Balboa Park

Culture and nature converge in this diverse park located in the heart of the city.

This is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, and one of the most diverse in the world. You could spend a week exploring its 1,200 acres (486 hectares) of walking trails and gardens, museums and galleries, theaters, restaurants, and world-famous zoo. This wealth of year-round entertainment makes it a popular location for both locals and tourists.

A good starting point is the Visitor Center in the middle of the park. Here you’ll find helpful volunteers, information on current exhibits, and a schedule of performances and events. Free, guided tours of the park are available during the week to take you around the park’s major highlights, explaining the historical, architectural and horticultural features. Check at the Visitor Center for times.

The Spanish Colonial-style buildings located around the Visitor Center house many of the city’s largest museums, galleries and theaters, including the San Diego Museum of Art, the Air & Space Museum, the Natural History Museum and a dozen more.

Performances take place year-round in the various theaters. The Old Globe, for example, stages more than 10 plays and musicals during its season.

Balboa Park’s gorgeous gardens offer a peaceful respite, including the Japanese Friendship Garden, Palm Canyon and the Inez Grant Parker Rose Gardens. The Californian Native Plant Garden showcases more than 2,600 varieties of species native to San Diego along a peaceful mile-long (1.6-kilometer) path.

If you’re looking for some fun and physical activity, head to the eastern side of the park to practice your golf swing, try your hand at petanque or bocce, or enjoy a game of tennis under the shade trees. 

The park grounds are open all year, 24 hours a day. Museum operating hours vary, but most open between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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