December 11, 2012

December Nights

This past Saturday we drove the hour south to San Diego to attend December Nights at Balboa Park.  I'd found out about this huge annual civic event last year, but last year proved too busy. 

I spent a good amount of time perusing the details on the event web site beforehand, and got excited about all the many, many options of things to see and do. Nearly all of the park's museums opened their doors for free from 5-10 p.m., plus there were myriad versions of Santa's in every nook of the park, free chorale concerts, a puppet show version of "A Christmas Carol," and international food booths.  To name just a few things.

So we went and honestly, I was totally overwhelmed. I feel a little guilty that we didn't really see or accomplish (or even eat) all that much. I blame it on us being newbies to the event, and not really sure of how it worked.  Basically, how it works is that since nearly everything but the food is free, if you want to see or do something, you need to arrive at least an hour before showtime to guarantee a seat. 

Here are the kids in front of the pink Who Christmas tree in front of the Old Globe Theater, which is running How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  (This full-length musical is decidedly not free. I thought it might be fun to go for my birthday next week, until I found that tickets are nearly $80 a seat.)
I don't know, there's something about how people get so excited about koi fish that cracks me up. Just check out the paparazzi back there:
We waited in line for close to an hour to see a "best of" performance of The Nutcracker by a junior ballet troupe.  Except there was no storyline, just a sort of "ballet costumes from around the world" trope going on.  (It's been that part of the story?) But the kids liked it, and I think they'd enjoy seeing a real performance with the actual storyline someday. 

We also braved the crowds at the Model Railroad Museum. Now this museum of model trains is always tight and claustrophobic even on typical weekends, so on this night? YIKES. But I still liked seeing the details of the miniature towns:

After true sundown, it suddenly got very, very crowded and I felt like we were at a giant food fest, more than a Christmas event. There were activities on my agenda that I wanted us to see, but navigating through the crowd was exhausting.
Evidently the Big Thing to do is to view the Christmas Story Tree at the Spreckles Pavillion.  It's a telling of the nativity story, with songs and carols and the tree itself opens up to display various scenes.  We got there more than an hour beforehand, and every seat in the outdoor amphitheatre was taken. Totally SRO. It was chilly, the kids were hungry, and standing in one place for an hour just didn't feel like an option.
I think we had a good time? It's hard to tell, between the porta-potties, the search for kid-friendly food, Tucker's meltdown when he confessed (post-purchase) that he really doesn't like hot cocoa at all, and the jam-packed crowds.

But, there was also a visit with Santa, cookies, singing & music on nearly every corner, and so much to look up and see and admire. Next time, we'll know what the heck we're doing. 

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