Balboa Park is a must-see when visiting San Diego; this 1,200-acre historic urban cultural park is full of day and night activities for everyone. This oasis in the heart of the city has been a vibrant part of San Diego culture for a hundred years, with 17 world-class museums onsite, beautiful gardens and a fantastic zoo.
Just one day here is never enough time! Here are the key things you need to know before visiting.
Visiting Balboa Park: Things You Need To Know
1. What’s so special about Balboa Park?
Balboa Park is not just any regular park: in addition to all its natural beauty and gardens, it has museums, theaters, and the San Diego Zoo. The park was given its name in honour of Spanish-born Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, who was the first European to spot the Pacific Ocean while on exploration in Panama.
What to explore at Balboa Park? The Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden alone has more than 130 varieties of roses. Museums are a popular draw here; local favourites include the Museum of Man, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Natural History Museum, Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum. There’s plenty of culture too: The Old Globe Theatre hosts its famed Shakespeare Festival each summer; live bands and outdoor film screenings abound.
The park has many beautiful areas for a picnic, too. If you forgot to pack a picnic, not to worry, the park offers a range of dining from fine dining, afternoon tea to casual and craft beer. There’s something for everyone!
2. How do I get there?
Located close to Downtown and San Diego International Airport, the park is easily accessible by foot, public transportation and driving.
Route 120 (Fashion Valley), Route 7 (City College) and Rapid 215 are the main bus routes to get to Balboa Park.
3. How much will it cost?
Admittance to the park grounds is free. Once inside the Park you explore the lush gardens and trails, The Botanical Building and Timken Art Museum are always free.
If you are a resident (or active duty military), on the third Tuesday of every month you can get free admission to the San Diego Museum of Man.
4. How long will it take?
Balboa Park has over a dozen museums, several gardens, and the zoo. You might find it difficult to fit everything into one day. It’s so easy to spend a full day here.
5. When is the best time to go?
If you want to avoid large crowds, anytime between March and May or September and November.
6. Where will I get the best photos?
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- Alcazar Garden
- Old Cactus Garden
- Bea Evenson Fountain
- Cabrillo Bridge
7. Any insider tips?
- There are free concerts and movies all summer- check online before you go!
- Plan your visit, most museums close at 5pm, make sure you give yourself enough time.
- Visit Spreckel’s Organ Pavilion, every Sunday there’s a free concert