December Nights Balboa Park Guide 2013

Botanical Building at December Nights in Balboa Park #balboapark #holiday

We love December Nights in Balboa Park! Can you feel the excitement in my type? That’s why we put together this quick reference to everything you need to know to visit Balboa Park this Friday and Saturday…like where to park, what museums are open, best entertainment areas, etc. AND at the end, we list our Top 5 Things To Do at December Nights plus a chance to win some FREE stuff. Keep the guide handy and spread it around!

December Nights in Balboa Park 2013

Friday, December 6: 3-11pm
Saturday, December 7: noon-11pm

Balboa Park. It literally takes up the entire Park. Make sure to remember this when parking…

Here’s the map from

Fun Facts

  • It gets busy: 350,000+ people are expected between the 2 days.
  • It started in 1978. 3,000 people attended the first year.
  • It used to be called Christmas on the Prado.
  • Someone will get proposed to on Friday night at the Organ Pavilion. The Leo Hamel contest gives the winner an engagement ring and the perfect opportunity to scare (we mean propose to!) their beloved.
  • LED Lights courtesy of San Diego Gas and Electric: Bring 1-3 of your old incandescent holiday lights with a copy of your current SDG&E bill or CA ID and you get new LED Holiday Light Strands! YES! Go to the front of The Prado Restaurant on Friday between 5-10pm or Saturday between noon-10pm to take part.

Good luck! Just kidding. Don’t expect to park in the Park–it’s basically closed off except to foot traffic unless you get there really early.

The parking options:

  1. Park around Balboa Park. The streets around the Park are a good chance to test your luck. If you come early on either day, you have better odds. The San Diego Zoo parking lot has some free parking.
  2. Utilize “Preferred Parking” at the Natural History Museum parking area, South Carousel parking area and Inspiration Point. They are all off Park Blvd. It’ll cost you $20/vehicle.
  3. Free shuttles into Balboa Park. There are two starting points: Petco Park ($5/vehicle to park) and City College (free to park). Shuttles run 3pm-12am on Friday and 11:30am-12am on Saturday. Get to locations before 8pm because that’s the last shuttle to the Park.
  4. Take public transit. The trolley stop: City College Station. The bus route: Route 7. Check here for more.

Best Food
Keep an eye out all around the Park. There are places everywhere. Our favorite place: International Cottages. There’s cuisine from 32 different countries! Here’s the guide for the Park: December Nights Food from Balboa Park.

Our favorite place is the International Cottages area. Here are some other good locations:

  • Spreckels Organ Pavilion: The main stage for December Nights.
  • Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater: See A Christmas Carol, the puppet edition.
  • Casa del Prado: Nutcracker bits and pieces from the SD Civic Youth Ballet.
  • Inside many of the museums, such as San Diego History Center and The San Diego Museum of Art.
  • Spanish Village Art Center will be a flurry of activity for the 2 days and nights.
  • WorldBeat Center: cool music, food and entertainment with a Kwanzaa theme.

Lots! Here are some fun ones:

  • Santas photo ops. Where? Civic Dance Arts, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Hall of Champions, Spanish Village Art Center, Spreckels Organ Pavilion (at the Gingerbread Cottage).
  • Other cool people photo ops: Grinch at The Old Globe and Allosaurus in a Santa hat at San Diego Natural History Museum.
  • Cool exhibits: check out the free museums in the next section. Another option is the Casa del Prado Room 101 with their 30 holiday trees!

Many museums are free during December Nights and most have different hours than normal. Check each museum under ‘Hours’ for updated December Nights hours:

Japanese Friendship Garden
Mingei International Museum
Museum of Photographic Arts
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
San Diego Air & Space Museum
San Diego Automotive Museum
San Diego Hall of Champions
San Diego History Center
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
San Diego Natural History Museum
The San Diego Museum of Art
Timken Museum of Art

Top 5 Things To Do at December Nights This Year

  1. Enjoy the International Cottages. Food, performances and more. We love this area of December Nights.
  2. Visit Casa del Prado Room 101. There’ll be 30 decorated holiday trees from the San Diego Floral Assocaition. Very cool activity.
  3. Pose with a Santa…or the Grinch…or a dinosaur. See above under Activities.
  4. Relax at the Organ Pavilion. You don’t even have to move from here and you’ll enjoy great music, dance and more.
  5. Check out a museum or two. Sure it’ll be crowded but you may see a thing or two you like and then you’ll have a reason to come back and really enjoy our SD culture!

Extra Guides
Check out Balboa Park’s Meridian app…there’s a December Nights guide on it!

Check out the official December Nights website thru Balboa Park!

Are you going to December Nights this year? Use the hashtag #sdawesome on Instagram and you have a chance to be featured on our page! Best photo from December Nights will be posted on our Facebook and the winner will receive 4 FREE tickets to the San Diego Museum of Art!


4 comments on “December Nights Balboa Park Guide 2013”

  1. Pingback: 17 Exhibits to See in December in San Diego | San Diego is Awesome

  2. Pingback: 10 Things To Do This Weekend in San Diego (12/7-12/8) | San Diego is Awesome

  3. kathy ward

    I love this website-I check it all the time for entertainment, especially on Friday so that I don’t miss any cool happenings for the upcoming weekend!!!

  4. Pingback: Your Ultimate Guide for December 2016 Events in San Diego

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