San Diego Balboa Park


Balboa Park held the Garden Party of the Century in 2015 to celebrate the park's 100 year anniversary. The image shows Balboa Park in a bygone era.

Balboa Park
1549 El Prado
San Diego, California, 92101
14 million visitors
Phone: (619) 239-0512

Hours: The Balboa Park grounds are open 24 hours a day, the Visitors Center is open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, and museum hours vary by institution.

Balboa Park began as 1400 acres of land set aside in 1868 by San Diego civic leaders. Known then as "City Park", the scrub-filled mesa that overlooked present day Downtown San Diego sat without formal landscaping or development for more than 20 years. Today the Park's total land parcel has been reduced to 1,200 acres.

Balboa Park, San Diego was developed on a 1,400-acre tract of land set aside for a public park by the city of San Diego in 1870.The park is renowned for its brilliant displays of seasonal flowers, shady groves of trees, and meandering paths. However, its ability to attract tourists today owes much to the legacy of the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-16, and the California International Exposition of 1935-36.

Balboa Park hosts 15 museums, which display internationally significant art treasures, exotic animal species, unique model railroads, world folk art, sports memorabilia, and rare aircraft. Many of the museums are housed in magnificent Spanish colonial revival buildings, originally constructed for the 1915-16 Exposition. Other attractions in the park include the San Diego Zoo; the Old Globe Theater; a sports complex with championship tennis courts, athletic fields, velodrome, and swimming pool; a golf course; Starlight Bowl; and an array of institutions that reflect San Diego's diversity, including the Centro Cultural de la Raza, the World Beat Center, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the House of Pacific Relations. Balboa Park attracts more than 14 million visits a year.

Welcome to Balboa Park: the nation's largest urban cultural park. Home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo, the Park has an ever-changing calendar of museum exhibitions, plays, musicals, concerts, and classes--all in the beautiful and timeless setting of this must-see San Diego attraction.

The best way to start your time in Balboa Park is with a stop at the Balboa Park Visitors Center. Located across from The Prado Restaurant in the House of Hospitality, the Visitors Center has the most current and comprehensive information about the Park's activities and attractions. Many visit the park for the first time and fall in love with its charm, selecting the park for their special weddings and events.

Public annual events at Balboa Park include the annual Plumeria Festival, celebrating the sweet smelling flowers that grow so well in San Diego climate.

Each July the Pride Parade passes by Balboa Park and marches on Balboa Avenue.

A suffrage parade & rally was held at Sefton Plaza, celebrating women's right to vote.

Each year a huge, free December Nights celebration includes music, food and entertainment in Balboa Park. It is one of the annual highlight events taking place there.

In 2001 the San Diego Natural History Museum opened its doors after a major reconstruction to the original building--with 1915 Poster a 90,000 square foot addition more than doubling the facility's size. Balboa Park was ranked as one of the Best Parks in the World by the Project for Public Spaces (rank of 13 out of 24 international parks). Also in 2003, The World Federation of Rose Societies (WFRS) voted the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden as one of the top 12 rose gardens in the world-The Award of Garden Excellence recognizes exceptional rose gardens throughout the world.

The first steps in Park beautification were made in 1892, largely due to the contributions of Kate Sessions. Sessions offered to plant 100 trees a year within the Park as well as donate trees and shrubs around San Diego in exchange for 32 acres of land within the Park boundaries to be used for her commercial nursery. Several popular species, including the birds of paradise, queen palm and poinsettia were introduced into the Park's horticulture because of Sessions' early efforts. In fact, many of her original trees are alive and visible today. It is no wonder that Kate Sessions earned the title "The Mother of Balboa Park" at the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.1915 Bridge

Just after the turn of the century, a master plan for Park improvements and beautification was formally introduced. Supported by a City tax levied in 1905, the process began in 1903 and continued through 1910. Water systems were installed, planting continued, roads were built, and the Park began to take on much of the familiar look of today.

San Diego was set to play host to the 1915 Panama Exposition, and "City Park" was a less-than memorable or distinctive name for such an internationally prestigious event. In 1910, Park Commissioners announced plans to re-name City Park and the public was eager to throw potential names into the hat, including: San Diego Park, Silver Gate Park, Horton Park and Miramar Park. After months of discussion and great public interest, the Park Commissioners decided on the name Balboa Park, chosen in honor of Spanish-born Vasco Nuņez de Balboa, the first European to spot the Pacific Ocean while on exploration in Panama


Centro Cultural de la Raza
Marston House
Mingei International Museum
Museum of Photographic Arts
Reuben H Fleet Science Center
San Diego Air & Space Museum
San Diego Art Institute (SDAI)
San Diego Automotive Museum
San Diego Hall of Champions
San Diego History Center
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
San Diego Museum of Man
San Diego Natural History Museum
The San Diego Museum of Art
Timken Museum of Art
Veterans Museum & Memorial Center
WorldBeat Center

Performing Arts
Bon Temps Social Club
Civic Dance Arts
Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
San Diego Civic Youth Ballet
San Diego Junior Theatre
San Diego Youth Symphony
Spreckels Organ Pavilion
Starlight Theatre and Starlight Bowl
The Old Globe

Balboa Park Carousel
Balboa Park Miniature Railroad
Balboa Park Visitors Center
House of Pacific Relations Int'l Cottages
Photographic Arts Building
San Diego Zoo
Sefton Plaza
Spanish Village Art Center
United Nations Building

1935 (Old) Cactus Garden
Alcazar Garden
Australian Garden
Botanical Building
California Native Plant Garden
Casa del Rey Moro Garden
Children's Ethnobotany Garden
Desert Garden
Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve
Japanese Friendship Garden
Marston House Garden
Palm Canyon
Rose Garden
San Diego Botanical Garden Foundation
San Diego Floral Association
San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection
Trees for Health Garden
Veterans Memorial Garden
Zoro Garden

Balboa Park Activity Center
Balboa Park Golf Complex
Balboa Park Senior Lounge
Balboa Tennis Club
Hiking and Biking Trails
Lawn Bowling
Morley Field Sports Complex
Municipal Gymnasium
Play Areas and Picnics


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