By Miriam Raftery
November 16, 2023 (San Diego’s East County) – East County has a wealth of treasured holiday events coming up this season, from holiday lighting displays and craft fairs to local festivals, outdoor ice skating rinks, a train ride aboard the North Pole Express, a pottery studio tour, and a performance of the Nutcracker ballet.
Scroll down for details on these merry events, and have a joyous holiday sesaon!
Know of a holiday event we've missed? Please post info in our comments section.
ICESKATING AT JULIAN FARM AND ORCHARD NOV. 10-JAN. 1
Julian Farm and Orchard will be transformed into a winter wonderland with the first-ever ice rink, from November 10th through January 1st, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This skating arena is a synthetic and water-free ice substitute that aligns with Julian Farm and Orchard's commitment to sustainability. You can rent their ice skates or bring your own. You can also enjoy snuggling by outdoor fires, roasting marshmallows, holiday tastes and taps.
You can reserve your spot online https://www.julianfarmandorchard.com/ice-skating
HOLIDAY MARKETPLACE AT MISSION TRAILS NOV. 12
Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) Visitor Center will be transformed into a seasonal marketplace featuring one-of-a-kind gifts from makers and artists with nature-themed offerings on Sunday, November 12 from 9 a.m.to 3 p.m.. The MTRP Foundation will provide shuttle service that will transport patrons to and from at Patrick Henry High School starting at 8:30 a.m.
A percentage of all sales will benefit the park through the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation.
In addition to products including ceramics, jewelry, soaps, cards, home goods, woodworking pieces, and fine art, attendees can peruse the Visitor Center Gift Shop which will be stocked with new Mission Trails merchandise..
Shuttles will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the last one will leave the Visitor Center at 3:30 p.m. Please note that although shuttles begin early, doors to the Visitor Center will not open until 9 a.m. Parking will be impacted near the Visitor Center that day, so we recommend that hikers explore other sections of the park, including Old Mission Dam, East Fortuna Staging Area, and the Kumeyaay Lake Campground.
For more information, visit https://mtrp.org/marketplace.
NORTH POLE EXPRESS TRAIN RIDES IN CAMPO NOV. 24-DEC. 18
The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum invites you to take a ride aboard the North Pole Limited railway, each Friday and Saturday from November 24 through December 16, departing at 5 p.m. and again at 7 p.m.
SANTEE HOLIDAY LIGHTING CELEBRATION NOV. 17
The city of Santee will host its holiday lighting celebration on Friday, November 17 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Santee Trolley Square (9884 Mission Gorge Rd., Santee).
Visitors can enjoy sledding, live music by the Bayou Brothers, holiday photo opportunities with Santa, face painting, and a tree lighting at 6:15 p.m.
PINE VALLEY CAMP CHRISTMAS NOV. 17-DEC. 23
Pine Valley Camp Christmas transforms into a winter wonderland where you can view thousands of computerized lights strung on trees and a spectacular water show, both synchronized to holiday music. This year’s even runs November 17-26 and December 1-23 from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
You can also enjoy hayrides, bounce houses, laser tag, tree climbing, and many other games and attractions for all ages, plus tasty food options .
For full details, visit https://pinevalleycampchristmas.com/.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS ON MAIN NOV. 25
You’re invited to the annual Holiday Lights on Main Street celebration in downtown El Cajon on Saturday, November 25 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The festivities include ice skating on the promenade, family fun and live music, with the tree lighting at 6 p.m. at the corner of Main and Magnolia.
Entertainment on stage will feature the Audio Hounds Band from 2 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. and the Harmony Grove Band from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
It’s also Small Business Saturday, when each year thousands of visitors come out to support their local businesses in downtown El Cajon.
Find details at https://www.downtownelcajon.com.
VIEJAS ICE RINK IN ALPINE OPEN NOV. 23-JAN. 7
The largest outdoor ice rink in southern California will be open at the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine from November 23rd through January 7th from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Skate rentals are available.
You can also enjoy holiday shopping at the outlet center’s many shops. For more information, visit https://viejasoutletcenter.com/skating-rink/.
TURKEY BASH NOV. 24-25 AT LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS
For a roaring good time, you’re invited to a Turkey Bash at Lions, Tigers and Bears, where you can watch rescued big cats and bears savor their Thanksgiving feast. This special event will take place on November 24 and 25, the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, at 10 a.m.
Tickets to this wild event are required and early booking is advised, since this event sells out quickly. Guests are encouraged to bring an item from the nonprofit sanctuary’s wish list, which will be provided after you book your reservation. For tickets, visit https://www.lionstigersandbears.org.
JULIAN COUNTRY CHRISTMAS AND TREE LIGHTING NOV. 25
Julian will host its annual Julian Country Christmas and tree lighting on November 25th from 12 noon to 7:30 p.m. at the future home of the new Julian Town Square.
There will be a Christmas market with holiday vendors and crafts, plus entertainment throughout the day. Music will be begin at 2 p.m. and continue until the tree lighting at 5:30 p.m., after which Santa Claus will arrive to meet and greet the children.
This event is hosted by the Julian Merchants Association and Julian Chamber. Find details at https://visitjulian.com/julian-events/#event=77038157;instance=20231125120000?popup=1
GROSSMONT CENTER HOLIDAY FEST CRAFT MARKET, MUSIC AND TREE LIGHTING NOV. 25
Grossmont Center in La Mesa encourages you to shop local at its Holiday Fest craft market on Small Business Saturday, November 25. Holiday Fest is co-hosted by The Well Community for Women
Discover a variety of heartwarming holiday gifts and unique treasures made by local artisans and vendors. You can support the youngest entrepreneurs at the Children’s Market, inside The Well, and visit Santa’s workshop.
The Holiday Fest Craft Market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Later, from 3 p.m.to 6 p.m., the mall will have holiday performances and tree lighting:, partnering partner with The Salvation Army for their Red Kettle Kickoff and shows by a musicians, dancers, gymnasts and more.
- 3:00 p.m. – 7 Celtic Nations Pipe Band
- 3:30 p.m. – San Diego Gymnastics
- 3:45 p.m. – The Magi
- 4:15 p.m. – Dance Dayz
- 4:30 p.m. – The Salvation Army Brass Band
- 5:00 p.m. – The Well Community for Women children’s performances
- 6:00 p.m. – Countdown to the Tree Lighting!
Plus, you can get photos with Santa, donate a new, unwrapped toy to the toy drive, and enjoy complimentary refreshments.
LIGHTS AT THE LAKES DEC. 1
Santee Lakes will host its Lights at the Lakes Holiday Light Show on December 1st from 6 to 8 p.m.
This event features one mile of over 100,000 lights and more than 35 larger than life displays all synched to the car radio. Tickets will be available at www.SanteeLakes.com.
SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS DEC. 2 BRINGS HOLIDAY CHEER TO LAKESIDE
- Local Youth Performances
- Delectable Foods & Treats
- Classic Car Show(link is external)
- Kids Activities & Craft Booths
- Holiday Shopping from Local Clubs and Vendors
- Community Tree Lighting Ceremony
- Mailbox for the North Pole
- Parking $5. Donation at El Capitan Stadium Association's Lakeside Arena.
RAMONA CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING DEC. 2
Ramona Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Christmas Tree Lighting on December 2 at the Guy B. Woodward Museum (645 Main St., Ramona). The event runs from 5-9p.m. with the tree lighting at 7 p.m.
Enjoy holiday decorations, late shopping and dining, classic cars, live music, vendors, kids' crafts, dancing,carolers, phoitos with Santa and more.
For details, see https://ramonachamber.com/christmas-tree-lighting/.
HOLIDAY IN THE VILLAGE DEC. 2 IN LA MESA
La Mesa’s historic downtown will transform into a Victorian-style village for the city’s annual Holiday in the Village event on Saturday, December 2 from 12 noon to 9 p.m.
The event is held in the heart of La Mesa’s downtown along along La Mesa Boulevard between Spring and Fourth streets.
Visitors can stroll the streets of La Mesa’s historic downtown while exploring dozens of local craft vendor stands, then cozy up with artisan and craft foods. Friends and family can relax by the fire pits while enjoying holiday caroling, cheerful holiday music, and fun live entertainment from local schools, clubs and more.
You can also take selfies with Santa, and children can enjoy a kids’ area bigger than Santa’s toy shop. A full schedule of events will be posted soon at http://www.lamesavillageassociation.org .
LEMON GROVE BONFIRE DEC. 3
The City of Lemon Grove will host its 24th annual holiday bonfire on December 3 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Treganza Park (3200 Main St., Lemon Grove.)
The event includes live music, food booths, arts and crafts, a rock climbing wall, game truck, cookies and hot chocolate, and a giant bonfire to light the night.
CHRISTMAS ON MT. HELIX DEC. 9
Christmas on Mt. Helix returns on December 9 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. complete with a Christmas market to shop for holiday gifts, caroling, crafts, food trucks, a holiday program and Santa Claus.
Click here to download lyrics for holiday caroling: https://www.mthelixpark.org/copy-of-christmas-caroling
Free shuttles will be available from Grossmont High School, or for members of MtHelixPark.org, there will be parking at the fire station on Vivera. To become a member, or visit https://www.mthelixpark.org/membership.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE ANIMALS: DECEMBER 9 AT LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS IN ALPINE
You’re invited to Christmas with the Animals, a fundraiser for the Lions, Tigers and Bears sanctuary in Alpine, where you can witness the heartwarming spectacle of animals unwrapping their Christmas presents. It's a delightful moment that will warm your heart. The event takes place on Saturday, December 9 from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., with animal feedings from 3 to 4 p.m.
There is also a festival of lights, hot cocoa and holiday beverages from a full bar, as well as a gift shop where you’ll find special holiday gifts for those on your list.
All proceeds support the rescued animals at Lions Tigers & Bears, San Diego’s only accredited exotic animal sanctuary, making your celebration even more meaningful.
Member and guest rates are available, as well as an optional upgrade to feed an exotic animal alongside a keeper. Earl reservations are advised. Tickets are available online at https://www.lionstigersandbears.org/happenings/christmas-with-the-animals-fundraiser/.
FIND UNIQUE GIFTS AT SAN DIEGO POTTERY TOUR DEC. 9-10
The 16th annual San Diego Pottery Tour features 110 open studios with works of over 35 ceramic artists. The self-guided tour is held December 9 and 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tour includes several artists in or near East County, including Spring Valley, Rolando and the College area.
Visitors can peruse hundreds of pots and other items ideal to purchase as gifts or for you to enjoy. All of the artists have been busy making useful pottery for food like plates, cups, bowls, pitchers, and serving dishes, along with a wide range of sculpture, vases, planters, and much more.
Maps and individual artist info on the website: www.sdpotterytour.com
CREST CHRISTMAS CRAFT SHOW DEC. 10
Ho ho! Santa will be visiting at the Crest Christmas Craft Show on Sunday, December 10. The event will be held at the Crest Clubhouse, 113 North Park Blvd., El Cajon, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The family-friendly event will feature crafts, food and music. Santa Claus will join the festivities between 4 and 6 p.m.
Vendors interested in participating can contact email@example.com.
THE NUTCRACKER BALLET AT THE MAGNOLIA IN EL CAJON DEC. 16
On December 16th at 1 p.m., the San Diego Ballet brings the Nutcracker ballet to The Magnolia theater in El Cajon.
The Nutcracker features Tchaikovsky's timeless musical score and an international cast of more than 100 beautifully costumed dancers. Sugarplum fairies, leaping Cossacks and flurries of snowflakes swirl across the stage, in this magical journey through a young girl''s imagination.
For tickets, visit https://www.magnoliasandiego.com/EventDetail?tmeventid=vvG1iZ9VKdosyB&offerid=0.
ENCHANTED VILLAGE DEC. 15-22
Noah Homes in Spring Valley (12526 Campo Rd.) will present its 6th annual Enchanted Village December 15-22 from 5-8 p.m.
Drive through 8 acres of holiday lighting with magical cottages,light tunnels and over a million lights. Also enjoy enjoying live musical performances, carolers, hundreds of candy canes and Christmas trees, holiday displays and more.
All proceeds benefit Noah Homes, a nonprofit that provides housing and care to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism.
For tickets and details, visit https://www.enchantedvillage.org/.