Balboa Park San Diego is one of the top attraction in San Diego. There is no entrance fees for the park which is good thing! About 15 museums, few theatres, gardens & a Zoo all located in the Balboa Park. The architecture of the buildings in Balboa Park are mostly Spanish influence architecture! These buildings were built originally for the Panama–California Exposition in 1915 so expect to enjoy the old antique architecture. Now these buildings are used as Museum.
We have managed to explore 12 attractions and you should also plan before visiting Balboa Park.
In LA there is Griffith Park and here at San Diego, you have Balboa Park! The park is the largest urban park in North America.
Balboa Park is named after a famous Spanish explorer, Vasco Núñez de Balboa who was the first European to lead an expedition to reach the Pacific from the New World. Before that, it is called as “City Park”, pretty boring right? I prefer the new name!
1. Spanish Village Art Center
The Spanish Village is located near the San Diego Zoo, used as an art destination by a group of dedicated artist. Once you enter the Spanish Village, you will notice the village has vibrant colors, especially at the courtyard which has the rainbow color concrete tiles plus flower & cacti.
The buildings in Spanish Village were built back in 1935 to depict a quaint little Spanish Village.
What caught my attention in this village is still the rainbow color concrete tiles at the courtyard.
Street Entertainment in Spanish Village.
About 37 Art Studios in Spanish Village! This is also a place to get some souvenirs.
Some of the artists here now are descendants of the original artists who founded the village. You can walk freely into these studio and look at their art piece, from painting to ceramic or glass and many more.
The entrance is free for Spanish Village Art Center so go in to have some Spanish vibe while you are at Balboa Park.
2. Balboa Park Railroad
There is a miniature train run just a small portion of Balboa Park.
The duration is about 3 minutes and this miniature is a rare antique which is still able to function!
3. Casa del Prado
You can smell the Spanish atmosphere here at Balboa Park, Spanish children ready to pose for their parent to shoot pictures.
4. Botanical Building, Lily Pond & Fountain
The view in Botanical Building is the most stunning of all, I think it is the best spot for photograph. The building architecture is very unique which was built on 1915 for the Expo. Inside the Botanical Building there are display of different type of plants so if you are interested in plant, you may want enter the Botanical Building and have a look.
The pond here make a great landscape, you can see some reflection from the buildings and also some ducks or birds swimming in the big pond.
A huge fountain situated near the pond and the Botanical building.
Park Entertainer everywhere in Balboa Park.
Children running for bubbles in the park.
Bigger bubbles, run for it! Baby in purple.
5.San Diego Museum of Art
This museum display more of Spanish art.
6. The Old Globe Theatre
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” musical production was shown when I was there, during the December Nights festival in Old Globe Theatre.
The “Grinch” Xmas Tree greets visitors to the Old Globe Theatre.
7. San Diego Museum of Man
Museum of Man has one of the nicest architecture in Balboa Park which include a dome & a tower.
8. House of Charm – Mingei International Museum
The word ‘mingei’ in Japanese meaning ‘art of the people’, the Mingei Museum exhibits for art, craft and design.
9. Balboa Park Open Air Theatre
Concert held here are free throughout the year. If you are coming at the right timing, you may be able to catch some free concert at this open air theatre.
10. Japanese Friendship Garden
11. El Cid Statue
The statue of El Cid of a medieval hero of the eleventh century, located at the entrance to the Plaza de Panama. The statue is quite striking.
12. Moreton Bay Fig Tree – 100 years old
Go spot this giant tree called Mereton Bay Fig Tree, is the largest of Ficus plant in Balboa Park. It was planted as a small tree in a garden back in 1915 for the Panama-California Expo and now became a giant after more than 100 years. When I passed by this tree, I felt it was unusual & huge so took a picture of it then only realized it was not an ordinarily plants in Balboa Park. This tree has some history!
Where to eat in Balboa Park?
There are few restaurant in Balboa Park but we choose to have a quick bite at The Village Grill. We ordered a burger & tender chicken & “fries”.
Chips or Fries?
When I made my order at the counter, I told the lady “and chips” please and she show me 4 type of packets of Lays Chips in different flavor. Then only I realize I should tell her “fries”. Well in Australia & UK, they called it chips or hot chips – the fried potatoes. I was shocked and laugh when they give me the packet of Lays chips. 🙂 She happily changed the “fries” for me, seem like a lot of tourists made the same mistake like me.
Balboa Park is so huge that you could spend days to explore. You can imagine that as it consist of 15 museums, several theatre, garden, restaurants and San Diego Zoo. You can choose one museum to visit and the rest you can just walk around the courtyard and take picture. There is a fee to enter to most of the museum. Even you don’t enter the museum, there are still plenty to explore around the courtyard of these beautiful buildings which were built for Panama-California Expo in 1915. This is a park where nature meet culture!
Other attractions in San Diego California :