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Christmas Lights San Diego 2010

December 2, 2010

Looking for Christmas Lights in San Diego? If you love to drive around to see Christmas lights and public Christmas light displays, we’ve put together a hand-picked list of the best places to go see Christmas light displays in San Diego.

Residential Holiday Displays

Coronado – Coronado is one of our favorite areas to go holiday light hunting every year. Why? Because the people of Coronado go all out in getting into the Christmas spirit. Many of the older homes are very large and can take lots of lights. Peer pressure from the neighbors must factor in Coronado because so many homes are decorated to the hilt with Christmas lights.

Chula Vista – Chula Vista is the county’s second largest city and Candy Cane Lane is one of the shortest streets in the County that used to carry the most Christmas punch. We know that many people still search for Candy Cane Lane in Chula Vista, but we must advise you that it no longer exists. We have learned from local sources that the traffic back-ups caused by the enormous popularity of this main attraction led to its downfall. Some of the residents still turn on their house lights but Candy Cane Lane is the not exactly the sweet street it once was.

However, there is a silver lining to this story. Chula Vista’s answer to Candy Cane Lane is now Christmas Circle which is worth a look-see. Christmas Circle is located on Whitney Street and Mankato Street. These two streets form a loop which provides for easy viewing. The area is located between First and Second Avenue off H Street. The easiest access is off of I-5. December 11-26, 2010 from 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. You’ll catch about 50+ homes adorned in light.

Another place in Chula Vista for Christmas lights is in Eastlake. Head east to Eastlake Greens and take a drive around there. It is located off Otay Lakes Road and Eastlake Parkway. December 16-31, 2010 from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Banker’s Hill –

Britt Scripps Inn (5th & Maple) – Beautiful Victorian house highlighted by holiday lights.

Mr. A’s Restaurant (5th & Laurel) – The iconic Mr. A’s building is, once again, provides a gift to San Diego with their traditional display. If you are flying into San Diego, look to the right of the plane just after passing over Balboa Park and you’ll spot the Mr. A’s building.

The Forward House -(1st & Ivy) Talk about lighting up the night, this building has every inch covered.  We salute businesses that give the holiday joy to the community.


Mission Hills – Located in the hills above Old Town, Mission Hills is a neighborhood of stately craftsman homes dating back to the early 20th century. Quite a number of these beautiful homes have been designated as historically significant homes. Kate Sessions, landscape planner of Balboa Park, started the Mission Hills Nursery a century ago (which sells Christmas trees this time of year). This is a great place to drive around to see the lights because the streets are windy and are void of traffic. Many of the homes are lit up for the holidays as are a number of the skyline trees that soar above the palm trees that line the major streets. Be sure to look for the tallest star pine you can find and see if you can spot the lit star at the top. It is the pride of Mission Hills during Christmas time.

Another highlight in Mission Hills is – Sunset Lights – 50,000 lights at 2150 Sunset beam from December 11, 2010 – January 1, 2011.

Kensington – One of San Diego’s oldest and most charming residential neighborhoods, Kensington, is situated north of El Cajon Boulevard and east of Interstate 15 above the south rim of Mission Valley. Like Mission Hills, Kensington is known for its winding streets and beautiful homes. Many of the Kensington homes are Spanish-style and quite a number of them have not changed their appearance in decades. Follow Adams Avenue east of the Kensington sign to Van Dyke. Pass through the intersection of Van Dyke and Adams. It would be hard to miss the lights of this neighborhood. We tip our hats to all of the neighbors for stringing up all those lights! You are in for a real treat!

South Park/Burlingame – South Park and Burlingame are two communities that are geographically close but are separated by the urban canyons that criss-cross this older part of San Diego. South Park is a friendly residential community that is situated between North Park at Juniper Street and Golden Hill at “A” Street. Bordered on the west by Balboa Park, South Park boasts beautiful vistas and classic California Craftsman style homes that have been getting better with a conscious effort of homeowners to preserve the past. Many of the homeowners are proud of their homes and do their very best to deck their halls with classy light displays. We found a particularly spectacular residential display on 28th Street between Upas and Thorn that will knock your Christmas socks off. It is a must see!

Burlingame is a residential community known for its pink concrete sidewalks – you know you are in Burlingame when you start seeing the pink sidewalks! Burlingame has a charming tradition of uniting various neighbors with strings of lights on certain streets to make a block holiday display.

Point Loma – Point Loma is one of the oldest and wealthiest communities of San Diego. Blessed with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and views of both Downtown and America’s Cup Harbor to the east, Point Loma is one of the area’s most desirable communities. People from all types of backgrounds have settled in Point Loma and each of these communities bring their special kind of taste for holiday displays with them. One constant theme in Point Loma is maritime and seafaring. Many retired military people live here as do many retired Portuguese fishermen. Their homes’ holiday displays are big, nautical, and always full of Christmas spirit.

Point Loma is a very large community with many different types of housing styles so there will be areas that have displays and others that do not. Just keep driving around. One street that is particularly impressive is Garrison off of Catalina Boulevard. This is the kind of street that people get out of the cars and walk around because the displays are awesome.

La Jolla – La Jolla is a beautiful part of San Diego that always sets itself apart from the City because it can. It is a beautiful place that is quite unlike anything else in San Diego. The beach surrounds this lovely community and the homeowners take full advantage of this fact. Many of San Diego’s wealthiest people live here and their holiday displays demonstrate that level of wealth. La Jolla sits west of I-5, going from Torrey Pines State Reserve in the north to the hills of Pacific Beach in the south. The Village of La Jolla is located in the middle of it all and this is the place where they have their annual Christmas Parade. The Village is a great place to walk around, do some shopping, get something to eat, go look at the ocean, and then get in the car to go do a drive-by to see the lovely lights.

Tierrasanta – Be sure to check out a very special holiday display that is appropriately called Belardo Lights. This display is the work of one special family that resides at 5306 Belardo Drive. The Schimka family decorates their home with 65,000 lights and oodles of homemade decorations during the holiday season. The lights are up now thru December 27, 2010 from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., nightly. As a special treat, tune your car radio to FM 89.7 to hear the synchronized music.

On a personal note, we would like to add that the Schimka family creates this holiday gift to the community but it also serves as a wonderful family project throughout the year. The family has two sons with autism and the holiday display provides an enriching opportunity to engage their boys and create holiday magic. We thank the family for sharing their family gift and generosity with all of us.

Clairemont – Clairemont is a community in the City of San Diego that is home to many families of many income levels. Some locals may wonder why we have included this area since it is not known as being a ritzy area. However, the good people of Clairemont really put on the glitz when it comes to Christmas. In fact, over 40 homes get into the act and decorate their homes in a big way. Best of all, the homes are located on a circular drive. Go to Lana Drive and Jamar just off Mt. Abernathy Avenue to see this great light display. December 11 – December 27, 2010. You can also go to 4760 Norwalk Ave. – off Clairemont Mesa Blvd. and Moraga Ave. They should be up and running from December 1, 2010 through January 1, 2011 from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (1 hour later on weekends).

Poway “The Griswolds” at 12631 Stoutwood Street off Twin Peaks Road & Deerwood Street – set for December 1, 2010 to January 1, 2011 from 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m daily & 11:00 p.m. on weekends. Then, you can find the pocket neighborhoods who band together like: Hickory Court & Hickory Street and 12659 Butterwood Court and Rockrose Court off Twin Peaks Road & Silverset Street from December 11, 2010 to January 1, 2011 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Rancho Peñasquitos – Located in the northern area of the City of San Diego, Rancho Peñasquitos is home to many, many families. Christmas Card Lane, started with 15 families in 1985. Since that time, over 200 families have gotten into the holiday lighting act. The organizers of Christmas Card Lane have one request. Park your car and walk around so that you can take a Christmas stroll, sip hot chocolate, munch on and baked goods, and listen to Christmas carols.

Christmas Card Lane is located on Oviedo Street, just off Black Mountain Road. The entire area includes Twin Trails, Carmel Mountain Road, Ellingham Street, Renato Street, Oviedo Street, Twin Trails Drive, Barrymore Street, Totherham Avenue, Talca Avenue, Talca Court, Allenbrook Way, Davenport Avenue, and last, but not least, Amber Sky Lane. They’ll be lighting up from December 11, 2010 to December 31, 2011 from Sunset to 10:00 p.m.

San MarcosChristmas on Knob Hill is one of the largest residential light displays in San Diego County. This is one family’s labor of love that has grown and grown to the enjoyment of all the visitors who put Knob Hill on their list of favorite places to view Christmas light displays. For over 20 years, the family that resides at 1639 Knob Hill has decorated their property with over 90,000 lights, 100 plastic figures, 20 rope light figures, 80 snowmen, and 100 candy canes, and more. Visitors can enjoy viewing this display thru January 1, 2011 from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

And as a very special treat, Santa visits Knob Hill during December 11 through December 23 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., except on Wednesdays when he takes the evening off to go bowling.

La Mesa – Many locals know that La Mesa is the gracious host of the annual Oktoberfest, but it is also home to Bob’s Christmas Wonderland (7171 Cornell Avenue) in La Mesa. This one-of-a-kind residential display features trains, animated lawn decorations, and to top it all off, a miniature drive-in theater playing “Disney’s Magical Christmas.” The wonderful thing about Bob’s Christmas Wonderland is that Bob uses the event to collect nonperishable food donations from all the people who come by to see his amazing decorations. Bob also provides visitors with hot chocolate, apple cider and fresh popcorn. All he asks in return is for visitors to bring one canned food item each to be donated to the Salvation Army. We couldn’t think of a better cause.

San Carlos will be rocking it with luminarias on the 7900- 8000 block of Hillandale Drive off Mission Gorge & Deerfield. December 1 – 31,2010 from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Harwell Drive, near Cowles Mountain & Grossmont College. Luminarias and treats for all on Christmas eve from Sunset to Midnight.

El Cajon– Just east of La Mesa, El Cajon gets into the holiday spirit in a big way. After visiting Bob’s Christmas Wonderland in La Mesa, head over to La Mesa’s Jingle Bell Hill. Please note this display is also known as Pepper Drive Lights. In either case, this display is located in a quaint neighborhood that just happens to take the joy of Christmas very seriously. Jingle Bell Hill is located on Solomon Avenue and Pegeen Place. It can be reached off the SR-67, exiting on Bradley.

Jingle Bell Hill (aka Pepper Drive Lights) – Solomon Ave. and Pegeen Place and surrounding area. Off 67 and Bradley. 1838 El Pico Drive at Hacienda Drive. December 10, 2010 – January 1, 2011, Monday – Thursday from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., and Friday – Sunday from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

11456 Pegeen Place December 4 – 26, 2010, Monday – Thursday from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Friday – Sunday from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

1838 El Pico Drive – Off Hacienda Drive, this house has been into this thing for nearly 50 years. Drive by and look up 100 ft. to spot their 20-ft. star, now thru December 31, 2010. Come December 11 – 31 have a look at their 55-ft. train from sunset to 10:00 p.m.

Santee is getting its lights on at Sunburst Santee. Tomel Court, off Magnolia. The neighborhood is going to make it really bright. December 18 to December 26, 2010 from 7:0) p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

San Diego Attractions’ Holiday Displays

Holiday of Lights at Del Mar – Get yourself in a festive mood from now through January 2, 2010 from 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m./10:30 p.m. nightly at the 2010 Holiday of Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The Holiday of Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds is a spectacular drive-through light show and exhibit with more than 400 displays. The Christmas displays are organized into themes, which include: Candy Cane Lane, Toyland, San Diego County Fair, Treasures by the Lake, Del Mar Racetrack, the Twelve Days of Christmas and Elves at Play.

Visitors view the lighted and animated holiday creations from the comfort of their vehicles as they drive along a 1.5-mile route through the Fairgrounds, while enjoying festive holiday music. It takes most visitors 15-20 minutes to complete one trip around the route and to view all of the displays.

SeaWorld Holiday Events 2010– This popular San Diego attraction does its part to light up the skies of San Diego by lighting up their Sky Tower for the holiday season. Sea World’s elves also transform the popular park into one big nighttime wonderland.

This year, Sea World gets into the spirit of Christmas by offering its guests a new seasonal movie at the park’s 4-D Theater, two special live marine shows, “Shamu’s Christmas “, “Christmas Tails”, “The Polar Express 4-D Experience and “Clyde and Seamore’s Night Before Christmas,” appearances by Santa Claus himself, an ice skating rink (with real ice), and the nightly lighting of SeaWorld’s 320-foot Holiday Tree of Lights. Best of all, SeaWorld’s Holiday Celebration is included in the park admission. Please note that there is an extra charge for renting the ice skates.

The times of operation fluctuate according to the day of the week. For the most current information on park hours, please read more.

San Diego Zoo’s Jungle Bells – The San Diego Zoo is ablaze with Christmas lights from December 10 – 23, 2010 and December 25, 2010 – January 2, 2011. It’s all about the lights including lighted animal figures and a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, and holiday themed shows.

TIP: The SkyFari is gives a great view of all the lights. Hop on board!

San Diego Botanic Garden of Lights 2010 – The “Garden of Lights” is located at 230 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas. This light display features 100,000+ lights, all sorts of events and holiday magic from December 9 – 23 and December 26 – 30 from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Cost: Adults $12, children 3-12 $4.00

Balboa Park’s Christmas on the Prado 2010 – December 3 and December 4, 2010 See our article for more information on the 2010 Christmas on the Prado (for traditionalists) or December Nights.

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade – This annual boat parade takes place on December 18, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. with fireworks at 9:00 p.m.

San Diego Bay Boat Parade of Lights – Come to downtown San Diego’s harbor to see this spectacular boat parade on December 12, 2010 and December 19, 2010. The nautical fun starts off at 5:30 p.m. with a big bang, fireworks! The boat parade starts right after the fireworks show and usually lasts until 9:00 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. Viewing available all along the harbor and the harbor side of Coronado.

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights – December 11 – 7:00 p.m. Oceanside gets onboard with decorated boats in holiday lights circle at Oceanside Harbor.

Commercial Holiday Displays

Downtown San Diego – Don’t think downtown gets into the act? Sure it does! From the green rings of The Westin on Broadway to the elegant displays at the U.S. Grant and the Westgate, downtown does its best to show off its holiday spirit. Many of the downtown buildings decorate the top of their buildings with some kind of holiday color – why even City Hall gets into the act and hangs a string of lights around its exterior. Okay, it really is just one string of lights. The City is broke these days so no one expects them to do much more. The shopping mecca in downtown, Horton Plaza, is always decked out for the holidays and it is a great place to walk around and do some last-minute shopping. Many of the downtown restaurants decorate their interiors and exteriors with considerable flair – one of our favorite restaurant displays is Dobson’s near Horton Plaza.

Uptown – The most recognizable building in this area just north of Downtown is what most San Diegans refer to as the “Mr. A’s Building.” The iconic Christmas light display is located at the corner of 5th and Laurel. If you fly into San Diego at night during the holiday season, you know that building. It is a cross between a Christmas tree and a birthday cake. Don’t miss seeing this building up close and personal because it is amazing how much works goes into installing those strings of lights every year. Go ahead, feast your eyes. And while you are in the neighborhood, make your way over to the east side of First Avenue and Ivy to see how much Christmas spirit can envelop a usually unremarkable mortgage company’s building.

Mission Valley – Yes, Mission Valley’s malls are decorated but did you know that some of the most decorated commercial buildings are its many hotels? The Crowne Plaza, formerly the Hanalei, is usually dripping with lights during the holidays and the Mission Valley Hilton, usually every year, is somehow able to get JOY spelled out in its hotel room windows facing the I-8.

Bazaar del Mundo – Just on the eastern side of Old Town sits the wonderful property of Diane Powers that oozes holiday charm this time of year. This is a great collection of small shops that not only offer a beautiful display of Christmas or Navidad displays but also a great place to do some holiday shopping. The Bazaar is located on Taylor Street and Juan Street – look for the Casa Guadalajara restaurant at the corner; the Bazaar is just behind it.

Gaslamp Quarter – Downtown San Diego Trees – The trees will be illuminated from now thru January 1, 2011 from 5:00 p.m. – Midnight along the main avenues of this historic district.

Hotel Del Coronado – The Del is beautiful all the time but when Christmas comes a-calling the lobby is decorated with 100,000 lights from December 1, 2010 to January 2, 2011.

Did we miss your favorite Christmas light display? Please make a comment and let us know.

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