December Nights 2018 at Balboa Park, San Diego

December Nights 2018 San Diego Balboa Park

Join us December 7-8 when Balboa Park’s historic background is transformed into a holiday wonderland for December Nights 2018!

Balboa Park is known to San Diego as the “Jewel of the City,” so when you add a myriad of twinkling lights, dozens of musical performances, over 150 food vendors, and holiday festivities for all ages, it’s also magical!

December Nights truly has something for everyone and admission is free.  The City of San Diego has worked all year to make this incredible event even more amazing with help from partners like SDG&E who provides the event's bright lights and holiday decor, as well as the park's many museums who offer free admission from 5-9pm both nights.  

Here's what you can expect at December Nights 2018 in San Diego:


Five stages featuring a diversity of music styles ranging from salsa to zydeco and everything in between.

  • Spreckels Organ Pavilion
  • The Palisades Stage on the Federal lawn
  • Bon Temps Social Club Stage in the Plaza de Panama
  • Botanical Garden Stage
  • Cascades Marketplace


December Nights is a great opportunity to experience the foods of different cultures. From gyros to dumplings to soup to nuts, there are more than 150 food vendors to choose from.

  • The Food Network’s Carnival Eats program featured several December Nights food vendors recently and they’re all back for another year. Program specialties included the Ham I Am, the East Coast Lobstah Taco and the homegrown Cali Spicy Kaprao Burger.
  • New this year is Fig Tree Food Truck Alley with 18 food trucks, serving up a variety of treats right from the window.
  • Delicious food and beverages from around the world at the International Cottages’ Christmas Festival feature traditional treats like empanadas, egg rolls, fried plantains, pierogi, baklava, paella and pie.


Looking for a special gift? There’s three ways to shop at December Nights:

  • Unique gifts at Spanish Village Art Center – from jewelry to art to ornaments.
  • Museum shops – artifacts, specialty items, books and games for kids
  • Artisan stalls with one-of-a-kind items throughout the event


  • Botanical Stage features youth-oriented programming. Perfect opportunity for the family to stay and play. 
  • The Palisades Midway Carnival!  New this year, Saturday from 12 Noon to 5 p.m. unlimited rides wrist band for $25.
  • Photos with Santa Claus. You'll be able spot him in many places throughout the park.
  • Get Your Grinch On. The Grinch is up to his old tricks at The Old Globe on both nights.
  • Go for the brass! The Friends of Balboa Park will be operating the historic Carousel.
  • See excerpts from San Diego Civic Youth Ballet’s Nutcracker and holiday performances from the Civic Dance Arts Company and San Diego Junior Theatre. 
  • Roasted chestnuts from SD Art Institute: Museum of the Living Artist.


  • Traffic - If you’re driving to the event, expect delays
  • Ridesharing makes it easier to get to December Nights. Both sides of Sixth Ave. near the Laurel Street Bridge are dedicated drop-off and pick-up locations and you can wait for your ride in the new Lyft Lounge.
  • No City College shuttle this year, but you can get to the event quickly and get those steps in via the City College bridge.
  • Leave the car at home. It’s a short walk from Hillcrest, North Park, Little Italy, East Village and other downtown neighborhoods.
  • You can reach Balboa Park December Nights by bus, trolley or train. Log on to the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s website at for routes and details.


  • If you’re driving to December Nights, be prepared, lots fill up quickly. Limited free parking is available at the San Diego Zoo. Convenient paid parking is available at the Inspiration Point parking lot ($20 per car). Go north on Park Boulevard and stay in the right-hand lane.
  • Paid Parking.  Load-up the car with friends and family and for $20 your parking space search is over. The Inspiration Point Parking Lot makes getting to December Nights easier. The best way to get there is by going north on Park Boulevard and stay in the right-hand lane.
  • Disabled parking is available off Park Blvd on Presidents Way. Although the lots are strictly ADA, they do fill up. Please arrive early for the best selection.

Learn more about the various features and areas of Balboa Park listed on this page by reviewing the Park's interactive map.

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San Diego Holiday Events 2018

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