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 University of Oregon and the University of North Carolina. Before the game, make sure to plan for the West Coast’s biggest balloon parade, a bash in the Gaslamp Quarter and plenty of other festivities. Don’t forget to stay after the game for the return of the spectacular 101.5 KGB Sky Show.
And it’s all conveniently centered close to the bustling downtown, 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 $55 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 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. If you’re winging your way into San Diego International Airport, grab a ride on the new San Diego Flyer. This 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
Make sure to get into town early so you can catch all the great Holiday Bowl pregame events:
- Snapdragon Bowl Bash, Dec. 27 – A one-of-a-kind performance as the two university bands face off in a Battle of the Bands in the streets of downtown San Diego. This event is free for all fans and also features, photo booths, interactive games, street performers, food & drink specials from participating restaurants and a photo op with the SDCCU Holiday Bowl Trophy.
- SDCCU Holiday Bowl 5K Run/Walk, Dec. 28 – A healthy, fun way to kick your bowl experience while you run past 10,000 cheering spectators along San Diego’s beautiful harbor front.
- Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade, Dec. 28 – America’s Largest Balloon Parade brings together world-class marching bands, magnificent floats, entertaining drill teams and a procession of enormous balloons.
- 2022 Tailgate Party, Dec. 28 – Join fans to kick off the evening of football and fun at the Holiday Bowl Tailgate Party. This exclusive event will take place at Venue 808 next to the ballpark, guests will enjoy food, beer and wine. A limited number of tickets are available to the public. All ages welcome!
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 Baja Rick’s Cantina, which spotlights that San Diego icon, the fish taco. And Bub’s at the Ballpark, a prime spot for burgers and more. You can find more great places to grab a bite to eat with our pre/post-game spots guide.
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. Cap off your meal with a cookie or two from The Cravory, an Oprah favorite for 2022.
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 the new year? From a romantic evening on the water to party time at local clubs and restaurants, options abound for ringing in 2023, 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:
- San Diego Zoo’s Jungle Bells, through Jan. 1 – Featuring the return of the music-and-lights spectacular Aurora, plus live musical performances, holiday taste treats and more.
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Wild Holidays, through Jan. 1 – Featuring special wildlife experiences, decorations and a festive atmosphere.
- SeaWorld Christmas Celebration, through Jan. 8 – Meet Rudolph and Santa, and take in a San Diego “snowfall” and fireworks; or enjoy candy-topped hot chocolate under the park’s 30-foot Christmas tree.
- Sesame Place’s A Very Furry Christmas Celebration, through Jan. 8 – A festive winter wonderland filled with holiday magic and surprises, Christmas shows, the Sesame Street Christmas Parade, the Furry Friends Christmas Dance Party, and exciting rides.
- Holidays at Legoland, through Jan. 8 – Marvel at the Christmas tree decorated with more than 400 LEGO ornaments, meet your favorite characters of the season, and don’t miss the light show set to holiday songs.