“At Christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year.” – Thomas Tusser
Balboa Park is one of my favorite places in San Diego. It is a sprawling urban park, filled with museums, fountains, gardens, and theatre venues; all of Spanish architecture, in the middle of the city. It is also one of the art centers of the city…not only because of the museums, but also because of the plethora of dance, art, pottery, theatre, and painting studios and their classes held within the many walls of the park. Kiyah has dance class every weekend at the Casa del Prado theatre, so I get to wander the park often. I recently took my Couchsurfing guest there, and she said that she “felt like she was in another country.” We went at the perfect time in the early evening…when the crowds were calm and quiet. Everyone was enjoying the cool, pleasant evening, there were three weddings I spotted, and people just seemed content. After she made this comment, I took a moment of pause to consider if this was one of the reasons I love this park so much; with my love of Europe…it’s my mini-getaway within my own city.
While this park is already full of charms, once a year it hosts on of San Diego’s biggest festivals- December Nights. It’s always held the next weekend after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season. As the city’s biggest festival, more than “300,000 people are expected to pack [the] Park’s 32nd annual December Nights festival next weekend, which features free museum admission, continuous live entertainment, gifts, and food from around the world.”
My favorite activity is the International Cottages Festival. These small cottages each represent a different county and during December Nights they are complete with holiday decor, ethnic dance and music. In addition, there is a food fair featuring authentic dishes from the 30 represented countries.
Last year I remember sitting around the giant fountain at the end of the park, surrounded by people enjoying the evening, eating food, and laughing. It was reminiscent of the Italian piazza’s I love so much, the central hubs of the cities where all the action happens! It’s a fun event and it’s impossible to leave without feeling fully immersed in the holiday spirit!