Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with these 10 festive events



There’s plenty to do in and around San Marcos during the holidays.

Anneliese Esparza, A&E Editor

For many, Christmastime is a busy season filled with visiting, traveling, decorating and shopping. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed, it’s important to relax and fully take in the magical, special season. These fun and low-key local things to do will help you do just that. All are within 40 miles of CSUSM and are approximately arranged from north to south.

Bainbridge Circle Holiday Extravaganza (Murrieta): At the Bainbridge Circle Holiday Extravaganza, an ordinary neighborhood becomes a seasonal wonderland. If you turn your radio to a certain station, many of the lights even sync up to the music. Bainbridge Circle has built up a reputation, so go early to beat the crowds. It’s open 6 p.m-10 p.m. daily from now until Dec. 25.

Santa’s Electric Light Parade (Temecula): Santa’s Electric Light Parade will occur on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. The parade travels through Old Town Temecula and neighboring streets and includes decorative floats, holiday music played by marching bands and more. There will be vendors and other fun for all ages. Website: temeculaca.gov/1089/Santas-Electric-Light-Parade.

Christmas Concert & Sing-Along (Oceanside): The San Luis Rey Chorale accompanied by a Chamber Orchestra is performing a concert of traditional Christmas music on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m and Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. at the picturesque Mission San Luis Rey. Ticket sales will benefit the preservation and operation of the historic mission. Website: events.sanluisrey.org/christmas-concert.

Bethlehem Walk (Escondido): For Christians, the reason for the season is the birth of Jesus, an event which comes to life at the First United Methodist Church of Escondido’s Bethlehem Walk. The event recreates the town of Bethlehem, complete with townspeople and live animals. It is on Dec. 13-15 and admission is free, although reservations are highly recommended. Website: fumcescondido.org/bethlehem-walk.

Botanic Wonderland (Encinitas): The San Diego Botanic Garden celebrates the Christmas season with spectacular light decorations and fun festivities, including live music, crafts, a shopping bazaar, snow play and more. The Botanic Wonderland runs from Dec. 3-30 from 5 p.m-8:30 p.m. Website: sdbgarden.org/botanicwonderland.htm.

Christmas in the Park (Poway): Old Poway Park will host an old-fashioned holiday festival on Dec. 14 from 3:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Attractions include caroling, music, crafts, a visit with Santa, food, hayrides and more. Website: poway.org/ Calendar.aspx?EID=1330.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo (San Diego): After the sun sets, the San Diego Zoo’s lush gardens are transformed into a magical arena of sparkling lights at Jungle Bells. There will also be holiday attractions during the day. Jungle Bells runs from Dec. 13 through Jan. 5 from 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and admission is included with a zoo ticket. Note that the zoo closes at 5 p.m. on Dec. 24.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” (San Diego): The Old Globe’s 22nd annual staging of the play is a beloved holiday tradition for many San Diego residents. The funny, heartwarming show is perfect for the whole family and you won’t want to miss it. Performances run throughout Dec. 29, but hurry before the show sells out. Website: theoldglobe.org.

“The Nutcracker” (San Diego): Whether you see the classic Christmas ballet every year or have never experienced it before, the San Diego Civic Theatre’s production will be sure to amaze. California Ballet will perform, while the San Diego Symphony will play Tchaikovsky’s iconic score. Shows run from Dec. 14 to Dec. 24. Website: sandiegotheatres.org/the-nutcracker.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights (San Diego): Thousands each year view the extravagantly decorated boats in the Parade of Lights as they sail over the San Diego Bay. This year’s theme is Comic-Con. Viewers can choose between Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, and the parade starts at 5 p.m. Website: sdparadeoflights.org.

Whichever of these you choose to do, hopefully you leave with renewed tranquility and appreciation for the Christmas season, which truly is the most wonderful time of the year.