Home for the holidays: La Jolla events adapt to pandemic online, outdoors and otherwise to ring in the season

Employees and customers walk among the Christmas trees offered at the Mr. Jingle's lot on La Jolla Boulevard through Dec. 24.
Employees and customers walk among the Christmas trees offered at the Mr. Jingle’s lot on La Jolla Boulevard through Dec. 24.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

With the pandemic keeping many of us home for coronavirus-restricted holidays, some of the signature special events in the La Jolla area have migrated online, outdoors or to other adaptations to provide ways to celebrate the season.

A ‘reverse parade’

The 2020 La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival will have a coronavirus twist from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.

In the “reverse parade,” ticketed spectators will drive by while the floats are stationary. No spectators will be allowed on the streets or sidewalks.

At 12:30 p.m., the Old Black Goose — a 1915 Packard convertible — will arrive with Santa Claus at the US Bank parking lot at 7733 Girard Ave. The parade will officially start at 1:30 with the traditional flyover of vintage planes. Then, the Old Black Goose will depart the parking lot escorted by other vintage Packards and drive Santa to Wall Street, where socially distanced visitors can see him on the portico of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library at 1008 Wall St. until 3:30 p.m.

Spectator vehicles can enter Girard Avenue from Torrey Pines Road and follow directions to Kline Street and Herschel Avenue and the start of the parade route, exiting at Silverado Street and Ivanhoe Avenue.

A map shows the route for the 2020 "reverse" La Jolla Christmas Parade on Sunday, Dec. 6.
(La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival)

After the parade, the traditional Christmas tree will be lighted on the portico of the Athenaeum.

Spectator vehicles will be required to display entry tickets on their dashboards. Santa visits also will require an entry ticket for each family. Tickets will be available on the parade website,; there is no charge for tickets. Virtual entertainment will play on the website.

From stage to computer screen

•The La Jolla Community Center’s holiday and benefit concert featuring jazz musicians Peter Sprague, Leonard Patton and Tripp Sprague will be free to stream on, with live music, a raffle and a silent auction beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10.

Donations will be accepted after the concert to help the community center.

Peter Sprague, Leonard Patton and Tripp Sprague
Peter Sprague, Leonard Patton and Tripp Sprague (from left) will provide the entertainment for the La Jolla Community Center holiday and benefit concert.

Those who would like to donate “high-value” items such as gift cards of $100 or more for the silent auction may do so until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8. The auction will begin at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, after the concert. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Registration for the concert is required. A link will be sent 48 hours before the event. Learn more at

• A one-man filmed stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” starring UC San Diego-trained actor Jefferson Mays is being presented as a fundraiser for La Jolla Playhouse and several other theaters that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The video will be available for streaming Nov. 28 through Jan. 3. Tickets are $50 per household and are available at Ticket buyers will be emailed a link for viewing.

Sights and sounds

Birch Aquarium’s annual “Seas ‘n’ Greetings” celebration has moved outdoors this year, with seasonal music and decor at 2300 Expedition Way. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Dec. 31 (it’s closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and closes early at 3 p.m. New Year’s Eve).

Birch Aquarium’s annual "Seas ‘n’ Greetings" celebration features festive decor for photo opps.

In the Smargon Courtyard, which is tented in preparation for winter weather, guests can see some of their favorite marine animals, including tropical species like cleaner shrimp, locals such as leopard sharks and rays, and baby animals from the nursery, and can participate in several hands-on activities.

The Education Courtyard features elements of the popular exhibition “Oddities: Hidden Heroes of the Scripps Collections,” and visitors can learn about the superpowers of ocean creatures.

Photo opportunities abound with a 12-foot-tall ocean-themed holiday tree, an 18-foot inflatable octopus, a life-size cutout of Scuba Santa, and the ocean views that have made Birch Aquarium famous.

Seas ‘n’ Greetings is included in the cost of aquarium admission ($12 to $16.50) and is free for members. Indoor areas are closed because of coronavirus restrictions. All tickets must be reserved online for a specific date and time at

La Jolla Presbyterian Church will present its 59th annual Christmas concert live and outdoors at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, at 7715 Draper Ave.

The free concert in the courtyard will feature socially distanced seating and require guests to wear masks.

The show will include carols, holiday classics on harp by Heidi Fleischbein, and Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Registration is required by noon Saturday, Dec. 12. To reserve seats, visit

Donations to the church concert series are accepted at

Food and drink

Though subject to change depending on county public health guidelines, La Valencia Hotel at 1132 Prospect St. plans to host holiday teas, dinners and outdoor experiences in lieu of its traditional tree lighting ceremony.

“We’re decking the halls with all-new decor,” said marketing manager Annalise Dewhurst. “The ‘Pink Lady’ will glow from top to bottom with thousands of twinkling [lights], festive trees and two life-size nutcrackers at the front entrance to greet guests upon arrival.”

Holiday teas with sandwiches and sweets are scheduled on the patio at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 5 and 12. Reservations are available through

La Valencia Hotel plans to present December holiday teas on the patio.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners will be available for onsite dining for $95 per adult or for takeout for $250 for a family of four. Takeout orders must be received by Monday, Dec. 21, with pickup Dec. 23. Learn more at

Shopping spots

• The Athenaeum Holiday Bookstore opens at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and will continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays through the end of the year at 1008 Wall St.

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library presents a large selection of gently used books, CDs, vinyl LPs and sheet music. The number of shoppers will be limited according to county guidelines, and masks and physical distancing will be required. Learn more at

• The Estancia La Jolla hotel will be decked out in festive decor to provide a backdrop for its pop-up market, holiday scavenger hunt and more at 9700 N. Torrey Pines Road.

The holiday pop-up market, featuring area craft, food and art vendors, will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 5, 12 and 19.

All month, children can participate in a holiday scavenger hunt on the grounds by picking up a list of clues from the front desk.

Learn more at

• The Westfield UTC mall at 4545 La Jolla Village Drive is transforming into a whimsical winter wonderland with a life-size snow globe collection displayed throughout the center from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays the first three weeks of December.

In addition, The Grinch’s Grotto features visits with the Grinch in his cave, complete with a burlap sack full of presents, a Grinch-style holiday tree and a fireplace with hanging stockings from Nov. 27 to Dec. 31. For reservations,

Westfield UTC’s annual menorah lighting has been adapted to feature a take-home Hanukkah celebration kit to pick up with pre-registration on Thursday, Dec. 10.

The mall requires social distancing and face coverings for kids to meet Santa daily through Dec. 24, and reservations are strongly encouraged. The mall also has increased cleaning of common areas, along with monitoring and enforcement of capacity limits. To make an appointment to see Santa, visit

Mr. Jingle’s Christmas Trees is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 24 at 6710 La Jolla Blvd., offering fresh trees from Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Canada.

Coronavirus-related safety protocols include requirements that employees and guests wear masks and practice social distancing and that employees receive a temperature check upon arrival and answer a daily questionnaire about any COVID-19 symptoms. High-touch areas onsite will be sanitized regularly.

Online ordering, delivery, drop-off, installation and tree removal services are available.

For more information, visit

— La Jolla Light Editor Rob Vardon contributed to this report.


3:22 p.m. Nov. 30, 2020: La Valencia Hotel said Nov. 30 that its Bright Bubbly Bar planned for select weekends through Dec. 27 is no longer available.