Entertainment & Events

Holiday Food Truck Festival Returns To Balboa Park

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Balboa Park is a landmark that has served as the city’s hub for all things entertainment. From the San Diego Zoo to the park’s many museums, to the many hiking trails and activity spaces, the park attracts tourists and locals alike all year round. Balboa Park is rich in history – placed in reserve in 1835, the park’s site is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use. Hosting many events and festivals throughout the year and drawing in tens of thousands of San Diegans, Balboa Park is the city’s most visited attraction and this holiday season is no different. The annual Holiday Food Truck Festival is returning for five days of joyful celebration between Christmas and New Year’s Day (December 26-30). 

The festival hosted by the Balboa Park Conservancy will feature free live entertainment under the Plaza de Panama’s dazzling light display. Along with plenty of fun family-friendly activities, there will be more than a dozen local food trucks serving a diverse selection of yummy dishes, desserts, and other treats. 

Food trucks will begin serving their fares at 12 noon each day, with the first set of five performances beginning shortly thereafter. From 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, a different musical group performs in the Plaza de Panama. This year’s featured evening bands are Carmen Murray Jazz Trio (12/26), Finnegan Blue (12/27), Theo and the Zydeco Patrol (12/28), Sue Palmer (12/29), and the Bayou Brothers (12/30).

In addition to exploring the diverse selection of food trucks, activities, and live entertainment, the festival is a great time to visit one of the many cultural attractions in Balboa Park. The San Diego Museum of Art will be offering a special $5 admission, while the Fleet Science Center and Craveology cafe will be open 10:00 am – 6:00 pm during the festival (until 9:00 pm on December 28–29).

All festival attendees are encouraged to park in the Inspiration Point parking lot at the corner of Park Blvd. and Presidents Way and take the free tram, which will run from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm into the park. Public transit is also an option, with the Rapid 215 providing a direct connection between downtown San Diego and the park. Unlimited all-day rides can be purchased for only $6 on the Compass Cloud App any time prior to boarding. 

Entertainment Schedule

December 26 

12:00 pm–3:00 pm: Flavor Company Dance Entertainment presents a dynamic and colorful dance medley featuring a variety of dance genres and themes.

4:00 pm–7:00 pm: Carmen Murray Jazz Trio — Jazz drummer prodigy Carmen Murray brings her talented young lions trio to perform jazz favorites and standards.

December 27 

12:00pm–12:20pm, 12:40pm–1:00pm: Mariachi Victoria de San Diego — The talented all-ages ensemble performs mariachi favorites. Part of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.

4:00 pm–7:00 pm: Finnegan Blue — The San Diego-based high-energy folk band blends Celtic, bluegrass, and second-line music with a punk rock edge.

December 28

12:00pm–3:00pm: Flavor Company Dance Entertainment presents a dynamic and colorful dance medley featuring a variety of dance genres and themes.

2:00 pm, 4:00 pm: Circus Performers — Aerialists from Lindley Lopez Productions perform high above on trapeze. Jugglers, unicyclists, stilt walkers, and a contortionist from the Sofia Isadora Academy of Circus Arts provide additional thrills in the Plaza.

4:00 pm–7:00 pm: Theo and the Zydeco Patrol — Theo Bellow presents a tasty musical gumbo of up-tempo deep southern tunes.

December 29

12:00 pm–12:50 pm: Creative Dancers 78 — An energetic group of youth dancers perform hip hop, Latin rhythm, and contemporary dance styles.

1:00 pm–1:20 pm, 1:40 pm-2:00 pm: Naruwan Taiko performs their high-energy exuberant style of Japanese drumming.

4:00 pm–7:00 pm: Sue Palmer — The Queen of Boogie Woogie infuses the Plaza with all the style, energy, and glamour she’s known for. A special dance floor will give swing dancers an opportunity to strut their stuff.

December 30

12:30 pm–3:00 pm: Traditional Chinese Music and Dance Program with pipa lute players, guzheng zither players, and the White Dragon lion dance team.

4:00 pm–7:00 pm: Bayou Brothers — A special dance floor will be rolled out for the Bayou Brothers’s special blend of foot-stomping Cajun, zydeco, and blues.

Prize Drawings

Visitors can enter a special prize drawing at the Balboa Park Visitors Center all five days, from 9:30am to 5:00pm, December 26–30, for a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of general admission tickets to the following Balboa Park attractions:

  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego History Center
  • San Diego Junior Theatre
  • San Diego Natural History Museum (theNat)
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  • The San Diego Museum of Art

Activities on the Plaza de Panama

Museum of Photographic Arts (Dec. 27, 4:00 pm–7:00 pm): A special nighttime photo op.

San Diego History Center (Dec. 27, 11:00 am–4:00 pm, in front of museum; Dec. 28, 11:00am–4:00pm, on Plaza de Panama): The museum’s Curiosity Cart will be rolled out to offer a family-friendly activity in conjunction with the History Center’s “Let There Be Light” program.

San Diego Junior Theatre (Dec. 28, 12:00 pm–4:00 pm): Kid-friendly activities and information on upcoming productions and programs.

San Diego Justice Center (Dec. 27, 12:00 pm–5:00 pm): Family-friendly activities offered by the local governmental agency dedicated to transitioning victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking into survivors (part of the City of San Diego Attorney’s Office). 

San Diego Model Railroad Museum (Dec. 27, 12:00 pm–2:00 pm): Family-friendly activities.

San Diego Police Child Fingerprinting Service (Dec. 29, 12:00 pm–4:00 pm): The SDPD’s Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) unit provides a free child fingerprinting service to assist law enforcement personnel in locating a child in the event the child is reported lost or missing.

House of China (Dec. 30, 12:00 pm–4:00 pm): Family-friendly activities.

Special Activities at Park Cultural Attractions

Fleet Science Center (Dec. 26–27, 30, open until 6:00 pm; Dec. 28–29, open until 9:00 pm): Experience Winter Paradise, San Diego-style, with ice skating and rink-side cocktails. Beer and wine are available at the Craveology Café.

San Diego History Center (Dec. 26–30, 11:00 am–5:00 pm): Enjoy kid-friendly activities and free seating in the museum atrium for eating your food truck dishes.

San Diego Natural History Museum (Dec. 26–30, 11:30 am–5:00 pm): The museum’s rooftop café is open for alfresco dining for anyone purchasing general museum admission. 

Spanish Village Art Center (Dec. 26–30, 12:00 pm–6:00 pm): Participating studios open until 6:00 pm. Take photos of the colorful courtyard featuring special stand-up displays.

The San Diego Museum of Art (Dec. 26, 28–30, open until 7:00 pm; Dec. 27, open until 8:00 pm): Special $5 admission from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Friday, Dec. 27.

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