Balboa ParkA 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.
Check out the Art Mart
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
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.
Miles of Hiking
Balboa Park Carousel
This is not only a great ride for kids, but this carousel is also a beautiful piece of history.
Balboa Park, San Diego
World-Famous Balboa Park
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.
The largest urban cultural park in the nation began as a parcel of 566 hectares (1,400 acres) of land set aside by civic leaders in 1868. It now houses 15 museums, performing-arts venues, incredible gardens and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. You can spend days visiting all of its attractions, including the United Nations Building, Spanish Village Art Center and Alcazar Garden.
Active, great attraction, busy.
Photo safari this afternoon
The California Tower
Photo safari around Balboa Park this afternoon
slow down a bit and enjoy the flowers!
The Band Stand in Balboa Park
Quinceañera celebration in Balboa Park
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.