From the World-Famous San Diego Zoo to the Model Railroad Museum, Balboa Park is a wonderland for the young and for the young at heart.
Balboa Park is also home to a unique range of attractions from its historic carousel and quaint international cottages, to its artist colony and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.These attractions which often cost an additional fee, truly capture the history and culture of the region and can only be found in San Diego.
The 1910 Balboa Park Carousel, adjacent to the San Diego Zoo, is filled menagerie of animals with all but two pairs being the original European hand-carved creations. It is also one of the few carousels in the world that still offers the brass ring game. In 2017, the Friends of Balboa Park purchased the historic carousel. As its new owner and operator, they will ensure that it remains an historic park landmark for generations to come.
The Balboa Park Miniature Train takes passengers on a half-mile trip through four acres of Balboa Park. The train, a model G16, is a rare antique with as few as 50 models currently remaining.
Housed in historic 1935 Exposition cottages, 34 groups promote multicultural goodwill and understanding through educational and cultural programs that showcase the national traditions from many lands. The International Cottages are open every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. On Sundays from March to October at 2 p.m., there are performances from the different groups that feature music, dance, traditional costumes, arts, crafts and ethnic foods. It’s a great place to picnic and alcohol is permitted between the hours of noon and 8 p.m.
The Photographic Arts Building is home to the Southern California Association of Camera Clubs and has a lecture hall, studios and galleries for members to work and display their work. The galleries are open to the public on Saturday and Sunday afternoons during the summer and Sunday afternoons the rest of the year. The galleries change monthly to include juried competitions, themed competitive works, award-winning images as well as nationally and locally recognized competitions as well as member shows and other exhibitions.
The world-famous San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 animals from some 650 species and subspecies. Its botanical collection includes more than 700,000 exotic plants. The San Diego Zoo was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that re-create natural animal habitats and is a world leader in species conservation.
Located near the Park's west entrance on Laurel Avenue, Sefton Plaza features several bronze statues that celebrate Balboa Park's history, including a six-and-a-half-foot bronze statue of horticulturist Kate Sessions, considered the “Mother of Balboa Park,” as well as bronze statues depicting such prominent San Diegans as Ephraim Morse, Alonzo Horton and George White Marston, The expansive lawn makes it a great place to relax or picnic.
Located between the Zoo and the San Diego Natural History Museum, the Spanish Village Art Center has long been a destination for artists and lovers of art. The village’s quaint buildings and colorful courtyard were originally built in 1935 to depict old village in Spain for the second California Pacific International Exposition. Today, the Spanish Village Art Center is a thriving community of more than 200 local artisans, including painters, sculptors, metalsmiths, jewelry designers, clay artists, gourd artists, photographers, printmakers, fiber artists, basket makers, mixed-media artists, glass artists and enamel artists. Visitors can enjoy daily demonstrations in studios and in the colorful courtyard as well as visit the onsite glass blowing facility.
The United Nations Building houses the United Nations Association of San Diego (UNA-SD), the Eleanor Roosevelt Global Classroom and the International Gift Shop, which offers items from a variety of countries. The UN Building promotes the mission of the United Nations in establishing peace throughout the world and also anchors the International Cottages, a collection of 34 bungalows representing different countries, most of which were established during the 1935 Exposition. The cottages are open from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday and regularly feature cultural events including music, dance, costumes, arts, crafts, and ethnic foods. Click here for more on visiting the cottages.
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