Balboa Park

Balboa Park, San Diego, CA, USA

A 1,200-acre green space filled with museums, theaters, and gardens, Balboa Park is the center of art and culture in San Diego. It’s also one of the city’s most historic sites, built for the Panama–California exhibition in 1915. While the museums are definitely worth seeing, there are also a number of free attractions, including the photogenic Botanical Building, which houses more than 2,100 plants (including Venus flytraps); the Desert Garden, filled with succulents from around the world; and a sculpture court with works by Miró and Rodin. For one of the area’s best views, purchase a timed ticket to climb the California Tower in the Museum of Man. The ornate structure reopened to the public in 2015 after being closed for nearly 80 years and features a spiral staircase to the eighth floor, where you can catch a glimpse of the Cuyamaca Mountains, the Cabrillo Bridge, and even Mexico’s Coronado Islands.

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Balboa Park, San Diego

Balboa park is a landscape of arts and culture in San Diego, including museums, such as The Natural History Museum, and the Museum of Photographic Arts. The photo above is of the large koi pond outside the botanical garden house. It makes for a nice, leisurely stroll.

World-Famous Balboa Park

What fascinates me the most about Balboa Park is that it was built as a series of temporary structures during the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. And they are still standing today. The structures have been slowly replaced with more permanent concrete additions. Regardless, the whole park was supposed to be temporary! Inside the park are 17 museums, 19 gardens, the Old Globe Theatre (a working theater that is a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London) and much more. There are two restaurants, my favorite being the Del Prado, and there’s an arboretum, which is where this image was taken. Many festivals are held here, a popular one is December Nights, which is usually held in the second weekend of December and is a huge event, attracting thousand of San Diegans & tourists. The Earth Day festival is also held here. Don’t miss the Spanish Arts Village, a cool little village where you can watch artisans create their art in their shops, and purchase, if you like. I like to watch the glass blowers, and many of them offer classes if you’re in town long enough to try them out! There’s way too much here to describe here; you’ll just have to check out the park for yourself when you come to San Diego. We come here often to hone our photography skills, bird watch, and walk around looking at the interesting architecture.

Miles of Hiking

There are around 65 miles of trails in and around Balboa Park (check the park’s website for maps of each trail). Some trails wrap around buildings and museums, while others go through canyons. A great way to see a Balboa Park is to hike the trails and experience the variety of scenery found there.

Balboa Park Carousel

The Carousel in Balboa Park was built in 1910 and two of the creatures on the carousel are the original hand-carved animals. The picture panels and the music are the original parts of the carousel. You will find a lion, zebras, horses, dogs, eagle, a funky sea-horse dragon, and cats to choose for your merry-go-round ride. This is not only a great ride for kids, but this carousel is also a beautiful piece of history.

Check out the Art Mart

On the second and fourth Saturday and Sunday of each month, a collection of local artists sets up booths in Balboa Park to sell their work. The San Diego County Art Mart Association or SDCAMA is an art club organized under the nonprofit group Arts and Crafts Council of San Diego City and County. This group supports and encourages local artists by enabling them to have places to display and sell their craft. If you’re in Balboa Park during these times, just head north of the organ pavilion and you’ll see the artists’ booths. You’ll find photography, paintings on various mediums such as real feathers, plus gemstones, jewelry, airplanes made from soda cans, and more.

December Nights festival

December Nights in Balboa Park is one of the largest festivals in San Diego. During the first weekend of this winter month, over 350,000 people will attend this festival. It’s about all things Christmas! Lights, holiday shopping, drinks, games, rides and food at the International Houses are all part of the festivities. My favorite is all the variety of foods from the different houses of culture- even some great cider and hot chocolate can be found here! We enjoy this festival especially if we don’t have all our Christmas shopping completed because the artists at the Spanish Village are usually selling their crafts at holiday prices. We may not get winter weather here, but we make up for it in celebrating the holidays through fun activities! Tip: This event is extremely crowded. If possible, take a free shuttle, cab or expect to park a distance away and walk to the event.

Hometown: San Diego

Eat: Cafe Chloe Parisian style cafe in the East Village of Downtown San Diego. Excellent food! Stay: La Valencia Hotel I’ve actually never stayed there since I live in San Diego but this is where I’d like to stay if I were visiting. It’s an upscale yet casual 1920’s California hotel with amazing ocean views. Walking distance to great restaurants and the wonderful La Jolla Cove (underwater preserve). Shop: Farmer’s Markets: Little Italy (Saturday), Hillcrest and La Jolla (Sunday) The freshest local produce is found here as well as unique artisanal foods and local arts and crafts. Drink: Noble Experiment Hidden speakeasy with prohibition style mixed drinks (no wine, beer or vodka) that requires reservations at least a week in advance. No phone number or website. Text message only. Get the number from someone in the know. Interesting wall of golden skulls and ceiling art. Do: Black’s Beach The largest clothing optional beach in the world. Though it is within the city limits it is wonderfully remote and fairly empty in the low season. Access is limited and difficult due to high cliffs. Trails are steep and dusty but worth the effort. The gay section is to the north (goat trail), straight section in the middle (glider port trail) and surfers to the south (fire road), where one of the best surf spots in southern California is located. Nudity is tolerated only in the north and middle sections. Do: Balboa Park One of the greatest urban parks in the US.

The California Tower

The California Tower is one of the restored buildings that was part of The Panama-California Exposition:1915–1916‎: It’s a museum now, but is also just a beautiful part of Balboa Park.

Photo safari around Balboa Park this afternoon

Just another pic of the beautiful buildings around Balboa Park!

Creative mosaics!

A couple of creative mosaic “creatures” sneak around in Balboa Park! But don’t worry: they’re friendly and climbable even for little ones (with a parent nearby of course).

The Band Stand in Balboa Park

Behind the screen in that central structure is one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs! Local and international organists come to play on the weekends - and sometimes they feature sing-alongs, which are always crowd-pleasing and fun.

Enjoying a long weekend with my cherished dogs!!

Spending time in San Diego is always a relaxing beautiful experience. Great parks, beaches and restaurants, beautiful flowers and trees, and great weather year round, makes for a great getaway for a few days or longer!!

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