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Balboa Park

Tips to Plan Your Visit

Plan ahead to make the most of your visit to San Diego’s beautiful cultural center.

There is a lot to see in Balboa Park, so you need a plan. Here are some resources that will help you get the very most out of your visit.

Hours of Operation

The Balboa Park grounds are open 24 hours a day with no admission fee; this includes outdoor gardens and some attractions. The Botanical Building is free, however hours of operation may vary. Admission fees and hours of operation vary at the other cultural attractions and the San Diego Zoo.

Getting to Balboa Park

Balboa Park is located just north of downtown San Diego and is accessible by car and public transportation as well as by walking and biking from many of the nearby historic neighborhoods.

You can also take the Old Town Trolley from various locations around San Diego and hop off at Balboa Park for the day. With on-and-off privileges, the trolley makes a convenient option if your schedule is flexible.

Driving

From the north:

  • From I-5 take B Street/Pershing Street exit, heading toward Pershing Street. Turn left on Florida Drive. Turn left on Zoo Place. Turn left on Park Boulevard.
  • From I-15 or I-805 take Hwy 163. Take Park Boulevard exit. Turn left on Park Boulevard. Follow the signs to Balboa Park.

From the east:

  • Take I-8 to Hwy 163 south. Take Park Boulevard exit. Turn left on Park Boulevard. Follow the signs to Balboa Park.

From the south:

  • Take 1-5 to B Street/Pershing Street exit. Turn left on Florida Drive. Turn left on Zoo Place. Turn left on Park Boulevard.

Parking

The main parking lot for Balboa Park is at the Inspiration Point lot (on the east side of Park Boulevard, between President's Way and the Balboa Park Activity Center). A free tram provides access to Balboa Park's museums and attractions and runs daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with summer hours extending from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Trams pick up every 8-10 minutes (at peak times, 20-40 minutes). The tram stops at two additional parking lots and loops around the park, taking visitors within a short walk to most of the popular destinations.

Valet parking is available for a small fee in front of The Prado Restaurant at the House of Hospitality. Hours of service are: Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. through 10 p.m.; Friday from 5 p.m. through midnight; Saturday from 10 a.m. through midnight; Sunday from 10 a.m. through 10 p.m. There is no valet parking on Mondays.

Additional parking is available at several small lots throughout the Park, including at the end of President's Way and behind Spreckels Organ Pavilion; be aware that these smaller lots fill up quickly each day.

Visitor Center

Need help navigating the park? Head to the Visitor Center is in the House of Hospitality, located at 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 near The Prado Restaurant. The center is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and is closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. There, volunteers will help you plan your visit by providing information on audio tours, free guided tours, transportation information, dining advice and more. Don’t forget to pick up the bi-monthly Balboa Park Guide to What's New that lists all Park exhibits and performances and includes a map of the park.

Getting Around

The Balboa Park website is optimized for use on phones and tablets, as well as desktops. This site has various maps plus the most up-to-date in formation about the Park. Another way to navigate the park is by downloading the Balboa Park Official smartphone app powered by Guru (Android | iOS) to your smart phone. It gives directions and descriptions of all sites throughout the park from museums to gardens to restaurants and even shows you were all the parking lots are, giving you directions back to your car at the end of the day. Available for free in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Visiting Museums

Balboa Park is home to dozens of museums and each one is operated independently. You can find more information regarding tickets, exhibitions, and hours of operation here. Note, many of the museums are closed on Mondays. A great way to save money and visit multiple museums is to purchase the Balboa Park Explorer Pass.  The pass is available for a single day or multiple days and provides general admission to 16 participating Balboa Park museums. The multi-day pass also includes admission to the World Famous San Diego Zoo. 

 

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