Holiday Traditions to Make Your Spirits Bright

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The holiday season is busy and there are tons of fun events to ramp up your cheer in San Diego County and beyond. Here’s the secret happy parents know: You can’t do them all. Choose a few top-notch traditions to make your family’s spirits bright and enjoy the merriest time of year together.

old globe 1522

It’s not Christmas in San Diego without a visit to snow-covered Whoville. Don’t miss Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, now in its 21st season at the Old Globe Theatre. Based on the classic book, this colorful musical is filled with whimsy and fun for the whole family. Favorite songs include “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch,” “Santa for a Day” and “Fah Who Doraze,” the memorable carol from the animated film. Playing now through Dec. 29. A sensory-friendly performance on Dec. 1 is designed for guests with special needs. Visit www.theoldglobe.org for tickets.

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Make Copley Symphony Hall your home for the holidays! Noel Noel! is a festive family concert featuring Broadway powerhouse vocalist Bryonha Marie Parham (Ragtime, Book of Mormon, Porgy and Bess, Prince of Broadway). This glittering annual concert includes classics of the season like “Believe” from Polar Express. Running Dec. 15 and 20–22. A special one-hour family performance on Dec. 16 brings the toe-tapping tunes of A Charlie Brown Christmas, an audience sing-along and a telling of the beloved story of The Night Before Christmas brought to life by the music of the orchestra. Purchase tickets at www.sandiegosymphony.org.

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Scripps Ballet Theatre and Scripps Performing Arts Academy team up once again for their 30th annual all-youth presentation of The Nutcracker. The cast is comprised of ballet students ages 3 to 18. “These are kids and teens who appreciate the artistry of dance and performing, and they can hardly wait to please an audience,” says dance mom Tory Robarts. “It’s truly a magical experience.” Catch the show Dec. 8–9 at the David and Dorothea Theatre in La Jolla or Dec. 23–24 at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar Tea. Learn more at www.scrippsperformingartsacademy.com/nutcracker.

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The whole family will delight in Chula Vista’s annual Starlight Parade on Dec. 1. It’s an enchanting tradition to usher in the holiday season. Dedicated to local first responders, the parade kicks off at 6 p.m. with more than 100 colorful floats, caroling groups, marching bands, dance teams, classic cars and more. Arrive early to enjoy the free Children’s Faire from 2–5 p.m. The event includes train rides, a bounce house, photos with Santa, ornament making and an all-new Elf Yourself station. As in years past, Frosty’s Snow Hill offers genuine snow for sledding. Learn more at www.starlightparade.com.

WINTER IN JULIAN 1522

Dreaming of an old-fashioned Christmas? Just one hour east of San Diego, the historic mountain community of Julian offers a unique seasonal experience—and often even snow! Take a glimpse back in time to the famous California Gold Rush. Meet Santa and drop letters in his mailbox on the Town Hall porch weekends in December from 12–4 p.m. Local churches present a living nativity Dec. 1, 8 and 15 at 5 p.m. Learn more at www.visitjulian.com.

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Be part of the tradition at First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley. All are invited to take part in their annual Christmas Eve celebration (Dec. 24), which includes two inspiring services. Attend at 3 p.m. for Lessons, Carols and Candle Lighting, or at 5 p.m. for a Christmas Pageant and Candle Lighting. The pageant tells the story of Jesus’ birth through stunning choral arrangements. Both events are free to attend. Learn more at www.firstchurchsd.com.

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Enjoy the magic of snowfall at Village Walk at Eastlake from Dec. 8–24 at 6 and 7 p.m. nightly. Visit a giant snow globe, where professional photographers will take portraits and video for free. Receive your images by text to use in holiday cards and social media posts. Find the snow globe near the children’s play area Dec. 9 and 16 from 4–6 p.m. Village Walk offers shopping, dining and more. www.ShopVillageWalk.com.

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The holiday season is filled with family and fun at Otay Ranch Town Center. Visit Dec. 3 from 4–6 p.m. for Pet Photos with Santa and an adoption event with Scratch My Belly. Make your own holiday wreath with Mint Studios Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. and stop by the Farmer’s Market every Tuesday evening to keep in the spirit all season long. Visit www.otayranchtowncenter.com or check Facebook for event listings.

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Celebrate the holidays in an Alpine Wonderland at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Don’t miss the Tree Lighting Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 with celebrity guests Eric and Lindsey Bennett, hosts of HGTV’s “Desert Flippers.” Holiday choirs through Dec. 14 and Santa arrives Dec. 15. Take the kids to “Brunch with Santa” on the 16th. Ride ‘n’ Dine on Dec. 25 from 11 a.m. in Pines Café. Extended Tram hours Dec. 17–Jan. 1. Visit www.pstramway.com for details.

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For festive family fun, check out Grossmont Center’s HolidayFest, Dec. 9, 15 and 16 from 12–3 p.m. Enjoy a day filled with costumed characters like Frosty the Snowman, Santa and his elves, a gingerbread bounce house, face painters, holiday crafts and more. Come by with family and friends for the perfect holiday experience to remember forever. Check the online schedule for live performances from Hullabaloo and story times with Traveling Stories: www.grossmontcenter.com/events.

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Don’t miss A Christmas Carol at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town, playing Nov. 28­–Dec. 30. The classic tale follows Ebenezer Scrooge on a haunting journey of memory, redemption and compassion. Transport your family to the Victorian world of Charles Dickens, with memorable characters like Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and all the Ghosts of Christmas. This masterful retelling incorporates original music, creative stagecraft and puppetry. Suitable for ages 5 and up. For tickets visit www.cygnettheatre.com.

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SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration offers festive fun for the whole family, including more than a million holiday lights and hundreds of beautifully decorated Christmas trees. Shining above it all is SeaWorld’s 320-foot Skytower Tree of Lights, the largest “Christmas tree” in Southern California. Visit Santa’s Christmas Village for story time with Mrs. Claus, and don’t miss O Wondrous Night, a dazzling musical and live nativity. The celebration continues now through Jan. 6. Learn more at www.seaworld.com/san-diego/events/christmas.

SDBallet 1522

Don’t miss the beloved tradition with a classic score: San Diego Ballet presents The Nutcracker Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. at Copley Symphony Hall. Treat your family to this feast for the senses. More than 100 beautifully costumed dancers lead you on a magical journey to the land of sweets. Bask in the enchanting twirls of Sugarplum Fairies amidst a flurry of snowflakes and waltzing flowers. For tickets, visit www.sandiegoballet.org/shows/the-nutcracker.

pet parade 1522

Deck those paws with bells so jolly and jingle all the way to the Gaslamp for The Vet + Pet West Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade. Pet owners and their furry, feathered and scaled companions are invited to don their costumes for this jolly promenade and Holiday Pet Market on Sunday, Dec. 16 at MLK Promenade Park 12–5p.m. Parade begins at 2 p.m. Festively-attired critters compete for bragging rights and prizes in costume contest categories. www.holidaypetparade.com

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Written by Anne Malinoski.

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Published: December 2018

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