Best Bets for holiday events and Christmas cheer in La Jolla and San Diego: Dec. 12-19

La Jolla Recreation Center will hold its annual (and free) "Lunch with Santa" event 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Daniel K. Lew)

Best Bets for Holidays Events in La Jolla and the San Diego area: Dec. 12-19, 2019

This week’s special events include a variety of Christmas concerts, ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet performances, holiday parties, arts & crafts with Santa Claus, and Hanukkah happenings.


Lunch With Santa

La Jolla Recreation Center offers Lunch with Santa, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14 at 615 Prospect St., La Jolla. Event includes a light lunch, arts & crafts for ages 2.5-10, and meet & greet with Kris Kringle (bring your own camera.) Free. Register at (858) 552-1658,


Masters of Harmony and Pacific Coast Harmony perform Dec. 14, 2019 in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
(Courtesy Photo)

Holiday Concerts

• 100 voices strong, Masters of Harmony and Pacific Coast Harmony will perform a Christmas show, 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 3459 Manchester Ave., Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Tickets: $25 at (plus small service fee).

• “The Voice” semi-finalist Jackie Foster will join chamber music ensemble Camarada for an evening of classical and popular holiday music, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. Tickets: $53. (858) 459-3724.

San Diego Early Music Society welcomes the Baltimore Consort (featuring both its great singers: soprano Danielle Svonavec and countertenor José Lemos) in a holiday concert, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 743 Prospect St., La Jolla. Founded in 1980 to play the music of Shakespeare’s time, the lively sextet, with their viols, lutes, cittern, flutes, bagpipe, gemshorn, rebec and recorders, continues their annual celebration with old favorites from the British Isles, France, Germany, Spain and Appalachia. Tickets: $10-$45. (619) 291 8246.

Baltimore Consort performs Dec. 14, 2019 at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla.
(Photo by Gary Payne)

• Hear Handel’sMessiah,” 4 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 as performed by the La Jolla Presbyterian Church choir and a professional orchestra, 7715 Draper Ave., La Jolla. Free. This very special event gets rave reviews each year from those in attendance. (858) 454-0713.

• Ruben Venezuela will lead the La Jolla Symphony Chamber Orchestra, choir soloists and audience in the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah” in a Community Sing, 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, 6628 Santa Isabel St., Carlsbad. Admission: $18. All are welcome to enjoy the sound of hundreds of voices lifted in song. Scores available onsite for sale, $15 or rent, $5.

San Diego Symphony will perform a Noel Noel Concert, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14, 20, 21, 22, with Christmas gems and choral favorites. Tickets: $25-$84. Hear a one-hour version of the Noel Noel Concert just for families, featuring special visitors, 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15. Tickets: $13-$28. Copley Symphony Hall, 750 B St., downtown San Diego. (619) 235-0804.


The Dance Academy at The Children’s School in La Jolla stages ‘The Nutcracker,’ Dec. 14-15, 2019.
(Courtesy Photo)

‘Nutcracker’ Ballets

The Children’s School presents family-friendly performances of “The Nutcracker” by The Dance Academy, 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2225 Torrey Pines Lane, La Jolla. Tickets: $10 by e-mailing

The Ballet Institute of San Diego presents old and new traditions together in “The Nutcracker — No Sugar,” 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. Tickets: $16.50-$43. (858) 459-3724.

City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” is on stage Dec. 13-22 at Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway, downtown San Diego. Tickets from $32. Post-concert Champagne On-Stage Reception Saturday, Dec. 21 for an additional $25 per person. (858) 272-8663.

San Diego Ballet’s version features an international cast of more than 100 dancers under the directon of Javier Velasco, 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29 at Copley Symphony Hall, 750 B St., downtown San Diego. Tickets: $49-139 (619) 294-7311.


Celebrate the Holiday SEAson: Guests visiting Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla are treated to special appearances by Scuba Santa for the aquarium’s annual celebration, Seas ‘n’ Greetings, which runs through Dec. 31.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda)

Aquarium Fun

Seas ‘n’ Greetings with family activities, including appearances by Scuba Santa in a Kelp Dive Show, scavenger hunts, close-up animal encounters and live holiday music on weekends, continues through Dec. 31 at Birch Aquarium at Scripps, 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25.) Admission: $16-$19.50. (858) 534-3474.


La Jolla Community Center Holiday Party

• A Holiday Celebration with dinner, dancing, live music and silent auctions is set for 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13 at La Jolla Community Center, 6811 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla. Tickets: $15, free for members. (858) 459-0831.


Book Buys and More

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library will hold a Holiday Bookstore, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, along with bassist Rob Thorsen performing on the patio, 3:30-4:30 p.m. at 1008 Wall St., La Jolla. Merchandise includes used books, CDs, vinyl LPs and sheet music, plus handmade cards, jewelry and ceramics. Sale also continues Dec. 21 and Dec. 28. (858) 454-5872.


Some of the cast members in “A Charlie Brown Christmas" at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach
Some of the cast members in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach
(Photo by Aaron Rumley)

Ho Ho Ho, Charlie Brown!

The Theatre School @ North Coast Rep will stage “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” directed by Benjamin Cole and based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson, 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 19-20; 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 21; and 2 p.m. Dec. 22 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Tickets: From $12. (858) 481-1055.

North Coast Repertory Theatre will also host Dickens Unscripted, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16-17. An improvised comedy inspired by the works of Dickens. Tickets from $27. (858) 481-1055.


Crafts With Santa

• Holiday crafts, music and Santa! 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. Guests are asked to please bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate. Free. Dan McKinney Family YMCA, 8355 Cliffridge Ave., La Jolla. (858) 453-3483.

Dan McKinney Family YMCA will also host New Year’s Eve at Noon, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31. Bring the family for activities, refreshments, and a “countdown to noon.” Free.


3D Ornament Making

• Create holiday ornaments during a 3D workshop for all ages, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17 at La Jolla Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave., La Jolla. Design and print a 3D ornament to take home. Free. (858) 552-1567.


See artwork by Renata Spiazzi — including the piece 'After the Rain' (pictured) — on display at La Jolla Community Center, along with other works by local artists Dan Pressman and Dottie Stanley. There will be an artists reception Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019.
(Courtesy Photo)

La Jolla Art Association Reception

La Jolla Art Association will host a reception for “Two Faces of Digital Art,” the work of Renata Spiazzi and Dan Pressman, with the fine art of Dottie Stanley, 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at La Jolla Community Center, 6811 La Jolla Blvd. (858) 775-7787. and


It’s A Hanukkah Happening!

• This marks the 35th annual Hanukkah Happening with carnival games, art projects, a bounce house, latke-eating contest, crafts, prizes, arcade and silent auction, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 at Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. Admission: $5 members, $7 non-members; fees for activities. (858) 457-3030.

Jewish Christmas: Chinese Food and a Movie, 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25. Enjoy Glatt kosher Chinese food and a screening of “Dirty Dancing.” $35 members, $38 non-members at Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. (858) 457-3030.


Holiday Tea at La Valencia Hotel

• 2-4 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21. Enjoy afternoon tea with delectable sandwiches and homemade sweets set to ocean views and elevate your experience with Champagne selections in the Mediterranean Room. Starts at $46. La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect St., La Jolla. (855) 476-6870.

Other holiday activities at La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla include:

Storytime Brunch with Santa, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22. Enjoy brunch at THE MED followed by storytime with Santa Claus, plus kids activities.

Christmas Movie, “Polar Express” screening 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23. Cozy up with hot chocolate and the family to watch this holiday film together.


Garden All Aglow

San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, will illuminate 37 acres of flora, including pine trees, Pony Tail palms and aloes, Dragon trees and bamboo, with more than 125,000 sparkling lights during its Botanic Wonderland Holiday Nights in the Garden. There’s nightly entertainment, visits with Santa, holiday crafts, twinkling light tunnel, dazzling 10-foot poinsettia tower, a musical light show and Kids Fun Zone with nightly “snowfall.” There’s a food truck court, a beer, wine and mulled wine garden, hot chocolate, coffee and more. Visitors can stop by from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 10-15,17-23 and 26-30. Tickets: $12-$25.


Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church

7713 Girard Ave., La Jolla. (858) 454-2631.

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish Mass, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12. Celebrate the Catholic holiday with a Spanish mass followed by a dinner and dance at 7:30 p.m. Dinner and Dance $25.

Our Lady’s Guild Christmas Brunch, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Sunday, Dec. 15. Free.

Lessons in Carols, 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16. Nine biblical readings and nine carols followed by blessings and the lighting of the Torrey Pines Christmas tree. Free.

Advent Penance, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18. Reconciliation service.

Christmas Eve services, 4 and 6 p.m. (Spanish Mass) Tuesday, Dec. 24.

Christmas Day services, 7:30, 9, 10:30 a.m. and noon, Wednesday, Dec. 25.

Biblical scholar, 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. Dr. Scott Hahn will discuss Scripture at the heart of the Church. $20.


SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration runs through Jan. 5, 2020 and includes holiday-themed entertainment, such as the comedic seal-and-sea lion show, ‘Clyde and Seamore’s Christmas Special.’
(Courtesy Photo)

Festive Fun at Theme Parks

SeaWorld San Diego, 500 SeaWorld Drive, San Diego. (619) 222-4732, — SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration runs Nov. 23, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020. Holiday music fills the air, a sea of 1 million lights sparkle, two new shows: Cirque Christmas and Winter Wonderland on Ice, Rudolph’s Christmastown and new Sesame Street Christmas Village. Included with admission, from $73.99.

LEGOLAND California, 1 LEGOLAND Drive in Carlsbad, holds its Holidays at LEGOLAND through Jan. 5, 2020. The theme park’s Fun Town area features a 30-foot, fully decorated LEGO Christmas tree with more than 400 LEGO ornaments. After sunset, a LEGO tree light show with singers and dancers perform throughout the evening. Photo opportunities include meet-and-greets with human-sized LEGO Santa, toy soldiers and gingerbread people aboard a giant LEGO sled. Throughout its Miniland area with sprawling LEGO replicas of major cities like New Orleans, New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., holiday scenes and numerous hidden Santas have been added to the giant dioramas. On Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, Kids’ New Year’s Eve offers live bands, party favors and a 6 p.m. giant LEGO-brick drop countdown, followed by fireworks. Holiday entertainment included with admission, from $90. (760) 918-5346.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido. (619) 231-1515. — Wild Holidays, select days Nov. 29, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020. Experience seasonal entertainment, holiday decor and special activities in a festive atmosphere. $46-56.

San Diego Zoo, 2920 Zoo Drive in Balboa Park, San Diego. (619) 231-1515, — “Jungle Bells,” 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 13, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020 (no evening event on Dec. 24 when the Zoo closes at 5 p.m.). Twinkling lights, animal-shaped light sculptures, special animal experiences and music, high-flying acrobats, Dr. Zoolittle and the Zoo’s costumed characters. Santa will also be present. $56 adult, $46 ages 3-11.


Festive yuletide cheer is in store at Knott’s Merry Farm with the brand-new show for 2019, "Home for the Holidays," where joyous merriment takes over the Calico Mine Stage with dancing and snowfall, set to popular holiday tunes. Guests will be swept into a magical scene of an old-fashioned Winter Wonderland and celebrate timeless holiday traditions — including a magical transformation of the massive stage that happens right before the audience's eyes.
(Photo by Daniel K. Lew)

Knott’s Berry Farm gets merrier as “Knott’s Merry Farm”

Knott’s Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park. (714) 220-5200, — Knott’s theme park in Orange County transforms into “Knott’s Merry Farm” for the Christmas season with added entertainment, delightful décor, and two dozen new-and-festive “holiday foods with a twist” — such as Turkey Dinner Burger, Apple Pie Pizza, Christmas Chicago Dog, Horchata Funnel Cake, and Turkey & Stuffing Egg Rolls. Taking place Nov. 22, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020, Knott’s Merry Farm offers seasonal festivities and joyful experiences inspired by the spirit of the holidays.

This year, the Knott’s Merry Farm is debuting a new musical revue celebrating the importance of family and friends rejoicing in holiday traditions — the “Home for the Holidays” stage show features classic Christmas tunes, world-class performers, festive lights, magical dancing toys and dazzling snow; all set on a grand stage that literally and magically transforms right in front of audience’s eyes.

Also, holiday-themed décor transforms the entire park into a classic winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights, miles of themed garland, jumbo snowflakes and a variety of picturesque holiday settings.

Parkgoers of all ages can enjoy classic shows like “Merry Christmas, Snoopy!” — the beloved ice-skating show stars the famous beagle, the Peanuts Gang, and a cast of world-class and athletic ice skaters.

Plus, at the heart of Knott’s Merry Farm is the park’s streets of Calico — which play host to Christmas carolers; a Christmas Crafts Village offering one-of-a-kind gifts and hand-crafted items for sale; Santa’s Christmas Cabin for photos with Santa, plus holiday treats and drinks; a nightly tree-lighting ceremony; and the enchanting “Snow and Glow experience with falling snow.

Knott’s Merry Farm entertainment is included with admission: $53-$84 with bigger discounts for tickets purchased at


Guests visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain during its "Holiday in the Park" event from Nov. 23, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020 can meet Looney Tunes characters like Sylvester the cat, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, who are decked out in winter-clothing accessories.
(Courtesy Photo)

Six Flags Magic Mountain lights up with “Holiday in the Park”

Six Flags Magic Mountain, 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia (about 40 minutes north of Los Angeles). (661) 255-4100, — In addition to being the “Thrill Capital of the World” as the current world-record holder with the most roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain lights up the season even brighter with “Holiday in the Park,” its annual holiday extravaganza. With more than 2 million lights and seven uniquely themed areas, the park transform into a spectacularly lit winter wonderland. Running Nov. 23, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020, Holiday in the Park begins each day at 5 p.m., signaled by the first falling snow of the evening.

In addition, Six Flags Magic Mountain is bringing back its popular, holiday-themed “Taste of Holiday in the Park” Food Festival from Dec. 14-29. From traditional holiday-inspired culinary delights to surprising and unique taste-bud-tempting, non-traditional treats, guests will find a wide variety of specialty holiday foods that run the gamut between delicious main courses and mouth-watering desserts. With about 30 holiday foods available, foodies will want to purchase a “Sample Passport” to indulge in as many items as possible.

Guests visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain during Holiday in the Park can experience seven, one-of-a-kind themed areas:

• Merry Lane in the “Metropolis” area is a must-see with thousands of twinkling lights synchronized to holiday music and a larger-than-life, 30-foot brilliantly lit walkthrough of ornaments.

• Santa’s Cottage near “Bugs Bunny World” includes meet & greets with the jolly man himself, plus crafts with Mrs. Claus and her merry elves

• Gleampunk District: A Steampunk Holiday transports guests back in time to the 19th century with sights and sounds of the industrial revolution; plus a unique photo opp in a steampunk sleigh

• Holiday Square envelopes the park’s entrance with a kaleidoscope of breath-taking colors, features thousands of lights on trees and buildings throughout the area, while snowflakes delight guests as they enter this magical scene.

• Snowy Nights, a live holiday show, features contemporary music and themed dancers, percussionists and a DJ playing dance-able tunes on the stage by Full Throttle roller coaster to create a holiday-themed party zone.

• Winter Wonderland area (beginning on the midway past Viper roller coaster and extending up through the Mining Town area) features spiced-up holiday treats, falling snow and larger-than-life toy soldiers.

• The DC UNIVERSE area (near the Batman roller coaster) comes to life as Rockin’ Universe with three dancing-light shows — each customized to contemporary holiday music. As one of the largest programmed light shows on the West Coast, each 5-minute display includes multiple lighting variations with tens of thousands of lights synchronized to holiday musical favorites.

Holiday in the Park entertainment is included with admission: $56-$93 with bigger discounts for tickets purchased at