San Diego’s Balboa Park isn’t just gorgeous, it’s also a great place to get in shape. The best part about Balboa Park – other than its jaw-dropping beauty – is the variety of exercise choices. There is something for everyone at every fitness level from leisurely strolls to some serious calorie-burning calisthenics. Here are just a few ways you can get your steps in and sweat on in Balboa Park – the world’s most beautiful outdoor gym.
If a more intense and kid-free workout is what you are craving, start your workout at the Bea Evenson Fountain at the east end of El Prado between The San Diego Natural History Museum and The Fleet Science Center. Start by using the fountain ledge to do some upper- and lower-body work. For upper body, do a set of triceps dips and a set of modified pushups. For the lower body, do a set of step ups on the fountain ledge followed box jumps (these are tricky and for the more fit – and coordinated). After that take a light jog to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, which is west down El Prado and then south from the Plaza de Panama. Trust us – you can’t miss it. There, use the benches for the same upper and lower body exercises. If you want to take it a bit easier, you can use the stairs at the back of the pavilion for your step ups and box jumps. After that’s complete, take another run back to Bea Evenson Fountain and finish another set of those upper and lower body workouts. You’ll burn as much as 500 calories if you complete that circuit. Want to blast more calories? Instead of jogging back to the fountain, do lunges the whole way back. You might look silly doing it, but you’ll look great afterwards.
Looking for a way to get your kids off the couch and out and about? Try taking them on a geocaching journey throughout the park. Geocaching is a treasure hunt using GPS coordinates rather than an old-timey map. It’s been a thing since 2000 and has a worldwide following. The goal is to find the geocache and then write your name in the log book. There are often trinkets and other goodies in the cache. You are free to take an item, but you are also supposed to add something – a stuffed animal, a pen, some sunglasses – back to the cache. There are plenty of geocache sites throughout the park. Searching during these expeditions helps keep the mind engaged and the body in motion. If you want a little more burn just do 10-20 pushups or squats at each geocache location – or not.
Want to feed the mind and train the body while taking in Balboa Park’s many cultural institutions? The game plan starts in the Inspiration Point parking lot on Park Boulevard, which not only will help you get some steps in but also typically has plenty of parking. From there, you can walk to the nearby Veteran’s Museum and check out San Diego and Balboa Park’s military history in the converted chapel. (Looking for a challenge? See if your eagle eye can find Mitt Romney and John McCain’s autographs on the mural.)
Next head south on Park Boulevard and then east to the Palisades section of the park. There you will find the San Diego Air & Space Museum and the San Diego Automotive Museum, both places are filled to the brim with interesting and unique aircraft and autos.
The next stop from there would be to walk north past the Spreckels Organ Pavilion to check out the Japanese Friendship Garden with its Zen landscaping and calm Koi ponds. Across the way is the Mingei Museum, which offers an eclectic view of everyday arts and crafts. Looking for something a bit more Avant Garde? Right next door is the San Diego Art Institute, which is dedicated to advancing experimental, bi-national contemporary art.
Head further west and across the street to check out the Museum of Us, which has a wide range of exhibits from monsters to mummies to the history of beer. After the Museum of Us, you can loop back east toward the Plaza de Panama where you will find the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum, both of which have important collections of fine art.
Follow the El Prado and pop in to the Museum of Photographic Arts, one the few museums in the country dedicated to photography; the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, which offers eye-popping and expansive model train sets; and the San Diego History Center with its unique exhibits detailing the region’s rich history.
If you follow the El Prado east, you’ll end up at the Bea Evenson Fountain with the San Diego Museum of Natural History on the north side and The Fleet Science Center on the south side. Both are great for those who are curious about nature, science and innovation.
Need to take a break? Head to the north past The Nat to the Spanish Village Art Center. There you can sip some of the coffee, teas or Italian sodas as you take in the incredibly Instagram-worthy artist enclave.
To complete the loop, head down Park Boulevard and check out Centro Cultural de la Raza and the WorldBeat Center, which are both house in former water towers and provide insight into San Diego’s diversity.
This route is guaranteed to get you 10,000 steps – and more. Of course, hitting all those museums could add up to more than steps but also in dollars and cents. That’s why you’ll want to look into getting an Explorer Pass, which provides general admission to as many as 16 museums for one low price whether for a day, week or over the year. Find out more about the Balboa Park Explorer Pass.
Mike Sherbakov is a local San Diego Fitbit Ambassador and an entrepreneur, philanthropist and adventurer. He is the founder of The Greatness Foundation, a global community creating a better world, and CEO of Greatness Media, helping launch and grow purpose-driven brands.
Mike works closely with individuals, startups and billion-dollar companies alike - supporting Fitbit, lululemon athletica and Equinox with recent initiatives.
He is a former active duty United States Marine and has traveled to 52 countries and counting.
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