Balboa Park – San Diego’s Crown Jewel.

By Posted in - Favorites & U.S.A. on February 18th, 2010

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t’s true, San Diego is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise. From surfing to kayaking to hiking and sailing there is always something to do in the great wide open.

But what is there to do in town if you are a fan of museums & the theater? Perhaps you are a gardener with a love for plants. Does San Diego have anything to offer someone who is more interested in the finer things?

The answer is YES! And the place to visit is Balboa Park.

Of course there are other areas of San Diego with great art studios and gallery openings but if you want world class art in a consolidated space than Balboa Park is your holy grail.

More good news: Planning to visit this February? Stop into any local Macy’s department store and you can get a coupon for half off of all the museums in the park!

A Little Background:

The land was designated in 1868 and now covers 1200 sq. acres smack dab in the middle of San Diego. It’s fantastic! Not many cities have such an amazing green space right in the center of the city. It is easily accessible by car, bike or by foot. Balboa Park has also been home to two world fairs and stands out in a crowd because of the amazing Spanish architecture detailing each building. A stroll through the park can feel like a step back in time. Most of the buildings are from the 1800’s and a visit around 4pm will bring out the most amazing glow in the adobe walls.

One of the many Spanish style buildings in the park.

One of the many Spanish style buildings in the park.

Not only is Balboa Park one of the best parks to visit in California, or possibly even the U.S., but it is dearly loved by all local San Diegans. Home to December Nights (a sparkling holiday event), Haunted Trail (a Halloween event) and free summer concerts at the organ pavillion it is no wonder that it is so fiercely loved by the locals. If there is anything exciting & colorful happening in San Diego chances are it is taking place at Balboa Park.

The park is close to the hearts of so many that if you came to San Diego and did not visit it, you truly would not have really visited San Diego at all.

Map of San Diego. Balboa Park is the large green area in the middle of the city

Map of San Diego. Balboa Park is the large green area in the middle of the city

Things To Do In The Park:

You could spend several days taking in everything that park has to offer. If you’re short on time then the best thing would be to pick the types of things that interest you the most and focus on those.

Balboa Park is home to:

13 Museums

4 Theatres

12 Gardens

1 Dog Park

11 Restaurants

Numerous hiking trails & activity centers

Balboa Tennis Club

Balboa Golf Complex (the city golf course)

The Ruben H. Fleet Science Center

The world famous San Diego Zoo

This is just a small sampling of what is available at the park. On top of that you can wine taste and take part in a class at Balboa Park food & Wine School. I once took  a wine class there that was really fun! Balboa park is also home to the WorldBeat Center, Spanish Village Art Center (where you can shop and buy some amazing pieces of art) and the Spreckles Organ Pavillion which has free concerts every Sunday and is extremely picturesque.

Paintings for sale at the Spanish Art Center.

Paintings for sale at the Spanish Art Center.

Kids watching a performer at the park. The botanical building and reflecting pool is in the background.

Kids watching a performer at the park. The botanical building and reflecting pool is in the background.

Insider Tip: You can bring your own wine to the park! A really great way to unwind is to bring a picnic and settle in near the Japanese Garden and the Spreckles Organ Pavilion. On Sundays (June – Aug) at 2:00 you can listen to the free organ concerts and have a picnic with some sangria or wine. Don’t worry this is no regular organ – it has over 4500 pipes and sounds amazing. Fun!

Most of the local organizations also meet here including the Horticulture & Photographic Societies of San Diego. There are several International cottages that promote goodwill and different events. During December Nights they all open up and serve the most popular dishes, native to the countries, that the cottages represent. The tastings are usually just a couple of dollars. There are numerous fountains and street performers all weekend long throughout the grounds. The museums also host night mixers which typically involve D.J.’s, drinks and people mingling throughout the museum. It’s a really cool way to meet new people. Not many museums host all-adult, nighttime parties among world class artwork! The park is so beautiful that it is one of the most popular spots in San Diego to get married.

Waiting to get married, Mark walks through the Spreckles Organ Pavilion.

Waiting to get married, Mark walks through the Spreckles Organ Pavilion.

You’ll see a lot of groups meeting up here, families strolling about and people exercising in the park. Dogs are also welcome throughout the park.

Balboa Park truly is the IT spot of San Diego.

For more information, there are a lot of San Diego entertainment events that you can plan your next trip to America’s Finest City around.

If you want non stop sightseeing or you just want to relax and take a nap on the grass Balboa Park is a must see on your visit to America’s Finest City.

Chachy taking a stroll throughout one of the buildings in Balboa Park.

Chachy taking a stroll throughout one of the buildings in Balboa Park.

Stay Tuned! We will have a couple upcoming posts that will give some insider tips about visiting the museums and gardens so that you can get the most from your visit and keep yourself on a budget!

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*Please remember all photos on this website are copyrighted and property of BeersandBeans.com, NarikosNest.com & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you want to use one of them please contact me to ask first because I love to share. Thanks!


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(6) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • marta -

    June 4, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Balboa Park n San Diego Zoo were our favourite of the city

  • […] a work out in. For more information on Balboa park including some awesome other free things to do check out a post I wrote a few months back on […]

  • For 91 Days Travel Blog -

    September 12, 2010 at 2:07 am

    I went to San Diego couple of years ago and was pretty disappointed. I should give it an other try especially after reading this post.

    Keep up the good work. Also, ever considered Spain? We recommend Valencia and Oviedo … !!! 😉
    .-= For 91 Days Travel Blog´s last blog ..San Mateo Has Arrived =-.

    • beersandbeans -

      September 12, 2010 at 2:13 am

      Oh that’s too bad. Where did you go and wha time of year? @For 91 Days Travel Blog,

      • For 91 Days Travel Blog -

        September 12, 2010 at 2:18 am

        @beersandbeans,

        (neat comment feature)

        I thought San Diego itself was very dark at night. And hated the gas light district. But maybe it was just my overall mood 🙂
        .-= For 91 Days Travel Blog´s last blog ..San Mateo Has Arrived =-.

        • beersandbeans -

          September 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm

          Yeah, I can’t stand the gas lamp. I mean it is cute but the people and the prices drive me insane! San Diego is dark depending where you are. When I first moved there I noticed that too but then when you live there I guess it seems normal. It really depends what part of the city you are in. There are so many sections and they are so diverse but you really need to be in the one best suited for your personality to get the most out of it. @For 91 Days Travel Blog,