Balboa Park | This 1,200-acre urban cultural park (aka “the Jewel of San Diego”) is home to 17 museums, botanical gardens, historical sites, walking trails, playgrounds, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. Open 365 days a year, the ever-changing park offers multiple live performances, interactive exhibits, art venues, and family-friendly recreational attractions most housed in stunning Spanish colonial architecture buildings.
HOURS & ADMISSION
Open | 24 hours Visitors Center | 9:30 am – 4:40 pm
General Admission | Free (certain museums or attractions cost extra)
On each Tuesday of the month, museums and attractions rotate to offer Resident Free Days
DIRECTIONS & PARKING
1549 El Prado, Balboa Park San Diego, California, 92101
Parking | Free
BALBOA TRAM Balboa Park also offers a free tram that runs daily every 8-10 minutes
Hours Summer | 9:00 am – 8:00 pm Winter | 9:00 am – 6:00pm
Click here for a map of all free parking lots and tram routes
Centro Cultural de la Raza | A cultural arts center dedicated to preserving and educating about Chicano, Mexican, Indigenous and Latino art and culture.
Fleet Science Center | Explore and investigate more than 100 interactive exhibits and an IMAX film that shows the wonders of the planet.
Marston House | The 1905 Marston House was built for George W. Marston, known as the “Father of Balboa Park,” and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mingei International Museum | This museum shares “art of the people” from all cultures of the world of daily life through historical and contemporary folk art, craft and design. Don’t forget to take a picture of the friendly alligator out front!
Museum of Photographic Arts | Founded in 1983, The Museum of Photographic Arts is one of the few independent institutions in the country devoted to photography, film, and video and offers a “pay what you wish” admissions policy.
San Diego Air & Space Museum | The museum houses a collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft from all over the world, including artifacts from the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and other aviation and space pioneers.
San Diego Art Institute | A nonprofit organization that helps advance local emerging artists into the visual arts.
San Diego Automotive Museum | The San Diego Automotive Museum showcases an engaging story of the automobile including a large motorcycle exhibit, memorabilia, and videos that put the automotive experience into cultural perspective.
San Diego Hall of Champions | This 68,000 square foot space is the nation’s largest multi-sport museum, showcasing 3 levels of memorabilia and provides sports programming for the community.
San Diego History Center | This history center is one of the oldest and largest historical organizations on the West Coast and highlights what makes San Diego unique.
San Diego Mineral & Gem Society | The goal of the museum is to help people gain a better understanding and appreciation of minerals, gems, fossils and the lapidary arts. Free admission
San Diego Model Railroad Museum | This 28,000 square space is the world’s largest operating model railroad museum that includes 4 giant scale and model railroad layouts, a Toy Train Gallery with an interactive Lionel layout for children and state-of-the-art theater lighting.
San Diego Museum of Man | This world class museum specializes in cultural anthropology including human history, culture, current topics, race, evolution and more.
San Diego Natural History Museum | Here you can explore the natural history, from past to present, of Southern California with interactive exhibits, fossils, and a giant-screen theater with daily showings of 2D and 3D films.
The San Diego Museum of Art | Located in the heart of Balboa Park, this museum houses the world’s finest art collection including Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings including the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings, and 19th and 20th-century American paintings and sculptures.
Timken Museum of Art | Noted as one of the best small museums in the world, The Timken Museum of Art boasts fine paintings from Rembrandt and Van Dyck, as well as Russian icons and French tapestries. Free admission
Veterans Museum at Balboa Park | Formed in March 1989, the Veterans Memorial Center honors the memories of all men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces and Wartime Merchant Marine.
WorldBeat Center | Celebrating diverse cultures, the center offers special events like concerts and drum circles. They also offer an Alternative Health Event is offered bi-monthly with free acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, and yoga.
1935 (Old) Cactus Garden | This historic garden developed in 1935, contains some of the largest cactus and succulent specimens in the park including the exotic African and Australian Protea plants.
Alcazar Garden | Designed after the gardens of Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain, the Alcazar Garden is known for its ornate fountains, turquoise blue, yellow, and green Moorish tiles and shady pergola.
Australian Garden | This largely undeveloped garden houses many of the plants that were gifted to the City of San Diego by the country of Australian for the United States Bicentennial in 1976.
Botanical Building | The “Laguna de las Flores” (Lake of the Flowers) is one of the most photography scenes in Balboa Park and includes more than 2,100 permanent plants, collections of cycads, ferns, orchids, and palms.
California Native Planet Garden | A small demonstration garden showcases 36 drought-tolerant California native plants that are suitable for home landscape.
Casa Del Rey Moro Garden | Designed by Richard Requa for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition this garden was influenced by the Moorish gardens of Ronda, Spain.
Desert Garden | Established in 1976 the 2.5 acre Desert Garden contains more than 1,300 plants, including succulents and drought-resistant plants from around the world.
EthnoBotany Children’s Peace Garden | This garden offers gardening classes and is dedicated to teaching young adults about the role plants play in society.
Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve | The 150 acres of Coastal Sage Scrub provide an important habitat for native wildlife and offers many hiking trails.
Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden | The rose garden displays approximately 1,600 roses of more than 130 varieties on a 3-acre site and is in bloom from March through December.
Japanese Friendship Garden | A 12-acre plot that offers education programs, exhibits, and festivals known for its unique setting, stone arrangements, koi ponds and sukiya-style buildings.
Marston House Garden | A romantic style garden located on the on the 4.5-acre grounds of the George White and Anna Gunn Marston House including a pergola, tea house, formal flower beds and more than 600 blooming plants
Palm Canyon | This 2-acre tropical oasis contains more than 450 palms and a picturesque wooden footbridge.
San Diego Botanical Garden Foundation | Open since 1962, members of the San Diego Botanical Garden Foundation host floral exhibitions, classes, and educational programs free to the public.
San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection | A collection of more than 4,500 species of plants including orchids, cycads, fig trees, palms, and coral trees.
San Diego Floral Association | The San Diego Floral Association was founded 1907 and is the oldest garden club in Southern California.
Trees for Health Garden | An educational garden that promotes the value and uses of medicinal plants including Ginko, cinnamon, and mulberry.
Veterans Memorial Garden | This garden was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2005 and honors all veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Wartime Merchant Marine.
Zoro Garden | This sunken stone grotto showcases a butterfly garden containing both the larvae and nectar plants needed for the complete life cycle of butterflies.
Balboa Park Carousel | The 1910 Balboa Park Carousel, adjacent to the San Diego Zoo, is one of the few carousels in the world that still offers a free ride to anyone who can grab the brass ring.
Balboa Park Minature Railroad | Take a 3-minute ride around Balboa Park on this historic miniature railroad. The train is operated by the San Diego Zoo and the train station is located outside the Zoo’s exit.
Cabrillo Bridge | The Cabrillo Bridge, built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, is 1,500 feet long and almost 125 feet high.
California Tower | The California Tower is an icon of San Diego and houses the San Diego Museum of Man.
El Cid Statue | The 23-foot bronze sculpture of El Cid represents an 11th-century medieval hero located at the entrance to the Plaza de Panama.
House Of Pacific Relations International Cottages | These historic 1935 Exposition cottages house 34 groups that showcase many national traditions and cultural programs from all over the world.
Moreton Bay Fig Tree | This well-known landmark is listed in the California Registry of Big Trees as one of the champion trees of the state, measuring about 78 feet high, with a crown width of 123 feet and a trunk girth of 486 inches.
Photographic Arts Building | Originally built in 1913, the Photographic Arts Building provides a space for amateur photographers to promote the art of photography to the community.
San Diego Zoo | This 100-acre nonprofit zoo is located in Balboa Park and showcases more than 3,500 animals including rare and endangered species from all over the world. For more information about our experience click here!
Sefton Plaza | The Sefton Plaza features bronze statues that pay respect to San Diegans who were instrumental in the creation of Balboa Park.
Spanish Village Art Center | This colorful courtyard is a community of over 200 local artists that create unique works of art including painters, sculptors, metalsmiths, jewelry designers, clay artists, printmakers, basket makers, and glass artists.
Balboa Park Golf Course | The oldest public golf facility in San Diego, Balboa Park Golf Course also offers a driving range, Pro Shop, coffee shop, halfway house and practice putting greens.
Balboa Park Tennis Club | The tennis club offers 25 hard courts including 3 ongoing challenge courts and 1 stadium court that seats 1,500 people.
The Bon Temps Social Club of San Diego | A monthly dance that features bands from Louisiana and cajun dancing that was established with its 1st dance on Valentine’s Day in 1991.
Dog Parks | There are 3 large dog parks (leash on or off) located in throughout the park.
Electriquette Wicker Carts | Small wicker carts powered by electric motors that give visitors a fun and historic ride through the park.
Enjoy The Outdoors | With over 65 miles of trails, Balboa Park has multiple options perfect for walking, jogging, hiking or biking.
The International Dance Association of San Diego County | A non-profit organization sponsored by the City of San Diego to encourage dancing as a social recreation for the public.
Lawn Bowling | Organized in 1931 with only 5 members, the San Diego Lawn Bowling Club is still going strong with more than 100 members.
Morley Field Sports Complex | This multi-faceted sports complex offers 25 tennis courts, a swimming pool, senior center, playground, archery range, disc golf course, fitness course and more.
Municipal Gym | Built in 1935, this gym offers a variety of sports programs including youth basketball leagues, open play, volleyball, fitness classes, and disabled services tournaments.
Playgrounds | Multiple play areas, geared for all different ages are available throughout the park.
Super Sonic Samba School | A non-profit organization that has been entertainment locals and tourists with rhythms of Brazil for more than 25 years
Wheel Fun Rentals | Rent a cruiser bike or surrey and explore the wonderful sites of Balboa Park.
Centro Cultural de la Raza | This cultural arts center features rotating exhibits and performances with theater, dance, music, and film.
Civic Dance Arts | Classes are offered 22 city recreation centers enabling children and adults to participate in the full study of dance.
Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater | The theater presents approximately 45 shows a year and is the longest continuous running puppet theater in the United States.
The Old Globe | Modeled after Shakespeare’s Old Globe in London, the Old Globe Theatre was built in 1935 and annually produces 15 mainstage productions from all periods and styles.
San Diego Junior Theatre | Established in 1948, San Diego Junior Theatre is the oldest youth theater program in the United States and showcases many high-quality productions throughout the year.
San Diego Civic Youth Ballet | Founded in 1945, this ballet has been the resident ballet school in over 70 years providing affordable, year-round classes and productions in the Casa del Prado.
San Diego Youth Symphony | This symphony serves over 600 students annually with participating ages 8-25 years.
Spreckels Organ Pavilion | The world’s largest outdoor pipe organ that contains more than 5,000 pipes. It was donated to the City of San Diego in 1914 by brothers John D. and Adolph Spreckels. Every Sunday afternoon a civic organist performs free outdoor and informal music concerts.
The Starlight Bowl | One of San Diego’s favorite and historic theaters originally commissioned by the Ford Motor Company in 1935.
Worldbeat Center | Classes, concerts, and lectures in international dance and drumming are offered year round.
WHAT WE DID
Unfortunately, we were running behind schedule and only had a little more than an hour to explore Balboa Park. This place is huge and can take multiple days if not weeks to experience everything the park has to offer.
If you only have a couple hours my suggestion would be to follow the 60-90 minute highlight tour!
TIPS FOR VISITING BALBOA PARK
Balboa Park is nearly 50% larger than New York’s Central Park, so wear comfy shoes as you may do a lot of walking
Stop by the Balboa Park Visitor’s Center to find out which free tours are being offered that day
Sundays are normally the most crowded due to free special events that take place each week
Balboa Park celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2015
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HAVE YOU VISITED BALBOA PARK? IF SO, WHAT DID YOU ENJOY?