With its world-class museums, manicured gardens, and world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park tops the list of sights in downtown San Diego. Its 1,200 acres (485 hectares) makes it the largest urban park in the United States. Apart from its many attractions, Balboa Park also features lengthy hiking trails, distinctive landscaping, Golden Age Spanish buildings, and the world’s largest organ.
Balboa Park is divided up into three sections. The central part of the park has the most attractions. The main attraction here is San Diego Zoo, which has more than 3,000 animals, typically in enclosures that replicate their natural habitat. At the Museum of Man, part of the California Quadrangle and its distinctive arch, you can see Native American artifacts. Nearby, the San Diego Museum houses a number of works from European masters from the Renaissance to the modernists. Also here is the Timken Museum of Art, the Botanical Building, the Natural History Museum, Alcazar Gardens, the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages and the Spanish Village Art Center.
The east end of the park for the most part contains the Balboa Park Municipal Golf Course. On the western edge of the park is the Starlight Bowl amphitheater of the 1930s, the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, Spreckels Organ Pavilion and a large, grassy area, which is perfect for strolling, picnics, and sunning.
Balboa Park is in downtown San Diego, and is easily reached by bus. By car, Park Boulevard provides easy access to free parking areas near most of the exhibits. The most scenic approach, however, is over the Cabrillo Bridge from the west: the steep roadsides, lush with hanging greenery, resemble a rainforest gorge.
To visit all the museum and attractions in Balboa Park would take days, so plan carefully. Pick up a park map at the Balboa Park Visitors Center, in the House of Hospitality. The free Balboa Park Tram stops at various points on a continuous loop through main areas of the park. However, it’s equally enjoyable to take a leisurely walk around the park.
Tours & Tickets
Explore San Diego, Coronado and Tijuana on this combo sightseeing tour. Aboard a comfortable coach, see places like Old Town, Balboa Park, the Gaslamp Quarter ... Read more
San Diego, California
Duration: 9 hours 30 minutes (approx.)
Explore beautiful San Diego and Coronado on this narrated sightseeing tour. Aboard a comfortable coach, explore sites like Old Town, Balboa Park, the Gaslamp ... Read more
San Diego, California