Inside San Diego

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Balboa Park Transforms Into a Winter Wonderland for City of San Diego’s December Nights Festival

Mayor Todd Gloria and the City of San Diego invite all San Diegans to join in the holiday spirit with the 45th annual December Nights festival in Balboa Park. The park will transform into a winter wonderland with more than 1,000 performers on four stages, various activities throughout the park and more than 120 food and retail vendors. Some museums will offer complimentary evening admission and other features include the Gator by the Bay stage and dance floor, traditional International Spirits Garden and a new Plaza de Panama beer and cocktail garden.

December Nights is happening Friday, Dec. 2, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 3, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The holiday festival is the City’s largest free event and has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to Balboa Park over the past four decades. Mayor Gloria and Councilmember Stephen Whitburn will kick off the event by lighting the tree at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion at 6 p.m. on Friday.

“Generations of San Diegans have made December Nights part of their annual holiday plans, and we’re thrilled to welcome them back this year,” Mayor Todd Gloria said. “After two years of a scaled-down version during the pandemic, we are so thankful to have December Nights back in its traditional form. I’m looking forward to what I think of as the official kickoff of the holiday season in our city.”

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is a valued sponsor of December Nights, and this year is teaming up with PATH San Diego to encourage visitors to donate socks at the SDG&E booth during the event. Toyota, official vehicle of the City’s Lifeguards, is supporting the initiative and will have its Sienna Sleigh next to the 91X booth for sock donations. Sock drive organizers hope to beat the Guinness World Record set by the city of Fresno last year with 80,000 socks. 

“We are excited to bring a new charitable initiative to this year’s December Nights - a sock drive to benefit unsheltered San Diegans," said Kazeem Omidiji, Director of Community Relations, San Diego Gas & Electric. “We encourage everyone going to December Nights to bring a pair of new socks to donate to our nonprofit partner, PATH San Diego. The sock drive, combined with a charitable grant from SDG&E, will support PATH in its efforts to house and provide comfort to unsheltered San Diegans this holiday season.” 

Another new highlight at December Nights is the Family Zone, co-sponsored by the City of San Diego’s Office of Child and Youth Success, Parks and Recreation and Library departments, along with CalKIDS and First 5 San Diego. The area will include safe activities for young kids including hula hoop contests, bean bag toss, ornament making and more. A private space is also available for nursing mothers. 

The Family Zone features a special mural creation opportunity by Comic-Con Museum, sponsored by Tootris, and a solar system bracelet making opportunity by San Diego Air and Space Museum, sponsored by AT&T. Dave & Busters will have video games on site, along with Candy Land Princess appearances provided by Joshua’s Pest Control.  

December Nights has many new attractions this year, including: 

Think Blue San Diego will be debuting SWEEP-E, the City’s new mini electric sweeper. This will be the first time San Diegans can have up-close view of the vehicle.  

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is the sponsor of the Gator by the Bay stage and will have an on-site greeting card-marking opportunity for Serving Seniors.    

House of Pacific Relations International Cottages Inc. is represented with nine cottages joining the lineup this year for a total of 32 houses: Panama, Korea, Mexico, India, Peru, Guam, Palestine, Turkey and Philippines. 

Local Media San Diego (91X, 100.7, Z90 and 92.5) is the official promotional media partner for December Nights and will have various booths with radio personalities, fun giveaways and more. XEWT12 is the official Spanish language media partner and will be offering holiday activities, TV personality appearances, mascots and more. KFMB/CBS8 is the official streaming partner to showcase the event, so those who can’t attend in person can enjoy the magic of December Nights from the comfort of home.  

“There will be something for everyone,” said Natasha Collura, Executive Director for the City’s Special Events and Filming Office “We are so grateful for our corporate sponsors, City staff and Balboa Park organizations and institutions for joining us in one of San Diego’s biggest and most festive events and to welcome everyone back to December Nights.”

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the event transportation partner and will provide free shuttle rides (ADA accessible) for people wanting to get to the park from off-site locations downtown. Free parking is available at City College and the San Diego Zoo. In addition, there will be convenient pre-paid parking options for the first time. People can go to the City’s website to purchase a spot and find all available transportation options for anyone walking, biking, taking transit or driving.

Safety is the top priority for the City of San Diego during a large event like December Nights. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) reminds visitors to plan ahead and be aware of their surroundings. Both SDPD and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department will be participating in the event to also promote recruitment and encourage job seekers to join their teams. 

For more information and a list of entertainment and food vendors, go to decembernights.org.