Cool on the Coast: More than 20 sounds, sights and activities this season

Layla Marino

2014_COLUMN_MARINOSouthern California may not be seen by the rest of the country as the classic picture of winter traditions, but coastal North County has plenty of its own traditions for winter fun with a beach flare. Whether you’re interested in holiday events, wintry light shows or concerts and art openings, the coast gets even cooler in December.

The Belly Up, Solana Beach: The folks at the Belly Up spent much of November helping with charities, raising money for surf cleanup and hunger projects. December brings a time to celebrate the season and the holidays, and the lineup this month at the Belly Up features concerts and parties that do just that. Here are a few of the events this month, but to see the full list and for ticket info, go to

  • Dec. 10: Tears for Fears Another beloved ’90s act, Tears for Fears, is on their first tour since 2011 and will stop at the Belly Up to perform classics such as “Shout” and “Sewing the Seeds of Love” as well as covers of modern bands’ new songs such as Hot Chip’s “Boy From School.” This tour is adding fuel to the rumors that the band will be releasing its first album in 10 years sometime in 2015, so audiences may also be treated to some brand-new songs from the legendary duo. This show is currently sold out.
  • Dec. 16: Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Rocks Extravaganza — Three-time Grammy winner Brian Setzer has blazed a holiday trail with his own tradition of jive. The Belly Up will host the Brian Setzer Orchestra for its 10th annual Christmas Rocks Extravaganza. Setzer and the 18-piece brass band will play classic songs from the Stray Cats, Setzer’s solo catalog and some holiday classics adapted for big band swing. This is a highly anticipated show every year and tickets have sold out quickly, but check your local radio stations to see if you might win a coveted seat for this night of swingin’ holiday fun.
  • Dec. 20: Gnarlywood Presents the 12th Annual Ugly Turtleneck & Sweater Party — Surf and skate moguls Gnarlywood are once again throwing the biggest ugly holiday sweater party of the year. Gnarlywood was ahead of the trend when they created this fun-filled party in 2002, and the tradition continues with lots of ugly sweaters, turtlenecks and other garish holiday oddities that have now become a holiday tradition all their own. Get in on the fun this year and celebrate with drink specials, prizes and, of course, a judging to see whose ugly sweater takes the Christmas cake this year.
  • Dec. 28: The Aggrolites with the Creepy Creeps — This odd pairing of reggae and surf psychobilly will make for a fun and relaxed respite between Christmas and New Year’s. The Aggrolites are touring extensively in 2015, and their Belly Up show kicks off this tour in support of nothing in particular — they just really like touring. Similarly, San Diego-based punky surf band The Creepy Creeps will open the show for the love of gigging. Both bands put on raucous and endlessly fun shows.
  • Dec. 30: Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven — Two classic indie bands will meet up at this last show before the Belly Up’s New Year’s Eve bash. Cracker is a raspy ’90s pseudo-grunge band that gained pop fame with hits such as “Low” and “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” and Camper Van Beethoven, though slightly less-known, has been gracing college radio stations since the early ’80s with its most popular song being “Take the Skinheads Bowling.” Both bands have been making a comeback as of late, each releasing a new studio album this year. This show is not to be missed as an indie double bill of these proportions doesn’t happen very often, and only the Belly Up can make it so.

Holiday events: From Christmas to Kwanzaa, the North Coast has holiday fun almost every day in December.

  • Dec. 4: Holiday Concert with Teagan Taylor Trio — The Teagan Taylor Trio are one of the fastest rising stars on the jazz music circuit, and they hail from right here in San Diego. They’ll perform some wonderful holiday jazz standards at the Carlsbad City Library Learning Center for free starting at 6:30 p.m. or for more details.
  • Dec. 5-21: Jacob Marley’s A Christmas Carol — The Oceanside Theatre Company will perform the theater adaptation of this Charles Dickens classic holiday story every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 21. All performances will be at the Sunshine Brooks Theatre. Visit for tickets and information.
  • Dec. 6: Encinitas Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting: — Encinitas is famous for this holiday tradition with a surf flare. In fact, this year, Encinitas will highlight its connection to all things boarding with the theme “Droppin’ in for the Holidays!” with appearances from lots of pro surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders, and themed floats along the parade route. The parade will begin at 5 p.m. and end with a tree-lighting at The Lumberyard at 7:30. Visit for more details.
  • Dec. 6-11: Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Garden — For five days in December once the sun goes down, the San Diego Botanic Garden will turn into a winter wonderland with thousands of lights all over the garden’s beautiful grounds. Lots of activities compliment the spectacle, including visits from Santa, crafts, marshmallow roasting, wagon rides and even mulled wine tastings on certain nights. Go online to for more information and directions.
  • Dec. 6-7: Flower Hill Weekend with Santa — Sea & Smoke at The Flower Hill Promenade just across Interstate 5 from the Del Mar Racetrack will host a kids’ breakfast with Santa Saturday and Sunday this weekend with free arts and crafts, photos with Santa and chair massages for tired parents.
  • Dec. 7: La Jolla Symphony Performs Handel’s “Messiah” — St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Carlsbad will host the La Jolla Symphony as it performs Handel’s classic Baroque ode to Christmas, “The Messiah.” Come and experience this wonderful holiday tradition in the great acoustics of St. Elizabeth Seton’s rectory.
  • Dec. 7: Meals on Wheels Holiday Concert — The Coastal Communities Concert Band will perform classic holiday songs as well as fun new holiday arrangements and a tribute to servicemen and women for the charity Meals on Wheels. The concert starts at 2 p.m. at Carlsbad Community Church.
  • Dec. 13: Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights — Hosted by the Oceanside Yacht Club, this annual tradition will feature yachts, fishing boats, even dinghies dressed up in their holiday best to celebrate the season in a nautical way. The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Oceanside Harbor. For more information, visit
  • Dec. 16: Kainga Music Winter Steel Drum Concert — The Carlsbad Village Theatre will host this unique concert with Kainga Music, a popular steel drum group from San Diego. Kainga will play many holiday songs adapted for steel drums from every faith and tradition, as well as popular original songs. See its website,, for more details.
  • Dec. 20: Holidaze Concert — The Star Theatre in Oceanside and the Feeding the Soul Foundation will host one of the most fun holiday concerts of the year, benefiting Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls. Bushwalla, Day Old Johnson, Jason Mraz and MC Flow will all perform at this jam-filled event. Go online to for tickets.
  • Dec. 21: Handel’s “Messiah” — Another opportunity to see this beautiful holiday symphony will be at San Dieguito United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. in Encinitas. A full orchestra directed by William Hatcher will bring this classic to life. Go to for information.
  • Dec. 21: Congregation Beth Am Menorah Lighting — Rabbi David Kornberg and the Beth Am Choir will light the second night of the Hanukah menorah at the Del Mar Highlands Town Center with a moving vocal performance. This event begins at 6 p.m. Visit for information.

Winter fun events: Do you love winter and want to find some events that take a break from the holidays but still celebrate the season? There’s plenty to do involving art, nature and lifestyle both for adults and families that make winter pop.

  • Dec. 4-18: Humane Society’s Fur Fix Thursdays — The Humane Society’s North Campus in Oceanside is bringing lots of cuddly creatures to pet, touch and play with every Thursday this month. There are also crafts where kids and adults alike can make toys for the shelter pets and get some fluffy love from the animals. Visit for information on this and all the great winter events at the Human Society.
  • Dec. 5: Jazz on Cedros with Anna Danes — The Jazz on Cedros concert series is proud to welcome jazz vocalist Anna Danes with special guests Rosemary Watson and Johnathan Belanger. The show will feature lots of acoustic jazz standards and some of Danes’ own new songs. The show starts at 5:30 at Carruth Cellars in Solana Beach. For more information, go to
  • Dec. 5: Winter Artsplash Opening Reception — This reception kicks off a multimedia group art show sponsored by the nonprofit Coastal Artists. The exhibit will run until Dec. 31. For more information, visit
  • Dec. 6: Oceanside Green Gift and Brew — Take an all day eco-friendly brew tour through some of Oceanside’s best breweries and tap rooms on a double-decker bus. A ticket includes gourmet beer and food tastings at Legacy Brewing Co., Bagby Beer Co. and Surfside Tap Room, as well as an opportunity to browse and shop many eco-friendly wares for yourself or for gifts. The bus leaves the fountain in front of Oceanside City Hall at noon on the dot, so don’t be late. Go online to!gift-and-brew-tour/c1mcu for tickets and information.
  • Dec. 6: December Exhibitions Opening Night — The Oceanside Museum of Art will have an opening reception in advance of five exhibitions coming up in December: My Sister’s Voice, Neil Shigley: Invisible People, Omar Lopex: Relámpago, Naked: 20th Century Nudes from the Dijkstra Collection, and California Dreaming: An International Portrait of Southern California. The reception begins at 6 p.m. For information about each of the exhibitions, visit
  • Dec. 11: Naked: an Informal Discussion — Part of the “Five Concurrent Exhibitions” series at the Oceanside Museum of Art, donating collectors Bram and Sandra Dijkstra will discuss their interest in figurative art. Exhibition curator Tara Smith will also answer questions with the Dijkstras. For more information and tickets, visit
  • Dec. 13: Molly’s Revenge — This Celtic-inspired winter concert will be held at the Encinitas Center for Spiritual Living and feature bagpipes, violin, and other traditional Scottish and Irish instruments. There will also be traditional dancers to accompany the music. The haunting melodies of Celtic music take a spirited and raucous turn with this fun and festive group. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and for tickets, visit
  • Dec. 18: COAL’s Miniature Art Show — Carlsbad Oceanside Art League’s reception for its “Small Treasures” exhibition kicks off a show that will run until Jan. 4, featuring mixed media art pieces from local artists done in miniature size. For information, go to
  • Dec. 20: Noches de Invierno Flamenco Concert — The famed Flamenco dancer and singer duo of Savannah Fuentes and Jose Anillo will perform an exciting Flamenco to heat up those cold winter nights at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Come experience the fire of Flamenco for one night only, beginning at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit
  • Dec. 24: Wings Over Wetlands — The San Elijo Ecological Reserve invites residents to witness the ingress of a number of bird species into the area during their winter migration south from colder climes. A guided tour along the loop of the lagoon will be provided as well as educational activities for kids from 1 to 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. For more information, visit
  • Dec. 29: Bubbles and Cheese — Get to know your New Year’s bubbly and cheese before the party in this pairing class at Venissimo Cheese in Del Mar. A ticket doesn’t only get participants tasting flights, but a knowledge of what Cava, Brut, Prosecco and Champagne pair best with various cheeses. Impress your friends on New Year’s or just enjoy your newly refined palette.

Whether you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit, imbibe some great bubbly or see some amazing shows this December, coastal North County has lots of options for everyone. We may not feel the winter chill here in San Diego as much as some other parts of the country, but with so many events, concerts and twinkling lights this season, the coast is still, as always, very cool.

Columnist Layla Marino is a San Diego music and arts writer. Visit Follow her on Twitter at Send questions and comments to [email protected].