The sparkling lights, the chilly nights, the food, the parties, and the time with friends and family are all what makes the holidays the most wonderful time of the year. If you want to make your holiday season extra wonderful, then a trip to Balboa Park is in order. From bedazzling decorations and colorful lights to festive flowers to the Old Globe’s Grinch to the granddaddy of holiday happenings the annual December Nights extravaganza, this cultural treasure will make your holidays sing.
When: December 6-7, 2019
If you want the thrills of the Del Mar County Fair with a holiday twist, then December Nights is for you. From a slew of Santas stationed around the park to carolers to an international food fest to a Ferris Wheel, there is literally something for everyone. Plus, admission to the museums is free after 5:00 PM on both Friday and Saturday night.
Looking for a more adult experience? You can tipple at the International Spirit Garden (located on the Federal Lawn near the planned Comic-Con Museum) or at one of the select museums. One great option is the San Diego Natural History Museum’s rooftop bar where you can take in some of the December Night sights without getting swept up in the swell of people. The fun happens on Dec. 6 and 7. Go here to get the scoop on this massive and merry San Diego celebration.
When: December 1-31, 2019
Where: Timken Museum of Art
One of the most treasured holiday traditions in Balboa Park is the Timken Museum’s annual display of the Jewels of the Season, its Hord & Schlappi collection of opulent ornaments. These elaborate and eye-catching ornaments are the work of local artist Florence Hord. Along with family friend Elizabeth Schlappi, Hord made more than 2,000 ornaments over the course of 80 years.
But this season you can do more than gawk at these unique and intricate ornaments. You can make one (or two) to call your own. On Nov. 30, the Timken is holding two workshops so you can create your own heirloom-quality treasure. Appropriate for beginners as well as seasoned crafters, the class will use Hord & Schlappi’s designs as well as their original selection of glittering gems, swirls of color and elaborate filigree. The workshop costs $55 for members and $85 for non-members and include materials for two ornaments as well as holiday refreshments.
When: November 23, 2019 – January 26, 2020
Where: Fleet Science Center
Want to skate away the holiday with a bit of science swirled in? The Fleet Science Center has you covered with its indoor synthetic ice-skating rink. Guests will be able to explore all the usual exhibits while taking in the Fleet’s holiday décor. Need a little more holiday cheer? Then make sure to create science-inspired tree decorations as well as check out a special holiday film in the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater. In addition, the Fleet will be extending the fun on select Saturdays and Sundays with discounted pricing between 5:00 and 9:00 PM.
Getting that one-of-a-kind gift doesn’t have to be an exercise in soul-crushing materialism. Instead, head to Balboa Park where you can stroll through a picturesque landscape all while finding unique and thoughtful gifts at one of the many gift shops housed in the park’s eclectic cultural institutions. Some of the standout shops include the San Diego Museum of Art, the Timken Museum of Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts and the United Nations Building and Gift Shop located near the International Cottages. You can also take a much-needed shopping break and grab a meal at either the Prado or Panama 66 and maybe even add a little holiday spirit by ordering a craft beer, wine or craft cocktail.
When: Thru December 29, 2019
Where: The Old Globe
Nothing says the holidays in San Diego quite like the Old Globe’s annual production of the How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Not only is it based on local iconic author Dr. Seuss’s – a.k.a. Theodore Geisel – classic holiday tale but the Old Globe has been producing it now for 22 years. There are even special performances for younger children as well as sensory-friendly performances for children on the autism spectrum. With always eye-popping sets and performances, the Old Globe Theatre is transformed into snow-covered Whoville in a musical that gets to the heart of the holidays.
When: December 26-30, 2019
Where: Plaza de Panama/El Prado
If you still have some room in your stomach after the holiday for some delicious – but transient – tastes, you should head over to Balboa Park for its annual Holiday Food Truck celebration. From noon to 7:00 PM, there’s a variety of gourmet fare – including vegetarian and vegan options – along with live entertainment and fun, family-friendly activities, including giant checkers, hula hoops, bowling, cornhole, and giant tumbling blocks.
Balboa Park Seasonal Sights and Sounds
Where: San Diego Model Railroad Museum, Botanical Building, Nutcracker Suite
Sometimes you just need a little holiday ambiance to get you in the spirit of the season. Balboa Park has lots of options for that. Lights from December Nights will be up all month long. The always-free Botanical Building has its annual plethora of poinsettias on display. In addition, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum gives a seasonal spin to some of its model train exhibits. Of course, the real plum of the holidays is a performance of the Nutcracker Suite, and the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet has you covered there with its annual journey to the Land of Sweets held at the Casa del Prado Theatre.