A Quick Walk through Balboa Park, San Diego

With only an afternoon to spend in San Diego, we had to choose what we wanted to see and I really wanted to visit Balboa Park. When I hear “park”, I think gardens. Balboa Park is much more than just gardens. Balboa Park is an urban park with museums, performing arts theatres, gardens, restaurants, an art village and the San Diego Zoo.  “Named for the Spanish maritime explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the park hosted the 1915–16 Panama–California Exposition and 1935–36 California Pacific International Exposition, both of which left architectural landmarks. The park and its historic Exposition buildings were declared a National Historic Landmark and National Historic Landmark District in 1977, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.” – Wikipedia. We only got to visit the grounds of Balboa Park, so I definitely have to go back and check out the exhibits.

Balboa Park Visitors Center, House of Hospitality

To start your visit, make your way to the Visitors Centre at the House of Hospitality. They’ll explain what to see and do in the park. I was immediately impressed with the architecture of the House of Hospitality. If you have more than a day, you can buy a pass to access the numerous buildings and exhibits in the park.



The next couple of photos were the view from the courtyard of the House of Hospitality.



Spreckels Organ Pavilion

The Spreckles Organ Pavilion houses the “second largest outdoor organ in the world with 4,518 pipes comprising 73 ranks” per sandiego.org. They have concerts every Sunday from 2:00 to 3:00 pm and Monday at 7:30 pm in the summer.



We parked behind the organ pavilion so it was actually the first structure that we saw. As you walk towards the Visitors Center, make sure you stop and admire the view of the Japanese Friendship Garden of San Diego or you could buy a ticket and explore the garden more thoroughly.

San Diego Museum of Art

The San Diego Museum of Art is one of the first buildings you’ll notice from the Visitors Centre. The collection includes Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings, and 19th and 20th century American paintings and sculptures. Isn’t that quite the facade?! If you’re planning to visit, their hours of operation is as follows: Sunday: 12:00 to 5:00 PM | Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM | Friday: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM | Wednesday: Closed


As you wander the grounds of Balboa Park, make sure you keep an eye out for the wonderful sculptures such as the two below. The second one is very kid friendly.



Casa del Prado

Casa del Prado is one of the reconstructed buildings from the 1915 Pan American Exposition. It is now home to the San Diego Junior Theater and the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet.



Casa del Prado Theatre

The Casa del Prado Theater, is adjacent to the Casa del Prado. The entrance is decorated in the Spanish Rococo style known as Churrigueresque ornamentation. The Casa del Prado is decorated in the same style.


San Diego History Center | Model Railroad Museum | Museum of Photographic Arts



Botanical Building

The Botanical Building was one of my favourites. It’s so perfectly situated with the lily pond in front. I took quite a few photos of those lilies.





San Diego National History Museum



Spanish Village Art Center

Loved browsing through the Spanish Village Art Center. These are artist studios and galleries. You might even see some artists at work! It’s located just behind the National History Museum.



The Old Globe

Feel like catching a show or maybe a Shakespeare play? Check out the Old Globe theatre. There are three stages to choose from and 15 productions per year.


The California Bell Tower | San Diego Museum of Man

Notice the weather vane on top of the tower in the shape of a ship?


El Cid Sculpture

This El Cid statue faces the San Diego Museum of Art. I didn’t know anything about El Cid. I had to Google it. Per the website waymarking.com, the El Cid sculpture was installed in Balboa Park in 1930 and was made by Anna Hyatt Huntington (not sure if she’s Huntington of the Huntington Library). But who is El Cid you say? ““El Cid Campeador” (the nickname is a Spanish/Arabic amalgam meaning “lord champion”) was actually named Rodrigo Diaz. He was named commander of the armed forces of the kingdom of Castile at the age of 22, and led them in campaigns against neighboring kingdoms in Spain, both Muslim and Christian. After political reverses and exile, he changed allegiances and served the Moorish state of Saragossa, then managed to conquer and himself rule the kingdom of Valencia.


And there you have it. A quick half day walk through Balboa Park. Next time we go back to southern California, this will be on top my list of places to visit.


About May Dayao

Carpe diem!
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2 Responses to A Quick Walk through Balboa Park, San Diego

  1. I visited Balboa Park just last week as part of our Californian Road Trip, it is such a wonderful place. You captured it perfectly 🙂

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