December Nights — the city’s biggest holiday celebration — is coming back to Balboa Park this weekend. 🎄
After pandemic-era modified versions for the past two years, this year’s festivities will return in their full glory — with twinkling lights, live performances, deals and activities at select museums, and so much food. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
🗓️ The basics
- The free, 2-day, multicultural festival runs 3-11 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.
- It’s been a minute since the traditional December Nights, so use this map to visualize the layout.
🚗 Parking + transportation
- San Diegans know parking lots fill up quickly, so plan ahead. Limited free parking is available at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego City College. Paid parking is available at Balboa Park’s Inspiration Point lot ($30), the Natural History Museum lot ($45), the South Carousel lot ($45), or some nearby Ace Parking lots ($15).
- You can rideshare and get dropped off at a designated zone along Sixth Avenue.
- You can park downtown and take a free shuttle to and from the event at Ash Street between Fifth + Sixth avenues.
- The Metropolitan Transit System is offering service to December Nights via Trolley to the Fifth Avenue Station. From there, transfer to bus Route 3 or 120 to Fifth Avenue and Laurel Street, and walk about two blocks east to Balboa Park.
🎶 Entertainment + activities
- There are four live performance areas — Organ Pavilion Stage, Cascades Stage, Family Zone Stage, and Gator by the Bay Stage. Each stage has separate schedules for Friday and Saturday. The Spreckels Organ Pavilion is at the heart of the fest, where the iconic tree lighting takes place at 6 p.m. Friday.
- Activities await at every corner — including holiday craft projects at Palisades Plaza. There’s also a lot going on in the Family Zone.
- Here are places where you can take photos with Santa.
- Select Balboa Park museums will offer free admission — 5-9 p.m. — both nights, including the Museum of Us, San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, and Fleet Science Center.
- December Nights is known for its plentiful grub options across different zones. Don’t miss the vendors along Food Truck Alley and Plaza de Panama, and make sure to visit the International Cottages to taste foods from around the world.
December Nights is always held on the first Friday and Saturday of December and signals the start of the holiday season in San Diego.
The event was founded 45 years ago, when 10 cultural organizations in Balboa Park came together to host a celebration originally dubbed Christmas on the Prado. That first year, ~3,000 attended the event. Today — as a city-run event and the landmark’s biggest of the year — it has ballooned to ~350,000 attendees over the span of two days.