Getting decked out for the holidays has become a full-on extravaganza at San Diego’s world-class zoo, in Balboa Park, just north of downtown San Diego. Visit the annual Jungle Bells celebration, from mid-December through early January, and get into the spirit in ways only the San Diego Zoo can inspire. Take a ride on the Polar Express, which uses 4-D special effects (achieved with 3-D glasses, plus such enhancements as wind, mist, and snow!) to make you feel as if you’re riding to Santa’s North Pole home. Another 4-D movie adventure is Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas, where fans of the flick can join Manny, Sid, and Diego on a quest to get Sid off of Santa’s naughty list.
Twinkle Light Trolley lets you sit back and tour the grounds after dark, all the better to take in elaborate lighted displays such as the Northern Frontiers Holiday Forest, with specially designed lighting adorning trees, and displays of winter-loving animals. Also enjoy carolers, musicians, storytellers, elves flipping around in their trampoline Toy Hop Shop, and—of course—a huge decorated tree.
No holiday celebration is complete without a reading of the poem The Night Before Christmas, and here, it’s animal-themed, hosted by Dr. Zoolittle.
Outside the zoo, Balboa Park gets dolled up during the holidays too. Visit during the annual December Nights event for special music and dance performances, seasonal activities and crafts, carnival rides, holiday foods from around the world at the International Cottages, and spectacular displays in the historic Botanical Building.