Turkey season is upon us! Finally, the house is spotless, groceries bought, recipes lined up … now all that’s left is figuring out how to entertain Grandma and Grandpop after their long flight to the city. While there are plenty of amazing San Diego holiday activities to consider, almost any local will agree that no matter where you go this Thanksgiving season, Balboa Park is a must-visit!

Take a stroll around the Park with your visiting loved ones and be sure to spare no excitement! Here’s a few events happening during Thanksgiving week, and even a few organizations that are staying open on Thanksgiving Day!


Monday, November 19th

Family looking out over the serene waters of Balboa Park's Lily Pond.

Walk along Balboa Park’s Lily Pond and Lagoon!
Open all day

This historic, iconic location in Balboa Park is a photography hotspot for tourists and locals alike, with native San Diegans utilizing the flowery pond as a backdrop for prom pictures and wedding photos. If you haven’t taken a few shots for your Christmas cards yet, what better place to exemplify San Diego’s natural beauty than among the pond’s koi and lilies? Fortunately, this location is free and open to the public, so don’t be afraid to include the whole family in your pics – that’s right, it’s time to bust out that holiday sweater you bought for Fluffy ages ago!


Tuesday, November 20th 

Small, smiling Shih Tzu dog facing the camera.

Canine Ambassadors at San Diego Museum of Man
1:00 pm to 2:30 pm

We can always find something to be thankful about – especially when it comes to dogs. Gather all the pet lovers in your family to meet with some fun little furry guests, courtesy of the San Diego Humane Society. These precious pups are kid friendly and will teach your small ones how to safely interact with dogs. Stay awhile and you may even see a few tricks! Feel free to pop into the museum afterwards and take in their Kumeyaay: Native Californians exhibit!


Wednesday, November 21st

A Panama 66 wine glass off-center with a blurred view of San Diego Museum of Art's Sculpture Garden in the background.

Gilbert Castellanos Presents: Young Lions & the Wednesday Jam Session at Panama 66
6:00 pm to 11:30 pm

Eek! Thanksgiving is just a sunrise away and there’s still so much to do! Set some time aside on Wednesday evening to settle your mind and melt the stress away. Head over to Panama 66 and unwind as lilting jazz fills the air under a starry autumn sky. Grab a cocktail and catch up with family members you haven’t seen in months. You’re sure to feel much more relaxed in preparation for the day to come!


Thursday, November 22nd (Thanksgiving!)

Close-up of a cooked Thanksgiving turkey.

Like you, many of our lovely volunteers and Park staff close the doors to their organizations on Thanksgiving to spend quality time with family and friends. However, there is still plenty to do at the Park for your family to enjoy before dinner, including two special museums staying open on Thanksgiving Day! 

Open – Fleet Science Center
Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

The Fleet has a ton of great exhibitions for all ages to enjoy. You’ll definitely want to check out their newest exhibit, Discover Exoplanets, to learn about NASA’s progress in finding habitable alien worlds outside our solar system! As you step out of the museum come closing time, you’ll have a newfound respect for the unexplored terrain in the sky above you.

Open – Japanese Friendship Garden
Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (last admission at 4:00 pm)

Shed all the family drama by taking a nice, soothing walk through JFG’s beautiful gardens. A slow stroll through the trees and ponds along the museum path’s natural flow will calm even the most belligerent siblings. Your family will emerge from the gardens prepped and ready to sit down for a nice, civil, delicious meal.

3-Course Thanksgiving Meal at the Prado
Hours: 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Uh oh! Mom charred the turkey again. She never really was the best chef. Luckily for the fam, you predicted this tragedy and planned ahead by making reservations at The Prado. Gather up all the friends and family and head over to the House of Hospitality in beautiful Balboa Park for a meal of the ages. Once seated, you can enjoy a tasty platter of warm, juicy turkey… soft and salty chocolate peanut butter cake… mmm… maybe burning the bird to a crisp was a blessing in disguise?


Friday, November 23rd

A still shot of The Old Globe Theater's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as the Grinch towers over curious Who villagers.

Photo by Ken Howard.

Catch a show at The Old Globe!
2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, or 8:00 pm

Phew – Thanksgiving is over, your sink is piled sky-high with dirty dishes, and everyone’s waistbands are just a teensy bit more taut. It’s the perfect day to just sit down and laze around. Why not grab a few tickets and head over to The Old Globe? Get comfortable in your seat and let yourself recover from a vigorous night of eating as the family takes in quality entertainment. Catch either Dr. Suess’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or Clint Black’s Looking for Christmas. Hurry, you’ll want to grab good seats before they run out!


Saturday, November 24th

A close-up of music artist, Akae Beka, as he sings into his microphone.

Giving Thanks to the Native American Nation w/ Akae Beka & Spiritual at WorldBeat Cultural Center
Doors open 8:00 pm

Need a great way to close off the week? Lively island beats make for a fresh, post-celebration sound at WorldBeat Cultural Center. Come listen to Midnite artist, Vaughn Benjamin, as his band Akae Beka joins reggae performer, Spiritual, in this memorable ode to the Native American Nation. This live performance will create a nice, refreshing transition from the Thanksgiving vibe into the weekend.


Now that you’ve been educated on our Thanksgiving Park recommendations, we should let you in on a little secret: the best way to take advantage of Balboa Park all year round is by investing in a Balboa Park Explorer Annual Pass. With options for adults, seniors, and students – and a special deal for families – the annual pass is by far the easiest way to take advantage of the Park’s constant rotation of exhibitions and events, seasonal or not. Be sure to take a look at the pass’s full list of perks!

What will YOU Explore?

Jayme De la Cruz, Balboa Park Explorer Team Member