiday Homes Tour: Vista Community Clinic hosts its 35th annual Holiday Homes Tour to be held virtually Dec. 12-19. The online event will feature five homes across North County decorated by professional designers for the holidays. Attendees can take a narrated journey through each house alongside the designer responsible for the décor. The tour will also feature a silent auction with holiday baskets and one-of-a-kind items. Proceeds support the clinic’s services for all community member. Tickets are $25 at

Miracle on 34th Street: Moonlight Stage Productions stages “Miracle on 34th Street: A Musical Radio Play,” adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio broadcast, Dec. 3-23 at the AVO Playhouse, 303 Main St. The classic play features the story of a department store Santa who says he’s the real Kriss Kringle. Tickets are $47; $45 for students and seniors; $43 for military and $37 for ages 12 and younger for matinee and evening performances. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Moonlight Cultural Foundation. Visit

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