SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s largest free holiday festival is returning to Balboa Park in full force this weekend after two years of limitations due to the pandemic.

This family-friendly event has kickstarted the holiday season in San Diego for the past four decades. From a wide array of lights and decorations to a jampacked schedule of performers and planned activities, December Nights has something to offer for holiday lovers of all ages.

In the family zone, there will be a scavenger hunt, a video games area, crafting stations that include holiday card making and more.

December Nights guests can also enter the Zoofari Party Area Lounge at the San Diego Zoo starting at 5:30 p.m. on both days. Guests can enter near the Spanish Village entrance.

Check out this event map to help you navigate your way around the park.

And, Santa Claus is coming to town! Photo opportunities will be available at the San Diego Civic Dance Arts, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Air & Space Museum and Starlight Theater. Best of all, pictures are taken free of cost. You can find more information about photo opportunities here.

Be sure to come hungry. December Nights will be filled with food vendors that are ready to serve up some holiday savories. From homemade treats to warm drinks, there will be a lot to choose from. Find out more about what will be available here.

According to the events website, around 350,000 people attend each season. With such a high volume of attendees expected, here’s a few things you should know before you go.

Parking and transportation

If you plan on driving to December Nights, plan ahead for parking as lots fill up quickly.

Limited free parking is available at the San Diego Zoo and City College. For those parking at City College, there’s easy access to the event by walking across the nearby bridge.

There’s also convenient paid parking at the Inspiration Point parking lot for $30 per space or $25 per space for pre-paid. The Natural History Museum lot and the South Carousel lot are also available for $45 per space or $40 per space for prepaid. Lastly, Ace Parking lot spaces are available for $15.

Prepaid parking passes can be purchased here.

Don’t feel like facing the holiday traffic? Festivalgoers can dodge the stress of traffic and choose transit instead. MTS will provide nearby service to December Nights via Trolley to 5th and C for service on Routes 3 or 120 to Laurel Street or various MTS bus services to Park and University Avenue. More transit information can be found here.

December Nights welcomes everyone to eat, drink and be merry at an event that is sure to bring San Diegans together this holiday season.