SAN DIEGO — The Holiday Bowl brings Petco Park’s first-ever football game and America’s largest balloon parade to San Diego — here’s how to get downtown Tuesday and make the most out of the festivities.

Holiday Bowl parade route

This map shows the new route for the Holiday Bowl Parade in 2021. (Photo: Port of San Diego)

The fun kicks off on Dec. 28 at 10 a.m. with the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade.

More than 100,000 people are expected to gather along the route to watch the action for free from the street.

This year, a new route winds from the County Administration building, on Harbor Drive just south of Grape Street, down past the B Street and Broadway Piers before briefly turning left on Broadway and heading a block east to the corner of Broadway and Pacific Highway, where it will conclude.

Grandstand seats are available for $25 near the parade’s starting area if you prefer not to camp out for a street spot.

This year’s theme is “New Beginnings” and features San Diego Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove, an El Cajon native of recent no-hitter fame, as the grand marshal.

Where can you watch the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade on TV? The festivities air on Bally Sports Network, which is home to Padres games.

Getting to the parade

Parking is going to be tough. Like, really tough. So port officials are urging attendees to consider taking the trolley, which has stops all along the parade route, serviced by each of its trolley lines.

Taking the trolley to the Holiday Bowl parade

One convenient approach: driving closer to downtown, then finding an MTS park and ride lot and closing the gap with the trolley. Once you’re on the trolley, here’s how to take each line to the parade route, as described by MTS:

  • Green Line: Take the trolley’s Green Line to the Gaslamp Quarter Station. Trains depart all stations every 15 minutes throughout the day.
    • Free parking lot at Hazard Center Station – 1,500 spaces available
  • UC San Diego Blue Line: From the Blue Line station north of downtown, take the trolley toward San Ysidro. Get off at the 12th and Imperial Transit Center.
  • Orange Line: Take the Orange Line toward Courthouse to the 12th and Imperial Transit Center. Trains depart every 15 minutes.

You can use your phone as a trolley pass with the San Diego MTS PRONTO fare system or buy a ticket at a station vending machine.

Driving to the Holiday Bowl parade

If you’re feeling brave and heading straight to your destination by car, you should be aware of the Holiday Bowl Parade road closure:

  • Harbor Drive from Grape Street to Pacific Highway from 7 a.m. until about noon, when the parade concludes. Residents and businesses will get limited access until 8 a.m.

Once you’re downtown, Holiday Bowl parade parking will be very limited, but the port provided the following list with a few suggested pay lots and a downloadable parade route map that marks parking locations (there is also limited metered parking throughout the area):

  • BRIC North and South (corner of West Broadway & Pacific Highway)
  • Wyndam San Diego Bayside (access from Pacific Highway)
  • Hilton San Diego Bayfront at 1 Park Blvd (15 minute walk)
  • San Diego Convention Center at 111 West Harbor Drive (10 minute walk)

Also note that the B Street and Navy pier parking areas will have no entry or exit permitted from 12:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Holiday Bowl day, so they’re not a good option for people only visiting for day-of festivities.

Getting to the Holiday Bowl game

A drone photo provides a dazzling view of Petco Park’s football field for the Holiday Bowl, a first for the ballpark in 2021. (Photo: Aaron Eudaley/Drone5)

Taking the trolley to the Holiday Bowl

Just like the parade, event organizers are strongly advising football fans to take the trolley to Petco Park to catch the NCAA bowl game between UCLA and North Carolina State at 5 p.m. in Petco Park (there’s a gridiron in America’s finest ballpark for the first time).

Again, if you’re coming downtown from a distance, consider driving closer to the area and then leaving your car at an MTS park and ride lot before closing the gap on the trolley. Once you’re on your way, here’s how to take each trolley line to Petco Park, as described by MTS:

  • Green Line: Take the trolley’s Green Line to the Gaslamp Quarter Station. Trains depart all stations every 15 minutes throughout the day.
    • Free parking lot at Hazard Center Station – 1,500 spaces available
  • UC San Diego Blue Line:
    • From the Blue Line station north of downtown, take the Blue Line toward San Ysidro. Get off at the 12th and Imperial Transit Center.
    • From the Blue Line station south of downtown, take the Blue Line toward America Plaza or UTC to the 12th & Imperial Transit Center.
  • Orange Line: Take the Orange Line toward Courthouse to the 12th & Imperial Transit Center. Trains depart every 15 minutes.

You can use your phone as a trolley pass with the San Diego MTS PRONTO fare system or buy a ticket at a station vending machine.

Where can you watch the Holiday Bowl game on TV? We’re your home for UCLA vs NC State: FOX 5 will air the game at 5 p.m. Coverage starts with a special edition of the FOX 5 News at 4 p.m. and then college pregame at 4:30 p.m.

Driving to the Holiday Bowl

If you’re headed straight to the game by car, event organizers are encouraging people to book Holiday Bowl game parking online ahead of time through the platform ParkWhiz.

A map view on the site Monday showed that the lots closest to the stadium are already sold out, but parking elsewhere downtown was still available from $15 to $30.