SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The 35th annual "December Nights" holiday festival is scheduled to begin this afternoon in Balboa Park.
The two-day event will feature museums open for free, along with live holiday music and theatrical performances.
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria said around 300,000 San Diegans are expected to attend over the course of the two days.
"This is our premiere event in Balboa Park," Gloria said. "For all the festivities, please plan on taking public transit or shuttling in from Petco Park or City College."
The event will take place from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday. The free shuttles will run until midnight each night.
Free museum hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., but lines to get in are usually extremely long.
Among the December Nights highlights:
-- opening ceremonies, Friday at 6:15 p.m., featuring the lighting of the Christmas tree on the stage of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion;
-- Del Cerro Baptist Church's annual production of "The Christmas Tree Story" will begin at 8 p.m. tonight and 8:50 p.m. Saturday; and
-- the Santa Lucia Procession, which celebrates the arrival of the Winter Solstice and Saint Lucy, will be held at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each night in the courtyard of the Museum of Man.
Free shuttle locations include:
-- PETCO Park and lots around Park Blvd. and Imperial Ave Parking is $5/vehicle and there are more than 2,000 parking spaces in this area. Shuttle drops off at 6th and Laurel Streets
-- City College Lots between 16th and "B" Street. Parking is free. Shuttle drops off at 6th and Laurel.
-- Free disabled parking at the Fleet Science Center lot and the Federal lot near the Hall of Champions.
-- Shuttle service runs from 3 p.m.-midnight on Friday and 11:30 a.m.-midnight on Saturday.
-- The last shuttle leaves all sites at 8 p.m. for the Park. Plan to arrive at locations before 7 p.m.
-- Preferred parking for $20/vehicle at the Natural History Museum parking lot and the South Carousel lot (both accessible from Park Blvd. and Village Place). Paid parking will also be available at the Inspiration Point parking lot for $20/vehicle (accessible from Park Blvd and Presidents Way).
-- Free parking: There is limited free parking at the San Diego Zoo lot.
-- Public transportation: Visitors can also take public transportation for an easy ride to Balboa Park December Nights.