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Green & Lovely Balboa Park San Diego

In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of San Diego's lovely Balboa Park. A huge oasis near the city's downtown area, Balboa Park is both home to cultural and educational activities as well as "typical" park activities, such as sports and recreation. On this page, you'll see still more photos of the park, and discover its many enjoyable and entertaining museums and attractions.

Balboa Park overview

Photo: Beautiful Spanish Colonial theater building at Balboa Park San Diego Who hasn't heard of the book (or movie) "The Wizard of Oz?" Its author, Frank Baum, certainly must have been to Balboa Park in San Diego, California...because this well-manicured park is green as the emerald city of Oz itself!

Here, amongst the lush, rolling lawns canopied by towering eucalyptus trees, you can enjoy what very well may be the absolutely "greenest" location in all of arid Southern California! Balboa Park San Diego is a huge park, at over 1200 acres. True, Griffith Park, with its 4107 acres, dwarfs Balboa Park, (and all other city parks in the USA, as well.) And yet, as you have already read on the Griffith Park page (just previous to this page), not all of Griffith Park's land is developed. Its hillsides covered in natural California "chaparral" vegetation make Griffith Park a great place for hikers. If, on the other hand, you want to enjoy the cultural pleasures of a developed, urban park, you'll find that Balboa Park is exactly the place you'll want to discover. Balboa Park proclaims that its the largest urban cultural park in the USA. After you see Balboa Park, I'm sure you'll agree that this must certainly must be true!

Balboa Park San Diego does include "traditional" park activities and attractions. You'll find sports fields for all the typical team sports, plus lawn bowling, disc golf, a swimming pool, golf, tennis, playgrounds, picnic areas, and biking areas. Nevertheless, the biggest focus of visitors to Balboa Park is the large concentration of museums and cultural attractions at the park's core, as well as the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The bulk of this page will focus on these cultural activities of Balboa Park.

Balboa Park's Attractions for kids

World Famous San Diego Zoo!

Picture: Entrance to the world famous San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park The World-Famous San Diego Zoo sits in the heart of San Diego's Balboa Park. This huge zoo stands at the forefront of animal conservation and breeding programs for endangered wildlife species, and provides a superb "zoo experience" for thousands of visitors each and every year.

In fact, summing up the San Diego Zoo's attractions and activities in just one paragraph would be utterly impossible...and so, I've made a page on this website devoted just to the San Diego Zoo, all by itself. You may get to the San Diego Zoo page at any time by pressing the "Zoos" link on the NavBar at the left hand side of the page, or else you may use the following link to view the "San Diego Zoo" page of this website.

Balboa Park's Science Museum, the Reuben Fleet Science Center

Picture: Fleet Science Center's beautiful entrance in Balboa Park San Diego The Reuben H Fleet Science Center
The Fleet Science Center was made with kids in mind, featuring over 100 interactive science exhibits with which children can learn while they play. The Fleet Science center features both permanent and rotating "guest" exhibits. One of the cutest, most child-appealing permanent exhibit areas is Kid City, where children can explore a smaller kid-sized town. they can "work" with conveyer belts and cranes, play grocery store, construct "buildings" with giant foam building blocks, play computer games, etc. Another feature of the Fleet Museum that you won't want to miss is the Demonstration Station, where interesting, live science demos are given throughout the day---free with your admission!

For an extra fee, you can enjoy a science-themed show at the IMAX Dome Theater, a Planetarium show, or a spin in the Motion Simulator ride. (A movie called "Comet Impact" plays inside the 23-passenger ride; you'll really, truly bump and jostle as if you're in a space ship trying to thwart the menacing comet from slamming into poor, defenseless Mother Earth!)

A science store sells all the coolest science-related toys, gadgets, and kits...and there's also a cafe you may enjoy during your visit to the Fleet Center, too.

The Reuben H Fleet Science Center hours: open daily at 9:30 am. For further information, you may call the Reuben H Fleet Science Center phone number at (619) 238-1233, or visit the Fleet Science Center's official website at

San Diego Air and Space Museum

Picture: Air and space Museum in Balboa Park San Diego, California The San Diego Aerospace Museum---

At the San diego Aerospace Museum in Balboa Park, you and your family can enjoy seeing real, vintage "flying machines" ranging from the earliest days of flight, on to the Space Age. (You can even see the real Apollo 9 command module.) Also, you'll find other exhibits, some of which are interactive and especially interesting to children. Balboa Park's San Diego Aerospace Museum hours: open daily from 10 am until 4:30 pm. For further information, call the San Diego Aerospace Museum phone number at (619) 234-8291, or see their website at

House of Pacific Relations/Sunday Lawn Programs

During the warmer months of the year (March through October), the House of Pacific Relations puts on a Sunday afternoon show and display of customs and culture. There are just over 30 member countries in the House of Pacific Relations, and each year every country gets to sponsor the Sunday Lawn Program one time. This festive family event showcases that particular country's foods, traditional costumes, dance, or whatever else the member country wishes to display for the day.

During those times of the year in which no outdoor presentation is given (November through February), you may still get your Sunday afternoon dose of international culture, nevertheless. Each of the member nations has a little "cottage," which originally were built for a 1935 exposition at Balboa Park. Within each country's cottage, you may see a display of artifacts from that particular country. Called the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, these mini-embassies of good will host their open houses every Sunday afternoon from noon until 4 pm. For further information, you may call (619) 234-0739, or visit the House of Pacific Relations website at

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

Picture: The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater at Balboa Park San Diego features an attractive design and landscaping The children in today's world don't often get the chance to see a puppet show. However, kids living near the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater do---in fact, the theater presents a new puppet show each and every week!

At the Puppet Theater in Balboa Park, your children will get to see all types of puppets in action---marionettes, hand-held puppets, rod puppets and shadow puppets. Resident puppeteers, along with visiting puppeteer troupes perform these fun-for-kids shows.

Puppet show performances are held Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 10:00 am and 11:30 am. On Saturdays and Sundays, there are 3 puppet show given---at 11 am, 1 pm and at 2;30 pm. (During the summer---June through August---the weekend "3-performance" schedule is in effect Wednesdays thru Fridays, as well.) For further info, you may call the Hitchcock Puppet theater phone number at (619) 544-9203, or view the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater's official website at

San Diego Natural History Museum

Picture: San Diego Natural History Museum at Balboa Park San Diego The San Diego Natural History Museum is where your family can come to enjoy exhibits about the flora and fauna of the world, both present and past. (To your right, you can see a photo of this lovely, classic-style building.) This attractive and informative museum is conveniently located across a plaza from the Fleet Science Center, making it convenient for families to tour both museums in one afternoon---although, the sheer number of activities housed in each building might make that effort difficult! The San Diego Natural History Museum hours are the same daily. The Natural History Museum's opening time is at 10 am, and its closing time is at 5 pm. For further info...and there's PLENTY more info about this great museum!---visit the San Diego Natural History Museum's official website at

The Balboa Park Miniature Railroad and Antique Carousel

Picture: Balboa Park carousel; this beautiful antique carousel is shaded by a pavilion at Balboa Park San Diego Located near the San Diego Zoo entry, the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad train rides have delighted children and their parents since 1948. The 1/2 mile jaunt takes you through 4 scenic acres of Balboa Park. The Balboa Park train ride hours: open from 11 am to 5 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and school holidays; daily hours are available during summer vacation time. For further info, call the Balboa Park Railroad phone number at (619) 231-1515.

Balboa Park Antique Carousel
Balboa Park's beautiful 1910 antique carousel features hand-carved, richly painted menagerie animals. The Balboa Park Carousel has been entertaining children since 1922 at the park. Its hours are from 11 am to 5:30 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and school holidays. The daily "summer vacation schedule" runs from mid-June through Labor Day.

MORE Balboa Park museums & attractions!

Centro Cultural de la Raza

The Centro Cultural is a center for Mexican and Mexican-American arts. There's an Art Gallery here which features rotating exhibits of the fine arts. Plus, there's a performance are here for theater, dance, musical concerts and film events.

Perhaps the most interesting events at the Centro are the performances of the Ballet Folklorico. Both men and women perform this traditional Mexican style of dance. One notable feature is the particularly beautiful and colorful costumes that the women wear for the performances.

The Centro Cultural de la Raza hours: open Tuesdays thru Sundays from noon--4 pm. For further information, call the Centro Cultural de la Raza phone number at (619) 235-6135, or visit the Centro Cultural de la Raza official website.

San Diego Automotive Museum

Photo: Antique car exhibit at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park At the San Diego Automotive Museum you'll find an interesting exhibit of antique cars. The permanent collection at the San Diego Automotive Museum numbers over 80 vehicles, plus you'll be able to enjoy rotating exhibits, as well. (For example, one interesting exhibit at the museum in the past featured Low-Riders!) The San Diego Automotive Museum opens daily from 10 am to 5 pm. The San Diego Automotive Museum phone number is (619) 231-2886, and the museum's official website is

Discover San Diego History

Both the San Diego History Museum aims to tell the story of the San Diego area's history to the current generations. This historic story is told through photos, fine art, clothing, musical instruments, tools, furniture, jewelry, home decorative arts, transportation vehicles, and even children's toys.

For scholars, there's a research library featuring over 2.5 million photos documenting the history of the San Diego maps, architectural drawings, and---of course---books.

The Museum of San Diego History's website is You may contact the San Diego History Museum phone number at (619) 232-6203.

San Diego Art Museums

Balboa Park houses not just one, but rather SEVERAL museums of special interest to art-lovers.

1.) San Diego Art Institute (SDAI) Museum of the Living Artist
The SDAI rotates the works of present-day San Diego artists through its galleries. Each showing runs from about 4 to 6 weeks at a time. To encourage young artists, one gallery at the SDAI is dedicated to youth art from students in San Diego area schools. There is also a gallery store, where you can buy works from local artists.

The Museum of the Living Artist is open from Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm. On Sunday, the galleries are open from noon untio 4 pm. For further information about the museum, you may call the San Diego Art Institute phone number at (619) 236-0011, or log on to the San Diego Art Institute's website at

Photo: The original 1915 buildings at Balboa Park were built in a lovely, Spanish Colonial style 2.) The Mingei International Museum
At the Mingei International Museum, you'll be able to enjoy folk arts and crafts from around the world. The museum exhibits both its own permanent collections, plus hosts touring collections from all over the globe.

For example, currently "on tour" at the Mingei, you'll find a pottery exhibit; a collection of clothing and crafts from norway; a showing of Japanese dolls and statuettes; and an array of Indonesion folk arts. New collections rotate in and out of the museum every month or two, so to discover what will be there on your planned visit, look at the Mingei International Museum's official website, or call them at (619) 239-0003.

3.) The Museum of Photographic Arts
Balboa Park's Museum of Photographic Arts showcases photos spanning the entire history of photography. The museum holds over 7,000 photographic works, plus hosts visiting collections in their galleries, as well. The Museum of Photographic Arts hours: open daily from 10 am until 5 pm. It stays open late---until 9 pm---on Thursday evenings. The Museum of Photographic Arts phone number is (619) 238-7559, or check their website for more details.

Image: Paintings for sale at Balboa Park San Diego, in the Spanish Art Village 4.) The San Diego Museum of Art
At the San Diego Museum of Art, you'll find a large and well-rounded collection of European, North American, Latin American and Asian art. Plus, you may enjoy visiting art exhibits from around the world. The SD Museum of Art is open tues thru Sun from 10 am to 6 pm, and it stays open for late visitors on Thursdays (until 9 pm). For further information on touring exhibits or other questions you might have, call (619) 232-7931, or consult their official website at

5.) The Spanish Village Art Center
You'll find a darling little village made up of cottages through which you may stroll and enjoy displays of arts and crafts (and buy them, too) when you encounter the Spanish Village Art Center. (The first photo in this section is of paintings for sale at a cottage in the Spanish Village.) Over 50 artists display paintings, sculptures, glass blowing, jewelry-making, photography, wood carving, pottery, and more. Art shows are also held here at the Spanish Village Art Center. For further information, see their website at

Timken Museum of Art
At the Timken Museum of Art, your admission will always be free. This small art museum houses an acclaimed collection of European old masters, American art, and Russian Icons. The Timken Museum is open Tues thru Sat from 10 am to 4:30 pm; Sunday hours are from 1:30 pm intil 4:30 pm. For further information about the Timken's exhibits, call their phone number at (619) 239-5548, or visit the Timken Museum's website at

Balboa Park---MORE attractions!

San Diego Hall of Champions

Picture: The attractive exterior of the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum in Balboa Park San Diego The San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum
For a complete change of pace, located amongst the art and cultural museums of Balboa Park, you'll find the Hall of Champions Museum...dedicated to sports. A number of different sports are celebrated in the Hall of Champions, and a particular emphasis is placed on San Diego sports. The San Diego Hall of Champions hours: daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm. The Hall of Champions phone number is (619) 234-2544, and here is a link to the sports museum's website, which is

Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden is one of the most lovely parts of Balboa Park---and that's quite a compliment considering how lovely the entire park is! (Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the Japanese Friendship Garden...but we can enjoy the slideshow of photos taken by members of the Flickr Photo Community instead, which you see to your right.)

Your family can enjoy a stroll through a lovely and restful garden featuring bonsai and other greenery, a koi fish pond, and an exhibit house. Inside, you'll see rotating exhibits relating to Japanese life. For example, during one past event, visitors enjoyed the interesting-sounding exhibit, "Ohina Samu," which showcased traditional dolls for the Japanese Girl's Festival. Other past exhibits have showcased Japanese ceramics and traditional Japanese calligraphy.

The Japanese Friendship Garden hours: open 10 am--5 pm on weekdays, and 10 am--4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. For further information, you may call the Japanese Friendship Garden phone number at (619) 232-2721, or visit their official website at

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Train enthusiasts will be in Model Railroad Heaven here; this Balboa Park museum is the world's largest indoor model railroad exhibit! You'll enjoy O Scale, N Scale and HO scale layouts, and a special toy train gallery. An annual highlight at the museum is a special Lego model train exhibit which visits the museum every year around Thanksgiving time and lasts through the Christmas and New Years holidays. The San Diego Model Railroad Museum's phone number is (619) 696-0199. Here's a link to the museum's official website.

Marston House

Picture: The Marston House in San Diego's Balboa ParkSan Diego residents and visitors with an interest in either history, architecture or lovely gardens will be interested in visiting the Marston House, also in Balboa Park. A favorite location for local weddings, this 1905 gem of the Arts and Crafts style was the beloved home of San Diego civic leaders George and Anna Marston. You may visit any time of the year, but the Holiday open house every December; Museum month in February; and San Diego's historic homes tour during the month of March are special times at the Marston House. You also won't want to miss the SOHO museum shop, which will thrill enthusiasts of home restoration, decoration and design.

Marston House Hours: The Marston House opens at 10 am and closes at 5 pm three days per week--Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Closed major holidays.) Tours of the home begin every half hour, and last about 45 minutes. A small admission fee is charged, which helps with the ongoing preservation and care of the home; ages 5 and under enter free.

The Marston House address is 3525 Seventh Avenue, San Diego 92103. Here's a Google map to the Marston House, which you'll want to view before visiting (since the Marston House is not located in the "Museum Row" section of the park.) The Marston House phone number is (619) 297-9327. For complete information, please visit the Marston House website, which will fill you in on all the details. Photo note: The picture of the Marston House to your left is courtesy of Sande Lollis.

Balboa Park Museum discount tickets

At the Balboa Park Visitor's Center (located in the House of Hospitality; see link to Balboa Park map below), you may buy a super-discount ticket to 13 of Balboa Park's museums. This "Passport to Balboa Park" discount ticket includes the following museums:
* Reuben H Fleet Science Center
* San Diego Aerospace Museum
* San Diego Natural History Museum
* Japanese Friendship Garden
* San Diego Automotive Museum
* San Diego Model Railroad Museum
* Museum of Photographic Arts
* Mengei International Museum
* SDAI Museum of the Living Artist
* Museum of San Diego History
* San Diego Museum of Art
* San Diego Museum of Man
* San Diego Hall of Champions

For an extra-fun visit to Balboa Park in San Diego, you may get the "Deluxe Zoo Passport Combo," for an additonal fee. The Balboa Park Deluxe Pass gives you entry to all of the museums listed in the above paragraph PLUS a Deluxe Admission ticket to the San Diego Zoo (which includes all exhibits and animal shows, the 40 minute double-decker bus tour or the zoo, plus the Skyfari overhead ride.

Hours of the Hospitality House Visitor's Center at Balboa Park---
The Balboa Park's House of Hospitality opens daily at 9:30 am. It's closing time is at 4:30 pm, with extended hours, June through August, until 5:00 pm.

* Balboa Park coupons: Balboa Park's official website has now added a coupon page! Before you head off for a visit to one of the park's fine museums, be sure to check to see if there's currently a PDF print-at-home coupon that can help you get discounts for cheaper admission! Here's a link to the Balboa Park Coupon Page.

* "Free Tuesday"
So that everyone may enjoy the museums and cultural attractions of San Diego's Balboa Park, every Tuesday, a handful of the museums are open to the public free of charge every Tuesday. The selection of the Tuesday "free" museums will always rotate; see the Balboa Park official website (the link is below) for a schedule.

The entrance to Balboa Park itself is always free
You don't have to go through a gate to get into Balboa Park. All of it's "traditional park activities"---the picnic areas, the playgrounds, the rolling lawns, etc. are always free for your use.

* San Diego Go Card--- If you're visiting San Diego and planning to see more attractions than the museums of Balboa Park, you might enjoy getting a San Diego Go Card. This interesting plan lets you purchase a discount card depending on the number of days you plan to tour...then all of the attractions on its extensive list of members let you enter during that time period without paying any additional fees.

Many of the museums at Balboa Park are members of the San Diego Go Card...and so are other major area attractions, such as Legoland Park, Hornblower Cruises, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Wildlife Park, and many more. The card is especially valuable for those visitors who'd like to take a quick "look-see" around the museums. You can make quick tours of the Balboa Park museums, then use your San Diego Go Card for visiting still other attractions later on in the day---giving you the very best "bang for your buck."

If you're interested in saving money through the San Diego Go Card plan, you may use the following link to view the Go San Diego Card official website.

Balboa Park San Diego -- Address, Map and Directions

High-as-a-geyser fountain in Balboa Park San Diego The Balboa Park address is 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. (Note: this is the House of Hospitality Visitor's Center address---the place where you can buy multi-museum admission passes and get general information about the park.)

The Balboa Park Phone number is (619) 239-0512.

Directions to Balboa Park--- Looking for directions to Balboa Park in San Diego? Luckily for tourists, Balboa Park is easy to find---it's just off of Interstate 5 near downtown San Diego, CA.

From northern San Diego county, Orange County, or Los Angeles, take I-5 heading south bound. Keep going past the exit to SeaWorld...and then past the exit to the San Diego airport, as well. Next, Interstate 5 will enter the Downtown San Diego area...and you'll want to start watching for the Balboa Park exit, which is Park Boulevard. After you've passed through the tall buildings of downtown San Diego, you'll find the exit clearly marked for Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. That's your exit--take it and follow the signs!

Balboa Park Official Website: If you'd like further information about the attractions available at Balboa Park, then use the following link to see the Balboa Park's official website, which is You'll discover still MORE Balboa Park attractions which there wasn't room to mention on this page. Plus, you'll see a list of special exhibits currently being featured by the museums at this moment.

Balboa Park Maps

Road Map to Balboa Park: To get a better mental picture of where you'll be heading, use the following link to see a Google map to Balboa Park in San Diego, CA.

Downloadable Balboa Park PDF Map: Are you thinking, "Hey, with so many attractions at Balboa Park, I'll never remember where they all are once I get there!" If so, then you may enjoy finding a downloadable PDF map of the Balboa Park grounds that you may print and take along on your trip! You may use the next link to see this detailed and printable PDF map of Balboa Park's attractions and grounds.

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