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Christmas Lights San Diego

December 5, 2012


If you love to drive around to see Christmas lights, we’ve put together a list of the best places to go see Christmas light displays in San Diego. We’ve divided this article into residential, San Diego attractions, and commercial displays.

*NOTE – We do our best to fact check and update our residential information each year when information is available. If there is a link, please check it before you go. We wouldn’t want you to be disappointed! Please note that dates/times and displays are subject to change.

Residential Holiday Displays in San Diego

Banker’s Hill – Multiple locations in this older neighborhood located between Downtown and Uptown and don’t forget to look for these 2 fabulous commercial buildings:

  • Bertrand at Mr. A’s Restaurant (5th & Laurel) – The iconic Mr. A’s building, 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. It is a cross between a Christmas tree and a birthday cake.
  • 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.

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 the I-5.

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.

El Cajon  & La Mesa– Just east of La Mesa, El Cajon gets into the holiday spirit in a big way. 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.

We heard from Ron, one of our readers,  that in La Mesa, 7390 Stanford Avenue  at the corner of Stanford and Pomona is worth a look-see. One of our readers, Erika, also told us that Blackbird Street in El Cajon is a good street to check out.

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!

La Jolla – La Jolla is a beautiful part of San Diego that always sets itself apart from the City of San Diego 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.

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 and it’s located on Sunset Boulevard! Another holiday light masterpiece is the Bohannon Estate located at 2440 Pine Street (between Arista Drive & Conde Place).

Ocean Beach – You have to appreciate the Ocean Beach Christmas Tree at the foot of Newport Avenue (at Abbott).  Where else can you enjoy a Christmas tree parked in the sand along the shore?  We won’t describe it more because we wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.  Let’s just say that it’s ‘beachy’ keen.

Oceanside – When in Oceanside, head to the house at 3648 Esplanade Street. It has become a holiday tradition for many families in the North County. The lights are during the month of December from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The owners of this home tell us that they enjoy going out and meeting the people who come to see their annual display. If you’re lucky, you might even get some candy canes to munch on!

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.

Poway – In Poway, everyone talks about the “The Griswolds” display at 12631 Stoutwood Street, off Twin Peaks Road & Deerwood Street. Be sure to meander around the pocket neighborhoods that band together like: Hickory Court & Hickory Street and 12659 Butterwood Court and Rockrose Court off Twin Peaks Road & Silverset Street, too!

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.

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. As of 11/28, the website has not been updated for 2012. Please check Christmas on Knob Hill before going to this display because when we published this article, the site still had information from 2010.

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.

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 from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., nightly. Check the website for more information. Here are some photos from last year’s display. As a special treat, tune your car radio to FM 89.7 to hear the synchronized music.  Email: if you’d like more information.

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!

San Diego Attractions’ Holiday Displays 2012

Holiday of Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds – Get yourself in a festive mood from now through January 1, 2013 (Sunday-Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.) at the 2012 Holiday of Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Please note that they are closed on Mondays, November 26, December 3, and December 10, 2012.

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.

LEGOLAND – San Diego  Holiday Snow Days – Hey kids! It’s Christmas at Legoland! They’ll have it all including “real snow. And yep, they’ll have Legoland holiday displays. The party is going on now until December 31, 2012.

Activities include: building a snowman with LEGO accessories, LEGO® Holiday Village building activity, nightly lighting of the World’s Largest LEGO Christmas Tree, live entertainment including The Big Test Holidays, Let it Snow, Brickettes, Jingle Jammers and more, a LEGO Santa and his holiday helpers, and last but not least, a Fun Town Holiday Food Truck with delicious treats.

SeaWorld SnowWorld 2012 – 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. SeaWorld’s holiday events include a winter wonderland of snowmen, snowballs and family fun at SeaWorld’s Arctic Plaza with 6,500 square feet of fresh snow daily, as well as impromptu visits with SeaWorld’s arctic foxes! SnowWorld is open daily now until January 5, 2013.

San Diego Botanic Garden of Lights 2012– The “Garden of Lights” is located at 230 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas. This amazing light display features 100,000+ lights, all sorts of events and holiday magic from December 8 – 23 and December 26 – 30, 2012 from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Balboa Park’s Christmas on the Prado/December Nights 2012 – This year’s annual celebration of the holidays takes place on December 7 (5:00 p.m to 10:00 p.m.) and December 8, 2012 (Noon to 10:00 p.m.). This wonderful family event is a tradition in San Diego.  The traditionalists still call it Christmas on the Prado but it is now called December Nights. So, if you either one of these terms, you’ll be in the know. Some of the museums offer free admission during the evening and be sure to go eat at the International Cottages – it is quite the scene!

Mission Bay Holiday Boat Parade of Lights – This annual boat parade hosted by the Mission Bay Yacht Club takes place on December 8, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. Information: (858) 488-0501

Oceanside Holiday Boat Parade of Lights – This popular holiday tradition happens at the Oceanside Harbor on December 8, 2012 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

San Diego Bay Boat Parade of Lights 2012 – Come to downtown San Diego’s harbor to see this spectacular boat parade on December 9, 2012 AND December 16, 2012. 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.

San Diego Zoo’s Jungle Bells – The San Diego Zoo is ablaze with Christmas lights from December 15 to January 6, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. It’s all about the lights including lighted animal figures, a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, holiday themed shows, and animal encounters!

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

Commercial Holiday Displays San Diego 2012

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 single string of lights around its exterior.

Naturally, 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. Be sure to look for the outdoor ice-skating rink on the northern side of Horton Plaza. It’s a great way to spend a winter night!

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

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 offers beautiful Christmas or Navidad displays and unique 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.

Hotel Del Coronado – We wouldn’t be a good San Diego travel guide without including one of the most enchanting holiday wonderlands. The Hotel Del is beautiful all the time but when Christmas comes a-calling, the lobby is decorated with 100,000 lights from now –  January 1, 2012.  The Hotel Del is just stunning during the holiday season.

Another reason to go to the Hotel Del Coronado is to see their amazing Christmas tree (in the hotel lobby) and to strap on some ice skates and glide along their beachfront ice skating rink.


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