SAN DIEGO — December brings a variety of seasonal and not-so-seasonal events for couples, families and solitary Scrooges, besides the usual round of "Christmas Carols," "Messiahs" and "Nutcrackers."
Balboa Park, from Spanish Village to the Palisades area, is the place to be today and Saturday from 5-9 p.m. to sample the exhibits, performances and booths of crafts, food and beverage offerings in the 11th annual Christmas on the Prado festival.
Twenty-three nonprofit park cultural institutions are participating, from the Old Globe Theatre to the new San Diego Automotive Museum. The San Diego Museum of Man will offer Polish, Slavic, Chilean, American Indian and Portuguese folk art demonstrations as well as a Swedish Santa Lucia procession each night at 7:30 p.m.
The fresh smell of "Christmas Trees From Around the World" will fill the San Diego Natural History Museum today with the opening of the monthlong exhibit. Besides a 12-foot decorated Aleppo pine, the museum will display a variety of live trees, such as the Russian pine, the Chir pine from India, the Italian stone pine and the Japanese red pine.
The Balboa Park Organ Pavilion will be the site of performances by several choirs, including the Del Cerro Baptist Church's singing Christmas tree, Scottish dancers and bagpipers and the USIU International Orchestra.
Anyone who has ever had a Lionel train may want to spend the entire night drooling over four giant-scale model railroads at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in the same building as the San Diego Hall of Champions, where sports celebrities will be signing autographs today and Saturday.
Across the street, a pint-sized ogre from "Rumpelstiltskin" will appear twice nightly in skits from the San Diego Junior Theatre's production of the play.
Almost every institution in the park will be selling goodies to eat, from roasted chestnuts at the San Diego Art Institute to savories and a cookbook, "Cooks 'Round the Globe," at the Old Globe. Historic automobiles, courtesy of the Automotive Museum, will be on display throughout the park.
If you're not sure what the difference is between asparagus tongs and strawberry forks, you may want to visit "Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America" at the Museum of San Diego History in the park. This traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit that focuses on dining etiquette in America will be on view through Monday.
The museum also features a number of holiday home-design vignettes from local designers.
This Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the La Jolla Town Council will present its Holiday Festival, featuring a 1:30 p.m. parade. The parade's grand marshal is that twinkling patron of the arts, Mandell Weiss. The route is down Girard beginning at Torrey Pines Road to Prospect Street, then left to the La Jolla Recreation Center at 615 Prospect. The center is the site of a daylong carnival featuring musicians, magicians, rides for kids and animals to pet. There will also be free "classic cartoons" at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, which is offering an outdoor buffet in its parking lot.
For a non-seasonal change of pace, try the Mingei International Folk Museum in University Towne Center.
Throughout December, the museum is showing "Interlacings," about 200 examples of woven or interlaced objects from the collection of designer Jack Lenor Larsen. From bird nests to baskets to baubles, the exhibit features exotic designs that warble and woof.
Another non-yuletide event is the Dec. 17 opening of the new San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park. "Power and Glory: A Racing Retrospective," as well as selected autos from the museum's permanent collection will be on display. The racers range from a 1903 Ford "999" to a 1951 Stanzolini to a 1971 McLaren.
More than 30 classic automobiles from the permanent collection include an 1886 Benz, a 1930 Ruxton, Tucker No. 17, and the prototype for the yet-to-be-produced Lincoln Mark X.
A San Diego tradition, the Parade of Lights, will be sailed promptly at 6 p.m. Dec. 18. From the tiniest sloops to the largest yachts, an armada of colorfully lighted vessels will parade through central San Diego Bay.