The one and only Balboa Nights
Every time I hear people talking about their local festivals, there is one question I ask myself. How far would I travel to go there? My recommendation for Balboa Nights is that I would use it to anchor a Christmas trip to San Diego from anywhere. Lofty praise for sure but here is why:
- 2018 Hours and Days: Friday, December 7, 3:00 to 11:00 PM & Saturday, December 8, noon to 11:00 PM
- It’s a huge Christmas celebration at Balboa Park in San Diego – about 360,000 people visit over the two days it’s going. That’s a lot of food and entertainment. In fact, it’s the largest free community festival in San Diego,
- Food and drink from around the globe at the International Christmas Festival at the International Cottages (from the 1935 Pacific exhibition). This is our favorite part. This year 36 nations were represented at the event with four to five dishes each and drinks at the spirit garden.
- Free museums from 5-9 – All the Balboa Park museums are free for the festival. They are definitely worth that price.
- Lots of Entertainment: Musical and dance presentations from the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Del Cerro Baptist’s Christmas Story Tree and more.
- Well-placed within the holiday season. Let’s face it, it’s hard to find time for yourself during the holidays. You’re served a stack of Christmas parties sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family. Balboa Nights is set for the first weekend of December which is often the only free weekend you can find for yourself during the holiday season.
- It’s San Diego shoulder season so you can find travel deals without fighting beach tourists
San Diego has a plethora of other world class holiday events such as Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Light Parade, and Hotel Del Coronado that you can see while you’re out here.
- Winter brings changes to the ocean. You can see the ocean in ways you just can’t during the summer months. Winter tidal swings expose tide pools some days and others can have the waves crashing on the sea walls. The whales are migrating south and you can get some big wave days for sure.
San Diego’s biggest Christmas Party
We make a point of coming to Balboa Nights every year and every year we get a little “Better” at it. Winning the big party games is all about getting the goodies and avoiding the crowds. To do this we invert Surge Loading. Do everything 30 minutes early and you’ll be leading the lines. The city does a fantastic job of setting up free event shuttles which are a great idea if you are coming in from a hotel at the pickup (think Gaslamp) or plan to get your cheer on. For us, we choose to drive in at 4:00 when people are leaving the zoo.
We fought traffic a bit coming in but found a spot with little difficulty. This year, we were taking Jenn’s mom out for Christmas (in return, she is watching our cats as we go to Thailand). We parked at the zoo and made the short walk over. We passed the train, decked out for Christmas riders and the last set of flush women toilets you’ll see without a line.