Exploring Balboa Park, San Diego: 5 Can’t-Miss Festivals

Balboa Park FestivalsAll year round, there are fun activities for the whole family that take place at Balboa Park, San Diego. Whether you want to entertain the kids, learn something new, or experience another culture, the following are some of the top festivals designed with children in mind that you won’t want to miss! As one of the iconic pieces of San Diego real estate, the 1,200 acre park hosts some of the most memorable activities and evenings for locals and tourists.

1. Earth Fair

Held every year on Earth Day, this festival is the largest free annual environmental fair in the world. Every year, the event draws around 60,000 visitors, who come to learn about wildlife preservation, alternative energy, eco-tourism, and even pet adoption.

Each year, there is an area at Earth Fair specifically for the youngsters, with games, crafts, and storytelling, all designed to educate kids about environmental issues. There is also a Children’s Stage with performances aimed at younger audiences running throughout the day. Finally, there is the Children’s Earth Parade, set to a different theme every year. You can even join in and give your kids the chance to dress up in creative costumes!

2. December Nights

The largest free community festival in all of San Diego, December Nights spans two days (the first Friday and Saturday of the month) and typically attracts more than 350,000 visitors. There is plenty to do, ranging from trying international food to enjoying a variety of entertainment, including music and dance presentations. There is also free museum entry for many of the museums around Balboa Park. Plus, for some more lighthearted fun, kids can meet Santa in several locations nearby.

3. Ethnic Food Fair

Engage your tastebuds while learning about different foods from around the globe at this Balboa Park event! The Ethnic Food Fair is a free-entry event, with nominal prices per dish, held annually in May. Your family will love to watch the many short cultural performances while you sample different cuisines – the perfect chance for kids to learn about different countries in a truly hands-on way! With the huge number of dishes available, there is plenty that even the most picky child will enjoy.

4. Halloween Family Day

During Family Day, typically held on a Saturday near Halloween, children ages 12 and under receive free entry at many of the museums and cultural attractions at Balboa Park, San Diego. Adults also receive a discount when they purchase a Stay-for-the-Day pass, which allows you to enter five of the top museums throughout the day. Along with their regular exhibitions, many museums set up hands-on activities, crafts, tours, storytelling, and costume parades for kids who attend.

5. Lawn Programs

Every Sunday from 12 PM to 5 PM from March through October, Balboa Park hosts events organized by 32 multicultural groups. Each Lawn Program celebrates a different culture with traditional dance, costume, arts and crafts, and ethnic food for sale.

The Lawn Programs take place around the historical Exposition cottages, often around a date important to the culture. So for example, the House of Mexico holds its festival (the Arte, Color & Fiesta) around Día de los Niños (Children’s Day). The House of England, in contrast, holds it event around St. George’s Day in April.

There is never a shortage of fun activities and festivals at Balboa Park. Whether you live in the area or are just planning to visit, make sure you come down and experience one or more of the above events!


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Photo by Dhinal Chheda

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