SAN DIEGO — Final preparations are being made at Balboa Park for the return of December Nights this Friday and Saturday.

Locals know, just getting there is half the battle.

“You have to plan ahead, get here early,” one park visitor said.

The event is expected to draw up to 300,000 people.

“We do anticipate a lot of people. We ask people to please be patient,” said Jose Ysea, a spokesperson for the City of San Diego.

Visitors can enjoy December Nights for free, but parking is another story.

In 2019, parking prices were around $20-25. Now, it’s $45 for the Natural History Museum and South Carousel lots — $30 for the Inspiration Point parking lot.

The city says the parking fees are needed to help recoup costs from putting on such a massive production.

“Be it portable generators, portable restrooms, sound equipment, stage equipment — things of that nature, that we need to be able to cover costs. Incrementing the parking helps and the cost of parking helps cover some of those costs,” Ysea said.

There is free parking at the zoo, with around 3,600 spaces — along with the City College parking lot which is farther away.

There is free disabled parking at the Fleet Science Center and Federal lots.

There are more than 5,500 total free parking spaces. But those will quickly fill up.

“People that can afford it will pay for it and people who can’t, won’t,” a park visitor said.

December Nights runs Friday 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.