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Balboa Park December Nights
Balboa Park December Nights

Christmas on the Prado

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Christmas on the Prado, now known as Balboa Park December Nights, is San Diego's annual traditional kick-off to the holiday season.

December Nights 2012 will take place on Friday, December 7th, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday, December 8th, from Noon to 10:00 p.m.

This park-wide free evening event is so popular that more than 300,000 people attend this seasonal holiday party to go to the museums (most offer free admission during both nights), sample holiday-themed food from around the world, listen to live music and watch dance performances, celebrate multicultural holiday traditions, admire the beautiful poinsettia display at the Botanical Building, and have a chance to come together en masse to experience the wonders of Balboa Park during the holidays.

In the spirit of the holidays, participating Balboa Park museums open their doors free of charge from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on both evenings. The museums get very crowded so visit accordingly and, unless told otherwise, no touching!

The most striking part of December Nights is the creative and abundant use of Christmas lights and Christmas displays throughout Balboa Park. We are not exaggerating when we tell you that Balboa Park never looks more magical than it does during the holidays. During the month of December, the City of San Diego decorates the Park with poinsettias, a vintage Santa figure in his sleigh being pulled by a full set of reindeer (guided by Rudolph with his nose so bright), and a beautifully lit Cabrillo Bridge. Even if you don't make it to December Nights, be sure to take a drive through Balboa Park in December. It is well worth the detour when you take a drive to see Christmas lights in San Diego.

With the global focus on energy savings and increased safety, the local private utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has been, and will continue to, sponsor the LED holiday light displays during December Nights.

Back to December Nights. The event organizers want everyone to know that long-standing traditions such as food from around the globe at the International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations Cottages; the Nativity Scenes at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion; the Santa Lucia Procession at the San Diego Museum of Man; the unique gift shopping at the museum stores and at Spanish Village; and musical and dance presentations from the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, and more, will continue this year.

The colder the night, the better for sipping cider, and strolling through the park to take in all the different ways to celebrate the holidays. If you are interested in imbibing something stronger than apple cider, consider having the traditional Swedish hot Glogg beverage that is served near the Santa Lucia performances in front of the Museum of Man. If you want to take a beverage tour around the world and sample traditional holiday drinks, the good volunteers at International Cottages host a very special, over-21-years old, International Spirits area. Many people end up in this fenced-off area and never leave. Why? The spirit of the holiday spirits take hold and offer patrons a convivial atmosphere that encourages conversation and merriment.

TIP! Bring cash with you because many of the food and drink vendors only take cash. TIP! WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES - YOU WILL WALK A LOT!


It should come as no surprise that with 300,000 visitors flocking to Balboa Park, parking will be limited. In order to accommodate as many people as possible, the December Nights event organizers are encouraging people to carpool, walk, take free shuttles from satellite locations, or hop on the bus or trolley.

Driving Directions to Balboa Park

Southbound from I-5: Take the 10th Avenue Exit off I-5. Turn left on "A" Street and left again on Park Boulevard. Follow the signs to Balboa Park.

Northbound from I-5: Take the B Street/Pershing exit off I-5 to Pershing Street. Take Pershing and then left on Florida Dr. Turn left on Zoo Place to Park Boulevard. Left on Park Boulevard.

Or, exit Sassafrass and make a left onto Laurel. Proceed east until you get close to 3rd, 4th, and 5th Avenues. Park on the streets or surface lots and then walk in.

Southbound from Hwy 163: Take the Park Blvd. exit off Hwy 163. Turn left on Park Boulevard. Follow the signs to Balboa Park.


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