Santa sings and spreads joy in Balboa Park!

Santa Claus made the journey from the North Pole to San Diego today. He arrived at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion at noon and immediately commenced spreading joy.

He greeted young and old in front of Balboa Park’s traditional holiday Gingerbread House, then at two o’clock took to the pavilion stage. Accompanied by smiling San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramírez on the majestic Spreckels Organ, Santa sang the opening verse and chorus of Up on the Housetop.

Up on the Housetop, written by Benjamin Hanby in 1864, was the very first Christmas song that mentions Santa Claus!

Santa’s heartwarming performance was followed by a jolly Ho, Ho, Ho.

He then wished everyone in the audience a Merry Christmas.

Thank you, Santa, for being who you are.

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It’s easy to explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag. There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

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!

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.

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

It’s easy to explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag. There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

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!

Treasures discovered in Balboa Park!

Many incredible treasures could be found by visitors to Balboa Park today.

All anyone had to do is look about.

Treasure could be discovered all weekend in Spanish Village Art Center. The Art Glass Guild’s Fall Patio Show filled tables with glittering riches.

A golden work of art glass by artist Tom Marosz.

Colorful art glass robots stand ready, created by Chris Stell.

Paella was a tasty treasure served up by the House of Spain during their lawn program at the International Cottages.

And here are two fancy Catrinas with sweet sugar skulls at the House of Mexico!

Kids in Balboa Park will bag lots of treasure this October 30th. The Trick or Treat Trail is mapped at the International Cottages!

Here’s a unique treasure that I hadn’t seen in Balboa Park for years, it seems!

It’s Brandon with his rare old-fashioned penny-farthing. He does riding demonstrations, bringing smiles to one and all. Good to see you again!

That precious bell is so rare it had to be brought in for the Sunday organ concert. A young musician rings it during a performance of The Typewriter.

(The actual bell, up behind the organ pipes, was activated with a key on the Spreckels Organ console. It sounded like an old manual typewriter’s carriage return–ding.)

Oh, wow! If there’s a pile of hidden treasure to be found in Balboa Park, it would probably be inside Draco’s Lair!

Draco the dragon is out of his lair!

Now’s our chance at the treasure!

Uh, oh! Mitchell sees what I’m up to!

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!

Dvořák, Liszt and laughs on Silent Movie Night!

Where can you listen to exquisitely played classical music, then laugh at absurdly silly slapstick humor . . . all in one sitting?

At Silent Movie Night!

This evening, acclaimed concert organist Clara Gerdes played classical compositions by Dvořák, Duruflé and Liszt on the incomparable Spreckels Organ in Balboa Park. Then immediately after, the audience was laughing uproariously to the gag-filled antics of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton! (Accompanied by organ, of course!)

From the sublime to the absurd. That was the magic of Silent Movie Night at the 34th San Diego International Organ Festival!

You didn’t go? Why not?

Silent Movie Night is one of the most fun events every summer in Balboa Park. A couple thousand happy people fill the benches at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. And it’s free!

So watch for it next year!

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!

Free ice cream and concert in Balboa Park!

What’s better than free ice cream and a free concert?

Free ice cream and a fantastic free concert in beautiful Balboa Park!

A huge crowd came out to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion this evening to smile, laugh, sing, and dance to the music of San Diego’s own The Moonlight Serenade Orchestra. And, of course, to devour ice cream!

The annual Ice Cream Social concert, one of many free summer Twilight in the Park concerts, was made possible by the awesome folks of Forever Balboa Park!

The music was infectious. The vibe was energetic. The audience was often clapping, and couples were swaying and spinning on the outdoor dance floor. Tunes included Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Dancing Queen, Old Time Rock and Roll, Respect, In the Mood, Over the Rainbow, and a variety of others, including many big band classics.

The highlight for me–and it appeared to be for many–was the solo drumming performance by D. J. Jackson in the encore song Sing, Sing, Sing. He was a magician whose magic seemed limitless. I didn’t want his inspired wizardry to end.

A long standing ovation resulted!

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 musician’s triumphant return to San Diego!

Many years ago I happened to attend a Spreckels Organ concert featuring an up-and-coming young organist who’d recently attended La Jolla High School. Her name was Chelsea Chen.

This evening, Chelsea Chen, now an internationally renowned organist, who has played in more famous venues and won more prizes than I can mention, returned triumphantly to San Diego, receiving loud and sustained applause for her performance during the 2022 International Summer Organ Festival.

Her fingers easily mastered Verdi, Bach, an Andrew Lloyd Webber medley, and many more–even a jazz piano piece based on the theme of The Flintstones. And, of course, she played her own stirring composition Taiwanese Suite, which incorporates beautiful folk music from Taiwan.

Her warm, graceful notes filled many ears.

As I listened I thought: That concert long ago feels like yesterday. How did the years fly by so quickly?

Enjoy the special moments.

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!

International Organ Festival begins with a Thank You!

The 34th San Diego International Organ Festival began this evening in Balboa Park.

It was the first festival concert of many to come this summer. They are free to the public on Monday evenings, beginning at 7:30 pm. See the full program here. Some of the world’s top organists will fill thousands of ears with dazzling sound from the incomparable Spreckels Organ.

But tonight, before San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramírez began his magic, two people were brought to the pavilion stage for a special Thank You.

Past Spreckels Organ Society President Arlene Way and Civic Organist Emeritus Robert Plimpton spoke a few words–including doing good for the community and bringing happiness to people–then received applause.

I want to personally thank Robert Plimpton. He’s the one who “introduced” me to the Spreckels Organ. One day, I forget when, as a young man in Balboa Park, I sat down on one of those metal benches and listened. I hadn’t realized an organ could play so movingly, so exquisitely. Like poetry.

His energetic, elegant, precise play of the mighty Spreckels Organ made me a fan of the King of Instruments for life. Sitting on that bench, amazed, it might have been the first time I realized Balboa Park has a living heartbeat.

So, thank you to all who keep that heartbeat going.

And thank you Robert Plimpton.

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!

Ukrainian beauty and young talent at Spreckels Organ!

A special concert was held today at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.

San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez was joined by Ukrainian born soprano Anna Belaya, who sang the Ukrainian National Anthem and, afterward, a very beautiful, uplifting piece of Ukrainian music. Her voice soared. We were reminded that there is yet hope in our world.

Then three student organists, winners of American Guild of Organists San Diego Chapter scholarships, took to the stage to make beautiful music!

You should have been there, in the sunshine, listening.

Sunshine means warm! Lots of colorful umbrellas provide shade for those sitting on the Spreckels Organ Pavilion benches.
Raúl Prieto Ramírez introduces soprano Anna Belaya. She was born in Ukraine.
Extraordinary, triumphant singing accompanies the great Spreckels Organ.
Introducing Sarah Amos, Education Coordinator for the American Guild of Organists San Diego Chapter.
Sarah explains how scholarships are awarded to outstanding student organists, such as the three who performed today.
The first young organist, Lily Bodor, in the Novice Division, takes the stage!
Lily Bodor plays This Is My Father’s World from Sonatina on Themes of Creation, by Larry Visser. Her future is very bright!
Jonah Molina, from the Advanced Division, is introduced.
Jonah Molina plays Trumpet Tune, by Douglas Wagner. Another great performance!
Finally, Jesse Puglia is introduced. He’s from the Advanced Division, too.
Jesse Puglia plays Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 549, by J. S. Bach. The difficult piece is delivered brilliantly!

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!

San Diego gathers to sing Christmas carols!

Is it possible for perfect strangers to come together spontaneously and sing as one? It happened this afternoon in San Diego in Balboa Park!

Audience members from today’s free Sunday concert were summoned to the stage of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. A smiling Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez and local singer and songwriter Lauren Leigh Martin led one and all through many joyful Christmas carols!

Is a single picture worth a thousand words? Here’s a many thousands of words story…

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 wonderful Christmas concert in Balboa Park!

This evening a wonderful Christmas concert was enjoyed in Balboa Park. The San Diego Ballet, San Diego Opera, and Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez performed holiday favorites for a large crowd at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion!

Ballerinas filed onto the stage to dance to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, then soaring voices filled the chilly night air with warm selections from Handel’s Messiah, and many favorite Christmas carols.

The concert concluded with a rousing Hallelujah Chorus.

I’m delighted to see how this annual free Christmas concert has grown in popularity to become a true San Diego holiday tradition.

On one special December evening some our city’s finest cultural institutions unite, bringing joy to young and old alike.

I sat in the pavilion and listened, and managed a few okay photos from afar.

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!