San Diego, CA, USA
Photo by Amanda Friedman, AFAR Media
Balboa ParkThere’s so much to see and do in San Diego’s Balboa Park—a sprawling 1,200-acre public space—that it’s worth taking advantage of a new service: a private tour, care of the Balboa Park Conservancy. Led by park staff (or particularly devoted volunteers), the tour offers historical, architectural, and botanical context. You’ll see such icons as the Casa del Prado and Casa de Balboa—both Spanish renaissance revival buildings that date to the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, when the flamboyant architectural style was just coming into favor stateside. The walk lasts an hour, and really serves to give travelers a broad overview of the myriad institutions you’ll find here, including the Natural History Museum, whose permanent Skulls exhibit is endlessly fascinating (the curators were, by their own admission, going for weird and wild); the Museum of Man, where you should book a tour of the tower that was closed for 80 years; and the Botanical Building, home to thousands of cycads, ferns, and orchids. Pro tip: Don’t miss the Sunday performance by San Diego’s civic organist, a tradition first born in 1917 thanks to the arrival of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ in Balboa Park.