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In COVID Era, Balboa Park's December Nights Will Shift to Drive-Thru Food Event

“Taste of December Nights” is the COVID-era iteration of Balboa Park’s biggest annual event, December Nights

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Balboa Park’s holiday tradition – December Nights – won’t happen as normal next month due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the event will morph into a scaled-down version of its former self, incorporating one big COVID-era trend: The drive-thru.

Instead of the normal, weekend-long event in the heart of the San Diego landmark, the modified, 2020 version is called “Taste of December Nights,” and will take place on Dec. 4 through Dec. 6 in the Inspiration Point parking lot near Balboa Park.

The City of San Diego said the three-day event will feature more than 20 food trucks and vendors offering the international dishes that are popular at the traditional December Nights.

Visitors will be able to roll through the event – in a “drive-thru setting” – and pick up food. The city said all visitors must remain in their cars, and all COVID-19 safety protocols will be enforced, including the wearing of face masks.

Bikes, scooters and walk-up visitors will not be allowed.

December Nights is the latest 2020 San Diego event to be modified in a way that better suits the pandemic times. Other tentpole events like San Diego Comic-Con International and San Diego Pride shifted to smaller, virtual versions of themselves over the summer. San Diego Beer Week earlier this month did the same.

Some local 2020 events – like the Wonderfront Music Festival and Fourth of July fireworks – were canceled altogether due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The City of San Diego has been trying to figure out the fate of December Nights for months. Back in August, the city said it was exploring ways to continue the holiday event, albeit in altered form.

To that end, the city said December Nights would be “reimagined,” and one of the ideas floating around was this drive-thru Taste of December Nights.

And, with San Diego County’s recent shift toward the state’s purple tier due to rising COVID-19 cases, it’s the option that’ll have to do this year.

In a statement on the city’s website, the city said it is saddened that its “beloved gift to the region cannot occur as we know it” this year due to the pandemic.

The City of San Diego is thinking of ways to make December Nights safer this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A Look Back: December Nights, In Its Traditional Form

December Nights would’ve turned 43 this year.

In its traditional form, the event signals the start of the holidays, and typically attracts more than 350,000 visitors to Balboa Park over the two-day, multi-cultural celebration of the season.

The event features festive, family-friendly activities and live music, arts and crafts, and photos with Santa Claus. Twinkling lights and holiday decorations are strung around the park and a popular food zone at the International Cottages tops off the merrymaking.

Traditional December Nights even offers free entry into select Balboa Park museums.

But, today, with San Diego County in the purple tier, most of Balboa Park’s museums remain temporarily closed due to pandemic health restrictions.

The event typically takes place the first weekend of December, so here’s to looking forward to 2021.

NBC 7's Dave Summers caught up with the December Nights crowd which included guests young and old from San Diego and beyond.
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