December Nights returns to Balboa Park!

After a two year hiatus, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, December Nights has returned to Balboa Park! San Diego’s epic holiday event appears to be back in a big way, with large crowds filtering into the park this evening.

I walked around before it became too dark for my old camera, taking in the festive scene. I saw Christmas decorations, lights, food, and many smiling faces. I saw Santa, too! My photos were taken before sundown, when I turned my feet for home and Balboa Park became really crowded!

Please enjoy these photos. If you’ve never been to December Nights, you can get an idea of what it’s like. The big event will continue tomorrow, Saturday, 11 am to 11 pm!

Holiday entertainment is featured throughout December Nights on the stage of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Cookies, cocoa and coffee at the Gingerbread House, at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Viewing the Nativity Display at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Fun holiday inflatables at the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Write Out Loud tells a story at the Japanese Friendship Garden using a storybox, or kamishibai.

Making ornaments at the Japanese Friendship Garden! Hello!

Santa and his reindeer visit Balboa Park once again.

Cool outfit!

The colors of Christmas fill Spanish Village.

I sampled Chider, a mix of hot chocolate and apple cider. It was really good!

I’ve never seen so many food trucks in one place.

Lots of Christmas sweaters spotted on El Prado. Whether they’re ugly or not, you decide.

Those Seals sunglasses I won with your prize wheel are awesome! Thank you!

Some cloggers take the stage near the Bea Evenson Fountain.

A vendor had these fun Santa Claus gifts.

The International Cottages serve up all sorts of holiday food from around the world.

Heading down toward Balboa Park’s Palisades.

Nice smile! (Took a little coaxing!)

Gloved thumbs up. I guess I’m on the “nice” list.

Yummy smells everywhere you walk.

These smiling nutcrackers would be performing on stage later.

These mimes would perform later, too!

December Nights has returned to San Diego in 2022.

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Another fine Sunday walk in Balboa Park!

Early October. A walk in Balboa Park. Another fine Sunday full of sunshine and magic.

I headed nowhere in particular.

Visitors to wonderful Balboa Park stream down El Prado.

Does the Botanical Building appear strange? It’s in the middle of its big renovation! But the Lily Pond is as beautiful as ever.

A local artist smiles and shows her colorful work.

She makes awesome papier-mache figures. I recognize Frida Kahlo!

My friend Mitchell was on El Prado playing his didgeridoo.

I got a cookie. (And more smiles!) Proceeds help the San Diego Civic Dance Arts, whose home is the Casa del Prado Theater.

Why are peanuts in a pile inside the Spanish Village Art Center?

That’s why!

Lunch time for a squirrel in the park.

Here comes the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad! Kids love it. The small train ride is operated by the nearby San Diego Zoo.

A big Balboa Park Spooktacular is coming up at the Municipal Gym on Saturday October 29, 2022. There will be a costume contest!

The House of Austria had their lawn program today. I got a folk costume preview as I strolled early through the International Cottages.

Gazing down into the lush Lower Garden of the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Shortly after noon, not many had arrived yet for the two o’clock Sunday concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramírez rehearses up on the stage.

Spreckels Organ Society member pulls a sign out for the free Sunday concert.

Everyone loves Balboa Park. Including friends with four legs!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The out of control “swap meet” in Balboa Park.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Balboa Park. I go almost every weekend.

Balboa Park is full of amazing beauty, culture, entertainment and history. It’s not only San Diego’s crown jewel, but one of the greatest urban parks anywhere in the world.

But lately the park is out of control.

I usually don’t write too critically about anything. The nature of my fun photo blog is optimistic. Cool San Diego Sights is not political or controversial. Which makes this particular post hard to publish. But I’ve seen enough.

Things have gotten out of control in Balboa Park. Unregulated vendors have taken over, turning its plazas and El Prado into a kind of swap meet. Anyone who has visited lately has experienced it.

Every single person I’ve spoken to about this “swap meet” is fed up, too. Many of these people are Balboa Park volunteers.

I’m told by people more knowledgeable than me that city leaders, who should act responsibly, have cancelled meetings concerning the situation.

Emergency access is hampered. Food vendors can seemingly dish out anything. Vendors frequently fight over spaces and park rangers must be called to deal with it. And the architecture and wonder and beauty of a very special place is almost lost behind the garish clutter.

Those I’ve spoken to who’ve criticized Balboa Park’s “swap meet” tell me they’re fine with the presence of a few vendors. And I agree. You know–the way it used to be. It’s festive and fun and adds color to the park–but this?

Balboa Park is also out of control after dark.

Once night falls, Balboa Park is practically taken over by vagrants and drug use. As visitors make their departure, the park becomes something quite different.

I’ve seen open alcohol and drug use on El Prado, in museum doorways, on benches, in dark places. I’ve seen the increased graffiti. Multiple windows have been broken at the International Cottages. Two of the cottages, I’m told, have had to hire security guards. We all heard about the stabbing near the Lily Pond a few months ago.

Lately two different people told me they’re afraid to walk through Balboa Park after dark. I don’t blame them. Perhaps that’s why Balboa Park empties of most visitors at nightfall and the park’s vibrancy fades.

Where is the leadership?


It has come to my attention some people interpret this blog post as an attack on the vendors. Of course it isn’t! When I visit the park, I often enjoy a Chips Galore ice cream (or two) myself.

I’m being critical of a chaotic, unregulated situation that now appears out of control. Balboa Park is a very special place. It’s a National Historic Landmark, after all, along with places like Mount Vernon, the Apollo Mission Control Center and Martin Luther King’s Birthplace. Beyond the obvious safety and aesthetic concerns, and the fact that the park restaurants and museum cafe’s are hurt, is there no point when there would be too many vendor tables and tents jammed into the park?


Proposed legislation that would address this situation made the news today, less than a week after I wrote my original post. The legislation is a compromise. It tries to address the concerns of both street vendors and those affected by them. It strives to be a win-win for all parties, and is the long-awaited first step in a process that will hopefully satisfy everyone.

From what I read, it sounds like the “swap meet” appearance of Balboa Park will be addressed, particularly during the busy summer months when the park receives numerous visitors.

You can read more about these developments here!

Another wonderful walk in Balboa Park!

Several walks today. Many photographs taken.

I started in Balboa Park!

And, you know what? Balboa Park on a Saturday morning in late September was just as wonderful as ever…

Friendly painters interpret beauty at the Lily Pond.
Brushstrokes reveal wonder.
This cool guy was playing music for the painters!
Ladies in old-fashioned garb ready a canopy by the Botanical Building.
Garden Stewards do some gardening (and smiling) in the Casa del Prado courtyard!
The Casa del Prado revitalization not only includes garden beds redone with the help of the San Diego Floral Association, but painting the building with historic color and new lighting.
Mitchell, Balboa Park’s cool didgeridoo dude, was hanging out on El Prado. He was wearing Jupiter today! He told me he’s going to be picking up his awesome new sculpted Draco (dragon) didgeridoo soon. He said he’ll send me pics of it which I hope to share!
Peeking into the House of Hospitality courtyard.
The fellow with the enormous camera is a freelance photographer. He saw a big spider building a long web between a Palm Canyon tree and the nearby restrooms. We marveled at how a mere spider could accomplish such a feat.
A bunch of walkers were streaming down El Prado. I believe they were raising funds for the Family Health Centers of San Diego.
I had to circle back to the Casa del Prado because the San Diego Bonsai Club’s exhibition opened at 10 am.
Another wonderful day walking in Balboa Park.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Snowing in Balboa Park?

Is that snow I see in Balboa Park?

Not likely!

But the ornamental pear trees are in bloom, and their small white blossoms are like clouds of falling snowflakes!

Just another beautiful winter’s day in San Diego’s amazing Balboa Park…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A poet, a didgeridoo, and Balboa Park.

I spent a couple hours today with my friend Mitchell. He plays didgeridoo in Balboa Park.

We went on a walk and got lunch at the Japanese Tea Pavilion. Then I listened for a while to his extraordinary pulsating music.

During the concert a traveling poet came by, watched and listened.

After I said goodbye to Mitchell and began down El Prado, I came upon the poet sitting at a small table before his manual typewriter.

His name is Ben Bernthal. He will write an original poem based on words passersby give him. I gave him the word “didgeridoo.”

What I received was an exceptional piece of poetry and a friendly chat.

After I headed off on my way, it occurred to me that Balboa Park is one enormous, colorful poem. In the way every life is a sort of poem.

Visit Ben Bernthal’s website and learn more about a really great writer by clicking here. You can request a poem online. He will type the poem on high quality paper and mail it to you!

Better yet, if you’re in San Diego, look for him sitting at his typewriter in Balboa Park . . . before life’s grand adventure turns him elsewhere.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A beautiful October day in Balboa Park!

Enjoy these photographs taken this afternoon in Balboa Park.

It’s a Wednesday in early October. The summer tourists are gone. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 goes on. Not surprisingly, few people were about.

As always, the park was very beautiful.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Life returns to Balboa Park one strange summer.

It’s late summer. It has been a very strange year.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives. But even though we still wear face masks and keep our social distance, there’s a sense in Balboa Park that a more normal life is slowly returning.

Earlier in the spring and summer the park was eerily quiet. But in the past week I’ve noticed growing numbers of visitors. There seems to be a desire to recover a small part of a disrupted summer.

Some of the museums have reopened. Vendors and street performers along El Prado are back. Picnics on the grass have become numerous. People are once again posing for pictures by the lily pond.

The sunshine and beautiful flowers never went away.

I took these photographs during walks through Balboa Park yesterday and on Labor Day.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Balboa Park, just as beautiful as ever.

Balboa Park reopened today.

For almost three months the center of the park has been closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This afternoon I walked down El Prado into the heart of Balboa Park with my camera in hand.

I stopped at one end of the Lily Pond and slowly turned about.

Flowers were abundant. The sun was shining. People were happy.

Rest assured, Balboa Park is just as beautiful as ever.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Photos from a rainy December Nights!

I headed into Balboa Park today around noon to get a taste of 2019 December Nights.

It was overcast and drizzly at the start of San Diego’s huge holiday event, but when I left in mid-afternoon the weather had slightly improved.

This evening as I type these words it’s already dark. Bright, colorful lights will have turned on throughout Balboa Park, and the crowds will be massive and growing. Our city’s annual holiday festival is one of the biggest in the United States.

During my early walk many vendors were still setting up and the entertainment was just beginning on several stages. Santa hats and Christmas trees and yummy treats and smiles were already abundant. My camera turned right and left as I took some photos. Please excuse me for not captioning the images this year. I just wanted to share a smidgen of the magic.

(I did go into the Comic-Con Museum when it opened in the early afternoon, and if my indoor photos came out okay, I should be blogging some more very cool stuff shortly!)

Happy Holidays to all!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!