Balboa Park, San Diego, California, is a sprawling paradise with a zoo, over a dozen museums, activities, gardens, and more. At any time of the year, this peaceful paradise is bustling with families and individuals. But it’s during December that it really comes alive.
On the first Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening of December, Balboa Park plays host to Balboa Park December Nights, San Diego’s largest free festival. Yearly, more than 350,000 people descend upon Balboa Park to soak up the festive atmosphere, enjoy entertainment, and do a spot of shopping.
This annual event is put on by the City of San Diego and doesn’t cost a dime to enter. You can visit the museums, meet up with loved ones, get your photo with Santa, let the kids partake in activities, view the lights, and be a part of something magnificent.
While you’re at Balboa Park, you can also indulge in delicious food sold by an array of vendors, not to mention pick up a few special gifts from pop-up and permanent shops. If you’re still not feeling like your most festive self, then an RV adventure to San Diego, California could be on the cards. If Balboa Park December Nights doesn’t lift your spirit, then nothing will.
One of the primary reasons why Balboa Park December Nights attracts over 350,000 visitors every year is that it’s free. While there is paid parking available, and you pay for food and giftware, you can enter the grounds without spending a penny. That can surely leave more money in your wallet for Christmas presents.
San Diego, California is on the Pacific Ocean’s coast. It’s around 120 miles south of Los Angeles and lies adjacent to the Mexican border. As one of the largest cities in the United States, those who travel to San Diego from other cities will need to be as fresh as a daisy when they hit the road.
Not only is congestion and a lot of traffic prevalent at any time of the year, but more so once the festive season kicks off. Concentration is necessary, as is a general idea of where Balboa Park, nestled between South Park and North Park, is located. It can be helpful to have your navigator monitor 511SD to help guide the way to 1549 El Prado, San Diego.
Balboa Park December Nights is an afternoon and evening event, but it’s busy at all times. With that in mind, you can expect any parking areas Balboa Park has to be full. There is limited free parking in the San Diego Zoo Lot and City College Lot, but RV parking may be a little harder to find.
You can also park in paid lots for between $5 and $25. Alternatively, make use of the many different public transportation options and avoid the hassle of onsite parking altogether.
If you’re not all that keen on parking your motorhome at Balboa Park, then you’re in luck. There are plenty of other ways to get to Balboa Park December Nights. You can board the free shuttle that runs to and from downtown San Diego, or you can download a rideshare app, with which discounts for this event may apply.
The Metro Transit system also has three drop-off locations adjacent to Balboa Park, which makes traveling to Balboa Park from almost anywhere in San Diego effortless.
If you are staying in Little Italy, East Village Hillcrest, or North Park, then biking or walking to Balboa Park could also be a valid option. There is a dedicated area to park any bikes or scooters before entering the wheel-free venue.
Balboa Park is a hive of activity, with a lot of businesses, gardens, museums, and acreage that call the area home. However, there is nowhere within Balboa Park to camp in your RV. In the weeks or months leading up to Balboa Park December Nights, begin your hunt for suitable RV accommodation nearby.
Even though San Diego is a built-up city, that doesn’t mean it’s not dotted with luxury resorts for RV campers, campgrounds with service hookups, and even primitive RV camping opportunities in San Diego.
Within a ten-mile driving distance of Balboa Park, there are both resorts and standard campgrounds with service hookups to suit your needs. You will be surprised at how conveniently close to the festive fun these accommodation providers are. San Diego Metro KOA is just under 10 miles to the south of the seasonal lights and sites.
Balboa Park is an expansive venue that incorporates Sixth Avenue, CA-163, and even part of the San Diego Freeway. Fortunately for those who have never been to Balboa Park, it’s exceptionally well laid out and convenient. There are named boulevards, trails, and paths within the park, and even a supplied map to help get to where all the action is. You won’t be able to bring in scooters, bikes, or other wheeled transport, but getting around on foot or by wheelchair is not usually problematic.
The mild San Diego winters will be a pleasure to experience, but dressing in layers on your visit to the area will serve you well. You can then enjoy never being too hot or cold by being able to add or remove layers. During your visit to Balboa Park December Nights, you will also need comfortable footwear. There is a lot of uneven ground, concrete, grass, asphalt, and dirt to navigate.
Put thought into clothing you might need for other tourist attractions in San Diego. You may decide to go picnicking at La Jolla Cove if weather permits, or walking at Torrey Pines State Reserve. Pack a wide variety of clothing for every occasion.
Balboa Park December Nights is an afternoon and evening event, and time will fly by quicker than you expect. Carry a backpack with a change of clothes if necessary, but leave plenty of room for your wallet with cash, your mobile phone, a bottle of water, and any vendor purchases you make.
Given the size of Balboa Park, all it takes is a moment of inattention, and you’ve become separated from your friends or family. When you enter the park, take a photo of where you parked your RV, if you arrived with it, and choose a meeting place if anyone becomes separated. If you rely on prescription medication, bring this with you in your backpack, along with plenty of drinking water.
One of the most rewarding things about going on a motorhome adventure is being able to cook in a new or exciting way. Some RV campgrounds will let you use firepits, grills, or proper roaring campfires. Others will request that you use your onboard appliances.
No matter how you cook, have a think about delicious camp cuisine that will take your RV adventure to the next level. How about loaded potatoes, hot dogs, and s’mores? Pick up all the supplies you need within one mile of Balboa Park.
No matter where you go in San Diego, near Balboa Park or far away from it, you will never be too far from an established eatery that’s ready and waiting to take your order. From desserts and sushi to cafe cuisine and ethnic delights, there’s no shortage of options. Many eateries are also within walking distance of Balboa Park for convenience.
While the Christmas lights, exciting atmosphere, and entertainment will surely lure you into Balboa Park December Nights, so too will the vendors. Almost every type of food you could ever think of is within the confines of Balboa Park, including gluten-free options, vegetarian, international, and desserts. Fill yourself up on bacon cheese fries and homemade treats, or why not indulge in ice cream sundaes or Philly cheesesteak?
Bring plenty of cash for food purchases, but don’t look past the vendors selling wares too. You could have something for everyone on your Christmas list by the end of the night.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors will be wandering around Balboa Park over the first Friday and Saturday in December, which means strict security measures will be in place. Balboa Park December Nights officials ask that you don’t bring in any cigarettes, alcohol, drones, wheeled transport, or weapons. Patrols will be out and about throughout both evenings, and you can approach security staff at any time. There is also a police station within one mile of Balboa Park.
Both locals and visitors to San Diego can enjoy moderate and mild winter conditions throughout December. While there are often a few days of rainfall, temperatures fluctuate between 49 degrees-Fahrenheit and 66. It’s a good idea to download a weather app to know what you’re up against and carry snow chains, extra water, and emergency supplies onboard your RV.
There are restrooms dotted around Balboa Park for those who need to take a rest, but for anything serious, a trip to the hospital might be in order. There is one within 1.2 miles of Balboa Park, as well as a pharmacy for medical supplies within 1.4 miles. In an emergency, locate the nearest park staff member and dial 911.