San Diego Magazine

6 Fun Fitness Activities to Enjoy in San Diego

SUP Yoga - 6 Fun Fitness Activities to Enjoy in San Diego

Hikers, bikers, and yogis rejoice. Whether you’re trying to stay in shape during your vacation or just in the mood to try something new, in a fitness-focused town like San Diego, there’s surely something for everyone.

1. SUP Yoga

Get out of the studio and try SUP yoga. Short for stand-up paddleboard, SUP combines two of our favorite low-impact workouts, and you can’t beat that ocean breeze. Anchor your board and focus on balance, or get comfortable with getting wet. Stoked Yogi offers classes in Mission Bay and Carlsbad Lagoon, which you can book in advance. Near Mission Beach? Sign up for a Bliss Paddle Yoga class. Or set up a SUP Yoga workshop in San Diego or Mission bays with Paddle into Fitness.

2. Running

Running is the perfect vacation workout. Get your heart pumping and enjoy some of San Diego’s best scenery along the way. And really, all you need to pack is a pair of sneakers. So lace up those running shoes and hit the road. Check out these popular routes:

The Embarcadero
Check out relics from the city’s long maritime history, cruise ships, and yachts as you jog along San Diego Bay and perhaps take a detour through Waterfront Park or Seaport Village.

Mission Bay
This flat, nearly 12-mile loop takes you past stretches of gorgeous shoreline, Fiesta Island Park, the Bahia Resort, and two wildlife preserves.

Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs offers some of the best ocean views in town. This path will take you along the rocky cliffs from Ocean Beach to Sunset Cliffs Park. Not tired yet? Continue along the looping trails of Sunset Cliffs Park.

Lake Murray
Take this flat trail in La Mesa around the reservoir to the dam gate, then turn around and head back for a roughly 6-mile run.

Pacific Beach Boardwalk
Navigate your way through walkers, bikers, and rollerbladers on this paved oceanfront run. Or wait for low tide and run along the sand above the crashing waves.

3. Triathlon

San Diego is the birthplace of the modern triathlon, so if you’re up for the grueling run-swim-bike race, sign up for one of the many held at various locations around town. Check out what’s coming up in the San Diego Triathlon Series and others around San Diego County online.

4. Hiking

So many trails, so little time. Whether you’re seeking an adventure in the rolling mountains of East County or a cliff-side excursion high above the Pacific Ocean, trails in San Diego range from family-friendly beginner to expert-level terrain for the seasoned pro. Here are some of our San Diego favorites:

Cowles Mountain, Mission Trails Regional Park
The highest peak in San Diego
3 miles, moderate

Torrey Pines State Beach, La Jolla
Accessible off Torrey Pines Road
3 miles, moderate

Balboa Park
65 miles of trails, easy

Mount Woodson Trail, Poway
Accessible via state Route 67 and Mount Woodson Road. Get an Instagram shot at Potato Chip Rock!
6.4 miles, difficult

Pacific Crest Trail segment, Mount Laguna
Accessible via Sunrise Highway
4 miles, moderate

Palomar Observatory Trail, Cleveland National Forest
Off Canfield Road
4 miles, easy

The Slot, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
2 miles, easy

Stonewall Peak, Julian
Off state Route 79
4 miles, moderate

Three Sisters Falls, Cleveland National Forest
Accessible via Boulder Creek Road
4 miles, difficult

5. Biking

Whether on a mountain bike or beach cruiser, alone or in a group, there’s a ride here for you. With over 260 days of sunshine and hundreds of miles of trails, there’s no reason not to go for a spin. Rent a bike from SoCal Bike (328 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside), Pedego San Diego (900 Bayfront Court, downtown), or cruise around on a DecoBike, which can be picked up and returned to more than 180 stations around town. Look for green bike lanes throughout San Diego for a safe, protected lane for riding.

6. Kayaking

Tone those guns and explore San Diego’s waters while you’re at it. Kayaks are available for rent at various locations along the coast. Kayak tours are also a great way to sneak in a workout while you take in scenic ocean views. Book a tour at La Jolla Kayak (2199 Avenida de la Playa), or rent a kayak from the Mission Bay Aquatic Center (1001 Santa Clara Place).

Robert Arends

Top 5 San Diego Spots to Explore the Birthplace of California

The new San Salvador, the Mayflower of the West! Photo credit: Jerry Soto

The new San Salvador, the Mayflower of the West! Photo credit: Jerry Soto

Did you know, San Diego was discovered by Europeans 473 years ago? Yep, only 50 years after Columbus and more than 200 years before the Spanish missions were started.

Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed his galleon ship, the San Salvador into San Diego Bay on Sept. 28, 1542 – going down in history as San Diego’s “first tourist.” He didn’t stay long, though, as there was no San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND for the crew to explore. 😉

Today, tourists by the millions are drawn to our attractive sun-kissed shores in search of sun and fun, as well as the fascinating living history of San Diego.

Following are Top 5 places to step back in time and trace Cabrillo’s momentous discovery, and the founding of San Diego:

1. Maritime Museum of San Diego

San Salvador docked at the Maritime Museum. Photo credit: Jerry Soto

San Salvador docked at the Maritime Museum. Photo credit: Jerry Soto

Last month the Maritime Museum of San Diego launched a full-size, functioning replica of the San Salvador – the Mayflower of the West – much to the delight of landlubbers like me! The $6.2 million vessel took 5 years to construct (check out this cool time-lapse video of the ship’s construction) and can be seen docked at the museum’s pier on Harbor Drive. Plan is to have it open to the public (as in actually go onboard) later this year, hopefully by the holidays {fingers crossed}.

2. Cabrillo National Monument

Impressive statue of Cabrillo at Cabrillo National Monument

Impressive statue of Cabrillo at Cabrillo National Monument

Wonder what Cabrillo looked like or what he saw as he sailed into San Diego’s impressive natural harbor? Head to Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego’s only national park. There’s a 14-foot high statue of Cabrillo (originally envisioned as a 150-foot tall sculpture!) and incredible 360-degree, birds-eye views of the city. Also fun to explore are the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (one of eight original lighthouses on the West Coast), tide pools and bunkers from WWII.

3. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Folklorico dancers at Old Town State Historic Park

Folklorico dancers at Old Town State Historic Park

The Junipero Serra Museum on a hill overlooking Old Town, marks the spot where Spanish friars and soldiers established a presidio and the first Mission San Diego in 1769 (the original structures are no longer visible; the ruins are buried). Downhill, Old Town State Historic Park with its adobe buildings, old timey plaza and other sites, shows what life was like at San Diego’s first “downtown” in the 1800s. This is where the Wild West meets mariachis and our Hispanic heritage.

4. Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

California’s first mission, Mission San Diego de Alcala in Mission Valley

In the aptly named Mission Valley near Old Town, is the second Mission San Diego de Alcala – which was moved here in 1774 to be closer to the San Diego River (makes sense). You can stroll through the mission and its beautiful gardens, chapel, church, a museum with original artifacts and an excavation site out back, believed to be the monastery.

5. Mission Trails Regional Park

Old Mission Dam in Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo credit: Ce Helton

Old Mission Dam in Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo credit: Ce Helton

Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., is just up the road from Mission San Diego. Highlights include the original Old Mission Dam, a state-of-the-art Visitor and Interpretive Center featuring exhibits dedicated to the Kumeyaay Indians who lived here 1,000 years ago and 60 miles of hiking trails including an awesome trek to the top of Cowles Mountain, the city of San Diego’s highest peak (1,593 feet).

See you in San Diego, and make your own history! 🙂


Top 5 Family Friendly Beaches in San Diego

Kids Play at One of San Diego's Family Friendly Beaches
Kids Play at One of San Diego's Family Friendly Beaches

With more than 70 miles of amazing beaches, there is plenty of space for the kids to run…and burn off some energy 🙂

Rarely is there a full week without sunshine in San Diego. The balmy, year round weather makes “America’s Finest City” ideal to visit. Hand in hand with the warm climate, the main attraction is of course the beaches. With so many gorgeous seashores to choose from, my picks are particular when it comes to choosing a family friendly place to lay your towels.

Here are my top 5 picks for taking the kids to the beach in San Diego.

Moonlight Beach

Located in Encinitas, hands down this locals’ spot is my absolute favorite for families. With recently updated bathrooms and a snack shack, Moonlight lets you spend a whole day in the sand with everything you need to keep kids happy. To top it off, there’s a play structure and park for those that want a little extra entertainment. Though it tends to get very crowded in the on-season, try venturing over to the far north as there tends to be a little more space.

> Find out more about the beaches in Encinitas

Seaside in Cardiff

Though this destination charges a daily parking fee, it’s a favorite because you can park the car right next to the sand, making carrying all your snacks, buckets and shovels a little more convenient. It’s a great place to swim and complete with bathrooms in the lot just in case. During summer months, food trucks have been known to sell food for a convenient lunch.

> Find out more about the beaches in Cardiff-by-the-Sea

Fletcher Cove Solana Beach

My favorite way to make an entire day of the beach is to start with an ocean view breakfast at the delicious Naked Café across from Fletcher Cover. After filling up on coffee and pancakes, make your way down the ramp to the water, noting the convenient bathroom locations along with a park for a few rides on the swing. Once you’ve had your fill of sun and swimming in the white water waves, finish off the day at family friendly Pizza Port, a short walk up the street.

> Find out more about the beaches in Solana Beach

La Jolla Shores

Undoubtedly one of the most break taking spots in all of San Diego is La Jolla, known as “The Crown Jewel.” Though many of the beaches have a dangerous “shore break”, the Shores is a gentle, bay like destination that is ideal for smaller children. Also equipped with bathrooms and a play structure, sandwich and ice cream shops are a short block or two away.

> Find out more about the beaches in La Jolla

Coronado Silver Strand

With gorgeous white sands to choose from, my top pick for fewer crowds during peak season is to head to the stretch of the Silver Strand just before the Coronado Cays. Gorgeous beaches await as does a “tunnel” that will lead you to the Loews Coronado Bay Resort to pick up a picnic lunch from their Market to Go cafe.

> Find out more about the beaches in Coronado

> Discover all of San Diego’s Beaches

Robert Arends

La Jolla: A Dazzling Destination for Your Wedding’s “I Do”!

Lovely La Valencia Hotel wedding.

Lovely La Valencia Hotel wedding.

Spring is here and love is in the air! San Diego’s sun and warmth beckon couples to begin planning their dream wedding – and honeymoon – along one of Southern California’s most picturesque and pristine stretches of coastline: La Jolla, the “Jewel of San Diego.”

This lovely seaside town is tailor made for romance with breathtaking scenery, sparkling beaches, close to perfect year-round weather and elegant venues that go above and beyond to make your big day a memorable one.

A few of La Jolla’s Most Notable Wedding Offerings

The romantic Lodge at Torrey Pines.

The romantic Lodge at Torrey Pines.

Situated on coastal bluffs with panoramic views of the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course, The Lodge at Torrey Pines dazzles with its grand California Craftsman setting and offers three all-inclusive wedding packages that cover everything from the ceremony, reception and cake cutting to deluxe accommodations for the wedding couple.

Nestled in the heart of Torrey Pines mesa, the enchanting Spanish rancho-style Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa welcomes wedding couples with richly landscaped outdoor spaces and elegant interior event rooms. Their Romance & Rendezvous Stay Package, perfect for honeymoons, features accommodations and 50-minute couple’s massages; upgrade to the Couples Bungalow for the ultimate private romantic escape.

Beachside wedding bliss at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.

Beachside wedding bliss at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.

The landmark La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club celebrates 80 years of “happily-ever-afters” on one of SoCal’s few private beaches. La Jolla Shores Hotel, its adjacent sister property, is equally ideal for beachfront nuptials.

In La Jolla Village, the chic La Valencia Hotel has become a tradition for wedding couples, featuring indoor and outdoor venues with phenomenal ocean views. If money is no object (translation: ULTRA-luxurious), check out La V’s Ultimate Wedding Collection’s California Experience which transforms the whole hotel into the wedding party’s private Mediterranean-style villa!

Bride at the Grande Colonial hotel.

Bride at the Grande Colonial hotel.

A perfect marriage of historic grandeur and modern luxury await wedding couples at the Grande Colonial, offering postcard-perfect settings overlooking the Pacific. Their Wedding Reception Package includes tray passed hors d’oeuvres, a champagne toast and one-night stay for the newlyweds, complete with breakfast in bed the following morning.

Two other fabulously unique La Jolla wedding locations are the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego with ocean views and a modern architectural backdrop, and Birch Aquarium at Scripps, pairing the enchantment “under the sea” with stunning views of the Pacific.

> Plan Your Dream Wedding in San Diego

If you’re recently engaged, I propose you check out La Jolla for a wedding that will seriously wow you and your family and friends! 🙂

Sarah Weinberg

Mommies Go Glamping at San Diego KOA Resort

I’m not a camper, my parents were not campers, but I want my kids to experience more than I did, so when I was invited by a friend for a Mother-Daughters “glamping” trip (Glamorous Camping), I thought it was the perfect way to ease into the rustic outdoor life.

Cabin Glamping – Home for the Weekend

Glamping with a San Diego KOA Cabin

Home for the weekend! The cutest luxury cabin, all ready to go for our glamping weekend.

It turns out glamping at KOA San Diego Metro is far from rustic. Our two-bedroom-plus-sleeping-loft deluxe cabin housed us six glamping girls beautifully. Everything was provided to make us comfortable in the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and outdoors.

No need to roll up your sleeping bag: bedding, pillows and towels are provided inside this luxury escape.

Enjoying The Comforortable Great Outdoors

As for outdoors, yes! It was great making s’mores at our own personal fire pit using the cooking utensils, firewood and starter provided by the campground.

Outdoors in January in San Diego, no problem! This campground heats its pool to 80 degrees and the external temp was in the mid-70s for our visit, so we roughed it poolside with towels provided.

A heated pool and jacuzzi added to the glamour of our January camping weekend.

A heated pool and jacuzzi added to the glamour of our January camping weekend.

Outdoor Exercise?

You bet! Even our dog had a dog park and canine obstacle course onsite to romp around. For human guests, there’s a rock climbing wall and playground with play structure. The most exciting outdoor activity for our girls was an inflated jump hump that puzzled us all as we scouted the camp the evening we arrived. Since it is deflated at night; we wondered, “what could it be?”

An outdoor bouncing area was the highlight of the girls' afternoon.

An outdoor bouncing area was the highlight of these glamping girls’ afternoon.

By morning the girls discovered the joys of an alfresco bounce house.

The camp also provides bike, surrey bike and other wacky pedal equipment for rental, so our kids enjoyed trying out a variety of contraptions.

Ready to race around the KOA Metro San Diego campground.

Ready to race around the KOA Metro San Diego campground.

A tip from a friend who stores her RV at this park and regularly escapes here for a hassle-free weekend: Have your kids bring their skates, skateboards and scooters, as this is a kid-friendly, low-traffic paved campground and at dusk there were groups of newly-made friends scooting through the campsite working up an appetite for BBQ and s’mores.

Outdoor Dining?

You betcha! We dined at our own picnic table on the front “patio” area, using the propane BBQ outside the cabin to grill our own food the first night. The second night we were treated to The Sandcastle Café, KOAs new locally sourced onsite café with outdoor seating area. This little kitchen can do it all, serving delicious, reasonably priced options grown from an onsite garden and neighboring organic farm housed on land owned by the campground. The kale salad was delightful and healthy, the sweet potato fries and pulled pork sandwiches disappeared too quickly, and the hamburger pizza was a hit with the kids. Note: The café’s freshly brewed lattes made our morning constitution along the river all the more civilized.

After an evening stroll, we left the great outdoors to play board games inside the cabin and enjoyed a good night’s sleep on fresh sheets (that I did not have to take home and launder)!

About the San Diego KOA Campground

Located only minutes from downtown, this KOA campsite was founded by a local family and continues to be run by three generations of the Bell family. When Ted and Carol Bell purchased beautiful land next to the San Diego River in 1968 and decided to make it a campground, they could not have anticipated the phenomenal urban growth that would eventually extend to their rustic site and result with a property smack dab in the center of it all. For visitors, day trips to the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld or the nearby Aquatica SeaWorld’s Water Park take only 20 minutes because the freeway is so close.

Mature trees, tidy landscaping and well paved paths make biking around the KOA Metro San Diego campground a joy.

Mature trees, tidy landscaping and well paved paths make biking around the KOA Metro San Diego campground a joy.

The trees planted on the site in the 1960s make for mature foliage and there are many regulars who park their RVs in the lots and stay for an extended time. In addition to the deluxe cabins with all mod cons, standard cabins and tents that sleep up to six are available to rent, so the campground really does provide for all types of camping experiences. While it turns out my daughter was not introduced to “camping” on this trip, it was a delightful getaway from city within the city.

> Find out more about Camping in San Diego

Todd Bluechel

San Diego Sport Fishing – The Winter Season

Sport Fishing Catch
Sport Fishing Catch

Feel the rush of excitement when you hook one (or two) during a sport fishing excursion from San Diego

San Diego’s five main sport fishing landings are home to over 70 sport boats and while not all of them operate during the winter months, many run year-round offering exciting day trips or long range trips.

2014 delivered some of the best sport fishing ever and all indicators are showing 2015 offers fisherman another incredible opportunity to hook up. San Diego’s winter season is in full swing, with great weather so far, and boats reporting good catches.

Sport Fishing Day Trips

Day trips are available Monday through Friday, generally 8:00AM to 3:00 PM, with two a day trips offered on the weekends – generally 6:30 AM to 12:30 PM and 1:00 PM to 6:30 PM. Day boats fish along San Diego’s coast and kelp beds catching Rock Fish, Sculpin, Bonito, Kelp Bass and Yellowtail.

Multi-Day Sport Fishing Trips

Long range trips are running anywhere from an easy 2 day trip to 23 days for the hard core enthusiast. The shorter trips generally fish along the Baja Coast or Coronado Islands and with this seasons usually warm water continue great luck with Yellowtail, Yellowfin, and Bluefin.

Trips of 4 to 6 days typically fish along the Baja Coast and visit Guadalupe Island, San Martin, Geronimo, Cedros and San Benitos islands. Boats in this category are reporting excellent weather, calm seas, and great fishing.

Trips of 8 to 12 days offer the most variety in fishing action as fishermen explore the southwestern Baja coastline from San Pablo to Magdalena Bay, often with a run out to Alijos Rocks.  Hundreds of miles out at sea, and in sharp contrast to the surrounding blue sky and cobalt blue waters, lay the dark brown Alejos Rocks majestically projecting out of the surrounding deep ocean waters.

These pinnacles offer a sanctuary for life in an otherwise vast open desert. Migrating schools of yellowfin, bluefin, yellowtail, dorado and wahoo circle these rocks dining on the schools of bait, just waiting to be caught. Other productive locations visited during long range trips may include the Revillagigedo Islands, the Hurricane Bank, Clarion Island and the Clipperton Island to name a few.

Trips of 14 to 23 days offer the ultimate in big game fishing opportunities for the large pelagic’s visiting exotic locations such as the Hurricane Bank, Puerto Vallarta, Cleofus Bank, or even the remote Clipperton atoll. These long range boats not only offer luxurious accommodations and fine dining but because they utilize state of the art fish finding technologies they can locate yellowfin in the 200 to 300 pound range and when everything comes together (including weather, tides, the moon, quality gear, and no banana’s on board) there is a chance you too can become one of the few, the elite fishermen to join the 400 pound yellowfin monster club.

> Find out more about Fishing in San Diego

Todd Lynch

Lobster Season in San Diego – Things That Go Bump in the Night

California Spiny Lobster during Lobster Season
California Spiny Lobster during Lobster Season

Catch a California Spiny Lobster during the annual Lobster Season in San Diego. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Lobster season opens on the Saturday prior to the first Wednesday in October and closes on the first Wednesday after March 15th, and is designed to protect the lobster population from overfishing during their summer reproductive cycle.

The California Spiny Lobster can live 50 years and grow up to 25 pounds. At a market value of 20 dollars a pound, even the typical two or three-pound specimen is a worthy catch. Unlike its East Coast counterpart, the Spiny Lobster doesn’t have claws, but it’s still a tricky business to catch one, especially when you consider that divers are only allowed to use their bare (gloved) hands. Nocturnal hunters, they hide deep in caves and crevices by day, so divers typically do their hunting at night as well, when the lobsters – or “bugs” – venture out into the open. And, on the eve of opening day, it’s traditional among San Diego divers to gather at favorite hunting grounds at midnight, when bug season officially begins. Dive clubs and shops hold organized events on opening weekend, with prizes awarded for the biggest catch.

Try a Night Dive during Lobster Season

Night diving is a surreal experience, focusing all your attention on the small area illuminated by the beam of your underwater flashlight. It’s not hard to spot lobsters, sideling across the bottom, and you’re likely to feel others bumping into you unseen. They’re not fast on their feet, but they can buck like a bronco when captured and jet backwards in a quick flip of the tail. The trick is to freeze them like a deer in the headlights, then quickly grab them from behind and wrangle them into your game bag. Lucky divers return home for a late night lobster feast, while non-diving spectators can enjoy the bounty of fresh lobster offered by local markets and restaurants this time of year.

What to Know about Lobster Season

In addition to knowing the dates of lobster season, there are a few other important rules and regulations to be aware of before trying your luck:

  • Residents and visitors alike (16 years and older) are required to have a valid California Sportfishing License
  • Lobster hunters of all ages must have a current Spiny Lobster Report Card
  • The minimum size limit is three-and-a-quarter inches measured from the eye socket to the rear of the body shell (divers carry a measuring device for this purpose)
  • The maximum bag limit per day is seven lobsters
  • Lobsters can only be caught by hand (not with nets, spears or other tackle)

It goes without saying that diving requires formal training, especially at night. Always go with a buddy, know your limits and dive safe. For more information check with California Fish and Wildlife or a local dive or fishing outfitter.

> Find out more about Sportfishing in San Diego


Hike the San Diego Stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail - Courtesy Jeff Turner
Pacific Crest Trail - Courtesy Jeff Turner

Are you “Wild” enough to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Photo courtesy of Jeff Turner

Lots of weekend hikers who’ve read Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, – or have seen the just-out movie starring Reese Witherspoon – have been inspired to hike at least a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

San Diego is the place to do it. The 2,650-mile-long PCT runs from Mexico to Canada – and its first 133 miles meander through San Diego’s backyard.

Starting Point

The Pacific Crest Trail begins in Campo, at the U.S./Mexico border fence, about 50 miles east of downtown San Diego. From there it traverses a range of topography and climate zones – from the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (to be avoided in summer) to the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest, where trails can sometimes be snowbound in winter.

Dozens of Day-Hike Trails

There are dozens of sections of the trail accessible to day-hikers. Get great views of the desert floor and 17 surrounding peaks from the Mount Laguna section of the trail near Foster Point. Follow the trail as it wends its way along golden hillsides studded with live oak and chaparral south of Warner Springs. (You’ll see the 100-mile PCT trail marker here.) The trail crosses into Riverside County at mile 133, north of Warner Springs.

> Download Free Pacific Crest Trail Maps

Quick Need to Knows about the Pacific Crest Trail

  • The PCT is open only to hikers, equestrians and dogs on leashes. Leave your dirt bike at home.
  • Be sure to carry lots of water. And keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and poison oak.
  • Parking permits are required in some areas. Get them at San Diego area outdoor stores such as REI.

> Learn more at the Pacific Crest Trail Association

Brent Bernasconi

Where to See Christmas Lights in San Diego this Holiday Season

Warm up the car, fill a thermos to the brim with hot chocolate and grab some cookies so the whole family can enjoy an evening of twinkling Christmas lights in San Diego.

> Check out the 2015 Edition

Please note, some light displays and events are weather dependent.

Here are just a few of San Diego’s Christmas Lights highlights:

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

View more than 80 decorated boats at the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights!

More than 80 lavishly decorated boats will sail over the calm waters of the Big Bay during the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. The parade starts at Shelter Island and makes it way down to the Ferry Landing on Coronado. Make sure to arrive early at one of the viewing spots that include: Harbor Island, Shelter Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village and along the pathway on Coronado.

Dates: Sundays, December 14 and 21, 2014
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights

Mission Bay Parade of Lights

Mission Bay Lights Up during the holiday season.

Dozens of vessels will take to the waters of Mission Bay with decorations and lights aboard. Arrive early to secure a good viewing spot on Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island or the west side of Fiesta Island.

Date: December 8, 2012
Time: 7:00 to 9:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights

Boats of all sizes get decked out with holiday lights and circle Oceanside Harbor

Fishing boats, sailboats, yachts, kayaks and dingys dressed up in holiday swag and circle the Oceanside Harbor to enchant onlookers at the harbor, restaurants and beach. Many of the boats feature people dressed up like Santa waving to the crowd. One of the best viewing spots is along the side of the Oceanside Harbor near the fishing dock and police station. From this vantage point, you can see the parade twice!

Where: Oceanside Harbor, Oceanside, CA 92054
When: December 13, 2014
Time: 7:00 to 9:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the Oceanside Parade of Lights

Garden of Lights

Garden of Lights San Diego Botanic Garden - Christmas Lights

Lights, flowers and s’mores – what more could you ask for? (photo by by John Bryant)

At night, the San Diego Botanic Garden is transformed into a winter wonderland with over 100,000 lights, live music, horse drawn wagon rides, warm beverages and snow (on certain days, make sure to check in advance). Just make sure to bring a sled (no metal runners please).

Location: 230 Quail Gardens Dr, Encinitas, CA 92024
Dates: December 6-24, 2014 (Closed December 24-25)
Time: 5:00 to 9:00 PM
> Find out more about Garden of Lights

Christmas Lights at San Diego Attractions

Belardo Lights in Tierrasanta

A labor of love by two parents for their two sons with autism, the Schimka family has been lighting up Belardo Drive for the past seven years while raising money for the National Foundation for Autism Research. The display, which is synchronized to the music on 106.1 FM, has grown tremendously over the years and this year will include a new animated snowman and an improved spiral mega tree!

Location: 5306 Belardo Drive, San Diego, CA 92124
Dates: Through December 27, 2014
Time: 6:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: Free, please consider making a donation
> Find out more about Belardo Lights in Tierrasanta

Curtis Muller’s Bright Christmas

Curtis Muller puts on an incredible “symphony of light” as he likes to call it. The 15 minute shows feature lights, lasers, and fog machines synchronized to classic holiday music.

Location: 3757 South Mission Road, Fallbrook, CA 92028
Dates: December 19-23 & 25, 2014
Showtimes: 6:30 PM, 7:15 PM, 8:00 PM, 8:45 PM.
Cost: TBD
> Find out more about Curtis Muller’s Bright Christmas

Popular San Diego Neighborhoods with Christmas Lights

There are plenty of San Diego neighborhoods who collectively get into the holiday spirit with entire blocks lit up with Christmas lights. San Diego Family Magazine has collected all the locations on one printout you can download via the link below.

> Download the San Diego Family Magazine Map of Christmas Lights (PDF)

> Discover Even More Holiday Excitement in San Diego

Know of any other great Christmas lights in San Diego or have any updates to the ones listed above? Let us and others know in the comments below.

Robert Arends

Mission Valley is Full of Family Fun During October’s Kids Free in San Diego

Kids rule during Kids Free San Diego month!

Kids rule during Kids Free San Diego month!

The Kidvasion has begun! The 3rd annual Kids Free San Diego month kicks off today and continues through Halloween. Kids are sure to get a kick out of being VIPs (or should we say, VIKs – Very Important Kids 😉 ) all month long.

As you and your family are in town exploring the sights or planning a fun-filled fall visit to San Diego, be sure to check out these kids free deals in Mission Valley, conveniently located in the middle of it all just minutes from many major attractions.


Mission Trails Regional Park

Old Mission Dam - Mission Trails Regional Park

Enjoy the sound of the San Diego river rushing through the Old Mission Dam with a free hike through Mission Trails

Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the nation’s largest urban natural parks, is free for the whole family to explore, bike and hike 42 miles of scenic trails, including paths to the historic Old Mission Dam/San Diego River and to the top of Cowles Mountain, famous for its spectacular 360-degre views. The interactive Visitor Center is cool too, as are free guided nature walks every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 AM.

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Take a trip back in time at Mission San Diego

Take a trip back in time at Mission San Diego

Take a trip back to the time of the Spanish explorers and Franciscan friars who discovered San Diego at Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first mission in California (founded in 1769 and relocated to its present site in 1774). Children under 6 are free to tour the little museum (kids 6 to 12 are only $2). The Mission church and grounds, including a cool excavation site out back, are free for all to explore.

Junipero Serra Museum

Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill

Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill

Kids under 6 are also free at Junipero Serra Museum on Presidio Hill overlooking Mission Valley and Old Town. It was here in 1769 that the Spanish friar Junípero Serra and a group of soldiers built California’s first mission and a fort (called “presidio” in Spanish). The original buildings are gone, but an impressive Spanish-style museum sits on the site today.


Lots of restaurants in Mission Valley’s hotels and resorts are rolling out the red carpet for children 12 and under. Kids eat free (with purchase of an adult entrée) at:

Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley

Kids eat free at the tiki-tastic Crowne Plaza Hotel!

At Doubletree by Hilton-Mission Valley, kids (up to two per room) can choose a free entrée from the children’s menu at the Fountain Café and Windows Lounge. Kids’ breakfasts are free at Ramada Conference Center plus free eats for kids at Sheraton Mission Valley!


Upon check in, Comfort Inn & Suites Hotel Circle is giving out a free welcome gift to each kid who checks in. WAY cool!

> Discover more of San Diego’s Mission Valley

As you can see, there are money-saving deals galore! See you in Mission Valley 🙂