December Nights is back to its wonderful original format this year. This San Diego tradition draws more than 350,000 visitors to Balboa Park for festive, family-friendly fun, which includes live music, arts and crafts, drinks and food from across the globe and, of course, plenty of twinkling holiday lights.
December Nights is back for 2022!
San Diego is the place to be to celebrate the holidays. One of San Diego’s most beloved holiday traditions will once again take the spotlight at Balboa Park this season: December Nights. The free, festive event — returning for its 45th year — goes down from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Dec. 2 and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Dec. 3 in the heart of the landmark. The two-day, multicultural celebration of the season is Balboa Park’s biggest event of the year and the city of San Diego’s largest free community event.
NEW! Make your holiday plans with our December Nights & Holiday Fun Guide here. We’ll give you the inside scoop on which museums are free this weekend and where to go for the best holiday light shows and events.
The museums are FREE!! Yes, that’s right. On Friday and Saturday from 5 – 9 p.m. the museums in the Park offer free admission. Balboa Park contains 18 different museums, each of which are bursting with FUN entertaining displays of history, culture, and artistic works.
Get exclusive access to Mingei’s North Terrace during December Nights! Gather with friends for festive, cozy views of Balboa Park, while sipping on hot chai tea, mulled wine, or prosecco paired with a sweet treat. Book your ticket here
Participating Museums Include
- Centro Cultural de la Raza
- Comic-Con Museum
- Fleet Science Center
- ICA San Diego
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- Marston House Museum & Gardens
- Mingei International Museum
- San Diego Museum of Art
- Museum Museum of Us
- San Diego Air & Space Museum
- San Diego Automotive Museum
- San Diego History Center
- San Diego Model Railroad Museum
- San Diego Natural History
- Timken Museum of Art
- Veterans Museum
Discover unique, inspired holiday gifts for everyone on your list at the museum stores in the Park or in our new Holiday Gift Guide. Shop local and support your favorite museum. Not sure what to get or need a last-minute gift? Museum memberships are the perfect choice. Download yours in the twinkling of an eye.
The San Diego Zoo closes to day guests at 5 p.m. but December Nights guests can enter Zoofari Party Area Lounge, free of charge, starting at 5:30 p.m. (Friday and Saturday). Guests will enter at the area near Spanish Village entrance. Skyfari @ San Diego Zoo is open both nights 5 – 10 p.m. Skyfari tickets (round trip) are $6. Balboa Park Miniature Train tickets are $3.
There’s a reason 350,000 people start their holidays with December Nights! You’ll find four stages featuring live music, dancing, choirs, puppetry and more. An don’t miss the tree lighting starting at 6 p.m. on Friday night. Check out the full entertainment list here.
There’s also an all-new Family Zone located in the Palisades Plaza this year with activities focused on the Kids. There’s everything from a San Diego Air & Space Museum Scavenger Hunt to a Dave & Buster’s Booth. Plus it wouldn’t be the holidays without photos with Santa.
Eat & Drink
Enjoy international delicacies, sample homemade treats, or sip on something to keep you warm.
The family-friendly event brings the community together to enjoy the lights, the sounds, the attractions, and of course, the amazing food of the holiday season. The food is kind of a big deal, many people come to December Nights specifically for the food.
The International Cottage Christmas Festival is a foodie favorite with authentic cuisine, music and holiday traditions from more than 30 countries. You’ll find empanadas from Argentina, bratwurst from Germany, palak paneer from India, Viking pea soup from Norway, pancit from the Philippines and borscht from the Ukraine. There will also be kebabs, tacos, hot dogs, pizza and more. Plus all your favorite food trucks will be lined up near the Spanish Village Art Center.
Transportation and Parking
With an expected crowd of more than 350,000 people, this family-friendly event is know for heavy traffic and parking issues. In order to make your December Nights experience more enjoyable, find the Parking & Transportation Tips page here with a list to help you get to Balboa Park and enjoy the festivities without losing your mind.
Parking in Balboa Park during December Nights is available. You can save money by purchasing your parking pass ahead of time. There is limited free parking, free ADA parking and pre-paid as well as drive-up paid vehicle parking. All other areas require a permit.
- Alcazar Lot – Closed to Public Access Nov 30 at 6AM (Staging for Equipment)
- Village Place – Closed to Public Parking Access Nov 30 at 6AM
- The Palisades Lot – Closed to Public Access Nov 30 at 10PM (Signs being updated which currently say 3PM)
- Organ Pavilion
- North Carousel
- Casa del Balboa
- Pepper Grove
- Federal Lot
- Inspiration Point – $30 Public Parking / $25 Pre-Pay Online | Free parking with Balboa Park Institution credentials
- Natural History Museum – SOLD OUT
- South Carousel Lot – SOLD OUT
- Fleet Science Center Lot (Free ADA for Public)
- Federal Lot (Limited Free ADA for Public)
- Organ Pavilion Lot (Limited ADA with designated permit)