15 Fun Things to Do in San Diego This Winter

Celebrate the season with beer and chocolate festivals, fun runs, the Year of the Rabbit, and more.

Even though we’re right in the thick of what passes for winter in these parts, that doesn’t mean you have to hibernate with Netflix and takeout food. Fortunately, there’s never a shortage of parties, food and beer festivals, road races, museum exhibitions, and other things to do in San Diego. We’ve gathered the best events into a handy list that'll take you through winter and beyond. From Oceanside to Julian and everywhere in between, this guide is the perfect cheat sheet to keep you from missing any of the biggest events of the season:

Ongoing through Sunday, January 8, 2023
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Liberty Station
The Rady Children’s Ice Rink in the Arts District at Liberty Station returns for ice skating fun from 10 am to 10 pm every day except Christmas Day. A staple event in Liberty Station’s Salute the Season holiday program, net proceeds from your ticket price go to the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital’s Thriving After Cancer program. Your ticket is good all day, so you can skate long enough to work up an appetite, visit the Liberty Public Market or one of the many restaurants, bars, and tasting rooms scattered through the neighborhood, then return to the rink and burn off all those calories.

Ongoing through Sunday, January 8
$$$-$$$$
Carlsbad
Grab the kids and head to Holidays at LEGOLAND® California Resort for tons of festive decor, including a 30-foot-tall LEGO® Christmas tree decked out with LEGO® ornaments, four festive zones—Peppermint Plaza, Santa's Tinseltown, Wizard's Winter Hill, and Sweet Sugar Square—each featuring seasonal entertainment and attractions and holiday-themed food and beverages. For fun photo ops, hop on a sleigh with a life-size LEGO® Santa and his trusted LEGO® reindeer, join a festive sing-along show at Benny’s Ugly Sweater Party, and, of course, see real falling snow. This year, LEGOLAND® hosts its first-ever exclusive Kids’ New Year’s Eve Party, with Captain Cranky and his pirate crew counting down to LEGOLAND®’s version of midnight (actually at 7 pm). There will also be live singers, glittering costumes, and a confetti surprise at the Funtown Stage, plus fireworks viewable from several areas in the park, with special 3D glasses that turn the bursts into LEGO® bricks, and a Miniland scavenger hunt where Minilanders can search for their New Year’s Eve party hats.

Ballast Point Brewing Company
Ballast Point Brewing Company

Sunday, December 18
$-$$$
Various locations
Ahoy, mateys! The folks at Ballast Point traditionally hold their infamous Victory at Sea Party on the Sunday before Christmas, inviting the scurviest marauders on the high seas to celebrate the dark side of beer with them. The beloved event highlights the seasonal original porter along with seven extremely rare variants, as voted on by the employees, at all Southern California taprooms. Pirate cosplay is highly recommended, and Ballast Point’s collaboration with Tipsy Elves offers an amazing ugly sweater with their signature skeleton, on a surfboard, naturally. Standard tickets include 4 four-ounce Victory at Sea tasters, a Victory at Sea glass, coozie, sticker, and keychain, while premium tickets get you 4 four-ounce Victory at Sea tasters, a Victory at Sea four-pack to-go, a Victory at Sea glass, coozie, sticker, and keychain. Both options are available for purchase online, and walk-in tickets can be purchased as well, but you’re encouraged to act quickly, as these specialty Victory at Sea beers are in limited supply.

Ongoing through Saturday, December 24
$$-$$$
Old Globe Theatre
We’re all familiar with Charles Dickens’ holiday story, A Christmas Carol, but Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show at the Old Globe Theatre reimagines it as a comedy set in San Diego, of all places. Quick, witty and extravagantly theatrical, it’s a family-friendly retelling of the classic tale, full of music, laughter and a heartwarming lesson about the spirit of giving.

San Diego Brew Fest
San Diego Brew Fest

Saturday, January 7
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Liberty Station
Hit the first beer celebration of 2023 as the 12th Annual San Diego Brew Festival returns to Liberty Station for a fun-filled day with unlimited tastings from over 70 craft and international breweries, 200 beers, live music, and some of San Diego’s most popular food trucks. The VIP option includes early admission, with special beers poured during the first hour. Grab your tickets online. This event is 21+, no children or pets allowed.

Friday, December 30–Monday, January 2
San Diego Convention Center
Ogle more than 400 autos, including new models, concept cars, and alternative fuel vehicles at the San Diego International Auto Show. This year’s special attractions include the wildly popular Exotics Vault, models to test-drive, The Mobility Zone with cutting-edge adaptive equipment for those with physical challenges, and The LOVELECTRIC Center, for both EV enthusiasts and the EV-curious. Sunday, January 1 is Family Day, when kids 12 and under get in for free with an adult. Active and retired military can pick up free entry tickets at seven San Diego Nissan dealerships.

San Diego Running Co.
San Diego Running Co.

Saturday, January 14
$$-$$$
Mission Bay
Start your year off on the right foot by hitting new fitness goals at the San Diego Resolution Run 5K/10K/Half Marathon. Stride along Mission Bay on this flat, fast, and scenic waterfront course, then stick around after the race for prizes, goodies, and giveaways, and explore the Wellness Village. All runners receive a race t-shirt, a chip-timed racing bib, and a cool custom finisher’s medal.

Sunday, February 12
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Encinitas
Kick off Super Bowl Sunday and make room for all those nachos you’re gonna eat at the Kook Run 5K and 10K in Encinitas, a gorgeous out-and-back course along I-101 that includes pro and elite divisions, a fun costume contest, and The Kook Run's post-race finish line festival at Moonlight Plaza, with live music, a beer garden, breakfast tacos, games and activities, and local vendors. Your entry includes a cool finisher’s medal and a race t-shirt. Register online.

San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art

Wednesday, February 1–Tuesday, February 28
Free-$$
Various locations
Beginning February 1, head to any participating location in San Diego, Temecula, or Imperial Valley and pick up a free Museum Month Pass, which is good for half-price admission at more than 40 museums during the month of February. Each pass admits up to four people for half-price at participating venues, including the USS Midway, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Comic-Con Museum at Balboa Park. Museum Month Pass is free, but museum entrance fees vary depending on the venue and exhibits.

Saturday, February 11
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Escondido
Celebrate the deliciousness of America’s favorite confection at For The Love Of Chocolate—The Escondido Chocolate Festival. More than 20 restaurants, shops, and spas will be offering chocolate samples or a chocolate-themed dish paired with local craft beer, bubbly, and wines. Also taking place is Second Saturday Arts and Culture Experiences, where you’ll find art galleries, interactive arts, theater, museums, and educational events throughout the area, all day long.

San Diego Tet Festival - VAYA SDTET - Mira Mesa
San Diego Tet Festival - VAYA SDTET - Mira Mesa

Celebrate the Lunar New Year

Friday, January 21–Sunday, February 5
Free-$$
Various locations
This January, people all over the world will celebrate the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rabbit. In San Diego, the House of China hosts music, calligraphy, crafts, lion and dragon dances, and cultural performances on Saturday, January 21, and Sunday, January 22 in Balboa Park. The beloved San Diego Têt Festival, including the popular Golden Voice, pho eating, and Miss Vietnam of San Diego competitions, will take place at Mira Mesa Community Park from Friday, January 27, through Sunday, January 29. The free, family-friendly event also features a cultural village, a beer garden, children's games and activities, food and live entertainment. Finally, San Diego’s 40th Annual Spring Festival happens in the old Chinatown of San Diego, now known as the Asian Pacific Thematic Historic District on Saturday, February 4, and Sunday, February 5, with live performances, art and cultural activities, an array of delicious Chinese and Asian food, lion and dragon dancers, and children’s arts and crafts.

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Board the Coronado Ferry at either the Broadway Pier or the Convention Center for a quick, 15-minute ride across San Diego Bay to Coronado Ferry Landing, where shopping, dining, and activities ranging from biking to stand-up paddleboarding can be found within walking distance. Fares are a mere $7 one-way, and you can bring your bicycle for free. Tickets can be bought at the ticket booth or online.

Free-$$
Various locations
San Diego’s farmers markets sell almost everything—flowers and produce picked just hours before, the freshest eggs, honey, and seafood, baked goods, and all sorts of prepared and packaged dishes. A number of local farmers are selling direct-to-consumer from their farms as well—pick up meat, poultry, produce, eggs, honey, CSA boxes, and more. The how-tos vary from market to market, so check with your local market manager for details, such as pre-ordering, EBT, and cashless options.

Silver Strand Bikeway
Dancestrokes/Shutterstock

Bike the Silver Strand

Free-$$
Coronado
Beginning at Coronado Ferry Landing, the Silver Strand Bikeway is an 18-mile flat, paved loop that takes you along the sandy tombolo all the way to Imperial Beach. Perfect for riders of all levels, you’ll be treated to views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the other. Don’t miss a stop at Silver Strand Beach for a quick swim or a walk along the sand. Bike rentals are available at the ferry landing if you haven’t brought your own.

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Marina
Tuna Harbor Dockside Market has added an online store to their website, which allows you to pre-order fresh-spot prawn, ahi tuna, sea urchin, rock crab, and more every week from 5 pm Thursday until 7 pm Friday, ready for curbside pickup on Saturday from 10 am to noon at the end of the Tuna Harbor parking lot. The open-air dockside market is still open from 8am–2pm Saturdays as well, with additional seafood not necessarily available in the online store.

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Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.