By Alex Owens
Although the chances of having a white Christmas in Balboa Park are fairly slim, there’s perhaps no place in San Diego where the Christmas spirit is as prevalent.
While the park will have Christmas and holiday-themed events going on all through the month, the peak of these events is December Nights, the city’s biggest annual event and the largest holiday event on the West Coast.
This year’s December Nights takes place Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3, and the event is expected to attract 325,000 people. Many attend because the museums are free, others do so for the international food offerings (the bratwurst is always popular), while others come to enjoy the performances of Christmas music.
There are some new offerings to that festive blend that excite Tomas Herrera-Mishler, the CEO of the Balboa Park Conservancy.
“This year, we are having an artisan marketplace near the Timken,” he said. “It will feature handcrafted items by local artists. We wanted to celebrate local makers.”
Another project new to December Nights is the Fab Trailers Photo Booth, a whimsically decorated vintage trailer with a gleeful Southern California winter holiday as the backdrop and a professional photographer behind the camera. It’s a great and fun way to take the family holiday Christmas photo.
There will also be photo options with at least seven — if you count Einstein at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the Grinch near the Old Globe — Santa Clauses, including one by the zoo and one at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
“It’s hard to top having a photo with the Grinch,” Herrera-Mishler said, laughing.
Herrera-Mishler is also excited about a new event to be held the last week of the year: A food truck festival that runs Dec. 27-30.
“It’s just like the one we do in summer,” he said.
Each day between 4 and 8 p.m., food trucks, featuring all types of cuisine, will set up at the Plaza de Panama. In addition, the following acts will be performing: John Roberts Trio on Dec. 27; Save the Starlight Band on Dec. 28; Leonard Patton Danny Green Quartet on Dec. 29; and Jarabe Mexicano on Dec. 30.
There is plenty of other things going on between December Nights at the beginning of the month and the Food Truck Festival at the end.
The popular seasonal favorite “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” plays at the Old Globe through Dec. 26. The show stays the same but each year, there are always new bits added to make repeat visits enjoyable.
The San Diego Zoo will be celebrating “Jungle Bells” and be open late until 8 p.m. starting Dec. 9 through Jan. 2. Some of the festivities include special animal demonstrations and holiday-themed musical performances.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the zoo, and the San Diego History Center has an exhibit dedicated to Balboa Park’s world famous attraction, which runs through May.
There are many other events around the park that are fitting for the holiday season.
- The Centro Cultural de la Raza features an exhibit called Expressions of Spirituality through Jan. 17.
- The RH Fleet Science Center has a new film, “Extreme Weather” and a Lego-themed exhibit entitled The Art of the Brick through Jan. 29.
- The Mingei Museum has an ongoing exhibit of dolls and toys.
- Spanish Village hosts a variety of artists, artisans and photographers featuring all sorts of unique items.
Last but not least, the Friends of Balboa Park will be sponsoring their annual holiday poinsettia celebration and month-long display at the Botanical Building. Launching on Dec. 8 from 3–5 p.m., the dozens of poinsettias on display are individually gifted each year during the holiday season by local residents in honor of a friend or loved one. To find out how you can dedicate a poinsettia plant for $25, contact email@example.com.
—Alex Owens is a San Diego-based freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.