Well after two nights at December nights in Balboa park I think I am something of an expert on what to do and what not to do.
First trick- do not even try to find parking near the park. we walked from home and it took about 25 minutes. If you don't live close enough park about 25 minutes away and walk, it will save you a lot of time. (Morley Fields area seems like a good place to park, then just down Morley fields drive and up the hill, you are at Balboa.)
Second- come on Friday. Friday was much less crowded, Saturday was (with the exception of the Sky bar which I will come to later), mayhem.
Third- wear comfy shoes. Balboa park is pretty massive, you will be walking around a lot, standing most of the time when you eat/ drink/ watch performances. Good comfy shoes are essential.
Forth- If you need a break go to the organ pavilion, you can almost always find empty seats and most of the choral ensembles they have there are top notch.
So what's good.....
Well initially the taste of San Diego (ten tastes for $10) looked interesting - although I did like the set up last year much better along the Cabrillo bridge. Then we realized that ten tastes meant waiting in ten lines. The restaurants taking part were not too interesting either- Baja Betty's El Indio, Mo's etc. we can go to these restaurants any old time. Plus no one seemed to be offering anything very interesting.
The international food was more fun. Irish stew was heartily enjoyed as was Palestinian cheese pie, Hungarian sausage and Swedish pea soup. Some of the countries just didn't seem to be putting in the effort though- the Italian tiramisu was not tiramisu and seemed to eb a frozen ice cream cake from Costco, the Meatballs all looked they came from Ikea and the Scottish beer on offer was Karl Strauss??
In the bustling beverages quarters our favorite was the spiced hot chocolate with Rum from Austria, the eggnog was a bit too strong and the different varieties of glogg just okay.
Elsewhere we enjoyed an Indian taco which was good, although a rip-off at $6.
Entertainmentwise my wife always enjoys the young ballet and tap dancers in the Casa del Prado, we also went to see excerpts from the nutcracker which was fun. The San Diego zoo were showing off a delightful South American Anteater that I don't remember ever seeing before. The organ pavilion had some nice shows on and it was fun to look in at the Old Globe and the set off the Grinch.
So the highlight and the secret of December nights- the Sky Bar in the Natural History Museum. This is a bar set up on what is essentially the roof of the museum. There is a $5 cover charge to enter, but oh how that $5 was worth it! After the crowds and masses elsewhere in the park I fully expected this bar to be packed, with the free appetizers having already been ravaged over- much in the style of Casa Guadalajara on a Friday happy hour.
I couldn't have been more wrong, the bar was nearly deserted, calming music was playing and the views were spectacular. As we walked through the doors out onto the roof we were greeted by a bartender who attended directly to our drinks and then ushered over to the free appetizers- turkey wraps and a wonderful vegetable soup.
the Natural History museums sky bar was definitely the find of the night and I am happy to be able to share this secret with blog readers. Next year you know where to head to!