Twinkle, twinkle, it’s time for Christmas lights cruising in San Diego!
For the past few years, we’ve put together a list of the best places to go see Christmas light displays in San Diego. This year, we’re sure to see more LED lighting than in years past since the price of the long-lasting bulbs has decreased. This is good news for pocket books and the environment!
*NOTE – We do our best to fact check and update our residential information each year when information is available. If there is a link, please check it before you go. We wouldn’t want you to be disappointed! Please note that dates/times and displays are subject to change.
Great Residential Holiday Light Displays in San Diego
Chula Vista – Chula Vista is the county’s second largest city and Candy Cane Lane is one of the shortest streets in the County that used to carry the most Christmas punch. We know that many people still search for Candy Cane Lane in Chula Vista, but it has not existed for years because it caused major traffic problems. Some of the residents still turn on their house lights but Candy Cane Lane is the not exactly the sweet street it once was. However, there is a silver lining to this story. Chula Vista’s answer to Candy Cane Lane is now Christmas Circle which is worth a look-see. Christmas Circle is located on Whitney Street and Mankato Street. These two streets form a loop which provides for easy viewing. The area is located between First and Second Avenue off H Street. The easiest access is off the I-5.
Coronado – Coronado is one of our favorite areas to go holiday light hunting every year. Why? Because the people of Coronado go all out in getting into the Christmas spirit. Go have some dinner in Coronado and then get back in your car and drive around the ‘island’.
El Cajon & La Mesa– Just east of La Mesa, El Cajon gets into the holiday spirit in a big way. In La Mesa, head over to La Mesa’s Jingle Bell Hill. Please note this display is also known as Pepper Drive Lights. In either case, this display is located in a quaint neighborhood that just happens to take the joy of Christmas very seriously. Jingle Bell Hill is located on Solomon Avenue and Pegeen Place. It can be reached off the SR-67, exiting on Bradley.
TIP! We heard from Ron, one of our readers, that in La Mesa, 7390 Stanford Avenue at the corner of Stanford and Pomona is worth a look-see. One of our readers, Erika, also told us that Blackbird Street in El Cajon is a good street to check out.
Kensington – One of San Diego’s oldest and most charming residential neighborhoods, Kensington, is situated north of El Cajon Boulevard and east of Interstate 15 above the south rim of Mission Valley. Like Mission Hills, Kensington is known for its winding streets and beautiful homes. Follow Adams Avenue east of the Kensington sign to Van Dyke. Pass through the intersection of Van Dyke and Adams. It would be hard to miss the lights of this neighborhood. We tip our hats to all of the neighbors for stringing up all those lights! You are in for a real treat!
La Jolla – Many of San Diego’s wealthiest people live in La Jolla and their holiday displays demonstrate that level of wealth. La Jolla sits west of I-5, going from Torrey Pines State Reserve in the north to the hills of Pacific Beach in the south. The Village is a great place to walk around, do some shopping, get something to eat, go look at the ocean, and then get in the car to go do a drive-by to see the lovely lights.
Mission Hills – Located in the hills above Old Town, Mission Hills is a neighborhood of stately craftsman homes dating back to the early 20th century. Quite a number of these beautiful homes have been designated as historically significant homes. Kate Sessions, landscape planner of Balboa Park, started the Mission Hills Nursery a century ago (which sells Christmas trees this time of year). This is a great place to drive around to see the lights because the streets are windy and are void of traffic. Many of the homes are lit up for the holidays as are a number of the skyline trees that soar above the palm trees that line the major streets. Be sure to look for the tallest star pine you can find and see if you can spot the lit star at the top. It is the pride of Mission Hills during Christmas time and it’s located on Sunset Boulevard!
TIP! One of our readers tipped us off that the biggest holiday display in Mission Hills is located on an estate that is now used for special events. It’s the Bohannon Estate and it’s located at 2440 Pine Street (between Arista Drive & Conde Place). We checked it out last year and it’s spectacular!
Ocean Beach – You have to appreciate the Ocean Beach Christmas Tree at the foot of Newport Avenue (at Abbott). Where else can you enjoy a Christmas tree parked in the sand along the shore? We won’t describe it more because we wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. Let’s just say that it’s ‘beachy’ keen.
Oceanside – When in Oceanside, head to the house at 3648 Esplanade Street. It has become a holiday tradition for many families in the North County. The lights are on during the month of December from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The owners of this home tell us that they enjoy going out and meeting the people who come to see their annual display. If you’re lucky, you might even get some candy canes to munch on!
Point Loma – Point Loma is another one of San Diego’s oldest and wealthiest communities of San Diego. Blessed with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and views of both Downtown and America’s Cup Harbor to the east, Point Loma is one of the area’s most desirable communities. One constant theme in Point Loma is maritime and seafaring. Many retired military people live here as do many retired Portuguese fishermen. Their homes’ holiday displays are big, nautical, and always full of Christmas spirit.
TIP! One of the most impressive streets in Point Loma is Garrison off of Catalina Boulevard. This is the kind of street that people get out of the cars and walk around because the displays are awesome.
Poway – In Poway, everyone talks about the “The Griswolds” display at 12631 Stoutwood Street, off Twin Peaks Road & Deerwood Street. Be sure to meander around the pocket neighborhoods that band together like: Hickory Court & Hickory Street and 12659 Butterwood Court and Rockrose Court off Twin Peaks Road & Silverset Street, too!
Rancho Peñasquitos – Located in the northern area of the City of San Diego, Rancho Peñasquitos is home to many, many families. Christmas Card Lane, started with 15 families in 1985. Since that time, over 200 families have gotten into the holiday lighting act. The organizers of Christmas Card Lane have one request. Park your car and walk around so that you can take a Christmas stroll, sip hot chocolate, munch on and baked goods, and listen to Christmas carols.
Christmas Card Lane is located on Oviedo Street, just off Black Mountain Road. The entire area includes Twin Trails, Carmel Mountain Road, Ellingham Street, Renato Street, Oviedo Street, Twin Trails Drive, Barrymore Street, Totherham Avenue, Talca Avenue, Talca Court, Allenbrook Way, Davenport Avenue, and last, but not least, Amber Sky Lane.
San Marcos – Christmas on Knob Hill is one of the largest residential light displays in San Diego County. This is one family’s labor of love that has grown and grown to the enjoyment of all the visitors who put Knob Hill on their list of favorite places to view Christmas light displays. For over 20 years, the family that resides at 1639 Knob Hill has decorated their property with over 90,000 lights, 100 plastic figures, 20 rope light figures, 80 snowmen, and 100 candy canes, and more. As of 12/2, the website has not been updated for 2018. Please check Christmas on Knob Hill before going to this display!
South Park/Burlingame – South Park and Burlingame are two communities that are geographically close but are separated by the urban canyons that criss-cross this older part of San Diego. South Park is a friendly residential community that is situated between North Park at Juniper Street and Golden Hill at “A” Street.
Burlingame is a residential community known for its pink concrete sidewalks – you know you are in Burlingame when you start seeing the pink sidewalks! Burlingame has a charming tradition of uniting various neighbors with strings of lights on certain streets to make a block holiday display. This year, be on the lookout for luminarias.
Bordered on the west by Balboa Park, South Park boasts beautiful vistas and classic California Craftsman style homes that have been getting better with a conscious effort of homeowners to preserve the past. Many of the homeowners are proud of their homes and do their very best to deck their halls with classy light displays.
TIP! We found a particularly spectacular residential display on 28th Street between Upas and Thorn that will knock your Christmas socks off. It is a must-see!
Tierrasanta – Be sure to check out a very special holiday display that is appropriately called Belardo Lights. This display is the work of one special family that resides at 5306 Belardo Drive. The Schimka family decorates their home with 65,000 lights and oodles of homemade decorations during the holiday season. The lights are up from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., nightly. Check the website for more information. Here are some photos from last year’s display. As a special treat, tune your car radio to FM 89.7 to hear the synchronized music. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more information.
On a personal note, we would like to add that the Schimka family creates this holiday gift to the community but it also serves as a wonderful family project throughout the year. The family has two sons with autism and the holiday display provides an enriching opportunity to engage their boys and create holiday magic. We thank the family for sharing their family gift and generosity with all of us!
In 2018, the family will be doing more fundraising for the National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR). The first night for fundraising will be on Friday, December 6, 2018. They will be asking for donations every weekend in December before Christmas. Last year, the family was able to raise $7,000 for NFAR! Amazing!
Great Commercial Holiday Displays San Diego
Banker’s Hill – Bertrand at Mr. A’s Restaurant (5th & Laurel) – The iconic Mr. A’s building, once again, provides a gift to San Diego with their traditional display. If you are flying into San Diego, look to the right of the plane just after passing over Balboa Park and you’ll spot the Mr. A’s building. It is a cross between a Christmas tree and a birthday cake. The Forward House (1st & Ivy) – Talk about lighting up the night, this building has every inch covered. We salute businesses that give the holiday joy to the community.
Downtown San Diego – Don’t think downtown gets into the act? Sure it does! From the green rings of The Westin on Broadway to the elegant displays at the U.S. Grant and the Westgate, downtown does its best to show off its holiday spirit. Many of the downtown buildings decorate the top of their buildings with some kind of holiday color – why even City Hall gets into the act and hangs a single string of lights around its exterior.
Naturally, the shopping mecca in downtown, Horton Plaza, is always decked out for the holidays and it is a great place to walk around and do some last-minute shopping. Be sure to look for the outdoor ice-skating rink on the northern side of Horton Plaza. It’s a great way to spend a winter night!
Mission Valley – Mission Valley? Yes! Mission Valley’s malls are decorated but did you know that some of the most decorated commercial buildings are its many hotels? The Crowne Plaza, formerly the Hanalei, is usually dripping with lights during the holidays and the Mission Valley Hilton, somehow manages to get JOY spelled out in its hotel room windows facing the I-8. Be sure to keep an eye out for it!
Bazaar del Mundo – Just on the eastern side of Old Town sits the wonderful property of Diane Powers that oozes holiday charm this time of year. This is a great collection of small shops that offers beautiful Christmas or Navidad displays and unique holiday shopping. The Bazaar is located on Taylor Street and Juan Street – look for the Casa Guadalajara restaurant at the corner; the Bazaar is just behind it.
Hotel Del Coronado – We wouldn’t be a good San Diego travel guide without including one of the most enchanting holiday wonderlands. The Hotel Del is beautiful all the time but when Christmas comes a-calling, the lobby is decorated with 100,000 lights from now – January 1, 2019. The Hotel Del is just stunning during the holiday season. Another reason to go to the Hotel Del Coronado is to see their amazing Christmas tree (in the hotel lobby) and to strap on some ice skates and glide along their beachfront ice skating rink.
If you’d like to add a residential or commercial holiday display that will knock our socks off, please be sure to leave a comment and let us know!
We wish all of our readers, followers and fans, a very merry and bright Christmas holiday season. Cheers, San Diego!