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Parks and Recreation

Get Ready for a Magical Holiday Experience at December Nights!

people doing a performance on the stage during december nights event in front of a christmas tree.

Mayor Todd Gloria and the City of San Diego invite community members to share in the holiday joy of  the annual December Nights celebration in the heart of Balboa Park.  

December Nights will be held over two days: Friday, Dec. 1, from 3 to 11 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The holiday festival is the City’s largest free event and has welcomed millions of visitors to Balboa Park for more than four decades.  

On Friday, at 6 p.m., Mayor Gloria will join Councilmember Stephen Whitburn and event organizers for a festive tree lighting ceremony on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion Stage.  

“Our December Nights celebration is a joyous and beloved annual tradition that helps San Diego kick off the holiday season,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “I want to thank our City of San Diego staff and everyone who bring this event to life every year.” 

To help visitors plan for the annual festival, the City is introducing a new feature called the December Nights Mobile Experience. The mobile website will make it easy to navigate December Nights from a smartphone, with information about parking, entertainment, vendors, food and more.  

Using the mobile-friendly website, visitors can access maps of attractions, performance schedules, transit and parking information, and time-sensitive alerts during the two-day event. 

“This new mobile feature is a way for visitors to plan for their own unique experience while visiting December Nights,” said Natasha Collura, Executive Director of Special Events and Filming. “We’re thankful our partner, San Diego Community Power, is working with us to provide this brand-new feature that we hope park visitors will take advantage of with all of the crucial information it provides.” 

For December Nights, Balboa Park will transform into a winter wonderland with more than 1,600 performers as part of 70 performance groups across five stages. There will be more than 200 food and retail booths and museum venues open to the public for free during the evening hours.  

Organizers have worked to make December Nights more accessible than ever this year. Event mobility partner San Diego Community Power will provide free shuttle rides for people coming to Balboa Park from various locations Downtown and will host a free bike valet.  

There is limited capacity for parking at December Nights and it’s highly recommended that visitors consider other transportation options. There are free and pre-paid vehicle parking options available in the various parking lots around Balboa Park, with event shuttles that bring visitors directly to the event entrance at El Prado and the Cabrillo Bridge. 

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System will also run shuttles between the City College transit hub and the event for free.  

Thanks to the support of community partners, the Family Zone is back at December Nights and promises to be better than ever. This space is perfect for families with children of all ages, including a changing and lactation station, an activity area for young kids and community zone provided by Sycuan. Other highlights include: 

  • Free photo opportunity with Santa courtesy of Tootris
  • Literacy Corner with storytimes, live experiential poetry, holiday hat-making and face painting provided by Cigna.  
  • Suncatcher crafts by Learning Jungle. 
  • Skateboarding demos and free milk with Bones Loves Milk and Hollandia Dairy.   

For the first time ever at December Nights, visitors can lace up their skates and enjoy “Winter Parad-ice,” a San Diego-style skating rink. The synthetic ice rink will be in the Plaza de Panama across from the San Diego Museum of Art. The rink will open Friday from 3 to 10:30 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and is sponsored by San Diego Community Power. Skating sessions are $9.95 per person.  

December Nights is giving back this year in multiple ways so that visitors can support their neighbors:  

  • Create a special card for a senior and send a little holiday cheer. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) will sponsor a Holiday Card Station to benefit homebound seniors.   
  • Bring a new pair of socks to this year’s December Nights. The City of San Diego is teaming up with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) for a Sock Drive to benefit unsheltered clients of PATH San Diego and Dreams for Change. December Nights attendees can drop off socks at the SDG&E booth – look for the all-electric SDG&E truck in front of the House of Hospitality in the Plaza de Panama. Socks can also be purchased on-site at the Merge 4 sock booth or the Balboa Park Visitors Center.  
  • The U.S. Air Force will be accepting handmade cards for U.S. troops. There will also be games and an opportunity to take a photo with a mini jet.  

Safety at December Nights is a priority for the City of San Diego. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) offers these tips to help event attendees enjoy themselves while staying safe: 

  • Be aware of your surroundings. 
  • Keep valuables and cellphones in front pockets. 
  • Never leave bags or purses unattended. 
  • Keep children nearby and in eyesight. 

SDPD, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) and City Park Rangers will also have recruiting teams on site to meet with potential applicants and share information about joining their teams. 

Keeping with tradition, during December Nights the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages Inc. will open its cottages so visitors can explore represented cultures and foods. 

Local Media San Diego (91X, 100.7, Z90 and 92.5) will have various booths with some fun giveaways on site. KFMB/CBS News 8 will be the official media streaming partner to showcase activities during the event and stream performances on its website and the CBS News 8 app. XEWT will have a booth with giveaways and a prize wheel.  

To view a full schedule of attractions and entertainment, along with maps and parking information, visit