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  • Address: 1549 El Prado
  • Hours: Open 24 hours a day. Visitors Center: 9:30am - 4:30pm. Museum hours vary by institution
  • Admission: Park and Gardens: Free. Admission prices to museums vary by institution

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, 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 a large, grassy area, which is perfect for strolling, picnics, and sunning.

Practical Info

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.

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