at Balboa park
December Nights at Balboa Park is a wild mix of music, dance, food, shows, and entertainment for the whole family. For San Diegans, it is the event that signifies the beginning of the Holiday season. Started in 1978, this 2-day event is estimated to bring over 350,000 visitors into Balboa park.
On the first Friday & Saturday of December, Balboa Park hosts a bonanza of activities and entry into some of the museums is free! It is impossible to describe everything that goes on during December Nights because there is so much going on. Here's a list of events from previous years. Keep in mind that things change yearly and there are always some unavoidable last-minute changes. See partial entertainment list here.
All shows are free but some organization may generate income by selling items (CD, food), soliciting donations, or offering seasonal-activities at a minor cost. Most shows will be at one of the 4 locations:
Botanical Garden Stage
Casa del Prado Stage
Organ Pavilion Stage
Bon Temps Social Club/Gator by the Bay Stage
Sample Performers and Entertainers:
AIM San Diego West
Alice Birney Elementary
Annie Ross Dancers
Bethel Baptist Church Children's Choir
Bonita Vista High School Sound Unlimited and the Music Machine
California Youth Conservatory Theatre
Center for Creative Arts
Del Cerro Baptist Church - Christmas Story Tree
Del Cerro Baptist Church - Christmas Story Tree
Flamenco with Roots
Freddy & Francine
House of Scotland Pipe Band
Kaleo 'O Nalani
La Jolla Renaissance Singers
Lighthouse Baptist Choir
Lis & Di
Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir
Messengers from the Mount
Mochi Maid Cafe
Mystic Dance San Diego
Oak Park Music Conservatory
Ocean View Praise Choir and Orchestra
One Voice Choir
Organ Prelude: Carol Williams, Civic Organist
Pacific Coast Harmony
Pena Andaluza en California
Performing Folkd Dancers of Balboa Park
Piel de Mexico Boys and Girls Club of National City
Pomerado Brass Quintet
Rock Church RESONATE
San Diego Choraleer/Serra-Naders
San Diego Chorus of Sweet Adelines
San Diego Cloggers
San Diego DanceWorks
San Diego Gay Men's Chorus
San Diego Harmony Ringers
San Diego Sun Harbor Chorus
San Diego Youth in Action
Sounds Divine Vocal Jazz
Southwestern College Chamber Singers
St. Mark's Bell Choir
Uncle Bob and the Earthmovers
Valencia Park Dance and Drama
Vocal Synergy & Silhoette
Voices 4 Christ
In addition to the above shows, December Nights at Balboa park offers a lot of good food.
- At the International Cottages, representatives from different countries serve up ethnic snacks, drinks, meals, and desserts. Expect food from Turkey, Colombia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Puerto Rico, and more.
- Food is available at the Cascades Holiday Marketplace on the east end of El Prada near the water fountain. Expect to find pasta, hot dogs, fries, and the like.
- Food is also available at the Paliside Midway near President's Way. Expect to find country-fair treats such as kettle corn, cotton candy, and some real food as well.
Things to See
Just walking around Balboa Park is eventful enough! Keep an eye out for these captivating scenes:
- light canopy courtesy of SDG&E
- Santa and his flying reindeer
- Organ Pavilion with central Christmas tree
- Nativity scenes along the north side of the Organ Pavilion
- the Balboa Park community tree
- Fantasy of Trees
- free entry to participating museums
(from 5 pm to 9 pm)
Games and Rides
Every year, organizers surprise San Diegans with something new and exciting. In the past, the Paliside Midway offered a fair-like outfit with rides, games, kettle corn, cotton candy and the like.
December Nights 2008 offered a full-sized, outdoor ice skating rink! What will this year bring?
Food, rides, and skating require the purchase of tickets at the ticket booths. The tickets are then redeemed for food or fun. When buying tickets, be sure to buy Food Tickets for food and Ride Tickets for fun and games. Food merchants and ride controllers will only accept the corresponding tickets.
Location, Hours of Operation, Parking, and Facilities
at Balboa Park
The first Friday and Saturday of December:
Friday; 3 pm to 11 pm.
Saturday; 11 am to 11 pm
Traffic is terrible. Officials recommend that you take public transportation and that you avoid highway 163 and Park Blvd - it is bumper-to-bumper with no parking in sight.
Parking is terrible. Parking at Balboa park is free however, unless you come very early, it is unlikely that you will find parking in Balboa park.
Off-site parking is recommended and there is a free shuttle that will transport you to and from Balboa Park. Shuttle runs rom 3:30 (on Friday) or 11:30 (on Saturday) until midnight. Shuttle will pick up and drop off:
- PETCO Park and Lots around Park Blvd. and Imperial Ave. - Parking is only $3.00/vehicle and there are more than 2,000 parking spaces in this area. Shuttle takes less than 10 minutes and drops off at 6th and Laurel Streets.
- City College Lots between 16th and "B" Street.
Bathrooms are available in the building throughout Balboa Park and porta-potties are installed especially for these two busy nights.