How to Spend Thanksgiving in San Diego: Dinner, Parades and More

What to do with family and friends during Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving activities often involves a meal and activities with family and friends, but if you're spending the holiday in San Diego, you can add some new traditions to the day, too. Here are some suggestions to celebrate Thanksgiving with a San Diego twist.

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    View from the Hotel Del Coronado, complete with holiday lights.
    ••• View from the Hotel Del Coronado, complete with holiday lights. Gina Tarnacki

    If you want a grand setting for your Thanksgiving meal (and don't want to fuss with cooking a turkey), you won't find a much better place to do it in San Diego than the Hotel del Coronado. The oceanfront Ballroom and magnificent Crown Room feature elegant buffet dinners decked with all the trimmings and live musical entertainment each Thanksgiving. Afterwards, go ice skating at the hotel's seasonal seaside ice skating rink.

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    About that ice skating...the Hotel del Coronado offers a unique Southern California experience each year – outdoor ice skating overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The iconic hotel's oceanfront Windsor Lawn is transformed into a spectacular ice rink with skating sessions offered daily each year starting on Thanksgiving and going until the beginning of January. Recommendations are recommended in order to guarantee ice time. 

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    What better way to head into Thanksgiving week than to attend a San Diego parade? The Mother Goose Parade is a San Diego institution and attracts upwards of 400,000 spectators along the streets of El Cajon. The event always takes place on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and the parade typically begins at 10 a.m.

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    Tide pools are one of many free activities in San Diego.
    ••• Tide pools are one of many free activities in San Diego and also make for a great way to spend a holiday. HeroImages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    Because the year's lowest tides typically occur during fall and winter, November and December are a great time to explore the natural wonders of San Diego's ocean tide pool ecosystems, with popular ones in Point Loma and La Jolla. You can explore sea creatures in their ocean environment: crabs, sea mollusks, fish and even an octopus if you're lucky. It's a fascinating glimpse into a very fragile ecosystem, which also means look and don't touch -- and absolutely, do not remove any living creatures from the pools.

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    You can help change the lives of your neighbors in need by assisting Father Joe's Villages in providing more than 1.7 million meals through the organization's Thanksgiving Day 5K. To participate, you can run or walk on a course winding through beautiful Balboa Park. 

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    Usher in the holiday season as you skate in a festive outdoor rink in Liberty Station while also helping raise funds for the Rady Children’s Hospital. The rink is open daily beginning mid-November through the beginning of January. Though it's closed on Thanksgiving Day, it is typically open during the weekend after Thanksgiving. 

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    Forget about stressing over cooking a turkey, just reserve a table online and enjoy a fine Thanksgiving meal at a number of local restaurants serving up special Thanksgiving menus. In addition the the aforementioned Hotel del Coronado, some popular restaurant choices for Thanksgiving dinner include George's at the Cove and the Marine Room in La Jolla and Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe. You can also check websites like Open Table to find a list of San Diego restaurants operating Thanksgiving dinners. 

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    Make a difference and give back to the community. You can help hungry San Diego families by volunteering at the San Diego Food Bank. The average volunteer visit is three hours, and in that time you can help hundreds of families in need by processing and packaging food for distribution.

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  • 09 of 10
    Malls in San Diego provide some great shopping experiences.
    ••• Malls in San Diego provide some great shopping experiences, including during the holiday season. Dan Dalton/Caiaimage/Getty Images

    The day after Thanksgiving, nicknamed Black Friday, is the start of the holiday shopping season for many people. Head to one of San Diego's top malls like Westfield UTC and Fashion Valley or an outlet mall like Carlsbad Premium Outlets for a variety of deals all in one place. 

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    If you have friends visiting from out of town, or want to play tourist yourself in San Diego, take advantage of some extra time off from work and head to one of San Diego's amusement and theme parks, including the San Diego Zoo or Legoland California.

Updated by Gina Tarnacki on November 12, 2016.