My wife likes to say that she hates Christmas. She says it when the traditions start to feel like nothing more than obligations, when the outings become ordeals, when the expenses become extravagances. What’s awful and silly about this is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a reason they call it the Christmas spirit: it’s incorruptible. Maybe it’s been a tough year. Maybe it’s been a tough five years. So, how can you celebrate when things are so rough? How can you not?
I think I’ll take her down to the Del to see the big tree in the old-timey lobby and watch the skaters by the beach. “Start fresh,” I’ll say. “Look up and look around. How grand is it that this whole city is gearing up to show us a good time? Armies of planners and makers and doers, all of them on our side. All of them on the side of a Merry Christmas. Yeah, there’s stuff to buy. It’s wonderful stuff — we’ll buy a little! There’s stuff to do and stuff to see, some that costs but some that’s free.”
I’ll stop there, before she slaps me for rhyming. And I think she’ll believe me. It’s Christmas.
— Matthew Lickona
10678 Sunrise Highway, Mount Laguna
Sledding on Laguna Mountain
A benefit of San Diego living is that a quick drive up Sunrise Highway allows us to have epic snowball fights and sledding adventures without the hassle of dealing with pesky cold weather downsides like shoveling and de-icing car windows. At Laguna Mountain Lodge they provide day visitors with directions to nearby sledding locations. Purchase an adventure permit for $5, enabling you to park legally and avoid $200 fines. After a long, powder-filled day, the lodge offers rooms and cabins to accommodate holiday plans, $63–$195
12551 Highway 79, Descanso
Snow hike to Stonewall Peak
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, across from Paso Picacho Campground, Highway 79, Descanso, 760-765-0755
Approximately 50 miles east of San Diego on State Route 79 stands the 5730-foot Stonewall Peak. Although many guidebooks advise to take the two-mile hike to the top during the spring, it’s less crowded and equally scenic (wildflowers be damned!) after a snowfall. An easy/moderate, tree-lined, heavily switchbacked trail with a 700-foot elevation gain makes it suitable for young’uns. Those steep stone steps one must traverse on that final ascent (the best part) might be icy, but the metal handrail will save the day and the 360-degree views on the exposed rocky summit are well worth any possible struggle.
3801 30th Street, North Park
Stepping into Pigment’s 3000-square-foot clean-lined space is like entering a gift-giving wonderland where you want it to be your birthday every day. Small batch, hand-picked items like cantaloupe-vanilla jam, grenadine, strawberry-fennel syrup, brightly-colored felted ornaments, and locally-made crystalline gem jewelry comingle with Falcon-brand’s Americana enamelware, eclectic Rifle Paper Co. greeting cards and wrapping sheets, Voluspa luxury candles, and Mast Brothers chocolate. Pigment’s Plant Lab houses glass eco-orb terrariums waiting to be filled with a succulents, pebbles, colored sand and mosses. Do it yourself or have one of their specialists do it for you.
1212 Knoxville Street, Bay Park
Having trouble getting into the holiday spirit? City Lights will cure you of your Grinchy tendencies right quick. Since 1989 they’ve wowed visitors with 28,000 square feet of charming festive displays, even having shipped over 50 brands of collectible figures to 56 countries. Think an enormous, plastic-walled, snowy village scene complete with locomotive, rows of colored garland and ornaments, and almost 30 different styles of Barcana artificial trees. including a Nutcracker-themed pink-flocked tree, parrots perched on a lime-green number, a posh peacock-adorned tree, and an all-white beauty covered in chic sparkly and feathery ornaments.
2205 Fern Street, South Park
Keeping things out of the landfill, one item at a time, Bad Madge is chock-full of pre-screened treasures hand-picked by San Diego-native Tanya McAnear and members of her team — each one with a different specialty. Ninety percent of the inventory is considered vintage, yet the barware, records, furniture, dresses, books, pillbox hats, pins, brooches, metal toys, coats, mini liquor bottles, hair pins, shell casings, cowboy boots, dress shoes, suiting, and art are priced with more of a thrift store mentality. Everything is for sale, which means the display surfaces are constantly changing so you’ll have to come often.
989 West Kalmia Street, Little Italy
inside Klassik, 989 W. Kalmia Street, Little Italy, 619-640-6995
Self-described as a store within a store within a store, The Platform is a beautifully-designed 250-square-foot oasis, tucked into Mid-Century furniture store Klassik, that begs you to stay awhile. Curated by the creative minds behind Tend’s eco-orbs, Jetter Green’s sacred geometry art, and JXL’s gollypods (also of Bells & Whistles), their individual projects are highlighted while focusing on various aspects of others’ art. Think collaborations between jewelry designers and plant purveyors in the form of miniature, wearable terrariums; metal weavings from UK’s Nativeline; Lia Friedman pottery; Mr. Blue Skye’s hand-dyed silk kimonos; and Bearhead Factory’s cosmic, goddess-like jewelry.
1947 30th Street, South Park
Wanna be the cool aunt/uncle/grandma/Santa this year? Since 2007, Leyla Chavez has been stocking her children’s boutique, So Childish, with everything from Charm’s adorable animal rockers to Mudpie’s leopard-printed faux fur boots to Star Wars books on how to speak Wookie and Droid. Doesn’t get more fun than pretending to be Chewie, does it? There are classic wooden toys, luxe animal coats complete with ears and tail, Rockabye Baby’s lullaby renditions of your favorite bands (read: Johnny Cash, Nirvana, and more), and even toy instruments. They’ve done the hard work for you — you simply need to find something in your price range.
2207 Fern Street, South Park
Serious about buying local? Enter Make Good. The store currently houses about 130 local artisans’ works — 90 percent San Diegans, 10% percent from Baja — all of whom have a personal, working relationship with proprietor Sophia Hall. Pick up anything in the store and she’ll tell you the who, where, and how. The 35 jewelry artists produce trinkets like rings made from coins or glass bottles, pocket-watch necklaces, bicycle-part jewelry, and rose pins constructed from paperback books. You’ll also find hand-painted henna frames, knitted goods, coasters and notebooks crafted from vinyl records, and an entire corner devoted to kids’ items.