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Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre

2130 Pan American Road West, Balboa Park

It’s The Merry Christmas Show at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre in Balboa Park.

Puppet Christmas

When was the last time you saw a show with hand-puppets? Use your preschooler as an excuse to do it again. The 200-seat Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater’s holiday schedule includes free evening performances of A Christmas Carol (December 6 and 7) during Balboa Park’s December Nights, and regularly priced daytime performances of The Merry Christmas Show (December 10-15), Benito Bunny’s Great Christmas Adventure (December 18 to 22), and Jack and the Beanstalk (December 26-30.) Bonus: this is one of the last places left that still offers entertainment for $5 or less.

House of Blues

1055 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

House of Blues Gospel Brunch

Get your gospel on over Bloody Marys and an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet featuring Southern favorites such as chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, and Creole chicken jambalaya. On December 22, a special holiday-themed gospel show will get you in the spirit, with a little help from the Bloody Mary Bar. Choose from premium vodkas and get creative with the fixin’s: shrimp, beef jerky, olives, pickled okra, and more. All seats are assigned, and reservations are required. Ticket cost ($39.50 for adults, $17.50 for children ages 6-12, free for children under 6) includes entertainment, food, nonalcoholic beverages, tax, and gratuity.

San Marcos tree lighting ceremony

The City of San Marcos presents its annual Santa’s Magical Village on Saturday, December 7 from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 8 from 10:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. The event features an indoor holiday boutique as well as activities for children, including ornament-making, sand art, candle creation, and visits with Santa. Band and choral-group performances will take place throughout the weekend, and on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Santa Claus will climb to the top of the tree and turn on thousands of twinkling lights. Entertainment for the tree-lighting ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m.

San Marcos Civic Center

1 Civic Center Drive, San Marcos

Pancake breakfast with Santa Claus

As part of the City of San Marcos’ annual Santa’s Magical Village, children and adults can feast on pancakes with Santa Claus. The breakfast takes place from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 8, and the cost ($4 for adults, $3 for children) includes pancakes, sausages, eggs, and photo opportunities with the big, jolly man himself. Afterward, families can browse the holiday village and participate in crafty activities. And if the pancakes aren’t enough, specialty food vendors will be on hand to accommodate.

La Jolla Wine Tours

7514 Girard Avenue, Suite 1110, La Jolla

Holiday winery and train tour

There is no need for a designated driver when everyone’s taking the train. Jump onboard the Coaster with La Jolla Wine Tours. Tour includes stops at three local wineries, a restaurant stop for a light lunch, and coastal views along the way. Expect approximately two miles of walking, from train depots to wineries and restaurant, but no more than 15 minutes at a time. Tour runs Monday through Friday, from approximately 1:40 to 6:40 p.m. and costs $88 per person (not including the $11 round-trip train ticket, gratuity, or ticket-handling fee).

Chula Vista’s Christmas Circle

Whitney Street at Mankato, between First and Second Avenue, Chula Vista

Yes, you can wear your sunglasses at night, especially if you’re anywhere near Chula Vista’s Christmas Circle between December 8 and 26, when nearly 60 bedazzled homes glow with lights galore. Among the shining candy canes, twinkling Nativity scenes, and blinking Rudolph noses, expect at least one good, old-fashioned Snoopy scene; one house bedecked in the Pixar character of the moment; and more than a couple sneaky rooftop Santas. For the best views, and the fewest frustrated drivers behind you, park your car and walk the course.

Every Saturday in December, local nonprofit Traveling Stories hosts Holiday Story Time at the City Heights Farmers’ Market.

Traveling Stories book drive

Every Saturday in December, local nonprofit Traveling Stories hosts a holiday story time in their tent at the City Heights Farmers’ Market (4326 Wightman Street, 760-688-6251). The organization seeks volunteers to help decorate the Story Tent, listen as the children read, and read holiday tales aloud. In an effort to encourage reading at home, they will also host a book giveaway on December 21, for which they seek book donations (appropriate for kindergarten through second-grade levels). Books can be dropped off at the Story Tent on Saturdays during market hours (91m-1pm every Saturday) through December 14 or via arrangements made by email: [email protected]

San Diego Holiday Half Marathon

Give yourself an excuse to stay fit through the holidays. The inaugural winter half marathon takes place on Sunday, December 29, at 7:30 a.m. The point-to-point course begins in Rancho Peñasquitos and ends at Torrey Pines State Beach. It includes a 714-foot net drop, and the only major hill is early in the race, around mile 1.5. Participants are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item (or two) to the bib pick-up on December 28. The Joan Kroc/Salvation Army will collect all food donations and distribute them to homeless shelters in the county. Registration: $99. SDholidayhalf.com

Home Start Holiday toy drive

Over 50 corporations have been collecting toys for the Home Start program since early fall. The toys are still coming in, and Home Start seeks volunteers to help sort and organize toys. They also need volunteers to participate in their toy distribution event on December 19. Santa and elves will be in attendance to help spread the holiday cheer. For those who don’t have the time to volunteer this holiday season, opportunities are still available to participate in the Home Start Adopt-a-Family program and bring joy to a low-income family. New toy and cash donations also accepted. Contact Amanda: [email protected]

Bertrand at Mister A's

2550 Fifth Avenue, 12th floor, Bankers Hill

Happy Christmas at Mr. A’s

Forget the chow. Don’t worry about the drinks. You’re here for the view. After all, Bertrand at Mr. A’s is up Banker’s Hill and on the 12th floor. Two rules: Get a balcony seat and get here at late sunset, as planes glide in beneath you, the stars come out above you, and the holiday lights of the city slam on before your eyes. Oh, and get here during happy hour (daily except Saturday 2:30–6:00 p.m.). That way you can spend $7 per plate (say, for three Kobe beef sliders) and not a zillion.

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