Dec 1, 2023 - Things to Do

December Nights 2023: Tips for San Diego's holiday festival

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion during December Nights at Balboa Park. Photo: Dünzl\ullstein bild via Getty Images

Get in the spirit at December Nights, San Diego's largest (and free) holiday festival that draws hundreds of thousands to Balboa Park.

What's happening: The annual, two-day event features live music and dance performances, interactive light displays, photos with Santa, 200+ food and retail vendors, an ice skating rink and more.

  • The official tree lighting ceremony on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion Stage happens at 6pm tonight.
  • Explore the museums for free.

When and where: Today from 3-11pm, and tomorrow from 11am-11pm all around Balboa Park and its museums.

For the kids: Santa will be at the family zone in the municipal gym, along with face painting, holiday hat-making, pro skateboarding demos, a silent disco and other activities.

For the adults: Check out the Holiday Cheer Garden at Village Place for holiday-themed cocktails and a Switchfoot concert.

  • The international spirits garden, Lady Carolyn's Pub at The Old Globe, Panama 66, The Prado, the Zoo and museums — including a rooftop bar and 21+ lounge — also offer festive dinner, drinks and entertainment.

Parking: Pack your patience because traffic will be rough and lots fill up quickly.

Pro tips: Plan your visit and use this map to get around.

  • Seriously consider taking the trolley, a bike or rideshare to the event. If you plan to park, buy a spot in advance and take the free shuttles.
  • Leave your pets at home, unless they're trained service animals.
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