Winter Adventures Day Trips In San Diego

Get into the winter spirit and check out these festive events around San Diego.

Fantasy on Ice at Horton Square. Credit: Lionel & Heidi via Flickr
Fantasy on Ice at Horton Square. Credit: Lionel & Heidi via Flickr

Written by Danielle Directo-Meston

Winter in San Diego usually doesn't involve snow, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a little seasonal spirit to welcome the holidays. From ice skating in downtown to an entire neighborhood decked out in lights, here are four winter adventure day trip ideas around the San Diego area. The best part? You can get to these spots on just one gas tank or less.

Fantasy on Ice at Horton Square

225 Broadway Cir., San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 234-1031 

Why Go? Strap on your skates for a good cause at downtown San Diego’s Fantasy on Ice skating rink at Horton Plaza. Proceeds benefit the Rady Children’s Hospital.

Insider Tip: Skaters are encouraged to bring an extra pair of socks as conditions can be wet.  

Must Do: Daytime sessions are the most slow-paced and kid-friendly, and the pace tends to pick up as the sun goes down when teens and older skaters arrive.

The Fine Print: The ice rink is open until Jan. 5, except on Christmas Day. Hours are Mondays to Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The rink is open until 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve. Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for children under 12; season passes are $35. Admission includes ice skate rentals.


Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Gardens

230 Quail Gardens Dr.

Encinitas, CA 92024

(760) 436-3036 

Why Go? More than 100,000 twinkling lights transform the gardens into a magical winter wonderland, giving nature lovers a rare opportunity to experience the San Diego Botanic Gardens at night. Forego the massive mall crowds and stroll through the illuminated gardens, roast marshmallows around the campfire, grab a drink or two, enjoy live music and much more.

Insider Tip: Bring plenty of cash for s’mores, hands-on crafts for the kids, photos with Santa and other fun activities.

Must Do! Pack mittens and a snow sled or disc and visit during the garden’s snow days (Dec. 26 and 28), when kids of all ages can sled down the real snow hill and have a friendly snowball fight.

The Fine Print: The Garden of Lights runs until Dec. 30 (closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults; $10 for seniors, students and active military; $6 for kids ages 3 to 12 and free for children 2 and under.


Holiday Magic at Fairway Village

Carmel Mountain Ranch

San Diego, CA

Why Go? Come December, countless cul de sacs around San Diego transform their streets into “Candy Cane Lanes,” but the upscale community of Fairway Village boasts one of the most impressive light displays. Featuring more than 80 decorated homes, synchronized light shows with music and more, this spectacular celebration has become a tradition for many locals looking to get into the holiday spirit.

Insider Tip: Park along Shoal Creek Drive and start your walk at the west end of Stoney Gate Place.

Must Do: Join the neighborhood’s massive holiday party, when carolers and dancers help spread the holiday cheer and homeowners offer hot chocolate and sweet treats to visitors on the Saturday before Christmas every year. This year’s festivities take place on Dec. 22.

The Fine Print: Operating hours are from dusk to 10:30 p.m. daily until to New Year’s Day.  The entrance is located at Stoney Gate Place.


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