Warm southern California skies, palm trees rustled by a faint breeze, the smell of salt water in the air...not exactly everyone's idea of a traditional Christmas setting. But the town of Coronado proves to be more in tune with the Yuletide season than you might think.
Located across the bay from San Diego, this small community got its start as a turn-of-the-century summer resort. The island-like setting (it's actually an isthmus) continues to draw visitors, though the summer tents and cottages have been replaced by homes, shops, parks, and luxury hotels.
Coronado embraces the holiday season with a month of festivities-parades, theater, and plenty for the kids. Santa's arrival by ferry kicks off a day of activity on December 6. The Ferry Landing Marketplace, over 30 shops, galleries, and restaurants, is transformed into a winter carnival with Snow Mountain, some 20 tons of man-made snow created for the enjoyment of all. While snowballs are flying, Santa joins the Holiday Parade as it makes its way down Orange Avenue. The local merchants' Holiday Open House, a performance by the San Diego Concert Band, and a fireworks display help round out the evening.
"Artisan's Alley," an arts and crafts fair featuring over 200 craftspeople, is held at the Village Elementary School on December 7.
The Lamb's Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, presents its annual Festival of Christmas show. This year's production runs December 5-29. Phone (619) 437-0600.
Join the Kiwanis Holiday Lights Walk, December 14, for a mild workout past homes and shops dressed for the season. Walkers have a choice of a 2-mile or 5-mile course and are encouraged to come in holiday costume. Or make your way to the bay for a nautical Christmas salute at the annual San Diego Harbor Parade of Lights, December 15 and 22. Both Le Meridien San Diego at Coronado resort and the Ferry Landing Marketplace are good spots from which to view the festive boats.
Coronado was conceived as a resort town and at its center was the Hotel del Coronado. A favorite with celebrities, U.S. Presidents, and British royalty, "the Del" is familiar to movie buffs from its appearance in the 1958 comedy "Some Like It Hot" with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. Outlined in white lights and sporting a 30-foot noble fir in the lobby, the Del hosts several holiday events. Enjoy a grand feast in the Grand Ballroom as the Lamb's Players Theatre perform "An American Christmas," a turn-of-the-centuryholiday celebration of song and story, December 12-29 (reservations required).
For the kids, the Del offers hour-long Teddy Bear Socials, 5 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, December 15-23, where they can enjoy storytelling, games, and refreshments. Or pay a visit to "Whoville" in the lobby of Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is brought to life through a reading by another Seuss character, the Cat-in-the-Hat. Readings are Thursday and Friday at 5 and 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at noon and 1 p.m., November 29-December 24. Carolers perform following the feline recitation.
Let's hope Santa doesn't feel upstaged.
The Coronado Visitors Bureau can provide a listing of holiday events as well as information on lodging and nearby attractions. Contact them at 1047 B Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118-3418. Phone (800) 622-8300 or (619) 437-8788. You can also visit Coronado on the Web. You'll find lodging listed in the AAA California/Nevada TourBook™.
Hotel del Coronado, (800) HOTEL DEL; Loews Coronado Bay Resort, (800) 81-LOEWS; and Le Meridien San Diego at Coronado, (800) 543-4300, all offer spectacular Christmas dinners and special packages for New Year's Eve.
This article was first published in November 1996. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.