“Only elves will appear in the dive shows from December 26 to 30 — Scuba Santa needs some rest.”
  • “Only elves will appear in the dive shows from December 26 to 30 — Scuba Santa needs some rest.”
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  • “You better watch out
  • You better not cry
  • Better not pout I’m telling you why
  • Santa Claus is coming to town…”

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I did pout a little bit for the first fifteen or so Christmas seasons here in San Diego. It was a difficult adjustment for a New England kid. I really missed the snowy holidays of my childhood. All of the Christmas paraphernalia you see faked here — snowmen, sleighs, mufflers, carolers, ice skating, hot cocoa after a cold night of caroling — I lived them for real. And it used to annoy me that people who enjoyed near perfect weather year round were stealing my home region’s holiday magic. It was as if you couldn’t let poor old New England have its moment in the sun…or snow. I guess I was against cultural appropriation before it was cool to be. But what I slowly came to realize is that people here weren’t stealing my New England childhood, they were honoring it. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” the old saying goes.

Santa at Helen Woodward Frosty Farm

In this new-found holiday spirit, I’ve been pouring myself into Christmas in San Diego the past few years. I’ve taken the family ice skating. We’ve driven around looking for the best Christmas lights. We’ve popped into hotel and office-tower lobbies looking for the grandest Christmas trees in town. (Tip: if you can only do one, do the Hotel del Coronado’s. Make a night of it and ice skate on the beach.)

This year, we’re going to see Santa, but with a caveat. We don’t want to stand in line to see him sitting in a cardboard house at the mall charging $15 a photo. We want to see what Santa does when he isn’t in his workshop, flying his sleigh, or simultaneously sitting in every mall in America. Maybe we’ll see you at one of these less conventional Santa sightings. I’ll be the mom wearing the Christmas-decorated-palm-tree T-shirt.

Over at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, Scuba Santa will be diving in the Giant Kelp Forest tank to swim with the garibaldi, moray eels, and leopard sharks, and wave to girls and boys watching through the glass during the Seas ’n’ Greetings seasonal event. “From December 1 to 31, Birch Aquarium is transformed into a holiday wonderland,” their website promises. But please note: “There will be no holiday dive shows December 24 or 31 and only elves will appear in the dive shows from December 26 to 30 — Scuba Santa needs some rest.”

Perhaps it’s your pooch who is yearning for a Santa sighting. On December 10, Fido has a chance to do just that at Santa Paws in the Southwestern Yacht Club along the Chula Vista waterfront from noon to 2:30 p.m. Lunch and portraits for $20. Proceeds go to the San Diego Humane Society. If morning is your time, the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo is hosting Breakfast with Santa, which includes ornament making, face painting, visits with Santa, and wild-animal encounters. Running from December 18 through December 23, from 9:30 a.m. to noon; $40 for adults, $30 for kids age 7–12, $10 for children 2–6.

Outside the War Memorial Building in Balboa Park, December 16, Saint Nick will be brunching with children with special needs ages 3–12 at the Kid Zone Brunch with Santa. Starting at 11:30 until 1:00 p.m., there will be games, brunch, face painting, and visits with Saint Nick; $5 for attendees over the age of 12.

Helen Woodward Animal Center is hosting Frosty Farm on December 2, 3, 9, and 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A one-hour guided excursion with one of Santa’s helpers through the farm with animal encounters, games, an elf-obstacle course, crafts, face painting, cookie decorating, and a meet-and-greet with Santa; admission is $19.99 per child, $9.99 per adult.

The Hillcrest neighborhood will be offering Taste ’n’ Tinis on December 14 from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. I won’t be taking the kiddos to this, but the over-21 crowd should enjoy a stroll through town for signature dishes and drinks and free photo opportunities with the “Naughty Santa.” Tickets $25 in advance, $30 the day of.

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