What to Expect This Year at December Nights 2018

The celebration is Friday, Dec. 7 from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 8 from noon to 11 p.m.

The 41st annual Balboa Park December Nights kicked off the holiday season Friday night, bringing festive cheer, and roadway jeers, to San Diego. 

The first day of the free celebration went on until 11 p.m. and will start back up again Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. A city official said about 150,000 people enjoyed the first night of the event.

Traffic is notoriously treacherous on the debut of December nights, and parking can be a pain once you arrive.

Many families at the park on Friday told NBC 7 taking a rideshare was a no-brainer, especially since they planned on having a "jolly time" at the beer garden.

Another couple found parking a few blocks away and took a romantic ride on a pedicab the rest of the way.

Park officials say carpooling and the trolley are good options, but if you insist on driving then you should leave early.

It's Balboa Park's biggest event of the year. Vendors, and performances by dancers, musicians and actors, December Nights will be a full-sensory experience. Each little nook of Balboa Park will offer something fun to do.

"Santa is going to be here in seven locations around the park," said John Bolthouse, Executive Director of Friends of Balboa Park. "There's going to be traditional music from around the world, conveying how other cultures celebrate the holidays." 

This year, decorations will be set up to celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as well. 

Beloved traditions, such as the International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations Cottages, as well as presentations from the San Diego Junior Theatre and the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, are a couple of highlights.

A favorite for the kids is the historic Balboa Park Carousel, which will be decorated. Tickets are $3 a person. 

The carousel has been in Balboa Park since 1922 and is the fastest carousel in the United States: while most only go 7 miles per hour, this one goes 13 miles per hour. 

"You'll be able to ride a giraffe, or horse, or tiger as they go around the carousel dressed in holiday garb," added Bolthouse. 

In 2017, the Friends of Balboa Park purchased the historic carousel.  As its new owner and operator, they will ensure that it remains an historic park landmark for many more years to come.

December Nights started in 1978 as part of "Christmas on the Prado" in Balboa Park, a small holiday celebration put together by a dozen institutions along El Prado. The crowds and event grew over the decades and, in 2002, it was renamed December Nights.

Each year, it signals the start of the festive season in San Diego, drawing families from all over the county to the heart of the city. It continues to be the largest free community event in San Diego. For more information on December Nights 2018, visit the event website.

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