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4.5
668 votes

Balboa Park

1549 El Prado, San Diego, California 92101 USA

Tour & Activity Deals

Balboa Park

San Diego Tour: Hop-on Hop-off Trolley

San Diego
1 day pass
From $39

San Diego City Tour

San Diego
4 hours
From $34

San Diego and Tijuana Combo Tour with Optional Harbor Cruise

San Diego
9 hours 30 minutes
From $78
Free
Free to Visit
Open Now
Sat 12a-12a
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Pet Friendly
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
Add to Trip

“a landscape of art & culture ”

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.)

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.

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-California 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 Nuñez de Balboa, the first European to spot the Pacific Ocean while on exploration in Panama.

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Reviewed by
Joshua Smibert

  • Road Warrior
  • 119 Reviews
  • 166 Helpful
August 31, 2014
Rated 5.0

Balboa park is a stunning Spanish inspired park full of gardens and museums that is beautiful and soul renewing. It can get pricey if you pay to enter each of the museums, but there are plenty of free exhibits and attractions. The conservatory is insanely cool! A favorite place of ours to visit and a highlight of San Diego!

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Tatiana Danger

  • Road Warrior
  • 1,165 Reviews
  • 584 Helpful
July 12, 2014
Rated 4.0

Most people talk about the zoo, but I think the botanical garden is fantastic, and such an underrated place to visit in Balboa Park. Loads of food trucks and yummy restaurants. Fantastic urban playground to spend the day. Loads of Spanish architecture. My brother was really into the model railroad museum. Parking can be a pain, because it is such a popular place to visit. I'd recommend planning at least a couple days, cause there's just so much to see and do.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
big_john

  • 58 Reviews
  • 45 Helpful
October 12, 2014
Rated 5.0

Before leaving San Diego, we were told it is a shame not to visit Balboa Park.
We did visit it but didn't expect it to be so massive!

This park includes everything!! We weren't able to see all of it but we managed to see the zoo which is fantastic, enter 2 of the 15 museums (the Mingei International and the Museum of Man) and did a roundabout at the botanical gardens!

Unfortunately we had to leave and continue our trip north..but next year we are definitely going back to see the rest of this fantastic Park.

I would suggest to everyone to go and spend some valuable time there with the family and friends!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
larayna.cross

  • 6 Reviews
  • 11 Helpful
May 16, 2014

One of my favorite places in San Diego. Beautiful place for an evening stroll

2 people found this review helpful

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Balboa Park

1549 El Prado
San Diego, California
92101 USA

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Hours

Open 24 hours today
  • Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 12:00 am

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  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Pet Friendly
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • Street Parking
  • Private Parking

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