With such beautiful weather forecast for the coming week, it’s likely that any extended pack members in town for the holidays will want to do more than go to the mall to return ugly sweaters. San Diego beaches are certainly an option — for penguins who don’t mind the chilly water temperatures.
It’s no wonder then that Balboa Park is San Diego’s #1 destination for holiday guests. But before piling the pups into the mini-van, be a good host and note the following:
1. Arrive Early
The week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is one of the busiest in Balboa Park all year. The same goes double for the San Diego Zoo. Parking lots will fill up quickly, so consider public transportation if you prefer sleeping in past 10am (when most museums open) or park in the Inspiration Point Parking Lot and use the free tram.
2. Know What’s Open and When
If you plan on coming to the Park between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, be aware of special holiday hours for the various cultural attractions. To keep it simple, only the Zoo and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center are open on Christmas Day, and they are joined by the Natural History Museum and Air and Space Museum as open on New Year’s Day. And many museums close a little early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Otherwise, regular hours will generally be in effect on all other days. Which leads me to the next item …
3. The Park Is Extremely Dog Friendly
If you’d rather not leave your best friend(s) home alone to paw through guests’ luggage and recently opened gifts, there is plenty to see and do in Balboa Park without setting foot inside a museum (which aren’t so dog friendly), including miles of hiking trails through lush urban parkland, numerous award-winning gardens, historic architecture, and, count ‘em, three dog parks!
4. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck
If visiting multiple museums is indeed on the itinerary, be aware of the many options for discounted visits, including the Balboa Park Passport (7 days), the Stay-for-the-Day Pass (1 day), and the Balboa Park Explorer (unlimited admission for an entire year!).
5. Don’t Miss Special Holiday Traditions
On the verge of celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2015, you'd better believe Balboa Park offers plenty of holiday traditions. Of particular note are the annual poinsettia display in the Botanical Building, the Old Globe Theater’s yearly presentation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, more kid-friendly holiday performances at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, and the free New Year’s Day concert at 2pm in the Spreckels Organ Pavilion — to name a few.