DESTINATION EAST COUNTY: TOP FESTIVALS AND EVENTS DEC. 6-JAN. 7

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By Miriam Raftery

December 5, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) -- This week’s Destination East County includes the North Pole Limited train rides in Campo, the Ramona Holiday Wine Trail, a Christmas Cabaret in La Mesa, reindeer at Grossmont Center, and a Toy Parade in El Cajon, a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the College area,

Plus, we’ll have a preview of coming attractions including La Mesa’s Holiday in the Village, Caroling in Borrego, Santa and Snow at Santee Lakes, a Christmas Carol in Julian, big band and jazz holiday concerts in El Cajon and Santee, Tony Orlando at Sycuan, fiddling and clogging with Celia Lawler at Parkway Plaza, Sinatra and friends at Borrego Performing Arts, and Carnaval Fantastique at Sycuan.

So scroll down tuned for all of these events and many more!

NORTH POLE LIMITED:  TRAIN RIDES WITH SANTA IN CAMPO DEC. 1-23

The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo invites you to take a ride aboard the North Pole Limited, a special holiday train ride departing Fridays and Saturdays from December 1st through December 23rd at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Guests are advised to arrive at least 45 minutes early to get tickets for the North Pole Limited. Once you’re onboard, Santa’s elves will sing Christmas carols, read a popular Christmas story to children and pass out cookies and hot chocolate to all passengers.  The train will stop at Santa’s Workshop to pick up Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will visit with all passengers as the North Pole Limited head back to the Campo Depot.

This popular ride does sell out, so advance reservations are recommended through the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum website at https//www.PRSM.org.

RAMONA HOLIDAY WINE TRAIL 3 WEEKENDS IN DECEMBER

Participating wineries from the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association are featuring a “Holiday in the Country” when you “Follow the Ramona Wine Trail” in the heart of San Diego Wine Country during the first three weekends of December: 2/3, 9/10, and 16/17.

Wine fans can visit 14 wineries decked out for the holidays. In addition to discounted tastings, individual wineries are presenting their own selected special holiday happenings to accompany tasting, such as tree lighting ceremony, tree trimming, holiday music, crafters’ goods for a little shopping, signed magnum bottles, and the introduction of white wines for a White Christmas theme. Santa is also expected to hover.  You can also take home a souvenir wine glass and holiday ornament.

You can get your Holiday Wine Trail Passport at www.ramonavalleyvineyards.com.

A CHRISTMAS CABARET DEC. 1-17

Lamplighters Theatre in La Mesa invites you to get in the holiday spirit at a Christmas Cabaret showing December 1st through 17th.  Lamplighters presents an uplifting showcase of local talent performing seasonal favorites not only from Christmas, but many December holidays as well. For tickets and details, visit https://www.lamplighterslamesa.com.

REINDEER AT GROSSMONT CENTER DEC. 3, 10, AND 17

Ho, ho, ho! As Santa’s Christmas Eve sleigh ride approaches, you can bring children to take photos and feed a live reindeer at Grossmont Center on Sunday afternoons from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on December 3, 10 and 17.

Graham crackers will be available for free to feed the reindeer while supplies last. The reindeer will be located in the center court near the guest services booth. 

For more information, visit www.grossmontcenter.com.

LA MESA CONVERSATIONS MIXER DEC. 8

You are cordially invited to join La Mesa Conversations at its annual Holiday mixer on Friday, December 8th at Helix Brewing Company (8101 Commercial Street, La Mesa) from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Click here for a Google Maps link.

Feel free to don your most festive outfit or ugliest holiday sweater to celebrate the season. A local band, Pinchflat, and a food truck (God Save the Cuisine) will be available for your enjoyment at this no-host event as you grab some food and a pint, listen to some great music and join the conversations.  The event is free and open to those age 21 and up. Friends and family are welcome.

RSVP for free:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/la-mesa-conversations-holiday-2017-mixer-tickets-40807716980

SALVATION ARMY TOY PARADE DEC. 9

You've kicked off the season with the Mother Goose Parade. Now it's time for another El Cajon tradition: the Salvation Army Fire Truck Toy Parade.  The Salvation Army partners with the Fire Department, KOGO 600 News Radio, Stoney's Kids Legacy and Target on Saturday, December 9.  The festivities start at 9 a.m. at the Target parking lot at 250 Broadway, where KOGO will start broadcasting live at 9 a.m. and will be interviewing groups and organizations participating in donations.  The parade rolls out at 11 a.m.  A few local celebrities will attend - Bonnie, daughter of Stoney Stone, founder of the East County Toy and Food Drive, is planning to be there and it's even rumored that Santa will make an appearance.  For more information, contact Cpt. Sean Kelsey at 619-440-4683 ext. 402.

While this event ends at noon, the toy drive for needy families in El Cajon will continue until December 16.  If you'd like to donate a new, unwrapped toy, you can do so at this event, at the Angel Tree at Parkway Plaza on the weekends, or any day during business hours at the 1011 Main Street location.  You can even purchase a toy online with Amazon's wish list feature.  See the elcajon.salvationarmy.org website for more information.

LA MESA’S HOLIDAY IN THE VILLAGE DEC. 9-10

The La Mesa Village Association hosts its annual Holiday in the Village celebration on Saturday, December 9th from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, December 10th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Stroll through the streets of La Mesa's historic downtown and enjoy live music and dance, cozy fires, craft vendors, food, and a kids' area with holiday movies and activities.  For more information, you can visit http://lamesavillageassociation.org/.

BORREGO CAROLING DEC. 9-10

Borrego Springs Performing Ars Center will present “Here We Come A-Caroling, Borrego Style” on Saturday, December 9 at 7:30 and 9 p.m. and again on Sunday, December 10 at 3 and 4:30 p.m. 

You’re invited to come sing carols with neighbors and friends while being entertained by Borrego's finest musicians and orators.  A program of songs, heartwarming stories and surprise appearances will lift your spirits and add joy to the Holiday season as you celebrate, Borrego style.

The theatre is located at 590 Palm Canyon Drive in Borrego Springs.  For tickets visit www.bspac.us.

ARTISTS OPEN STUDIOS AT SAN DIEGO POTTERY TOUR DEC. 9-10

If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for that certain someone or that perfect piece to adorn your home, the 10th Annual San Diego Pottery Tour may be just what you need.  Over 30 ceramists from the San Diego Potter's Guild will participate, showing their wares at eight different studios December 9 and 10 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.   The venues on this self-guided, free tour start at Spring Valley and go as far west as Mission Hills, all within a few minutes' drive from each other.

Offerings range from the practical, such as fabulous mugs, tea sets or platters, to purely ornamental sculptural objects, all in a variety of styles and materials.

For a map and to get a glimpse of some of the potters' work, visit sdpotterytour.com.

SANTA AND SNOW AT SANTEE LAKES DEC. 10

Santa comes to Santee Lakes on Sunday, December 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Children can also delight in meeting favorite characters on Storybook Island, sliding down Snow Hill, crafts, face painting, and rides on ponies, tractors and a train.

There is a $10 parking cost, plus ride tickets at $1 each; rides and activities range from one to seven tickets.

For more information, you can visit Santee Lakes on Facebook or go to http://www.santeelakes.com/.

SOUNDS GOOD HOLIDAY CONCERT DEC. 10

On Sunday, December 10th at 3 p.m., the San Diego Festival Chorus and Orchestra will present the “Sounds Good" holiday concert at College Avenue Baptist Church, featuring the Christmas portion of Handel's beloved "Messiah" along with selections of popular holiday music.  In addition to the chorus and orchestra, there will also be solo performers.

The San Diego Festival Chorus was founded over fifteen years ago by Maestro Mostardo and is made up of singers and players from the community who love to make music.  The chorus is always happy to welcome new members.  You can find more information and tickets for the holiday concert at sandiegofestivalchorus.org.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL DEC. 8-16 IN JULIAN

Julian Theatre Company will present Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol.”  This timeless tale focuses on the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future.  Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit and his impoverished family including the frail Tiny Tim face a grim future, unless Scrooge can find redemption and discover the true spirit of Christmas.

Performances will be held at Julian Town Hall on the weekends of December 8th through 10th and again December 15th and 16th.  For tickets and details, visit JulianTheaterCompany.com .

NOW FOR A PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS…

A BIG BAND CHRISTMAS DEC. 17

The Gaslamp Quarter Jazz Orchestra will present a free concert on Sunday, December 17 at 4 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 500 Farragut Circle in El Cajon. The program includes a medley of Christmas music.  Doors open at 3:30 p.m.

The musical group started in 2015 reflects influences of big band and jazz greats such as Count Basie, Wynton Marsalis, and Duke Ellington.

For more information, visit www.firstpres-elcajon.org.

TONY ORLANDO CONCERT AT SYCUAN DEC. 17-18

Singer Tony Orlando will be live in concert at Sycuan on December 17th and 18th

His career between at age 16 with his first hit song, Halfway to Paradise.  His band, Tony Orlando and Dawn, had several major hits in the 1970s including Candida, Knock Three Times and Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, as well as the Tony Orland and Dawn Show on TV.

After the band broke up, Orlando has continued as a solar singer with performances in Las Vegas, Branson Missouri and now, El Cajon.  For tickets, visit www.Sycuan.com.

FIDDLE CHRISTMAS CONCERT DEC. 16 AND 23

Clap and dance with Celia Lawler, back by popular demand.  The fiddling and clogging singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist will be performing holiday concerts at Parkway Plaza shopping mall in El Cajon on two Saturdays, December 16 and 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Macy’s Court. 

For more information, visit www.shoppingparkwayplaza.com.

BIG BAND AND JAZZ AT OFF BROADWAY LIVE IN SANTEE DEC. 22

Off Broadway Live Theatre in Santee will present “"A Big Band Christmas with The Gaslamp Quarter Jazz Orchestra & Leonard Patton" on Friday, December 22nd at 7 p.m.

The theatre is located at 9490 Cuyamaca Street in Santee.  For more information or tickets to this special holiday concert, call 619-988-LIVE (5483) or visit https://www.offbroadwaylive.com/

SINATRA AND FRIENDS JAN. 6

Sinatra and Friends pays tribute to the man and his music featuring countless songs, synonymous with Frank Sinatra, as well as many other memorable favorites people have come to love.

The performance will be staged at the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center on Saturday, January 6th with performances at 7:30 and 9 p.m.

For tickets, visit http://www.bspac.us.

CARNAVAL FANTASTIQUE:  JAN. 7 AT SYCUAN

Carnaval Fantastique will bring performers from around the world to Sycuan on January 7th in a celebration of music and action that combines gravity-defying acrobatics, contortionists, jugglers, comedy, beautiful dancers and dynamic laser special effects.

Atmospheric laser beams fill the theater as colorful animated laser graphics on the screen center stage introduce each of the performances. The finale highlights a one of a kind laser Salute to America patriotic performance.

You’re invited to “Come one, Come all, it's Carnaval.”  For tickets, you can visit www.Sycuan.com.

That’s all for this week!

If you have an event you’d like added to our calendar, or if you would like to sponsor the Destination East County column on our website, or the Destination East County show on KNSJ Radio, you can contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.  Destination East County is the most-read feature on our website.

We’ll be back next week with more festivals, events and attractions in San Diego’s East County!