SoCal is practically vacation land. And it’s all right outside your front door. Whether you’re stationed in Coronado, MCAS Miramar or way up north in the San Onofre region, there is always something to do.
While you’re celebrating the holidays San Diego-style, consider making it a full staycation by exploring all that SoCal has to offer!
Enjoy a December Staycation in Sunny SoCal!
Try our three day San Diego-area staycation itinerary for a long weekend’s worth of fun and sun!
Hang onto your hats because we are going to fit a whole lot of fun and excitement into just a few days.
Day 1: San Diego
Planning to live up your staycation starting the night before? Try to book into the Navy Lodge on Coronado Island, just over the bay from downtown San Diego. If you can’t book a room at this specific location, there are options. San Diego is a major hub for the Navy and USMC. Many bases offer DOD lodging for recreation at reasonable rates.
Start your day at The Broken Yolk, a top San Diego breakfast chain. There are several convenient locations throughout San Diego and the surrounding communities. Pick a yummy breakfast burrito or go for classic pancakes. There are no bad choices.
After you fill up, get your thrill on at SeaWorld! Use your Waves of Honor tickets to score free entry. Enjoy exciting roller coasters, fun dolphin shows, and even connect with your favorite Sesame Street characters. Enjoy some heavy snacks and head out in the early afternoon for your next location.
Go to Balboa Park, in the heart of San Diego, for a relaxing late lunch or early dinner at The Prado. They decorate for the season and always feature fresh, locally inspired cuisine. Rumor has it that they make a margarita to die for!
Once you’re full, walk over to the iconic San Diego Zoo. While you have a little daylight left, take the gondolas (free with a standard ticket purchase) to the back of the zoo. Check out the elephants, lions, and other animals while you stroll back toward the front. As the sun goes down, the lights will pop on and Jungle Bells will start! Enjoy holiday music with a SoCal spin, animal encounters, and checking out select animals at night.
The zoo closes at 8 pm. If you’re still looking for a little fun, go to the Gaslamp District for a light dinner and drinks. You can find something for everyone, including children, in this happening neighborhood. From little hole in the wall local spots to bigger national chains, there are plenty of options! Plus, it’s exciting to wander around under the Christmas lights.
Day 2: Disneyland
It wouldn’t be a SoCal staycation if we ignored the main mouse: Mickey! Get up early, if you can, and head to Anaheim. It’s just about two hours from San Diego by car.
If you go purchase your tickets by December 16, and go before December 19, you can still take advantage of the 2018 Military Salute pricing. Check with ITT for details or to purchase tickets. If you’d like to stay near the park and squeeze every last bit of fun from your day, there are tons of great hotel options nearby.
You’ll be spending your whole day at Disney, so relax and enjoy! Disneyland and California Adventure do Christmas in a major way. Look for special snacks and souvenirs at shops throughout the park. Maybe pick out an ornament to remember your magical December SoCal staycation?
You could do just one park all day, or hop between the parks. Remember to specify which option you’d prefer when you purchase your tickets.
Stay until the fireworks show.
Day 3: Temecula
It’s the last day of your staycation. You’re probably absolutely wiped right now. Perfect, it’s time to unwind in wine country!
First up, enjoy breakfast in Old Town Temecula. There are a few small town-type diners here that serve up classics, like scrambled eggs and corned beef hash.
Next, head to SouthCoast Winery. No, the wine bar isn’t open yet. You’re going to the spa for some rest and relaxation. After a few hours of pampering, connect with your wine tour for a day of tasting! Best of all, you’ll have a safe ride. Just make sure you’ve also booked a local room, too. There are plenty of hotel options at a variety of price points! Be sure to use Military Shoppers Travel and Rewards to book your stay for additional savings.
Sip yummy Temecula wines. Some popular wineries include:
- Wiens: sample their orange infused sparkling wine, Amour de l’Orange
- Callaway: try a pour of Zinfandel
- SouthCoast: their wine menu is extensive and it’s hard to pick even a few favorites!
- Robert Renzoni: known for their big, jammy red wines
Temecula is a super laid back, casual tasting experience that the whole family can enjoy. If you’re bringing the kids along, skip the wine tour and spend the day at a kid-friendly winery. Wiens has a wide lawn where children can romp. Wilson Creek even has a whole wooden playset for kids to enjoy. It’s set back from the main winery.
Whatever your tasting choice, make sure you designate a driver or call a cab.
After your tasting, enjoy a quiet dinner in Temecula’s Old Town. There are several SoCal style Mexican restaurants, as well as BBQ and upscale dining options.
In the morning, head back to your home base, exhausted and happy.
TSgt Bert Brescher (ret) USAF says
The harbor and Pacific ocean are what make San Diego so beautiful and the best views are from Cabrillo National Monument at the end of Point Loma. Locals know it very well for hiking trails and whale watching. . Bring your camera be ready for the unexpected , like Navy ships in the harbor and Navy jets taking off and landing on North Island NAS. This is where Cabrillo saw California for the first time and it shouldn’t be missed.
I agree with the previous comment. The Cabrillo National Monument is stunning. Try to hit at low tide to see the tide pools. Pretty amazing.