Balboa Park, San Diego

4.5 out of 5 stars 124 Reviews

1549 El Prado (619) 239-0512
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  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo

    The Balboa junior Theatre

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Jul 14, 2016

    3 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This theatre has the look of a cathedral from the outside. It houses local productions from and for local youth in this historic theatre across from the natural History museum in the north side of the park.

    Directions: North East of Downtown

    Website: http://www.juniortheatre.com/

    Junior Theatre
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    • Arts and Culture

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    Balboa Park Visitor's Center

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Jul 14, 2016

    3 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This building, known as the house of hospitality includes the visitor's center, restrooms and a café. the restaurant, the café el Prado is one of San Diego's best places to eat. The visitor's center also has a gift shop.

    Directions: North East of Downtown

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org

    Balboa Park Visitor's center

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    Weekends at Balboa Park

    by lmkluque Written Mar 28, 2016

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Every weekend there are extra events going on at Balboa Park. Of course while walking around the park, the botanical displays are seen, and there are street performers with tip cups out as well as palm readers, face painters and craft sellers all hoping to attract your attention long enough to make a sale.

    Also there are clubs, associations and hobbyists who hold meeting or gatherings once a month or several times a year. These are generally open to the public and free of charge. These gatherings are usually announced in the local papers as well as on the Balboa Park website calendar. All sorts of Hobby clubs will have some sort of display going on at the weekends.

    Usually there is no admittance fee and often times there are items to purchase. Two of my favorites are the Turtle Shows and the Orchid Shows. Almost any "hobby" will be represented during the year so it might be worth your while to check out what will be going on the weekend you're in San Diego.
    My kids & grandkids especially loved the turtle shows. So many different kinds are represented and many can be held for a closer look. There usually are some for sale too. The only problem with buying a turtle is the they can live a hundred years.

    I enjoy the orchid shows and usually buy a few that I like but I have no green thumb with these beautiful plants so never would try to win a prize. An added bonus to these shows is that the participants are happy to answer your questions and freely give advice.

    Address: 1540-1778 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

    Directions: North East of Downtown Off Fifth Ave. & Laurel St.

    Phone: (619) 239-0512

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org

    Orchid Show A winner Most Unusual My Orchid
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    "...that fabric of a dream" B. Goodhue

    by goodfish Updated Mar 10, 2014

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    The area known as El Prado is one of the most visually interesting parts of the park as some of the architecture - both original and reconstructed - was designed for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition: a sort of World Fair celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. The “dream city" of architects Bertram G. Goodhue and Carleton M. Winslow, the structures feature a bizarrely harmonious mix of Spanish, Moorish, Mexican and Mediterranean influences later christened Spanish Colonial Revival. Some of them - like the tile-domed California Building - were meant to be permanent but others intended strictly for temporary purposes were slapped together from inexpensive wood and plaster with cardboard ornamentation.

    When the fair was over and these "illusions" were slated for demolition, San Diegans kicked up a fuss and so they were either renovated or completely rebuilt, just as they looked, of more durable materials. Others were remodeled for the 1935-36 California-Pacific International Exposition.

    Today these relics of a bygone age house the Visitor Center, museums, arts organizations, offices and a restaurant, and you’ll find most of them along El Prado street and pedestrian sidewalk in roughly the center of the park. Historical tours - both self-guided and escorted - are available:

    http://www.balboapark.org/visit/tours

    Even if you’re not into museums, this is a great spot for photographers (go on a sunny, cloudless day if possible) and architecture buffs.

    Address: 1549 El Prado

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org/info/history

    Casa El Prado House of Hospitality California Building San Diego Museum of Art Campanario, House of Charm
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    Balboa Park - museums - Cabrillo Bridge

    by Pawtuxet Updated Jan 25, 2014

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Balboa Park was first established in 1868 as a 1,400 acre City Park. It was named after the Spanish explorer, Balboa in 1910. The Cabrillo Bridge was built as part of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. It was the first multiple arched, cantilever type bridge built in California...costing $214,000. Then Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first person to drive across it.
    The bridge leads you to a series of buildings left from the exposition which now house a Museum of Man, Museum of Art, restaurants, and more. There is also a Shakespeare Theater as well as another musical theater clustered around arched walkways, beautiful landscaping, fountains and a beautiful plaza.

    Address: 6th. Street exit to Cabrillo Bridge

    Directions: signage along 6th Street will lead you to the museums and various features of the park

    Visitors Center - museum complex & plaza Cabrillo Bridge Arched walkway between museums Museum of Man Fountains and water always attract....
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    Stop and smell the roses

    by goodfish Updated Jan 23, 2014

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    I think our noses found this one before our feet did.

    Our visit to the city happily coincided with peak season (April/May) for all sorts of spring flowers, and Balboa Park’s Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden was in riotous, full-out bloom. Established in the 1970’s, it has grown from 1200 original plantings to 2,500 of 200 varieties, large and small, in all the colors of the rainbow. It takes a volunteer staff of 45 gardeners to keep them fed, watered and pruned to perfection, and the three acres of beautifully tended beds provide a lovely - and very popular - backdrop for weddings and engagement photos.

    Even if your horticultural thumb is closer, like mine, to black than green, this is a pleasant wander, I read, from March - December. Paths are paved and level - nice for baby strollers and visitors with mobility challenges - and wind around a fountain and shady, blossom-covered arbor.

    Open every day, and entrance is free. Closest parking lot (also free) is at the Natural History Museum on the other side of the pedestrian bridge which crosses Park Blvd. to access the garden. See a park map here:

    http://www.balboapark.org/sites/default/files/balboa_park_map.pdf

    Address: 2525 Park Boulevard, San Diego

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-park/inez-grant-parker-memorial-rose-garden

    Related to:
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    Timken Museum of Art

    by goodfish Written Jan 17, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    We ran out of time to do the San Diego Museum of Art (next trip!) but had just enough for a peek at this little gem. It’s an intimate, interesting collection of European and American artists of both names you may recognize and others which may be new to you - as they were to me. Among the former are a Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyke, Hals, Bruegel, Corot, David, Murillo, Bierstadt, Copley and West. Of the latter, I was taken by 19th-century Eastman Johnson of cranberry pickers on the island of Nantucket, and a 14th-century Buonaccorso altarpiece.

    Besides being blissfully uncrowded, a wander here is free, and they have docent tours - also free - in English, Spanish and German. Audio guides are available for rent in the gift shop. Children, service animals and donations are welcome but cameras and cell phones are not so please stow those during your visit, OK?

    See the website for hours, lectures, tour schedules and special exhibitions:

    http://www.timkenmuseum.org

    Address: 1500 El Prado, San Diego, CA

    Directions: Between Casa del Prado and the Botanical Building

    Phone: 619 - 239 - 5548

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-park/timken-museum-art

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    Prickly things: Desert Garden

    by goodfish Written Jan 15, 2014

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    The location of this botanical collection, right next to the Rose Garden, is an interesting juxtaposition of dignified beds of lush color/greenery and wild, dusty acres of spiky specimens. If you happen to be at the park during the months of January- March, you’ll find the cacti and succulents in bloom but the only bright spots otherwise are from some plantings of flowers here and there. You’re allowed to leave the paved sidewalks and wander around “forests” of larger plants, and the variety of shapes and sizes - from chubby barrel cactus to tangled Candelabra tree - are fascinating.

    Open every day, and entrance is free. Closest parking lot (also free) is at the Natural History Museum on the other side of the pedestrian bridge which crosses Park Blvd. to access the garden. Paved paths are wheelchair and stroller friendly See a Balboa park map here….

    http://www.balboapark.org/sites/default/files/balboa_park_map.pdf

    …and a map of the garden here:

    http://www.balboapark.org/sites/default/files/desert_garden_map.pdf

    Address: 2525 Park Boulevard San Diego

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-park/desert-garden

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  • lmkluque's Profile Photo

    Balboa Park

    by lmkluque Updated Dec 21, 2013

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Update:

    Barriers have been installed to ban cars from the center of the Park making it more of a pedestrian area. Not sure has long this will last as it was the defunct mayor who did this without going through the normal procedure. There still are free parking lots around the park and they still offer free shuttles around the park as well.

    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.

    Address: 1549 El Prado, Balboa Park

    Directions: About three miles east of downtown.

    Phone: (619) 239-0512

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org

    Along the Prado Walk along the Prado Walk way along the Prado Plaza Fountain
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    • Museum Visits
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    Balboa Park - Special Events

    by tampa_shawn Written Nov 10, 2013

    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
    http://www.balboapark.org/decembernights

    Address: 1549 El Prado

    Directions: North East of Downtown

    Phone: (619) 239-0512

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org

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    Sunday's at Balboa Park

    by tampa_shawn Written Nov 10, 2013

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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

    http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-park/house-pacific-relations-international-cottages

    Address: 1549 El Prado

    Directions: North East of Downtown

    Phone: (619) 239-0512

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org

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    So much to do

    by tampa_shawn Written Nov 10, 2013

    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.

    Address: 1549 El Prado

    Directions: North East of Downtown

    Phone: (619) 239-0512

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org

    there are free shuttles to help you get around the bridge that connects the park to the city

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    Nature and culture in the heart of San Diego

    by Jefie Updated Nov 4, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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!

    Address: 1549 El Prado

    Directions: Near Downtown San Diego

    Phone: (619) 239-0512

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org

    Balboa Parl's Botanical Building Casa del Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego In Balboa Park's Desert Garden Balboa Park's Japanese Friendship Garden Bird of paradise flower at Balboa Park
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    • Museum Visits

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  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo

    Balboa park

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Jun 25, 2013

    3 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Address: 1549 El Prado

    Directions: Northeast of Downtown

    Phone: 619.239.0512

    Website: http://www.balboapark.org/

    Balboa Park Balboa park Balboa park Balboa park Balboa park
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    SDHS Museum and Research Archives

    by matcrazy1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    If you are very interested in history of San Diego don't miss SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM.

    HOURS:
    Tuesday-Sunday, 10 to 4:30

    TICKET FARES:
    Adults: $5, Ages 6-17: $2
    Group rate $4/person for 10 or more
    Members get unlimited free admission

    MORE:
    www.sandiegohistory.org/mainpages/locate2.htm

    Need more? Visit SDHS RESEARCH ARCHIVES

    HOURS:
    Thu-Sat: 10am to 4pm; Closed all of August

    TICKET FARES:
    $5 fee; $2 students with ID
    Members get unlimited free admission

    MORE:
    www.sandiegohistory.org/mainpages/locate6.htm

    Address: 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park

    Directions: In Casa de Balboa

    Phone: (619) 232-6203

    CASA  DE  BALBOA - western wing
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