There is always a lot to do at Balboa Park and the list of events, plays, exhibits and programs changes all the time.
One great event is something called Balboa Park December nights - Friday, Dec. 6, 3-11pm, and Saturday, Dec. 7, noon-11pm
Museums are free from 5-9 PM and there are foods, music, entertainment from around the world
Plan extra time to get their and park during these events
For more information see
Sunday's at Balboa park are very special because there area a lot of extra free events
+ There are free organ concerts every Sunday at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion at 2 PM
+ the international Cottages, which are 32 cottages from around the world hold open houses every Sunday from noon - 4 PM.
+There are international lawn programs from 2-4 PM most of the year.
This is on top of all the normal events and things to do at the park
I love Balboa Park there is so much to do here! Parking is free (or if your lucky like me you can walk to the park). There are museums, stores, restaurants, the zoo and so on. It is also a great place to just walk around and enjoy the park itself. The park is huge so you can't do it in one day.
I've spent at least 5 days here (I just moved here) and still haven't seen all the park grounds and have only been into one of the museums so far.
As early as 1835, a large plot of land was set aside for public recreation in San Diego. The idea of turning it into an urban park came up a few years later, and Balboa Park took on much of the appearance it still has today when it hosted the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Extensive landscaping work occurred at that time, and some magnificient buildings were built along the Prado, the park's main thoroughfare. Unlike most structures built to host world fair exhibitions, the ones in Balboa Park were not meant to be temporary and remain in use to this day. Several of them are now home to the park's numerous museums and theatres.
The weather was just too nice when we visited Balboa Park to hit any of the museums, so we decided to focus on the park's gardens instead. We stopped at the visitors center to pick up a free map, and spent the entire morning walking all over the park. The only time we had to pay admission fees was to visit the Japanese Friendship Garden ($6), but we figured it wasn't much to pay considering everything we'd seen in the park. It definitely is one of San Diego's attractions you don't want to miss!
Balboa Park is open to visitors 24h/day, but most attractions are open roughly from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. Parking is free, but make sure you get there early enough because it fills up fast!
This park was built in 1915 for a world's fair. It is one of a few in the country that has survived mostly in tact. Today it hosts literally dozens of museums, theatres and shops. You could easily spend a whole vacation just here.
Balboa Park is just northeast of downtown. It is a beautiful piece of land with vast expanses of lush green lawns, many trees and blooming flowers. At this park there are hiking and biking trails, kiddy play grounds and it is a great place to spread a blanket and take in the sun or have a picnic. Here you can play typical park sports or just watch the fun.
At the Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street entrance there is a bridge to cross. Once over the bridge you'll enter into the remains of the Panama-American Exposition of 1915-1916 and those of the California Pacific International Exposition of 1935-36. The buildings are lovely and in each building you will find something that is interesting, educational or delicious.
These buildings house most of the bigger museums of SD as well as many of the lesser offerings, they are home to many associations some private, many open to the public and in these buildings you will find something to eat, from a snack to a gourmet meal.
Now did I mention that in Balboa Park you will also find the World Famous San Diego Zoo? Yes, that too is here.
Especially on weekends there are special events put on by local societies here, such as the House of Pacific Relations, a group of cottages built for the 1935 Exposition to house as many as 32 social/culture groups of other countries, open Sundays and periodic events such as, one of my favorites, an Orchid Show, the best place to find rare and beautiful orchids.
Check Balboa Park's website before you arrive to see if there are any special events going on during your stay that might interest you.
There are more photos and specific information in my Views of Balboa Park travelogue.
If you are very interested in history of San Diego don't miss SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM.
Tuesday-Sunday, 10 to 4:30
Adults: $5, Ages 6-17: $2
Group rate $4/person for 10 or more
Members get unlimited free admission
Need more? Visit SDHS RESEARCH ARCHIVES
Thu-Sat: 10am to 4pm; Closed all of August
$5 fee; $2 students with ID
Members get unlimited free admission
This group of small cottages, each home to a different nation, holds open house to the public Sunday afternoons from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Hmm... opening hours were real tourist trap for me. I was there on Sunday but at 4.30 p.m. - what a pity. All was closed except the French house - there was a banquet inside, one guy invited us to enter but we... didn't go inside.
House of Argentina
House of Austria
House of China
House of Colombia
House of Czech and Slovak Republics
House of Denmark
House of England
House of Finland
House of France
House of Germany
House of Hungary
House of Iran
House of Ireland
House of Israel
House of Italy
House of Lithuania
House of Norway
House of Panama
House of Philippine Islands
House of Poland
House of Puerto Rico
House of Scotland
House of Spain
House of Sweden
House of Ukraine
House of United States of America
HPR Queens Organization
Balboa Park is a cultural park in San Diego, California. Beside of open space areas it also contains museums, shops, restaurants, gardens and of course the world famous San Diego Zoo. Go to the park visitor centre before start your tour there. The park is free and for certain museum it is free on Tuesday. It open daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
While traveling along Highway 163 to the San Diego Zoo, you will pass right under this bridge. I commented to my sister that this bridge looks very old tried to click a picture of it, but the traffic was moving fast. I was able to take a picture of it from the zoo skyline tram and while exploring Balboa Park as we crossed it a couple of times. Lots of people walking, bicycling, driving, and jogging across it, so please drive slowly!
This is an historic 1,500-foot-long bridge with 56-foot-wide archways started out as a pedestrian pathway for the 1914 Exposition. Then Franklin Roosevelt, assistant secretary of the Navy and Mayor Charles F. O'Neill, made an inaugural auto crossing of the bridge. It remained closed to traffic during the Exposition, but gradually traffic increased once the expostion closed. It went through a $3.5 million rehabilitation which was really needed.
This lovely ornate theatre caught my eye when exploring Balboa Park. I had no idea it has an actual 1914 pipe organ that contains 4,530 pipes. It is secured by a medal door. After researching it was John D. and Adolph Spreckels dream to donated this lovely organ to the city he loved. It is considered one of the world's largest outdoor pipe organs. It found a home here during the 1914 for the Panama-California Exposition.
On Sundays they perform free weekly performances sine 1917.
Concerts, Sun. 2:00–3:00 p.m.; mid-June–Aug.
International Summer Organ Festival Mon. 7:30 p.m.
This living piece of history was planted in 1915 and considered one of Balboa Park landmarks. It's over 70 feet tall, with a canopy spread of 125 feet and a trunk diameter of 13 feet. It is located across from the San Diego Natural History Museum. It has a fence all around it to keep folks from disturbing it to keep it healthy.
This lovely ornate Spanish Colonial building is located in Balboa Park. Casa del Prado was built for the 1913-15 California-Panama Exposition. It has served for 60 years as the San Diego Junior Theater and the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet and seats 600.
lots of museums (my favorite timken and natural history), great place to take photos, beautiful gardens, several places to eat (prado restaurant has great margaritas), various trails, occasional festivals and cultural events, awesome pottery shops, and well... there's also the world famous SD Zoo.
Across the Parking lot from the Alcazar Garden, Palm Canyon in Balboa Park will take you across a wooden footbridge, down some stairs to a wide winding path through lush palm trees. Some of the Palm trees date back to 1912. Palm Canyon has more than 450 palms and is home to many squirrels. We enjoyed watching them play and eat. You can hear them knawing on their food, this is how quiet it is in Palm Canyon. While you walk through Palm Canyon you can often hear the organ from the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.