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Oxford, United Kingdom
August 30, 2012
From journal Exploring Balboa Park
September 2, 2005
First of all, the park has all the usual attractions that any city park has--children's playgrounds, sports fields, places to picnic, spacious green lawns for Frisbee, and trails for hiking and biking. Then there are a few more unusual activities: a dog park, lawn bowling, golf courses, a kiddie train and carousel, a puppet theater, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, and a rose garden. Last, we get to the category of "completely-one-of-a-kind" items, the biggest of these being Museum Row. There are more museums than anyone could tour in DAYS! But, even just touring the outside of the buildings is a day-trip in itself. They're such lovely buildings, I just wanted to linger, stare, and take photos of them. These Spanish Colonial-style buildings were built originally for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, but they've been painstakingly cared for throughout the years, so that they're still as beautiful now as when the fair first opened! Or, more so because of the beautiful, mature landscaping that adorns each of them.
There are 10 museums alone that deal with various arts and cultures, plus three science museums (Aerospace, Natural History, and Reuben Fleet Science Center). Plus, there are museums covering anthropology, model railroading, sports, cars, San Diego history, international relations, and veteran's affairs. There are four theaters, including the gorgeous Casa del Prado and the Old Globe, a reproduction of the famous English original. Completing the picture are grand fountains, a Japanese garden, and a large pipe organ that gives free concerts every Sunday afternoon. At this point, I'm totally stumped as to what I'll try to see next whenever I return to Balboa Park! There are just too many possibilities!
From journal San Diego's budget-friendly activities
April 18, 2005
Balboa Park is a city onto itself. You can explore here for a week and still not feel like you have scratched the surface. The park is a massive 1,200 acres and has 15 museums!
The park was the sight of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, a sort of World's Fair to celebrate the completion of The Panama Canal. The fair was build around a number of Spanish Colonial Revival Buildings. The interesting fact is none of these buildings were ever meant to be permanent. They were built out of a sort of hybrid papier-mâché and plaster. They need constant attention, but almost 100 years later, they are still standing! You will often notice scaffolding in front of many of the buildings here to mend and repair them.
Exploring the park is an adventure and takes a little planning, especially if you are on a time frame. My suggestion is to start in the Park's Information Office on the Prado. You can talk to informed hosts and pick up a multitude of brochures. They will also inform you of any special events happening in the park that day.
Of course, you can't miss the zoo. I have written about it in a separate review, but many will agree that this is the best zoo in the world. But my favorite corner NOT to miss is the House of Pacific Relations and the International Cottages. This is a UN project to promote world cultures and understanding. Each country has a small cottage where volunteers and natives give an overview of their unique culture and heritage. Because it's all volunteers, some of the cottages are not open during the week. But on Sundays the village rocks! You can often catch costumed performers in the courtyard or try unique and tasty food from that country. I never miss stopping by the Denmark cottage for their tasty danish! Also try to make it on a feast or celebration day. An example is St Patrick's Day, when you can't miss The Irish Cottage, where dancers are doing jigs and you are offered a taste of corned beef and cabbage!
These suggestions just scratch the surface. Each time I visit the park I see something new and have a new adventure. Of course, the park is free (the zoo has an admission fee) and is one of the best free things to do in Southern California. The park changes all the time, but no visitor to San Diego should miss a few minutes here!
From journal Exploring San Diego
June 18, 2008
From journal Jen and I in San Diego
May 17, 2007
From journal San Diego Adventures
April 1, 2007
This is a huge pipe organ built into an outdoor pavilion and it's said to be the largest in the world. There are free concerts held here every Sunday at 2pm.They give a brief history of the organ and the concerts before the music starts. The concert lasts about one hour and is mostly classical music and familiar patriotic music – America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner. The setting is beautiful. Water is directly behind the pavilion and you can see people enjoying water sports as you enjoy the music. There are lots of metal benches. The day we visited, there were plenty of empty seats available. Food carts are located at the entrance for snacks during the concert.
After the concert, you can go backstage to tour the inner workings of the organ. They also had photos displayed along the wall that showed the construction phase of the pavilion as well as some significant historical events. They also had a small gift shop. Arrive early to find parking since many people enjoy Balboa Park on Sundays. We found a big parking lot off of Presidents Way. We had a great time. If you enjoy music, this is a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
From journal Week in Carlsbad California
Orange County, California
July 3, 2001
Yes, its a beautiful green, foresty park and within it are all these different museums. The area reflects the remnants of the World's Fair held here at the beginning of the century.
Instead of tearing down the ornate, deco buildings, after the Fair ended, the City just kept them in place. Now, and this is the only way I can explain it, the area looks like a huge cemetary with rolling green hills and patches of large, old trees with a small thin road meandering through it. And, along the road, every now and then, there appears a large, square art deco type building (yes, one could say a huge masoleum), each with a nice parking area around the front.
Each building is a different type of museum, Natural History, this, that, etc. There are several and each seems to be more popular than the last, given the cars out front. A drive through the Park is lots of fun even if you don't stop in at any of the museums. (How could you choose?)
When we were there on a Saturday, early evening, several of the museums seemed to be hosting parties. There were many there in tuxs and evening gowns, eagerly getting out of their cars, moving quickly, smiling, headed up stone stairs, between columns, to a building's entrance. And in such a rural, natural setting.
What a glorious way to spend a warm summer's evening.
From journal Antiques Roadshow, etc. in San Diego
Victoria, British Columbia
February 26, 2001
The park is charming, with it's bright flowers and about 350 species of
different trees. The parks most well known tree is over 60 feet tall!
We enjoyed just strolling the pathways though the mainicured grounds.
The gardens vary from a sunken garden, known as the Zoro Garden, the Japanese
Friendship Garden to the Palm Canyon with its 70 different species of
You will find many resturants and cafes scattered around the park. They
range from sit down dinner type resturants to a quick coffee cafes.
Museums include the Hall of Champions that has exhibits on over 40
There is a free tram service that runs through the park. If you get on
board, grab a copy of the free map which also has coupons for some of
the museums located in the park. The tram runs about every 10 minutes
from the Tram Station or from any of the pick up points.
Admission to the park is free on Tuesdays.
From journal Sunny San Deigo & Ocean Beach
New Orleans, Louisiana
July 26, 2000
From journal Sunny, Beautiful San Diego
March 16, 2005
From journal San Diego in October for a Conference