Top Winter Activities and Attractions in San Diego

Mild temperatures in the 60s and 70s, more vivid sunsets, and smaller crowds make winter visits to San Diego ideal. Although you should not expect to see snow, there is a broad range of fun things to do in the month of December and throughout the winter season. For this reason, you can enjoy sightseeing at your own pace this year in San Diego’s off season, when you can take advantage of smaller crowds. From low-key local fun to exciting theme park excursions, you will almost certainly find something appealing on our list of top winter attractions in San Diego. These include some of the finest holiday activities, all of which deserve a place on your winter vacation itinerary.

San Diego Zoo Jungle Bells Attraction

Location: San Diego Zoo

Time: December 10, 2016 through January 12, 2017 (Zoo closes at 5 PM on December 24th, 2016, and no Jungle Bells activities are available on this day.)

In keeping with the holiday spirit, the San Diego Zoo hosts it’s yearly “Jungle Bells” event, featuring a high number of fun and festive decorations, performances and activities. At this event you will enjoy attractions such as acrobatic elf performances and ornate animal sculptures with twinkling lights.

You can also look forward to special holiday fare served at some of the Park’s restaurants, after which you can explore Santa’s igloo and watch some of the most famous creatures of the Zoo give a holiday-themed enrichment performance. Additionally, you will likely never forget watching a resident raccoon deftly opening his Christmas gift.

Do not leave the Zoo too early or you will miss the “Celebration of Lights,” which is an evening performance filled with fun and magic. Watching the Zoo’s lighting of its breathtaking Christmas tree is an event to remember all by itself.

LEGOLAND California’s Holiday Snow Days and Winter Nights

Location: LEGOLAND California

Time: November 25th, 2016 through January 1st, 2017

The winter activities never stop at LEGOLAND California’s Holiday Snow Days and Winter Nights. Featuring a life-size brick Santa made from Legos, live entertainment, and holiday snowfalls in Heartlake City, this attraction is a must see for anyone who loves festive music and activities. Tons of fantastic child centered activities are also available, from gazing upon a giant tree made from Legos to building a Lego snowman. Families can also take advantage of photo opportunities with the Park’s life-sized Lego Santa and reindeer, and then end the night watching a magnificent fireworks show.

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration

Location: SeaWorld San Diego

Time: November 19th, 2016 through January 1st, 2017

SeaWorld goes all out with their Christmas Celebration, an event filled with fun things to do and festive activities. You can meet the famous red nose reindeer, Rudolph, in his own Christmastown and watch the world’s Happiest Dancing Christmas Tree, measuring an impressive 40 feet.

Pictures with Santa and his elves in his cottage are also available, and the nightly lighting of Southern California’s largest Christmas tree is an event no visitor should miss. If you enjoy dancing, you should participate in SeaWorld’s sing-along and Elves Dance Party, which takes place on a nightly basis. If the weather is on the cooler side, bring some extra layers if you choose an excursion on the Park’s “Journey to Atlantis” ride.

San Diego Offers a Broad Range of Winter Activities

San Diego Offers a Broad Range of Winter Activities

Knott’s Merry Farm

Location: Knott’s Berry Farm

Time: November 19th, 2016 – January 8, 2017

Knott’s Berry Farm overflows with seasonal activities during winter. If you are Peanuts fan, you will not want to miss the Peanuts tree lighting, featuring Charlie Brown himself, or Snoopy’s special ice skating performance.

After this, consider visiting Santa’s Christmas Cabin to enjoy some of Mrs. Claus’ delicious treats and take a photograph with the man of the hour himself, Kris Kringle. Last but not least, you will find mesmerizing entertainment in the Farm’s Ghost Town in the form of a synchronized lights show. If you are looking for unique gifts, checked out Christmas Crafts Village, a popular favorite of Knotts Berry Farm patrons.

Outdoor Ice Skating

If you have enjoyed a day of shopping at La Jolla’s outdoor mall, consider taking in an evening of ice-skating. Patrons of all ages can bring their skates and visit the UTC Ice Sports Center and enjoy skating in an open-air rink.

Another great option for ice skaters is skating outdoors as the sun sets over the Pacific. Located near the Hotel Del Coronado, you can strap on a pair of skates and jump and twirl on the ice as the beautiful lights from the Hotel shine down on the beach, which is only a few feet away from the rink.

Other great outdoor skating arenas in San Diego include Liberty Station’s Fantasy on Ice, where visitors can skate in an urban environment. All proceeds from admission benefit the Rady Children’s Hospital. If you are headed to the Viejas Outlets to bargain shop, you should consider stopping at Southern California’s biggest outdoor ice-skating arena, which is located next to the Outlets.

Garden Of Lights

The Botanic Gardens in San Diego light up after dusk each year for the holidays. Winter activities on the grounds are available, such as snow sledding, visits with Santa, holiday crafts and horse-drawn wagon rides.

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

Let your children spend the day playing scientist at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, where they can enjoy many exhibits and hands-on activities. Youngsters can use Hubble Telescopes to examine images, explore cellular biology worlds through microscopic lenses, and make their own creative structures using wooden planks.

In addition, your children will enjoy “Kid City,” which boasts a park exhibit, play area, and interactive entertainment complex where they can socialize with other children. One free IMAX movie ticket is included with the price of admission.

Natural History Museum

Finding a new appreciation for the environment and nature is always a worthwhile activity. The Natural History Museum is Southern California’s oldest scientific institution. Maintaining a global scientific perspective by focusing on the natural worlds of the Baja Peninsula and Southern California, this 134-year-old museum is a must-see for anyone with an interest in nature. Here, you can enjoy an exhibit called “Polar Bears to Penguins” or travel to the “End of The Earth” via a striking 3-D film put out by the museum.

San Diego Air and Space Museum

The San Diego Air and Space Museum offers exhibits on everything from modern space-age flights to ancient aircraft designs. You can experience first-hand action in the FS-2000 2-Seat Flight Simulator or stroll through the establishment’s World War galleries. From 3:30 PM to 10:30 PM during the month of December, food and drinks are available to families in the Museum’s festively decorated Pavilion area and adults over 21 can purchase beer if desired.

Photographic Arts Museum

At San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts, you can explore over 9000 pictures from the 1800s until modern times. The Museum is dedicated to gathering, preserving and displaying photographic art in its entirety with exhibits featuring social, historical and cultural issues.

Museum of Man

Take a day and explore one of the Country’s most outstanding presentations of human evolution and anthropology. The museum’s objective is to answer numerous questions about race, history and essentially what makes us human. With its extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits, the Museum of Man definitely deserves a place on your winter itinerary.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps

If you enjoy exploring marine life, you should consider a trip to La Jolla’s Birch Aquarium. Enjoy a seaside lunch and other seasonal activities and then visit the Aquarium’s numerous exhibits showcasing the ocean’s many mysteries. Multimedia and interactive displays make it possible to learn about whales, sea horses, coral reefs and even living sea stars.

On your visit, make note of the Aquarium’s December events, including its popular “Seas ‘n’ Greetings.” Face painting, live holiday music, and special appearances by Scuba Santa are also available, so do not forget to check the aquarium’s schedule before you leave.

USS Midway Museum

Another great choice for anyone with an interest in sea life is the USS Midway Museum. Located at the Navy Pier Port, you can visit the USS Midway Museum and learn about the longest-serving aircraft carrier in US history. Over 25 restored aircraft and 60 exhibits are located on the ship, all of which can be explored at your own pace. Self-guided audio tour’s narrated by sailors are available to all patrons.

The best time for whale watching in San Diego is during the winter season when whales migrate to the shores of Baja California from the Bering Sea. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 gray whales make their way through the ocean just off San Diego coast. Three and a half-hour cruises are available from the San Diego Whale Watch, which guarantees whale sightings for its customers. You should also be on the lookout for migrating birds, sea lions and dolphins as well, and during the cruise you can listen to dolphins and whales sounds in real time.

Snorkel, Kayak or Bike in La Jolla

Consider heading out to La Jolla seaside community this winter, where a picturesque sprawl of sandy beaches and cliffs await. Choose from among kayaking along the coast, snorkeling in La Jolla Cove or bicycling along various streets in this beautiful beach town.

Take in a Winter Sunset

Winter months in San Diego also mean more breathtaking sunsets. Therefore, you should not miss an opportunity to watch the sun setting over the impressive Pacific Ocean. If you would like to enjoy a pre-sunset walk, head to Sunset Cliffs National Park where you can walk the coastline. Other great options for ocean side sunset views include a trip to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve from which spectacular sunsets can be viewed or a car ride out to Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial.