Everything You Need to Do in San Diego This Winter
We may be right in the middle of San Diego’s holiday season, but there’s no reason we can’t look beyond the mistletoe to see what’s on tap for 2020 as well. The new year promises plenty of parties, wine tastings, cultural programs, road races, sports, and other amazing events including a stout assemblage of food, beer, and music festivals. We’ve packed the best of the city into one handy calendar that'll happily glide you through the holiday season and beyond. Here's everything you need to do in San Diego this winter.
Now through January 5
Lace up your skates and hit the ice at Rady Children’s Ice Rink in the Arts District at Liberty Station. With 100% of the proceeds going to benefit The Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital, the annual event has raised more than $1 million over the past 22 years. Skate ‘till your heart’s content, then visit one of Liberty Station’s restaurants and breweries or hit the Liberty Public Market for nearly unlimited food and beverage choices.
Cost: $10-15 (includes skates and helmet rental)
IDEA1 Building Courtyard
San Diegans will use any excuse to stuff themselves with tacos, so why not lend a helping hand while you’re at it? Lola 55 hosts Block Party For A Cause for Mt. Tabor Monastery in Tecate to provide relief for families affected by the recent wildfires in Baja. The buffet dinner includes a whole roasted pig, dishes created by Lola 55’s chef Drew Bent and several other notable local chefs, plus two alcoholic beverages and one agua fresca (additional beverage tickets can be purchased for $5 at the door.) There’s also an auction for a multi-course private dinner provided by one of the participating chefs. Note: The event takes place in the courtyard of IDEA1 Building, so don’t show up at the restaurant!
MLK Promenade Park
Your furry, feathered, or scaled friend gets the chance to strut its stuff at the 12th annual Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade. The festivities start under the iconic Gaslamp Quarter Archway and feature prizes for the best pet, human, and group costumes in nine categories, as well as a pet expo. The “Best in Show” winner will even be invited to be the Grand Marshall of the 2020 pet parade! There’s also free live music, and registered guests get a complimentary goodie bag filled with unique keepsakes, samples, toys, and special discounts to some of the Gaslamp Quarter's pet-friendly restaurants and shops.
Cost: $15-20 per pet for parade participants; free to watch
American Comedy Co.
Part TED talk and part comedy routine, Stand-Up Science with Shane Mauss at the American Comedy Company in the Gaslamp Quarter combines the best of both worlds to keep you laughing and learning. The show starts with Shane delivering his best brainy material before handing off to two to three guest speakers (ranging from local stand-up comics to Ivy League professors), who keep the comedy flowing while entertainingly educating the audience. After the show, Shane and the guests will all come back onstage and open the floor to questions and discussions with the audience. Nibbles, beer, wine and specialty cocktails are available.
Cost: $18-25 (plus a two-drink minimum)
County Waterfront Park to The Headquarters
Boasting more enormous balloons than any other San Diego parade, the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade features world-class marching bands, precision drill teams, spectacular floats, and yes, an amazing procession of immense balloons. Great viewing is available all along the parade route, so stake out a spot along North Harbor Drive from County Waterfront Park to the turn at West Harbor Drive ending at The Headquarters, or reserve one of a limited number of grandstand seats.
Cost: Free for streetside viewing; $22-25 for grandstand seats
The Holiday Food Truck Festival returns for five festive days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so ditch the leftovers and head to Balboa Park to sample a wide assortment of gourmet dishes from a dozen popular San Diego-area food trucks along with music and dance performances. A different roster of food trucks is featured each day, but you can check their website for the latest info on your favorites, including vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Cost: Admission to the park is free; food/beverage costs vary
Big Night San Diego offers the splashiest, most indulgent say-goodbye-to-2019 New Year’s Eve party in the city with 10 different party zones, unlimited drinks, a first-class full buffet and the hottest party bands and DJs. Grab a beverage at one of 12 bars then cruise from zone to zone, from the Retro DJ Ballroom to the Urban Dance Zone to the Silent Disco. Upgrade to VIP status for additional lounges, club zones and a velvet rope area.
San Diego Air & Space Museum
The San Diego Air & Space Museum transforms into an intergalactic playground for the Star Brews Beer Festival. Travel to the Rebel’s Beer Base and the Darth Lair of Ciders while tasting more than 20 stellar craft beers paired with live music from the Storm Rockers and R2-DJ2. There will also be photo ops with all of your favorite characters and plenty of food.
Marina Kitchen in the Marriott Marquis San Diego kicks off its 2020 Cellar Dinner Series with a decadent five-course banquet complemented by wines from the acclaimed DAOU Vineyards in Paso Robles. Executive Chef Aron Schwartz and Master Sommelier Fred Dame have created an exclusive food and wine pairing menu to be served in the stunning private dining room, complete with dazzling views of the San Diego Bay.
Various Ocean Beach venues
The Springboard West Music Festival is back in San Diego for its fourth year in 2020. For three days, emerging artists from all over the world, industry professionals, and locals will gather in Ocean Beach for workshops, panels, and pitch sessions with veterans and professionals in the music industry. The music bootcamp wraps up with its enormously popular (and open to the public) Band & Brew Crawl featuring all 50 artists performing at Winston’s, OB Theatre, The Harp, Mother’s Saloon, and OB Brewery, while attendees go from venue to venue discovering new music and enjoying craft beers while marking off game cards and redeeming them for prizes. Proceeds benefit local nonprofits Autism Tree Project Foundation, Pioneer Day School, and San Diego Music Foundation. VIP ticket holders get an exclusive beer tasting at OB Brewery from 12-2 pm (before the Band & Brew Crawl starts), a special performance from a guest performer and complimentary tastes from each of the brewers.
The 10th annual San Diego Brew Festival returns to Liberty Station for a fun-filled day with unlimited tastings from more than 70 craft and international breweries, live music, and some of San Diego’s most popular food trucks. The fest proceeds will benefit Noah’s Bark, whose aim is to rescue dogs from shelters and find permanent homes for rescued pets. The VIP option includes early admission, with special beers poured during the first hour.
Tecolote Shores Park
Start your year off on the right foot by shedding those holiday pounds for a good cause at the San Diego Resolution Run 5K/10K/Half Marathon. Stride along Mission Bay on this flat, fast and scenic waterfront course while helping to raise funds for Wild Willow Farm & Education Center, a local, eco-friendly organization supporting a healthier San Diego food system. All runners receive a cool multi-use finisher’s medal. After the race, stick around for prizes, goodies, and giveaways, and explore the Wellness Village.
Cost: $34-89, depending on race distance and date of entry
As a James Beard Smart Catch leader, Executive Chef JoJo Ruiz of Serēa has created a monthly winter dining series called “Winter Waters: A Sustainable Seafood Dinner Series” to focus diners’ awareness on San Diego’s local and regional fishermen who contribute to preserving sustainable catch practices. The January collaboration brings in Chef James Syhabout, who holds two Michelin stars for Commis in Oakland. A portion of proceeds from each dinner benefits charities such as the Surfrider Foundation.
You & Yours Distilling Co.
Learn the cocktail basics the pros use to measure, shake, and pour in this hour-long, hands-on introductory class at You & Yours Distillery in the heart of the East Village. You’ll get a brief cocktail history lesson from the staff while you make and enjoy the two drinks featured for the month. Tools and ingredients are provided, and attendees receive $10 off any one bottle purchase.
For eight glorious days, more than 180 eateries from all over the county will participate in San Diego’s biannual Restaurant Week. There are delicious options from casual eateries to special occasion destinations across the county from the South Bay to East County and to the borders of Oceanside and Fallbrook to the north. Tables at popular venues fill up quickly, so be sure to make reservations at your favorite participating restaurants.
Cost: Two-course prix fixe lunch menus range from $10-25; three-course prix fixe dinner menus range from $20-60
Mira Mesa Community Park
Celebrate the Year of the Rat at the 15th annual Lunar New Year Tet Festival held at Mira Mesa Community Park. The free, family-friendly event features a cultural village, a beer garden, carnival rides, food, and children's games and activities. Live entertainment options include two stages with non-stop action from A-list Vietnamese singers/artists as well as local talent, lion dancing all three days, firecrackers, a Miss Vietnam of San Diego pageant, a Step-Up Dance contest, a Golden Voice contest, and a pet costume contest.
Beginning February 1, head to any Macy's store 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, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Museum of Art.
Cost: Museum Month Pass is free; museum entrance fees vary depending on the venue and exhibits
Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside
Head to North County for the 11th annual Brewbies festival, a beer tasting event supporting breast cancer awareness. Held at Bagby Beer Company in Oceanside, this event raises money for Keep A Breast Foundation (KABF) to support its Check Yourself! Program, and 100% of the proceeds from Brewbies go directly to the charity. You'll get to taste test beers from 40+ partnering breweries such as Alpine Beer Company, Thorn Brewing, and Societe Brewing, including pink-hued selections, many of which you can only experience at the event.
Cost: $45-60 (tickets on sale December 15)
You still won’t score tickets to Hamilton, but during San Diego Theatre Week more than 30 San Diego organizations will come together for a celebration of performing arts including music, comedy, theatre, dance, and musical theatre. Participating venues include the San Diego Ballet, Diversionary Theatre, The Old Globe, National Comedy Theatre, and many more locations offering a variety of special promotions during the week.
Grammy winner/San Diego native Jason Mraz performs his musical SHINE, featuring performances from Malashock Dance, transcenDANCE, Banding Together and other arts education programs for underserved, low income individuals with disabilities and promising dancers whose progress is hindered due to financial reasons. SHINE is based on Mraz’s musical catalogue and follows him, along with his friends, as they experience a typical day in San Diego.
San Diego’s own American Hockey League team, the San Diego Gulls, square off against their Stockton Heat archrivals. Take advantage of the Gulls’ Bud Light Hockey Night Out package for this matchup, featuring two terrace level tickets, two Bud Lights and two hot dogs for just $49. Arrive early and you can nosh your way around the concourse, which has everything from poutine to ice cream, as well as plenty of craft beer and cocktails.
Cost: $49 for the Hockey Night package (regular seats are $15-103)
Martinis Above Fourth
Kris Andersson may have created his alter-ego Dixie Longate on a dare, but more than 13 years later, Dixie’s Tupperware Party is one of the longest-running off-Broadway tours in history. Dixie, a big-haired, gum snapping, wisecracking Alabama girl, doles out homespun humor, over-the-top tales, and plenty of offbeat uses for your grandmother’s favorite kitchen storage. Pair the show with noshes from the eclectic, seasonal menu and one of their justifiably famous (and huge) martinis.
Cost: $35 (with a minimum $20 food/drink purchase)
Mission Bay Park to De Anza Cove
A fun twist on a serious topic, the San Diego Undy Run/Walk is a family-friendly, underwear-themed 5K run/walk and one-mile fun run created by the Colon Cancer Alliance. The event is designed to spark vital conversations about colon cancer and raises funds and awareness to knock this cancer out. (And if that’s not enough, you can even stroll through a larger-than-life inflatable colon on site.) The Undy Run/Walk team honors colon cancer warriors by providing free registration to all colorectal cancer patients and survivors. Plus, all participants receive a pair of Undy Run/Walk boxer shorts.
Dance till you drop at CRSSD Festival Spring '20, now in its fifth year at Waterfront Park. This year’s lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but previous years have seen headlining acts like Rüfüs Du Sol, Chromeo, and Richie Hawtin alongside a strong roundup of DJs such as Snakehips, Skream, and Lane 8. With festivals in both spring and autumn, CRSSD Fest has become San Diego’s premier dance/electronic music festival.
Cost: $115-155 (tickets on sale December 10)
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