30 Best Christmas Lights in San Diego [2024 Holiday Guide]

Christmas decorations on pine branches with a Southern California beach and pier in the background, showcasing some of the best Christmas lights in San Diego.

Published on: September 8, 2023

The ultimate guide to the best Christmas lights in San Diego to help you find an extra bit of twinkle this holiday season.

San Diego glows with holiday light displays of every size, scale, theme, and character you could possibly imagine. 

As the days get shorter and the evenings get darker, the holiday spirit is luminous in Southern California.

From private homes to boats to entire waterfront displays, San Diego is covered in twinkling lights all through the months of November and December. 

And the best part is that many of the Christmas light displays around the city are free to view and enjoy. 

If you find yourself seeking holiday decoration inspiration or simply wish to sip hot chocolate, visit one of the city’s lighting masterpieces. Many of these are accessible every day of the week. 

And while several events are holiday traditions that date back several years–even decades–there are new holiday light extravaganzas popping up in San Diego every year. 

Christmas lights are in large supply in San Diego, so I narrowed down the best Christmas lights in San Diego for this list. Start early in the month and see it all!

Note: this article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

A nighttime park scene with a light shaped like a poinsettia flower projected on a paved path, and trees illuminated purple, red, blue, and green in the background.

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Where Can I See Light Displays Across San Diego County?

To find the best Christmas lights in San Diego, check out our map of San Diego Christmas Light Destinations below:

Best Neighborhoods for Christmas Lights in San Diego

Christmas Circle, Chula Vista

Where: Whitney/Mankato Streets between First and Second Avenues (off H Street), Chula Vista, CA
When: December 10th-26th, 5 pm-10 pm nightly

Bring the whole family out to either walk or drive around this circle of over 50 decorated homes in this Chula Vista neighborhood, known as Christmas Circle

All of the houses on Christmas Circle participate in the holiday magic with unique light displays on their homes and holiday music played all evening. 

The residents of this block have been keeping this holiday tradition alive for many years. 

These are definitely some of the best Christmas lights in San Diego to drive through.

Christmas Park, Clairemont

Where: Jamar Drive, Jamar Court, Lana Lane, and Lana Drive (off Mt. Abernathy Drive behind Madison High School), Clairemont, CA
When: December 1st-25th 

This circular street, with over 40 homes participating in the Christmas Park tradition, is a must-see. 

Christmas Park is aptly named one of the best neighborhoods, with festive holiday lights up throughout December. 

This San Diego tradition has been running since 1977 when Don and Donna Park began decorating their home for the holidays. 

In its beginnings, Don walked door to door with his son, handing out flyers about his own extravagant home decorating plans.

It quickly grew from there into a beloved neighborly tradition, and now residents continue the tradition in honor of Don after his unfortunate passing in 2017. 

Even Santa Claus is present both nights, seated in a chair outside and ready to take Christmas photos. 

There are also usually holiday treats available at this annual event!

Jingle Bell Hill, El Cajon

Where: Pepper Dr. and Lindenwood to Solomon Ave., and Pegeen Pl. off 67 and Bradley, El Cajon, CA
When: Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day

El Cajon’s own little winter wonderland, this series of over 200 home holiday light displays with various themes and characters comes back each year with the dedication of the El Cajon neighborhood residents.

Jingle Bell Hill in El Cajon is a very special holiday tradition with comic book characters, nativity scenes, and lots more in store. The neighborhood completely transforms during the holidays.

Starlight Circle, Santee 

Where: off of N. Magnolia Ave. and Tomel Ct., Santee, El Cajon, CA
When: December 1st-31st from 5 pm-10 pm

Over 75 houses participate in this annual neighborhood Christmas tradition. 

The Starlight Circle is a circular route great for walking or driving. It’s lined with festive house displays and residents offering holiday treats, hot cocoa, and candy to passing guests.  

I suggest parking near Santana High School and then walking through Starlight Circle so you can enjoy the sweets offered by homeowners.

DB Christmas, Santee

Where: 9773 Roe Drive, Santee, El Cajon CA
When: nightly throughout December

In honor of his late father, Michael Balazs presents his dazzling Christmas light display each year in Santee. 

The display features thousands of colorful Christmas lights, spiraling Christmas trees, and Santa Claus projected on windows. 

Displays reading “HOPE” and “CURE” commemorate Balazs’ father’s battle with cancer. 

During the Christmas light show, Balazs collects donations for the American Cancer Society and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Fallbrook Lights, Fallbrook

Where: 2030 Reche Rd, Fallbrook, CA
When: nightly throughout December

Fallbrook not only features 100,000 lights but also lasers, fog, and a snow machine. 

The displays are set to a soundtrack of Christmas music you can tune your car radio to. 

This holiday neighborhood display is one of the most elaborate home displays in the San Diego region. 

If you can, you’re encouraged to bring non-perishable food donations for the food drive and drop them off in front of the house. 

All donations go to the Fallbrook Food Pantry and are very appreciated!

Garrison Street Lights, Point Loma

Where: Garrison St, Point Loma, San Diego, CA
When: Nightly, throughout December

The holiday decorations and lights on Garrison Street in Point Loma have been drawing holiday light bus tours to the area to take in the San Diego Christmas lights for over 30 years. 

The entire neighborhood lights up, from the trees to the rooftops, all through December.

South Park’s Luminaria Season

Where: Along 30th St. and Fern St. (from Juniper to Grape to Beech), South Park, San Diego, CA
When: Mid-November to New Year’s Day

Luminaria is South Park’s very own festival of lights. All of the business community’s buildings, lamp-posts, mailboxes, and courtyards are covered in festive lights. 

The tree-lined streets of South Park are filled with thousands of colorful twinkling lights and Christmas characters. 

Keep your eyes open for an animated window display here and there! 

Every nook and cranny imaginable is covered in Christmas lights to spread the holiday spirit at this massive lights display.

Christmas Card Lane 

Where: Oviedo St. + Black Mountain Rd., Rancho Peñasquitos, San Diego CA
When: December 1st-26th

At Christmas Card Lane, guests can expect to find over 200 houses with giant Disney Christmas cards and millions of twinkling lights lining the street. 

Christmas Card Lane is in full swing around 7 pm-8 pm, when all of the lights are on. It may be crowded, but it’s truly one of the best Christmas light displays in San Diego.

Candy Cane Lane, Poway

Where: Hickory Street, Poway, CA (all the cul-de-sacs are lit up along Hickory St., Hickory Ct., Butterwood Ct., Rockrose Ct.)
When: 2nd week of December through January 1st

Candy Cane Lane consists of three large cul-de-sacs of houses fully illuminated with festive lights all through December

Take the family out to stroll through the neighborhood streets at Candy Cane Lane and view many Christmas characters and different holiday scenes bringing holiday cheer.

Fairway Village, Carmel Mountain Ranch

Where: Fairway Village (East & West sides of Stoney Gate Pl.), Carmel Mountain Ranch, CA
When: December 1st – January 1st, 5pm-10:30pm

The holiday light displays in Fairway Village are a special holiday tradition to Carmel Mountain Ranch that brings joy to the San Diego region each holiday season. 

The entire street is lined with thousands of colorful lights and displays as far as the eye can see, so bring some hot cocoa and come down to take in the stunning light displays any night through the season. 

Enter at the west end of Stoney Gate Place.

Merry-tage Court, Scripps Ranch

Where: Stonebridge Pkwy + Merritage Ct., Scripps Ranch, San Diego CA
When: December 1st – 31st

If you’re looking for holiday lights in North County, Merry-tage Court in Scripps Ranch is an entire street lit up with holiday characters and scenes.

Themes range from pop culture hits such as Star Wars to Minions, Disney, Frozen, Cars, and The Grinch

Plus, there’s holiday music and friendly faces to wish you a Merry Christmas.

Best Houses for Christmas Lights in San Diego

Christmas on Knob Hill, San Marcos

Where: 1639 Knob Hill Rd., San Marcos, CA
When: Nightly, November 24th – December 30th

Christmas on Knob Hill is one of the most extensive and elaborate home Christmas light displays in San Diego.

This San Marcos holiday tradition began in 1988 and is now one of Southern California’s most recognized light displays. 

Over 85,000 solar-powered lights make this one extra special. 

You can usually even find Santa during the week before Christmas, waiting to take photos with the children and sending them off with treats. He also has a mailbox ready for letters!

Over 10,000 guests visit annually.

Peace Family Lights Show, Escondido

Where: California Center for the Arts, 340 N Escondido Blvd, Escondido, CA
When: nightly throughout December, after dusk

Note: This event wasn’t hosted in 2022. Check with the California Center for the Arts to confirm event plans in 2023.

As featured on ABC’s Great Christmas Light Fight, The Peace Family invests months of preparation into their annual event.

The Peace Family Light Show used to illuminate their neighborhood. In 2020, it outgrew their house and moved to the California Center for the Arts.

Now, it can be enjoyed as part of the Northern Lights holiday festivities at the Arts Center.

Each year, the Peace family adds more to their theatrical show. But their beloved pirate ship light display is always a main attraction.

Carlsbad Christmas House, Carlsbad

Where: 7607 Romeria St. Carlsbad, CA
When: Nightly throughout December, annual holiday party on December 14th

A yearly holiday party on December 14th kicks off the nightly magic at this house in Carlsbad

The private home transforms into Santa’s Village every December. 

Kids can drop their letters to Santa in the mailbox in front of the house, and they’ll even get a personal reply from the big guy!

2329 Snead Dr., Oceanside

Where: 2329 Snead Drive, Oceanside, CA
When: nightly December 5th-31st

Thousands of Christmas lights, animated elves, nativity scenes, and even Santa riding in a hot air balloon make this Oceanside house worth a yearly visit. 

The detail put into this extensive holiday display gets better and better the closer you get. You can walk right into the garage to see the Santa’s Village light display.

Looking for a bite to eat after seeing the Christmas lights? Read our guide to the best restaurants in Oceanside.

The Griswold’s Christmas Lights, Poway

Where: 12631 Stoutwood Street, Poway, CA
When: Nightly through January 1, 5:30 – 10 pm (weekends – 11 pm)

This one gives Clark Griswold, from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, a run for his money. You’ve never seen a house like this off the TV screen!

Almost 15,000 Christmas lights adorn the outside of the Ayers family home in Poway. 

A giant inflatable reindeer stands on the roof while handmade Christmas displays illuminate the lawn and front porch. 

People from around San Diego County visit this stunning Christmas house to experience the lights.

Happy Lights, Ramona

Where: 23542 Bassett Way, Ramona, CA
When: nightly through December

San Diego Christmas lights are at their prime at this gorgeous house in Ramona with a soundtrack to enjoy from your car. 

Tune into 106.9 FM as over 30,000 Christmas lights twinkle and dance in time with the music.

10921 Elderwood Lane, San Diego

Where: 10921 Elderwood Ln, San Diego, CA
When: nightly throughout December

This breathtaking Christmas light display was voted #1 in the annual Scripps Ranch Holiday Lighting Contest in 2020 and has become more elaborate since then. 

You can stay in your car and listen to the soundtrack on 106.9 FM as you view the computerized and perfectly timed light show that covers the house, or you can get out and interact. 

The family encourages guests to say “Hi”…they may even bring you candy!

Belardo Lights at Tierrasanta, San Diego

Where: 5306 Belardo Drive, Tierrasanta, San Diego CA
When: nightly throughout December

This extraordinary Christmas light extravaganza has been running for almost two decades in San Diego’s Tierrasanta neighborhood and continues to grow each year. 

The Belardo Lights holiday light display began with a father trying to create an unforgettable Christmas experience for his two sons with Autism. 

Since then, it has continued to bring joy to the community each year. 

Each year, the dad covers their house with over 100,000 Christmas lights set to the holiday radio soundtrack on 106.1 FM. 

You can enjoy the lights from the warmth of your car or get out to sign the family’s guestbook in front of the house. 

They strive to raise money for the Stein Education Center and the National Foundation for Autism Research; any donations are appreciated.

Christmas on Quiet Hills, Oceanside

Where: 615 Quiet Hills Dr., Oceanside CA
When: December 1st-31st, 5pm-9pm

If you’re a fan of holiday light displays set to a festive soundtrack, you’ll love this beautifully decorated house in Oceanside

The house displays thousands of colorful Christmas lights animated to a nightly soundtrack of over 12 Christmas songs playing from 5 pm-9 pm. 

Set your car radio to 87.9 FM to tune into the music and enjoy the show.

The Forward House at Bankers Hill, San Diego

Where: on the corner of Ivy Street and 1st Avenue in Bankers Hill, San Diego CA
When: Thanksgiving through January 1st

For over two decades, The Forward House in Bankers Hill, previously owned by two of the city’s mayors (John Forward Jr and Sr), has been covered by an extravagant light display that illuminates the neighborhood. 

Santa Claus and his reindeer are on display with Christmas music playing as guests walk all the way around The Forward House to get 360 views of the house entirely covered in lights.

The Davidson House, San Marcos

Where: 2516 Rockdale Place, San Marcos, CA
When: Nightly throughout December

A San Marcos Christmas isn’t complete without the annual Christmas light display at The Davidson House. You’ll just have to see it for yourself!

25,000 colorful Christmas lights cover the Davidson House lawn and illuminate the San Marcos community nightly throughout the holiday season. 

You can stay cozy in the car or walk right up.

Best Holiday Light Events in San Diego

Lightscape, San Diego Botanic Garden, Encinitas

A lightscape in the San Diego Botanic Garden seen at night as two geomeric sculptural forms amongst trees lit with purple and red lights.

Where: San Diego Botanic Garden, 300 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas, CA
When: Select dates throughout November & December

The annual Lightscape San Diego event at the San Diego Botanic Gardens is a 1-mile loop walk lit by magnificent holiday lights and set to a holiday soundtrack.

There are art installations, light tunnels, and even a fire garden! My personal favorites are the rainbow trees.

It takes about an hour to get through, and there is lots of food, holiday treats, and drinks for purchase on-site. 

They really go above and beyond with this one.

Rancho Bernardo Winery Holiday Nights

Where: Rancho Bernardo Winery, 13330 Paseo del Verano Norte, San Diego, CA
When: 2023 dates TBD

Southern California’s oldest winery hosts an annual winter wonderland for one week in December. 

This holiday festival displays some of the most beautiful Christmas light displays in San Diego County. 

Guests can take a romantic ride on the carriage around the winery grounds while sipping on hot cocoa or mulled wine. 

Enjoy breathtaking lights and carolers singing unique Christmas tunes and classic Christmas music we all know so well. 

The winery is open late into the evening for this special Christmas event, so make a romantic evening out of it!

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

The sign over the entrance for the San Diego Zoo seen at night lit up green and rainbow, with green Christmas lights and garlands hung in the background.

Where: The San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
When: throughout December

And if you’re wondering, “Where is a good place to see Christmas lights in San Diego that’s extra kid-friendly,” visit the Zoo

Jungle Bells at the Zoo is a Christmas celebration that lasts the entire holiday season. 

If you’re looking for a good place to see Christmas lights in San Diego, you won’t be disappointed by their holiday light displays.

The Polar Express 4-D, holiday train uses special and practical effects to take you on a tour through the North Pole. You’ll feel like you’re really there!

Then, take a real-life ride on the Twinkle Light Trolley to tour the grounds and view the spectacular Christmas lights and decorations throughout the zoo. 

The trees sparkle with holiday magic, and you can spot winter-loving animals throughout the park. 

Jungle Bells also has live entertainment and performances, Christmas music, food, and drinks.

Read our guide to the San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park.

Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

The Hotel del Coronado seen at night lit with white Christmas and surrounded by by silhouettes of palm trees.

Where: Hotel Del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA
When: Throughout December

Throughout December, San Diego’s famous Hotel Del Coronado transforms into a winter wonderland along the iconic beachfront. 

Christmas lights surrounding the beachfront ice rink and many other decorations around the grounds are not to be missed. 

Hotel Del Coronda strings over a million lights through the grounds and offers Christmas activities.

Everything is complete with snowflakes, sparkles, treats, and hot chocolate.

The holiday decorations and Christmas lights at Hotel Del Coronado are by far some of the best holiday lights in San Diego. 

You can even visit the hotel on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Balboa Park December Nights

A crowd of people strolling the palm-lined walkway leading to Balboa Park in San Diego beneath an orange and pink sunset.

Where: Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
When: December 1st & 2nd

Balboa Park’s annual December Nights two-day festival is a great place to see San Diego Christmas lights and immerse yourself in a festive atmosphere. 

Thousands of Christmas lights are strung throughout the park to illuminate the park with holiday cheer. 

The holiday spirit is in full swing at Balboa Park during the first weekend of December. 

With Christmas trees, lots of music, art installations, plenty of food options, choirs and live performances, and much more, this one is a whole experience.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Where: San Diego Bay (parade starts at Shelter Island and finishes at Ferry Landing on Coronado)
When: December 10th & December 17th, 5:30pm-7:30pm

The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is a San Diego Christmas boat parade tradition that has been ongoing for over 50 years. 

The boat parade draws over 100,000 spectators to the San Diego shoreline. 

Witness the procession of about 80 boats completely decorated with holiday lights by San Diego locals eager to spread holiday cheer. 

There is no cost to view the parade. Afterward, you can enjoy treats, hot chocolate, and friendly faces to celebrate with. 

If you’re looking for the best San Diego Christmas lights, The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is a must!

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, San Diego

Where: SeaWorld San Diego, CA
When: daily throughout December

Holiday lights are just one of the holiday gifts lighting up SeaWorld’s annual Christmas Celebration. 

SeaWorld holds incredible live performances and an animated live show. 

Decorated rides, holiday characters, holiday shopping, food, and treats make SeaWorld’s winter wonderland a must-do!

Looking for more spots to enjoy the holiday spirit in California? Read our guide to the best places to celebrate Christmas in California.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taylor Neal

Taylor is a multi-disciplinary artist, writer, yoga instructor, and frontline worker who spends most of her time in her van (Vannigan) winding through the coastal and mountain roads of California where she feels most at home. From navigating the realities of van life to the fluctuations in diverse climates and landscapes, Taylor is excited to bring everything she’s learned about California to fellow wanderers seeking beauty and adventure.


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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.

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