Growing up in the Chicago area, the holidays meant snowy hills and hushed landscapes, warm, woolly scarves and mittens, puffy down coats and sturdy boots. It also meant shoveling two feet of snow off the driveway before going anywhere. I’ll just say it — dreaming of a white Christmas is highly overrated. Here in San Diego, we get festive our own way, without giving up our shorts and sandals. After all, where else does Santa come to town on a surfboard?
Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade
West Harbor Drive at West Market Street, Downtown San Diego
Let your furry, feathered, or scaled friend strut its stuff at the 10th Annual Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade. The parade starts on the corner of Fourth Avenue and K Street at the Gaslamp Hilton Park and features prizes for the best pet, human, and group costumes in nine categories, as well as a pet expo and pet talent show. The Best in Show winner will be invited to be the grand marshal of the 2018 pet parade. There’s free live music and registered guests get a complimentary goodie bag filled with unique keepsakes, samples, toys, and discounts to some of the Gaslamp Quarter’s pet-friendly restaurants and shops. Sunday, December 10, 3 p.m. Free to view, $15 per pet to participate (pre-registered), $20 day of.
San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
2051 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island
How would Jack Sparrow celebrate the holidays? Find out at the 46th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights — this year’s theme is “Arrrgh! A Pirate’s Christmas”! This popular holiday boat parade will take place on two Sundays and attracts more than 100,000 spectators who line the shores from the starting point at Shelter Island to the end at the Ferry Landing in Coronado. Other areas to view the nearly 80 extravagantly decorated boats are Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, and the Pier at Cesar Chavez Park. Public transportation and carpooling is encouraged — parking near the best viewing areas is limited. Sundays, December 10 and 17, 5:00 p.m. Free to view, $50–$60 to enter a vessel.
Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl-iday
901 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
Dig into the back of your closet for that hideous holiday sweater, hat, or shirt, then head down to the Gaslamp Quarter to celebrate National Ugly Sweater Day! Starting at the Commons Bar, your friendly, knowledgeable private host will guide you to four of the Quarter’s hottest pubs, beer bars, and dance clubs. Your ticket includes complimentary VIP entry to all venues, drink specials, and an amazing after-party for all pub crawlers to dance the night away. Register online, no walk-ups. Saturday, December 16, 7:00 p.m.–1:30 a.m., $20.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
America’s favorite holiday grouch returns as the Old Globe Theatre is once again transformed into the snow-covered Whoville for the 20th season of Dr. Seuss’s classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Veteran Broadway actor Edward Watts makes his Globe debut as the Grinch, with Steve Gunderson returning for his 15th appearance as Old Max. A sensory-friendly performance of the “Grinch,” geared toward those on the autism spectrum and their families takes place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, December 9. Tickets start at $24 for children and $37 for adults. November 7–December 24. $24–$119
National Comedy Theatre’s New Year’s Eve Spectacular
3717 India Street, Mission Hills
Laugh your way into 2018 at the National Comedy Theatre’s New Year’s Eve Spectacular! Based on Drew Carey’s Whose Line Is It Anyway?, this fun improv comedy show takes its cue from audience suggestions. Also included is a buffet dinner before the show and a champagne toast as you count down the seconds to the New Year, as well as an after-party with the cast. This event is always a sell-out, so purchase your tickets early. All ages are welcome. Sunday, December 31, 8:30 p.m., $79
Gift shopping at farmers’ and public markets
No matter how carefully you plan, you’re likely to find yourself needing just one more last-minute holiday gift. Think unexpected guests, the party host you don’t really know that well, or the dreaded meet-the-family dinner invitation. Rather than tooling around the mall searching for parking or settling for the ubiquitous bottle of wine, head to one of San Diego’s farmers’ markets for gifts with your personal stamp. There’s an average of five markets every day somewhere in San Diego County where you’ll find locally produced, one-of-a-kind artisan products ranging from gourmet granola to perfect patisserie. Bottles or growlers of non-alcoholic ginger beer from San Diego Ginger Beer Company will elevate your host’s cocktail game, baked goods from Prager Brothers Artisan Breads or Grammy’s Granola add panache to brunch, or bring a showstopping croquembouche pastry tree or yule log from Le Parfait Paris at the Liberty Public Market for a memorable ending to a holiday meal.