Local Traditions Keep the Holiday Cheer Alive

San Diegans may not experience classic white winters, but we still know how to celebrate the season. In fact, our sunny weather makes December an even better time to take our holiday cheer to the streets. From people to pets and from shore to sea, San Diego has a parade perfect for everyone.

Head to North Park on Dec. 6 for the 51st Annual North Park Toyland Parade, a local tradition that dates back to 1936 and was reborn in the late 1980s. Every year, University Ave. fills with marching bands, dance teams, beauty queens, local dignitaries, and community members eager to strut their stuff. Special guests include the new Queen of the North Park Toyland Parade and Santa Claus himself. You won’t want to leave Toyland, and you won’t have to – the Toyland Festival will prolong the magic with pony rides, inflatables, food trucks, and live musical performances.


Parades aren’t just for people, and your four-legged friends can join the fun in the Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade on Dec. 14. Dress up in your holiday best and promenade through the historic Gaslamp Quarter with a bevy of other celebrants, starting and ending at the Gaslamp Hilton Park. Awards are available in categories such as Best Pet Costume, Cutest Critter, and Ugliest Holiday Sweater. Pets and their human chaperones will get a free bag of goodies at the accompanying Pet Expo.

San Diego is known as a surf and turf hotspot, and the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights keeps the holiday spirit afloat – literally! On Dec. 14 and 21, over eighty illuminated boats will proceed from Shelter Island past Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, and Ferry Landing in Coronado. Participants will bedeck their boats in lights and decorations according to this year’s theme of “Children’s Stories”. Various award categories are judged on creativity of lighting, music, and other special effects. Whether sailing your own boat or camping out on the shore, watch the water come alive with light and sound.



Dec. 6
North Park Toyland Parade

Vista Chamber of Commerce
Comic Book Parade

Dec. 7
La Jolla Christmas Parade and Festival

Kiwanis Club of San Marcos
Holiday Parade

Dec. 14
Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade

Dec. 14, 21
Parade of Lights

Dec. 26
Big Bay Balloon Parade