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Arts & Culture

Ask KPBS/Arts: How Can I Afford Holiday Events?

KPBS/Arts is a calendar dedicated to local arts events.
KPBS/Arts is a calendar dedicated to local arts events.

There are plenty of holiday shows happening all over San Diego, but what happens when you just can't afford to go? This week Ask KPBS/Arts tackles how to find some free and low-cost holiday entertainment.

How do people afford to go to the theater this time of year? I tried buying my family tickets to a Christmas play, but with all my other holiday expenses, I just couldn't do it. Are there any free or budget-friendly "artsy" things I can do? Kristin H.

Going to a holiday show may be a great way to bond with your family, but you're right, Kristin. Often, the expense can cause more stress than it's worth.


There are a few ways to still get that "special occasion" experience without having to blow your holiday budget, here are some ideas:

Get all dressed up and head over to Manchester Grand Hyatt.

The hotel's Grand Lobby has a display of contemporary Christmas tree sculptures, commissioned by Alexander Salazar Fine Art. It's free to walk around and check out the creations by four Southern California artists, maybe a little more if you spring for hot chocolate. The Grand Art Series: A Festival of Trees 2016 display is up through New Year's Day.

See "The Nutcracker" on the big screen

Tickets for practically all local versions of "The Nutcracker" range from $20 to $100 - whether it's a professional company or a student show. (Here's the one exception.)

A good alternative - and a bit more affordable - is to see the ballet in a movie theater. Fathom Events screens the Bolshoi Ballet's version at select movie theaters on Dec. 18 and 19. The ballet was recorded live from Moscow - it's a gorgeous version that will definitely get you in the festive spirit. Tickets are between $15 and $18, which is pennies compared to how much it would be to actually see the Bolshoi Ballet live.

Have A Mexican Christmas

Amigos del Rep, an arts group that promotes Latino programs, stages its version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." It's a free reading that tells the beloved story with a Latino flair and includes characters like the miserly Ebenifacio L. Scrooge.


"Abuelito's Mexican Christmas Carol" is on Dec. 20 at the San Diego Central Library Auditorium.

Make friends with Goldstar

Goldstar is an online ticket service that sells deeply discounted tickets to events around town. My issue with this site is that you don't know where your seats are until you get to the show, and by the time you pay the fees ($4 a ticket) it can still be pricey.

But sometimes, you can find free tickets (or, with fees, $4 tickets) to some surprising events. Just this week I saw a few classical music concerts and "Nutcracker" shows on the list. Of course, you can't be picky about when you go or where you sit. Make sure to act fast, though, because the complimentary tickets are the first to go.

How does a film festival work? What are good concerts for kids? Send me your events-related questions and they'll be answered each Thursday.