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Balboa Park

A botanical oasis in the center of the city

Whether you're hiking under towering palm trees, or wandering along trails of cactus or roses, a floral feast for your senses awaits you.

Balboa Park is a garden lover’s paradise. The beautifully landscaped park features thousands of different types of flowers and plants in gardens that that range from precisely manicured, historic landscapes to natural preserves featuring the region’s native plants. With mild temperatures year round, Balboa Park gardens can be enjoyed during every season. Gardens in the park are kid friendly and dog friendly. The collection of gardens below are a definite don't miss on your trip to San Diego. Balboa Park is also home to many floral and garden groups, including the San Diego Bonsai Club, San Diego Geranium Society, San Diego County Orchid Society, Southern California Plumeria Society and San Diego Floral Association, the oldest garden club in Southern California. These groups host floral and horticultural shows and plant sales in Balboa Park throughout the year. Check out their Calendar of Events for all plant shows and sales.

1935 (Old) Cactus Garden

Kate Sessions developed this historic garden for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. It contains some of the largest cactus and succulent specimens in the park and has also been developed to include the exotic African and Australian Protea plants.

Alcazar Garden

Alcazar Garden, which is so named because it is patterned after the gardens of Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain, lies adjacent to the San Diego Art Institute and Mingei Museum. It was reconstructed to replicate the 1935 design by noted San Diego architect Richard Requa and is known for its ornate fountains, exquisite turquoise blue, yellow and green Moorish tiles and its shady pergola. This formal garden, bordered by boxwood hedges, is planted with 7,000 annuals for a vibrant display of color throughout the year.

Australian Garden

Located in Gold Gulch Canyon, many of the plants in the Australian Garden were a gift to the City of San Diego by Australia for the United States Bicentennial in 1976. Plants include Grevellia, Acacia, Callistemon, Banksia, Hakea, Stenocarpus, Leptospermum, Melaleuca and Eucalyptus.

Botanical Building and Lily Pond

Built for the 1915-16 Exposition, along with the adjacent lily pond and lagoon, the historic building is one of the largest lath structures in the world. The Botanical Building plantings include more than 2,100 permanent plants, featuring fascinating collections of cycads, ferns, orchids, other tropical plants and palms. The Botanical Building also presents some of the park’s vibrant seasonal flower displays and is considered a must-see for visitors.

California Native Plant Garden

A small demonstration garden at the west end of the tennis courts at Morley Field is home to 36 drought-tolerant California native plants.

Casa del Rey Moro Garden

Richard Requa, a noted San Diego architect, designed the Casa del Rey Moro garden (House of the Moorish King) for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, with the Moorish gardens of Ronda, Spain serving as the influence. The garden, along with its surrounding building, the House of Hospitality, was rededicated in 1997 after extensive reconstruction and historic renovation, and includes a replica of the wishing well in the Guadalajara Museum of Gardens.

Desert Garden

The Desert Garden was established at the Park Boulevard location in 1976 and contains more than 1,300 plants, including succulents and drought-resistant plants from around the world within its 2.5 acres. The peak blooming period is January through March.

EthnoBotany Children’s Peace Garden

The unique organic herb, fruit, and vegetable garden honors the memory of George Washington Carver and is dedicated to teaching young people about the role of plants in society.

Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve

This canyon gives visitors a glimpse of the original landscape of Balboa Park. The 150-acres of Coastal Sage Scrub also provide an important habitat for native wildlife, and the many hiking trails throughout Florida Canyon are perfect for hiking, running or mountain biking.

Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden

Home to some 1,600 roses of more than 130 varieties, this three-acre garden is in bloom from March through December, with the roses usually at their peak in April and May. Several renowned garden organizations have recognized the garden over the years. In 1978, the All-America Rose Selections named it the Outstanding Rose Garden in the U.S.A. The World Federation of Rose Societies honored it with an Award of Excellence in 2003. In 2014, the garden was named to the Great Rosarians of the World Hall of Fame.

Japanese Friendship Garden

This garden represents the connection between San Diego and its sister city Yokohama, Japan. It offers visitors a unique experience through its bonsai exhibit, a moon-viewing deck, beautiful black pine trees, azaleas and ornamental plants such as camellias, magnolia, wisteria and cherry blossom trees.

Marston House Garden

The Marston House Garden, a formal English Romantic-style garden with California influences, represents a slice of San Diego history. Hal Walker and William Templeton Johnson designed the formal garden in 1927, which is located on the 4.5-acre grounds of the George White and Anna Gunn Marston House, a beautiful example of the Arts and Crafts style.

Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon is a tropical oasis, containing more than 450 palms (58 species) within its 2 acres. A true hidden spot in Balboa Park, the winding paths take the visitor into a shady, lush canyon. The original group of Mexican fan palms – prominent in the canyon – date back to 1912. In 2001, the California Conservation Corps restored the historic trail that connected Palm Canyon to the Old Cactus Garden. The garden also features a picturesque wooden footbridge leading from the Alcazar Gardens parking lot to across the street from the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection

The San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection is internationally known with more than 4,500 species of plants. Since 1993, the American Association of Museums has accredited it as a botanical garden. Prized collections include orchids, cycads, fig trees, palms and coral trees. The naturalistic animal exhibits are heavily planted and resemble the animals' native habitats and some plants such as bamboo, eucalyptus, acacia and hibiscus are grown for animal food.

Trees for Health Garden

This educational garden, located in the park’s West Mesa at the corner of Balboa Drive and Quince Street, promotes a better understanding of the value and uses of medicinal plants. The living collection of plants also helps develop public appreciation of local and global conservation and includes plants like ginko, cinnamon, mulberry and more.

Veterans Memorial Garden

Located on a one-acre parcel of land in front of the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, the garden was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 2005. The garden honors veterans of all eras who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Wartime Merchant Marine and has wide lawn areas, large trees and benches for contemplation.

Zoro Garden

This sunken stone grotto originally was designed as a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition but is now a butterfly garden containing both the larvae and nectar plants needed for the complete life cycle of butterflies. Miniature indentations built into rocks collect small pools of water for the monarch, sulfur and swallowtail butterflies that can be seen among the colorful perennials and majestic ficus trees that surround the garden.

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Exploring Balboa Park

Whether you're an art fan, nature lover, model train aficionado or science geek, Balboa Park has something for everyone. 

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