Every time I go to Balboa Park I always end up wondering why I don’t go more often. It’s one of the hidden gems of San Diego (that is if you can call 1,200 acres in the smack middle of a city “hidden”) but with so much going on here it always seems to fall on the wayside list of places to go.
And that, honest to say, is a darn shame.
In matter of fact Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the nation (oh yeah, much larger than that famous jobbie in NYC) and you could easily spend a whole week exploring the area and still not be half-done. I promised you a few more blog posts on San Diego before we left and this was one of the ones I just had to include. It goes on the absolute “must see” for the whole family, including your furry friend, and if you come here you simply have to go!
It all started in 1915-16 with the Panama-California Exposition (celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal). San Diego was chosen as the host city and created a park with Spanish-Renaissance style buildings to commemorate the event. Luckily the park “stuck” and grew, staying true to its original architectural roots and expanding steadily to become the fabulous attraction it is today. There is so much to do here that it’s almost impossible to list everything in one post, but I’ll give you just a sprinkling of the fun items for the taking:
- Museums Galore – The park has 15 major museums with constantly updated exhibits including the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Air & Space Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Art just to name a few. If you like museum-hopping be sure to buy the park pass “Passport“ that gets you into all of them for one low fee.
- Artistic Culture – The park contains 4 grand theatres including the iconic Old Globe and hosts a fabulous “artists colony” with over 200 working artists with free access to all.
- Garden Hopping – There are 14 separate gardens each with their own draw. All are free and paw-friendly except for the Japanese Friendship Garden.
- Doggie Heaven – The park hosts 3 off-leash dog areas and has several outdoor restaurants where you can sit and eat with pooch.
- Sport Swinging - Within the park grounds there is a full (and recently upgraded) golf course, several tennis courts, lawn bowling, archery course, gymnasium and sports field.
- Zoo – The well-known and well-loved San Diego Zoo is right on-site.
- Hiking/Biking - Believe it or not there are 65 miles of hiking/biking trails within park grounds!!!
Oh this thing is HUGE!!!! The majority of the park is free and your 4 paws are welcome everywhere except within the museums and a few of the gardens!
We headed on over to Balboa Park on a perfect spring afternoon with pooch in tow to walk around and enjoy the sights. It’s only a few minutes drive from down-town and after a quick stop at the visitor center for a park map we wondered off to enjoy the free sights and architecture of the park. Our walking tour took us past several museums, gardens, outdoor restaurants, theatres and finally into the artists colony at the Spanish Village Art Center (which is probably my favorite spot in the whole place). We literally spent the whole afternoon strolling around, and would have stayed for one of the many free concerts if they’d been on that day. We’ll be back for another jaunt and some hiking before we leave too.
A great park, a paw-friendly place and a “must see” for everyone who comes to San Diego. Have you been to the park?
P.S. Thanks so much for everyone who sent in tips for our trip to OR. We’ve got LOTS of ideas of stuff to see and places to go. Really looking forward to sharing it all with you on the blog!