Activities & Resources
Balboa Park451in San Diego, CA 92101
about Balboa Park:
Balboa Park offers a multitude of activities for families, in addition to its 15 museums. Make your first stop the Visitors Center; staff can provide information about the day's events and can tailor an itinerary for your family.
You can reach for the brass ring on an antique carousel located next to the entrance of the San Diego Zoo, then ride a mini-train through a grove of eucalyptus and pepper trees. Or cross a wooden footbridge and explore the rain forest-like Palm Canyon, the entrance of which is just opposite the Organ Pavilion.
A visit to the Balboa Park Puppet Theater transports kids through time to their favorite fairy tales and adventures.
On Sundays, visitors can enjoy a free concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion then amble over to the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages for a cultural fair with food and music.
Balboa Park is also home to two golf courses, and the nine-hole three-par is perfect for beginners.
Picnic spots: Some of our favorites include the lawn in front of the Botanical Building, which overlooks a sweeping rectangular Lily Pond. Or the lawn near the tranquil Alcazar Gardens, where you can enjoy a bag lunch on stone benches while listening to the trickling of ancient tiled Spanish fountains. You can also spread a blanket under the huge shady oak tree opposite the Spanish Village, or on the lawns near the Aerospace Museum.
Tours: A Balboa Park Ranger will meet you in front of the Visitor's Center at 1pm each Sunday and Tuesday to lead one-hour interpretive walks through the Park. This may be okay for children in strollers or those age eight and older, but it may be too much walking and information for those in between.
Audio tours are also available from the Visitors Center for a nominal fee (adults $5, seniors and military $4, and children $3).
Parties: You'll find two large open green spaces with playgrounds and picnic tables at opposite ends of the park. Either of these make for great picnic or party locations. One is Balboa Park West located between 6th Ave and Balboa Drive at the end of Quince Avenue; the other is Pepper Grove Park, off Park Drive near the Centro Cultural de la Raza.
Getting around: A free tram operated by the City Parks and Recreation Department runs from the easternmost parking lot at the intersection of Park Drive and President's Way through the Pan American Plaza area, to all the museums on El Prado, and across the Cabrillo Bridge to Balboa Park West. We recommend it highly, especially on Free Tuesdays.
Passport to Balboa Park: A Passport provides admission to 14 museums/attractions during a one-week period, and is the most cost-effective way to see a majority of the remarkable museums. Packages range in price from $45-$77 for adults and $24-$33 for children; the price varies depending on if the Zoo is included or not. Passports can be purchased at the Visitor's Information Center located in the center of park at the House of Hospitality.
Residents' Free Tuesday: Each Tuesday, the Park offers free admission to alternating museums for San Diego City and County residents and active military and their families. Some museums may offer complimentary admission to their permanent collections only and charge admission to special exhibitions or films.
The monthly Free Tuesday schedule is as follows:
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
San Diego Natural History Museum
Centro Cultural de la Raza
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
Museum of Photographic Arts
Veterans' Museum and Memorial Center
Museum of San Diego History
San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Man
Japanese Friendship Garden
San Diego Art Institute
Mingei International Museum
San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum
San Diego Air & Space Museum
San Diego Automotive Museum
House of Pacific Relations International Cottages
Fifth Tuesdays: Normal museum prices in effect.