Sledding on Mount Laguna
  • Sledding on Mount Laguna
  • Photograph by Siobhan Braun
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Drums, giants, and Mother Goose

  • Stargazing in Anza-Borrego
  • 652 Palm Canyon Drive
  • Borrego Springs

Winter Fun

Illustration by Ted Skirvan

This year, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was officially designated an International Dark Sky Community, thanks to years of concerted effort to minimize light pollution in the desert valley two hours outside town.

Stargazing in Anza-Borrego

Photograph by Joey Lenze @Housewrecker

On clear nights around a new moon, those dark skies reveal glorious views of the milky way, visible to the naked eye. Winter skies reveal the Orion nebula and Andromeda galaxy. Bring optical gear if you’ve got it, or check out a free, guided stargazing program.

Crystal Pier Cottages

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

The Anza-Borrego Desert Nature Center offers one on December 8 at 7:30 pm, plus a telescope and limited binoculars. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park plans to host one in late December; find out the exact date by following its Facebook page, or call 760-767-4205.

La Jolla tidepools

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

  • Watch surfers at Sleeping Giant
  • La Jolla Cove
  • La Jolla

Most days of the year, deep water La Jolla Cove is better known for its snorkeling than its surfing.

Snow Days at Legoland

But on rare occasion a swell hits the coast with enough power to carve waves off of its rocky bottom, and that’s when the wave called Sleeping Giant awakens. Only a select few, highly athletic surfers can handle the ride, but witnessing the spectacle is thrill enough.

Poinsettia display at Balboa Park’s Botanical Building

Monitor surf reports to be ready when the massive, left-breaking wave appears — watch for west-northwest swells in the 12- to 20-foot range. Expect heavy traffic into La Jolla, as the shape of the cove grants a rare chance for crowds to enjoy a close-up view of the majesty of big wave surfing.

Belmont Park in the off-season

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

  • Mother Goose Parade
  • Main Street
  • El Cajon

One of the county’s largest parades takes place in downtown El Cajon, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This year, the Mother Goose Parade lands on Sunday, November 18.

Coronado shipwreck

Photograph by Jamie Lantzy

Beginning at 1 pm, marching bands, clowns, equestrians, pageant contestants, floats, civic organizations, drill teams, and athletes will cover the 1.25-mile parade route down Main Street, moving east from El Cajon Boulevard to First Street.

Full moon parties at Trilogy Sanctuary

Grab your spot on the parade route early to spend a couple hours watching out for Scooby Doo in the Mystery Machine, cosplaying members of the San Diego Star Wars Society, and balloons depicting a snowman, gingerbread man, and Mother Goose herself.

Valparaiso Hot Springs

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

  • San Diego Jazz Festival
  • 500 Hotel Circle North
  • Mission Valley

Antoinette Chirinos Sound Healing

Photograph by Scott Rose

This San Diego Thanksgiving tradition, the San Diego Jazz Festival kicks off at the Town & Country Resort with evening performances Wednesday and Thursday, November 21 and 22. Things get hopping from Friday November 23 through Sunday November 25, with a schedule featuring jazz genres such as Dixieland, ragtime, big band, swing, and even rockabilly.

Cosmic Flow Sound Healing

Six distinct venues offer the chance to enjoy some performances in an intimate, listening setting, and others in large ballrooms that promise to get dancers on their feet. Score a three-day ticket for $105, or pay just $20 more to attend each day of the event.

Stroll along Old Highway 80

Photograph by Pea Hicks

  • Soak in a hot mineral bath
  • 39555 Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849
  • Agua Caliente County Park

Seventeen miles to the southeast of Julian, the 910-acre Agua Caliente County Park offers 140 high desert campsites and several miles of hiking trails, but a trio of pools generated by geothermal hot springs are the main attraction.

Surfside Ranch beach horseback riding

Photograph Courtesy Surfside Ranch

Closed during the summer due to high heat, winter daylight hours allow day use of the park, or the pools in particular for $3. Outside, a balmy swimming pool and children’s wading pool offer family fun, while an adults-only indoor pool provides the therapeutic benefits associated with soaking in a 102-degree Fahrenheit mineral bath, including improved circulation, joint pain relief, and relaxation.

  • Solstice drum circle
  • 1613 Lake Drive
  • Encinitas

Community music event Fête de la Musique started in France in 1982, and has spread to 800 cities in 120 countries on five continents. Translated in the United States to Make Music Day, the solstice event gathers people together to make music en masse. Anyone can bring an instrument, or in the case of this year’s winter solstice, a drum. Hundreds are expected to form a massive drum circle in Encinitas, at the Seaside Center for Spiritual Living. Attendees will beat in the longest night of the year and a rising full moon for about an hour-long Winter Solstice Drumming Celebration, beginning at 7pm on December 20.

– Ian Anderson


  • Pearl, Pinot, Pickleball

  • Full moon parties at Trilogy Sanctuary
  • 7650 Girard Avenue
  • La Jolla

Dance to the beat of drums with three hundred or so of your newest best friends under the moonlit sky on Trilogy Sanctuary’s rooftop. Start the evening early with dinner at their excellent vegan cafe. Each party’s theme plays off the ancient cultural name given to the full moon based on the behavior of the plants, animals, or weather during that month. The festivities vary a bit different from month to month, but typically begin around a drumming circle inside the yoga room, followed by music, dancing, acro, fire performances and whatever else spontaneously happens. Participants in this free event are encouraged to bring their own musical instruments to share wholly in the circle of music and drumming.

  • SoNo fest and chili cook-off
  • 3216 Thorn Street
  • North Park

The ninth annual SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off features nearly 30 local restaurants in San Diego’s biggest and best chili throwdown. A five taster ticket runs just $15, but throw in an extra $5 for a beautiful keepsake bowl handmade by the San Diego Ceramic Connection. More than two dozen brewers, cider makers, and vintners will help you wash it all down in a block-long beverage garden. Afterwards, head over to the two stages presenting local bands, a kids’ fest with carnival games and bounce houses, local artisan vendors, and food trucks. December 2. 2018. 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

  • Dive-in movies at The Pearl
  • 1410 Rosecrans Street
  • Point Loma

The iconic, playfully retro Pearl Hotel hosts a free Dive-in Theatre event poolside every Wednesday. Start your evening with dinner at the newly revamped Charles and Dinorah restaurant, whose namesakes owned the original hotel, the Sportsman’s Lodge, for nearly forty years. Post-dinner, grab a cocktail and a couple of seats by the pool, or, if you’re the adventurous type, hop into the water to view the show. Wednesdays, 8:00 pm.

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