What to Do in San Diego Around the Holiday Bowl

The annual Holiday Bowl at SDCCU Stadium kicks off once more on Thursday, December 28. Beginning in 1978, the college football classic historically features a matchup of Pac-12 and Big Ten teams. This year, the 40th-annual game will pit the Washington State Cougars against the Michigan State Spartans.

Given the state of parking, the crowds, and the fact that most fans end up staying in Downtown San Diego, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to figure out what to do before and after the game. Neighborhoods.com did the work for you, compiling a list of things to do and places to go when you’re not busy cheering on your team.

Courtesy of the Holiday Bowl

Holiday Bowl Marching Band Showcase

At 6:00 p.m. on December 27, head to downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp District to view a free performance from the Washington State and Michigan State spirit squads and marching bands in this Battle of the Bands. It’s free to attend and your ears will be ringing in the best possible way afterward.

Photo by Port of San Diego / CC BY

Holiday Bowl Parade

You can’t come to San Diego and not check out America’s largest balloon parade. The televised Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade will have floats, drill teams, world-class marching bands, and of course, the biggest balloons around. But if you want to see it live, it starts near the County Administration on Harbor Drive at 10:00 a.m. and ends at the corner of Harbor and Pacific Highway near Seaport Village.

Photo by Port of San Diego / CC By

Solar Turbines 5K Run

Want to work up a sweat? Be a spectator or participate in this 23rd annual run/walkathon on Thursday, December 28. The race starts on the corner of Harbor Drive and Ash Street, heading south behind the San Diego Convention Center. The course finishes near Ruocco Park but stick around for the post-race party, which includes light fare and live music. 

Courtesy of Holiday Bowl


Need a place to hang out before the game but don’t want to stray too far from the stadium? The Global Winter Wonderland FanZone will have a craft beer garden which includes local breweries. There will also be interactive football challenges, a sports lounge, and local food trucks. Entry is free with a game ticket. Purchase your $20 Beer Garden wristband, which includes a souvenir mug and eight 4 oz. beers.

Courtesy of Oggi's Mission Valley

Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company

For some good Italian food while you wait for the big game, head to Oggi’s in Mission Valley. They have a solid happy hour every day between 3 and 6 p.m. Options includes flatbread pizza, loaded fries, lettuce wraps, and an Italian chicken quesadilla. They also have weekly lunch and daily specials, offering a great place to chow down before heading over to the stadium.

Courtesy of SanDiego.org

McGregor’s Grill & Ale House 

A finalist for San Diego’s Best Sports Bar since 2008, McGregor’s is definitely a must-visit. Located close to SDCCU Stadium, this staple offers domestic and craft beer pints, solid burgers, and a plethora of tacos.

Photo by Rm999 / CC BY-SA

Head to Hillcrest

Looking for a fun neighborhood to take a stroll in? Head to Hillcrest. It’s home to scores of restaurants serving up food from around the globe and second-hand clothing shops and home decor stores worth perusing. If you happen to stick around until Sunday, make time for the Hillcrest Farmers Market for some great food, beautiful flowers, and fresh produce.

Courtesy of Cohn REstaurants / Gaslamp Strip Club

Gaslamp Strip Club

It’s not what it sounds like! This restaurant is notable as a “grill-your-own-steak” lounge located right in the middle of the Gaslamp District. A fun family alternative on the usual steakhouse experience, it allows diners to select their cut, get all the fixings, and then cook it themselves at one of the grill stations located throughout. After dinner, stroll the district to take in the sights and sounds.

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