Printed from
Back to Location

Space for your notes

Balboa Park

San Diego, California, USA


Balboa Park is a beautiful place to go for a stroll or run. Pop into the Alcazar Garden, a walled garden with a star-shaped Spanish fountain and flower beds. Next check out the colorful central pedestrian square (Plaza de Panama) with its bright umbrellas and fountain. This area is gorgeous at night. See the lavish architecture all around, such as the Museum of Man (anthropology), which was built for the 1915  Panama-California Exposition. Its tiled California Tower stretches to the blue sky, and contains a carillon that sounds every fifteen minutes. You can climb the tower for about $10 extra, and see views of the surrounding downtown area. The Museum of Man has interactive exhibits for kids such as the Monsters! Exhibit, where you walk through a child's bedroom, forest, cave and ocean, and learn about yeti, kraken, unicorns and dragons. There is also an interactive exhibit for kids about ancient Egypt.
Also in the central square is the Mingei International Museum in a delightful building called the House of Charm, also built for the 1915 exposition (rebuilt in 1996). Check out its Spanish bell towers and adorable pointed rounded extensions with small circular windows. It was built to resemble the Sanctuary of Guadalupe in Guadalajara, Mexico! Inside, the museum showcases folk art, craft and design.
Across from the House of Charm is the House of Hospitality, which was also rebuilt in 1996. Walk into the tropical courtyard and admire the fountain with a sculpture of an Indian woman with pottery. Near the benches check out the wooden multi-colored carved decorations reminiscent of an abacus. Here you can grab a cup of coffee from the refreshment stand and also pop into the Visitor Center.
Don't miss the Casa de Balboa and lily pond, behind the House of Hospitality.
There are many other museums to visit, including the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, which has fun models of the railway areas of various cities across the USA, the largest indoor model railway in the world. San Diego Air and Space Museum is packed with planes. Both of these museum are a little dusty and not interactive.
The San Diego Museum of Art (in the central pedestrian square) is a small museum with some good European art (especially Toulouse-Lautrec) and a patio cafe. The Museum of Photographic Arts has works by Ansel Adams.
There are gardens to check out, such as the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Desert Garden, and the small Botanical Building fronted by a reflection pond. Stop by the Visitors Center near the Alcazar Garden to pick up a map.
Further south in the park is the San Diego Zoo, the 1910 children's carousel, and the miniature railroad which opens at 11am.
The Organ Pavilion parking lot, at the intersection of Pan American Rd East and President's Way, gives you good access to everything and holds a lot of spaces.

Photo Gallery

Looking across the plaza toward the House of Hospitality.

The California Tower and Dome.

Tree in the Alcazar Garden.

Looking through the Alcazar Garden toward the California Tower.

Blue star fountain in the Alcazar Garden.

The San Diego Museum of Art.

The florid entrance to the House of Hospitality.

Arches look into the inner courtyard of the House of Hospitality and its palms.

Desert plant and palms in the inner courtyard of the House of Hospitality.

Sculpture of Native American woman by Donal Hord.

House of Hospitality, home to the Prado Restaurant and the Visitor Center.

The adorable House of Charm, home to the Mingei Int'l Museum and San Diego Art Institute.

Ornate arched passageway leading to the Museum of Man.

Sculpture garden with modern art, and California Tower behind.

Amazing column of the House of Charm.

The Old Globe theater at Christmastime.

The Museum of Man, with the California Tower.

Saturday runners on El Prado.

Summer water lilies in Balboa Park.

Spanish Village Art Center studios.

Shark in San Diego Natural History Museum.


This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

The Organ Pavilion parking lot, at the intersection of Pan American Rd East and President's Way, gives you good access to everything and holds a lot of spaces. Parking is free.
The Alcazar parking lot is awesome as its right by the Museum of Man, but it's often full unless you come early.
Museum of Man, 1350 El Prado, San Diego 92101, call (619) 239-2001. Open daily 10-5. Closed on Thanksgiving (fourth Thurs in Nov) and Dec 25. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $10 for military and seniors 62+, $8 for students, and $6 for youth aged 3-12. Extra charge for tower tour and instruments of torture exhibit.
Museum of Photographic Arts, 1649 El Prado. Open daily 10-5. Closed Mondays.
All content Copyright © 2006-2018 copying prohibited