By Miriam Raftery
November 20, 2022 (San Diego’s East County) -- This week’s Destination East County features fun and fabulous holiday events coming up across San Diego’s inland region, as East County communities celebrate the season.
LIGHTS AT THE LAKES
The first annual Lights at the Lakes holiday show will run on select dates between November 25th and December 24th, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve.
Guests will drive through one mile of over 35 different sparkling light displays set to music synchronized to car radios. Each time guests attend the show, it's a new experience.
You can purchase tickets and reserve a time to visit Lights at the Lakes at santeelakes.com.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS ON MAIN IN EL CAJON
Holiday Lights on Main Street will illuminate downtown El Cajon on Saturday, November 26. Tree lighting is at 6 p.m., but activities to celebrate the season will take place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
A full street closure is planned around Magnolia and Main Street for the occasion. Youngsters can enjoy ice skating, carnival rides, holiday music, and Santa Claus at Santa’s Village. There’s also live music with The Audio Hounds in the afternoon and the Journeyman Band from 5-8 p.m. Plus, you’re encouraged to participate in Small Business Saturday and do some shopping to support local businesses.
Find more information at https://downtownelcajon.com/.
JULIAN COUNTRY CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING
This year, Julian’s Country Christmas Tree lighting will be held on November 26th from noon to 8 p.m. at a new location – Julian Town Square on the corner of Main Street and Washington.
There will be music and holiday performances all afternoon, as well as a Christmas market where you can shop for special gifts, and await the arrival of Santa Claus to greet children of all ages. The tree lighting will occur between 5:30 and 6 p.m.
The event is open to the public, though VIP reserved seating options are available that include Julian goodies, charcuterie and hot chocolate.
You can find more information at visitjulian.com and click on the events tab.
LEMON GROVE BONFIRE
The city of Lemon Grove will hold its 25th annual holiday bonfire on Friday, December 2nd from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Treganza Park, which is located at 3200 Main Street in Lemon Grove.
The bonfire lighting will take place at 6 p.m., followed by a community aerial photo at 6:10 p.m. and an ugly sweater contest at 7 p.m.
Activities also include rock climbing, a game truck, bounce houses, arts and crafts, live music, complimentary cookies, popcorn and hot chocolate, as well as foods that can be purchased from food trucks.
Details are available at lemongrove.ca.gov/.
HOLIDAY IN THE VILLAGE
The 7th annual La Mesa Holiday in the Village will ring in holiday cheer for everyone far and near on Saturday, December 3rd from 12 to 9 p.m. The event takes place along La Mesa Blvd. between Spring Street and 4th Street in the heart of downtown La Mesa.
The event is open to the community with festive fun including live music, cozy fire pits, craft vendors, carnival games, foods, holiday photo opportunities including selfies with Santa, and a kids’ area bigger than Santa’s Toy Shop.
New this year is a holiday carol stroll featuring caroling by local school groups, clubs and churches.
Find more information at lamesavillageassociation.org.
NUTCRACKER IN A NUTSHELL
Visionary Dance Theatre’s School for the Performing Arts will present “The Nutcracker: In A Nutshell” at The Visionary Performing Space on December 9-11.
Every winter in the Land of the Squeaks, the rats throw a cheese ball with help from their friend, the Nutcracker, who journeys across the kingdom inviting the animals. This year, Clara the Cat appears with plans to stop the ball and traps the poor Nutcracker inside a nutshell. Will the Royal Rat be able to save the Nutcracker and the ball?
Enjoy as you are transported to The Land of the Squeaks. Created and directed by Caley Hernandez, this production steps out of the traditional and blends multiple dance styles while set to the classic music composed by Tchaikovsky.
The performance space is located at 7202 El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego, just east of La Mesa. For tickets, visit visionarydancetheatre.org/Visionary/
RAMONA HOLIDAY WINE TOUR
You’re invited to join in some merriment along the Ramona Holiday Wine Trail, which is held over the first threeweekends in December.
Your wine trail passport gives you access to special activities at over 20 wineries.
To purchase a wine trail passport, you can visit https://ramonavalleyvineyards.com/.
PINE VALLEY CAMP CHRISTMAS
Camp Christmas in Pine Valley transforms into a winter wonderland open to visitors for three days each weekend from just before Thanksgiving through December 23rd.
Enjoy the crisp mountain air as you view thousands of computerized lights strung on trees and a spectacular water show, all synchronized to holiday music. There are also hayrides, bounce houses, laser tag, tree climbing, games and attractions for all ages.
New this year, there’s a Pine Valley train depot, tree top climbing wall, and a bow and arrow arcade. You can also savor foods ranging from barbeque to a buffet with all-you-can-eat soup and salad, as well as donuts and more.
For tickets and details, you can check pinevalleycampchristmas.com/.
CELEBRATION OF LIGHT AT FORT CROSS IN JULIAN
Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures in Wynola, near the quaint mountain town of Julian, will host a Celebration of Light and more holiday fun each Friday and Saturday in December from 5 to 8 p.m. The celebration includes a walk-through light display with seven different lighted musical scenes to dazzle guests.
In addition, holiday joy on the farm includes a lively country hoedown where you can kick up your heels to the music or join in the jug band show.
Prepaid reservations are required for this limited event:
$25 per person age 4+
Early bird discount: 5% off with code: FCC5%; expires 11-27-2022
For reservations and details, visit https://www.fortcross.com/christmaslights.
The Crest Community Association invites you to a Christmas “Crestival” on December 3rd and 4th. You’re invited to enjoy food, vendors, kids stuff and a visit from Santa Claus.
The hours for the festival, which is open to the public, will be Saturday, Dec 3rd from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.-6 and Sunday December 4th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m..
Santa will arrive via firetruck on Sunday at 2 p.m.
LAKESIDE HOSTS SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS ON MAINE AVE. DEC. 3
Santa and his elves at the Lakeside Chamber of Commerce are hard at work, getting ready for the 25th annual Spirit of Christmas on Main Avenue in Lakeside on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p m.
There will be an atmosphere of an old-fashioned, hometown celebration of Christmas and the holidays. The event features all the sights and sounds of Christmas: Santa, local youth performances, delicious food & beverages, a classic car show, kids' activities & craft booths, holiday shopping from local clubs and vendors and a community tree lighting ceremony.
For more information, visit https://lakesidechamber.org/spirit-of-christmas.
FAIR TRADE LA MESA
Shop Fair Trade will hold a Christmas marketplace at St. Martin of Tours Parish at 7710 El Cajon Boulevard in La Mesa on Sunday, Dec. 4th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
You’re invited to shop for beautiful, handmade, one-of-a-kind gifts supporting fair trade, including Christmas ornaments, cards, handmade quilts, coffee, chocolates, tea, bake sale and more.
Find details on this and other fair trade events at fairtradecampaigns.org/.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE ANIMALS
Lions, Tigers and Bears in Alpine invites you to celebrate the holiday season at San Diego’s only accredited animal sanctuary.
On Saturday, December 10th from 1 to 5 p.m, guests can attend a special Christmas with the Animals event to watch your favorite exotic rescued animals open their Christmas gifts.
You can also shop for gifts, get hot cocoa, foods and festive surprises—and there may even be a special appearance by Santa Claus.
There is a fee and reservations are required, which can be made at the sanctuary’s website, lionstigersandbears.org.
ENCHANTED VILLAGE IN SPRING VALLEY
Noah’s Homes in Spring Valley invites you to its annual Enchanted Village December 16-22 from 5-8 p.m.
Guests will stroll through acres of brilliantly lit trees, magical cottages, light tunnels, live entertainers, and over a million lights with interactive displays and other festive decorations. Santa will be at the Enchanted Village every night for photos with guests.
Donations are requested to support lifelong homes for people with developmental disabilities at Noah’s Homes. For more information, visit enchantedvillage.org/.
WILD NIGHTS AT THE SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK
Wild Holidays returns to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido on select dates beginning Nov. 25th and continuing through New Year’s Day. The annual celebration invites guests to experience the wonders of the Safari Park, with a special holiday twist.
Guests can go on a festive expedition of lights and adventure through glowing pathways twinkling with holiday cheer, enjoy a variety of live musical performances and encounter magnificent stilt walkers. There will be seasonally inspired culinary delights at the Safari Park’s restaurants and food stands, and guests can shop for the perfect holiday gifts at numerous retail locations.
There is an admission fee to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but no additional cost for the Wild Nights displays or activities. You can also shop at the gift shops – and when you give a gift from San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, you are directly supporting wildlife conservation around the world.
To find a schedule of dates and time for the Wild Nights, you can visit https://sdzsafaripark.org/wild-holidays
NORTH POLE EXPRESS
The North Pole Express train ride departs from the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo several times each weekend in December.
The fun begins at the lighted Campo Depot, which also has a gift shot and a hobo camp where you can hear tales from railroading’s past. Once onboard the North Pole Limited, Santa’s elves will sing favorite Christmas carols, read a popular Christmas story, and pass out cookies and hot chocolate to all passengers.
The train then stops at Santa’s Workshop to pick up Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will visit with all passengers on the return journey.
For tickets and more information, visit the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum website at psrm.org/.
ICE SKATING AT VIEJAS
Southern California’s largest outdoor ice skating rink is now open at Viejas Outlets Center in Alpine, where you can enjoy ice skating as well as holiday shopping at factory outlet stores.
The ice rink will remain open until January 8th.
For more information, you can visit viejasoutletcenter.com.