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The Best Things to Do in San Diego this Winter

While the rest of America wallows in freezing weather, Southern California doesn’t miss a beat. San Diego is open 24/7, 365 days a year – with locals liking winter the most due to the off-season, relaxed vibe of the city. Beaches, attractions and San Diego theme parks have fewer crowds, and cultural as well as outdoor activities are abundant. The seasonal temps and sunshine easily whisk away those winter blues, so take a look at the many things to do in San Diego this winter and get inspired.

Whale watching

Whale Watching

Each year over 20,000 gray whales make the migration from Alaska to Baja California. The warm waters are ideal for female whales to birth their young. Lucky for San Diego, 70 miles of the city’s coastline are right in the migration path. You can see impressive creatures by land at sites like Torrey Pines State Reserve and the Cabrillo National Monument. For a closer look, reserve a San Diego whale watching tour with operators like Flagship Cruises and Hornblower Cruises. Not only will you gain extensive knowledge of whales, but you’ll be able to see the San Diego skyline from a different point of view. As a result, whale watching easily tops our list of the best things to do in San Diego this winter.


Things to do in San Diego this Winter

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration

Enjoy a bright and festive family event at SeaWorld San Diego November 23, 2019, through January 5, 2020. Highlights include the chance to meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and his friends at Rudolph’s Chsitmastown as well as Santa. In addition, there’s a 40-foot Happiest Dancing Christmas Tree and seasonal shows like O Wondrous Night, a live nativity musical, that really make Christmas come alive at SeaWorld. Even though it’s San Diego, this theme park makes it feel as if you’ve been transported to a winter wonderland! Don’t forget to stop by and say “Hi!” to the penguins, too.

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Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Famous for wildflowers, the blooms here start as early as mid-February so you can get an early vision of spring. Each canyon and valley of the dessert is a welcome home for various annual flowers. Every corner of Anza-Borrego blossoms with different varieties. Be on the look for Dune Evening Primrose, Desert Chicory, and Desert Sand Verbena.

Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo gets into the spirit of the holidays with Jungle Bells, December 13, 2019, through January 5, 2020. This seasonal event is filled with memorable experiences. Highlights include:

  • Special appearance by Santa
  • Toy Shop Hop, an energetic trampoline performance
  • Two special 4-D experiences: an amazing train ride to the North Pole through the magic of The Polar Express and Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas
  • Dr. Zoolittle’s animal-themed version of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”
  • Colorful lights in the form of light sculptures of animals, and two “dancing light” experiences set to holiday music
  • Northern Frontier Holiday Forest

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February Museum Month

San Diego has a wealth of museums, but in February you don’t have to spend your wealth to visit. That’s because February Museum Month features half-off entry fees at 45 San Diego Museum. Pick up a pass at any of the fourteen Macy’s location in the area, then receive discount admission to museums such as the San Diego Museum of Art, USS Midway Museum and Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

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Mardi Gras Merriment

San Diego may be far west of the Louisiana Bayou, but that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t know how to celebrate. Join the Gaslamp Quarter for a Mardi Gras Block Party and Parade (date TBD). Twenty-Two city blocks within the venue will feature 3 main stages and 3 satellite stages along and adjacent to 5th Avenue. The Big Easy Parade features a Celebrity Grand Marshall and 60 over-top-floats. This one San Diego party you don’t want to miss!

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Explore La Jolla

This seaside town is perfect for wintertime exploration. With temps in the 60s, the beaches might be too chilly to dive in but are still great for dolphin and seal watching, as well as sunsets. Along with quirky galleries, charming cafes and scenic walks, you’ll find museums like La Jolla’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the Birch Aquarium. My favorite La Jolla Winter activity? Grabbing breakfast at the Marine Room while watching the high tide. Waves up to two-stories high with a side of bacon? Yes, please! When it comes to things to do in San Diego this winter, exploring this coastal town is a must!

Things to Do in San Diego this Winter

Holidays at LEGOLAND California Resort

Searching for even more festive fun? Bring the entire family out to LEGOLAND California Resort for a spectacular holiday event. A 30-foot LEGO® Christmas tree adorned with LEGO® ornaments dazzles each night with music and light. In addition, other highlights include:

  • A twinkling holiday light show set to music
  • LEGO® Holiday character meet and greets
  • Enjoy the all-new show, Santa’s Top Shelf

Things to do in San Diego this Winter

Knott’s Merry Farm

From November 22, 2019, through January 5, 2020, Knott’s trades in their trademark berries for merriment. (Don’t worry—the berries are still available too!) This special event is a Christmas celebration for all ages. Featuring all of Knotts’ signature attractions and entertainment, the park ups the ante with a Christmas Crafts Village, holiday decorations and a nightly snow in Ghost Town. On top of that, there’s even a Snoopy’s Ice Skating Show and Peanuts tree lighting the little ones are sure to love.

Experience All the Things to do in San Diego this Winter

As you can see, there’s plenty of things to do in San Diego this winter. From holiday events to special seasonal activities, you can rest assured you’ll be able to pack plenty of fun during your winter vacation in San Diego.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.
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