San Diego is ready to go Bowl-ing by the bay – and you’re invited to join the party! For the first time, the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, one of college football’s most prestigious postseason contests, will take place at Petco Park, the bayside home of the San Diego Padres. But there’s a whole lot more going on besides the Dec. 28 faceoff between the UCLA Bruins and the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Make sure to pland for the West Coast’s biggest balloon parade, a concert and plenty of other festivities. And it’s all conveniently centered close to the always-hopping Gaslamp Quarter, chic local hotels and San Diego’s beautiful waterfront. Read on to find out how you can kick off a whole weekend (or more) of football and fun with a Holiday Bowl trip to San Diego.
Get in the Game
Holiday Bowl tickets start at $90 and are now available. Besides entry to the game – taking place on a specially redesigned field – your ticket also gets you full access to the Holiday Bowl Pregame Party at Gallagher Square inside Petco Park, with interactive games, food, drinks, photo booths, music and a whole lot more. Game time is 5 p.m. Dec. 28; the Pregame Party starts at 2 p.m. Keep in mind that all tickets are digital and can be accessed in the MLB Ballpark app for scanning and entry.
Stay in Style
San Diego has a hotel to fit every budget and taste, and plenty are practically within punting distance of Petco. The Pendry San Diego, just a few blocks from the park, is a visitor favorite and comes complete with a boutique spa. Perched at the gateway to the Gaslamp, the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego is a sleek, chic destination stay, with amenities from a rooftop pool bar to free use of Fender guitars in-room. And just outside the Gaslamp, the Westgate Hotel and the US Grant Hotel offer luxury in the heart of downtown.
San Diego’s just-debuted UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley Extension also opens up scads of excellent stays that are a quick ride up the tracks, from the Fairfield Inn & Suites in historic Old Town to the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine and the San Diego Marriott La Jolla, both in the Golden Triangle.
Covering the yardage
There are lots of great ways to get to – and around – San Diego besides hopping in a car. Book a relaxing, scenic beachside passage on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner. This relaxing train serves the Old Town and Santa Fe stations from Orange County, L.A. and points north. If you’re winging your way into San Diego International Airport, grab a ride on the new San Diego Flyer, an electric shuttle service that will whisk you from your terminal to the Old Town Transit Center. From there, you can step onto a Coaster train, trolley or bus that will take you straight downtown or to numerous other places around the city.
Warm up for the fun
You’ll want to make sure to get into town early so you can catch all the great Holiday Bowl pregame events. The fun starts the evening of Dec. 27 with the Snapdragon Bowl Bash & Concert. Enjoy live performances by ‘80s favorites A Flock of Seagulls, Missing Persons, The English Beat and Taylor Dayne. The show, which starts at 6 p.m. at Petco, benefits Rady Children’s Hospital. Game day brings the ever-spectacular Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade. Colorful aerial characters will take a high-flying tour along Harbor Drive starting at 10 a.m. (Limited grandstand tickets are available, but streetside viewing is free.) Looking to up your pregame game? Check out the TIG Tailgate Party, an exclusive event offering food, beer and wine at Venue 808 next to the park, from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 28. (A separate ticket is required.)
Score some fantastic food
San Diego has become a culinary wonderland, and the downtown area offers a huge range of delicious options. On the more casual side, there are such ballpark-adjacent favorites as the Tin Fish Gaslamp, which spotlights that San Diego icon, the fish taco; and Bub’s at the Ballpark, a prime spot for burgers and more. For a special-occasion experience, check out the stylish Lionfish or the numerous other options at the Pendry Hotel San Diego; or just a little farther afield, “Top Chef” finalist Brian Malarkey’s Pan Asian-inspired Animae. And if you’re on a quest for top-flight sushi, two of San Diego’s four Michelin-star restaurants – both sushi specialists – are within a few miles of downtown: Soichi in University Heights, and Sushi Tadokoro in Old Town.
Once you’re at the game, you’ll hardly need to leave your seat to savor some San Diego taste treats. In-park eats include everything from Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill’s grilled fish tacos, to pizza from Buona Forchetta and Pizza Port, to Cardiff Seaside Market’s trademark tri-tip nachos. The L’il Slugger kids meal is also available throughout the park.
Take your trip into overtime
And as long as you’re here, why not take in everything San Diego has to offer right up through New Year’s? From a romantic evening on the water to party time at local clubs and restaurants, options abound for ringing in 2022, San Diego-style, and making your New Year’s Eve one for the memory books.
Plus, don’t miss all the merry holiday happenings at San Diego’s world-famous attractions. The San Diego Zoo celebrates the season with Jungle Bells (through Jan. 2), featuring the return of the music-and-lights spectacular Aurora, plus live musical performances, holiday taste treats and more. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park brings its own zing to the season with Wild Holidays (through Jan. 2) featuring special wildlife experiences, decorations and a festive atmosphere. At SeaWorld Christmas Celebration (through Jan. 2), you can check out a holiday-themed cirque show, meet Rudolph and Sesame Street buddies, and take in a San Diego “snowfall” and fireworks; or enjoy candy-topped hot chocolate under the park’s 30-foot Christmas tree. And Holidays at Legoland (through Jan. 9) offers its own Christmas tree decorated with more than 400 LEGO ornaments; the park also is hosting meet-and-greets with favorite characters of the season, plus a light show set to holiday songs.