SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Every December, for just two nights, Balboa Park twinkles with thousands of lights and just as many visitors to celebrate the holidays.
December Nights will cover the park in holiday cheer on Dec. 6, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Dec. 7, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. The park will be filled with light displays, bands and performances, attractions, shopping, and delicious foods from the park's International Cottages to Spanish Village.
The massive celebration is ranked the fifth best holiday festival in the U.S. by USA Today readers and is the largest free event in San Diego, attracting about 360,000 visitors.
Another big draw to the celebration: participating museums offer free admission from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. each day.
Until the fun kicks off, the public can vote for the annual San Diego tradition in USA Today's 10Best contest for "best public holiday lights display." Currently, December Nights is ranked second to Riverside's Festival of Lights celebration. Voting is open until Dec. 2 at 9 a.m.
Free and paid parking is available but limited. Shuttles are available to visitors, picking up at Ash St., between 5th and 6th Avenues from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Public transit near December Nights will also be available. The three closest stops will be at City College, 5th Ave. Trolley Station, and at Park Blvd. and University Ave.
Rideshare is available through the event's official partner, Lyft. Riders can use the code "DECNIGHTS" for a 20 percent discount on two rides to the event. Rides will drop off at Sixth Avenue near the Laurel Street bridge.
Dockless bicycles and scooters will not be allowed inside the event.
Food & Drink
Visitors have plentiful and delicious food options throughout Balboa Park during the event. Concession stands and food trucks line the promenade with tasty treats, including vegan and gluten-free options.
Another favorite: Balboa Park's International Cottages. House of Scotland is known for tasty desserts, House of Italy has cannoli and cappucino, and you won't want to miss paella at the House of Spain food stand.
Alcoholic beverages are available at beer gardens around the park.
Shows to see
Catch the tree lighting at 6 p.m. on Friday, as Mayor Kevin Faulconer helps kick off December Nights by flipping the candy cane switch at the Organ Pavilion.
Over on the Botanical Stage at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Ballet Folklorico la Joya de Mexico students will perform traditional dances for the holidays.
At the Organ Pavilion, the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus will perform the sounds of the holidays beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Afterward, the pavilion will be featured in the Christmas Story Tree scenes and hymns.
The San Diego Chorus of Sweet Adelines will perform a cappella and classic four-harmony sounds at 5:40 p.m. Saturday at the Organ Pavilion.
In the Cascades Marketplace at 7:25 p.m. Saturday, the San Diego Street Symphony turns orchestra performances into electric, live street shows for guests.