Balboa Park buildings are lit in various colors during the annual December Nights event. Photo by Chris Stone

Balboa Park’s annual December Nights, San Diego’s premier holiday festival, takes place for the 39th consecutive year on Friday and Saturday nights.

The event runs from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, and from noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday. There’s fun, food, entertainment, shopping and attractions throughout the park, including complimentary admission to museums from 5 p.m to 9 p.m.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilman Todd Gloria are scheduled to take part in an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday and help switch on the lights 15 minutes later.

The festive entertainment includes musical and dance presentations by the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Del Cerro Baptist’s Christmas Story Tree and more organizations.

December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego, with more than 350,000 visitors expected. Public transportation is recommended because of the large crowds, and free shuttles will run from City College parking lots on 16th Street near B and C Streets, and along Ash Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

Starlight Parade in Chula Vista

The annual Starlight Parade in San Diego County’s second largest city kicks off at 6 p.m. with Deputy Mayor Steve Miesen and Councilmember Patricia Aguilar as grand marshals. The parade starts at H Street and 3rd Avenue and travels north to E street. There will be 125 entries including colorful floats, marching bands, dance teams and classic cars. Children’s caroling groups will entertain people gathering for the parade between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Santa may appear.

Garden of Lights

The holiday lights are turned out nightly in December at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. More than 125,000 lights sparkle from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. beginning Saturday and continuing through Dec. 23 and then resuming Dec. 26-30. Nightly entertainment includes local blues and jazz bands, as well as food from Red Oven Artisanal Pizza and Pasta, and hot coffee and treats from the Feel Good Coffee Cart. Family friendly activities range from horse-drawn wagon rides and visits with Santa to holiday carolers. Admission on most nights is $15 for adults and $5 for children.

80 Tons of Snow

The giant Millenia residential development in Chula Vista is turning into a winter wonderland on Sunday. Some 80 tons of snow will allow sledding and snowman-building from noon to 7 p.m. at 2003 Artisan Way. There will be free snacks and special visits from Santa, the Ice Queen and Snow Princess. Please bring a new unwrapped gift for a child in need and help Millenia reach its goal of 500 toys for South County through the Salvation Army.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.