Postcards & Passports

San Diego’s Global Winter Wonderland

This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019

A new Christmas attraction has come to San Diego (in 2017) and it’s called Global Winter Wonderland. I learned about it when I passed it on the freeway one night and saw the beautiful lights. It was enough to make me want to see it in person. I love all things Christmas — Christmas music, Christmas decorations, and Christmas lights! There’s just something wonderful about being immersed in it all as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! Plus, the lights bring back fond memories of my Dad taking us for rides on December evenings to see all the Seattle light displays.

Note: Global Winter Wonderland is a traveling show and this year (2018), it will be held in Las Vegas and in Sacramento.

Well, Global Winter Wonderland is like that backseat ride to see the lights, times a thousand! I love the theme: Travel the World in One Night! There’s music, performances, even circus acts! And hundreds of traditional Chinese-style “lanterns” — colorful silk or gauze fabric stretched across wire frames and lit from within. Sometimes, the fabric is even painted or embellished with intricate designs.

Winter Wonderland Lanterns

Some designs are very simple in nature, while others are quite complicated and very detailed, like the dragon that was over 100 feet long!

Going along with the “global” theme were lots of famous landmarks from all over the world, re-created in lights and fabric: the White House, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the pyramids of Egypt, and many more.

You’ll also see themes of the North Pole, Dinosaurland (with a fun maze you can walk through), Oceania, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The entire Winter Wonderland is much larger than I realized, and it actually took quite some time to stroll around and see everything!

The Chinese lanterns are quite unique and beautiful. The colors, lights, designs, themes, and motion are all quite entertaining. Winter Wonderland is a great place to spend an evening on a date or with your family.

What else is at Global Winter Wonderland?

I thought this would be just a light display, but I was wrong. Global Winter Wonderland also includes a Midway with carnival-style rides and games for “children” of all ages. (We all have a bit of ‘child’ in us, right?). From a carousel and Ferris wheel to small roller coasters and carnival games of skill, there’s a lot to do. There is an additional charge for carnival rides, however.

You can also visit Santa inside the market tent. International vendors provide various food options, and we were delighted with the complimentary cup of steaming hot apple cider we received after entering Winter Wonderland. There’s even an outdoor fire pit to gather around, but the night my husband and I attended, it was plenty warm without it.

There is a market and souvenir items for sale, restrooms and hand-washing stations, plus plenty of seating (benches and chairs) should you wish to rest.

Winter Wonderland entertainment

This is what surprised me the most. I did not expect to see so many entertainment options. There was a motorcycle stage with as many as five motorcyclists crazily speeding around and around the inside of a cage without crashing into each other! We also enjoyed Winter Wonderland’s Circus of Light, which included talented acrobats, fire dancers, gymnasts and balancing acts. The quality of the circus performers’ acts definitely made the admission price a pretty good deal. The Star Stage had local holiday acts. The children who were singing and dancing were quite energetic (and cute!). Throw in a snow machine and stilt walkers, for added fun.

More Information

Global Winter Wonderland is a worthy new holiday attraction in San Diego (and Sacramento, too). If you’re looking for something fun to do with your family, this might be hard to beat. The international flavor of this event has great appeal, from the feeling of “touring” global attractions, to enjoying the tastes and talents of varied locations. Winter Wonderland is also a fun place to explore on a date. There was plenty to keep my husband and I interested and entertained for a few hours, and we didn’t even ride any rides.

Prices for Global Winter Wonderland admission are a bit steep ($22 adults, $19 children 4+, free for children 3 and under). But considering it is not just a light display, but also the Circus of Light, the prices are more understandable. There are discounts available through Groupon and on Global Winter Wonderland’s website. You can also buy discount tickets at Walgreen’s.There are season passes available which make visiting three or more times, considerably cheaper.

Midway carnival rides are an additional cost: $36 for unlimited rides or $1.25 per ticket (rides require 3 to 6 tickets each). There are ticket packages that combine admission and unlimited rides. Parking at the stadium is an additional $10, which surprised me because I hadn’t seen it in the information I read before arriving. It is on the website, however — in the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section.

My Opinion

We arrived close to 6:00 pm, and that must have been a popular time because lines at the entrance were long. It takes some time to go through a bag-searching line and scan prepaid vouchers for admission. About an hour later, we noticed there was hardly a line at all! There is room for improvement in the ticket-scanning process. Some people had a single voucher for multiple admission, and others had a ticket for each person in their party that needed to be scanned — that took much longer!

I’m glad we went to Global Winter Wonderland. It made a nice addition to our Christmas celebrations. It reminded me of the intricate Chinese lanterns we were introduced to in Montreal at the Botanical Gardens’ Gardens of Light a few months ago. If you’re looking for a new San Diego holiday tradition, this just might be it!

This was not a sponsored post. I just wanted to share my experience with you so you could decide if you’d like to see this San Diego attraction. In the comments below, share a favorite Christmas attraction with me and my readers!

Interested in other Christmas light displays I’ve been to?

It’s Not Christmas Without a Temple Square Visit

Luminaria — A New Christmas Tradition

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Winter Wonderland




25 thoughts on “San Diego’s Global Winter Wonderland

    1. Tami Post author

      Hi Cindi! Must-sees in San Diego? Of course, there’s the San Diego Zoo or Safari World, SeaWorld and Legoland but they are all expensive. I tend to recommend the free or nearly free activities instead. I highly recommend a visit to Old Town, Balboa Park (there are lots of museums there which might be interesting, but the Reuben H Fleet Science museum was always my kids’ favorite), Coronado and the beach in front of the Hotel Del Coronado (there’s also an ice skating rink set up at the hotel overlooking the beach), the La Jolla Cove and the Sunny Jim Cave (enter through the Shell Shop), and Cabrillo National Monument (and old lighthouse). If you put San Diego in my blog’s search window, I’ve written about lots of things to do in San Diego — including the best five beaches and lots of other things to do for free and also places to eat.

  1. Heather Young

    Wow! What a beautiful display of lights!! This reminds me of the Festival of Lights that happens up here in Los Gatos, although I’m positive this event upstages it in size!

  2. Dave Zehrung

    Nice tip on useful products. I’m going to get a “Trak-R” to put on Connie when we go into a box store together.

  3. Sarah

    What an amazing show! I love those animal lanterns – the cat and the dinosaur are very cool. And the entertainment sounds like it was awesome fun! Thanks for the tip!

  4. Carol Colborn

    The unique celebration of Christmas from all over the world right in San Diego! I hope they have at least one Filipino parol! The lanterns and lights are awesome!

  5. Jessica Covington

    I was reading this and thinking how much my children would love it but San Diego is way too far for us. What luck that you happened to mention it is also in Sacremento where we will be this weekend anyway! I can’t wait to take them! Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. Alice Teacake

    I’m a big fan of lanterns and the quality of the ones here are ace! (Your photos are really good!) It’s great to hear that you can get a discount off the Winter Wonderland price but there does seem to be a lot to do: maybe the $22 ticket isn’t so bad at all 🙂

    1. Tami Post author

      Thank you, Alice! I definitely feel it’s a good value because of all there is to do, but if you take a family, discounts are sure nice.

  7. Kate Rebel

    This is so cool! I’ve been to San Diego earlier this year but of course they didn’t have the Winter Wonderland there yet. It looks amazing – I really love the lanterns you guys took pictures of. I guess I definitely need to go back one day during Christmas time and check it out!

  8. Kavita Favelle

    I’ve only recently come across this style of winter wonderland where the main attraction are the incredible lantern characters and artworks filled with lights. I have to say that San Diego’s effort looks truly spectacular!

  9. Rachel

    Well Global Winter Wonderland looks epic in every way. I also LOVE everything to do with Christmas and although we have Winter Wonderland in London – which I thought was hard to beat – this takes the experience to another level. I’d love to get lost in the maze, marvel at all the christmas lanterns and of course indulge in the festive food and drink. There seems to be so many entertainment options, I bet you could spend hours there just watching the dancers and motorcyclists. Well Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing!

  10. Jessica

    Looks like you had a good time and looks really colorful! I prefer more traditional holiday light displays but this is definitely something a bit different. Great to have places to go to get into the Christmas spirit!

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