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Summer in Balboa Park

The cultural heart of San Diego

Summer is a time to relax, explore and enjoy—and there’s no better place to perfect the art of summer than in Balboa Park. At 1,200 acres, this cultural gem is an outdoor wonderland that offers a variety of ways to appreciate summer’s sunny days as well as its sultry nights.

Balboa Park Logo

As writer Charles Bowden once said: “Summertime is the best of what might be.”

And now more than ever we need this summer season to provide some warmth and respite. Luckily, San Diego is blessed with Balboa Park, one of the largest urban cultural parks in the country. With its expansive grounds and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, the park is uniquely designed to allow you to savor the sights and sounds of summer amid a pretty splendid backdrop.

TAKE A HIKE

Balboa Park has some 65 miles of trails that differ in length, difficulty and scenery from leisurely strolls through the heart of the park to challenging hikes amid the park’s more rugged terrain and vegetation. You won’t want to miss Florida Canyon, which provides a glimpse into how the park—and San Diego for that matter— looked back some 150 years ago. The 19 different trails begin at one of five gateways that are located at Golden Hill, Marston Point, Morley Field, Park Boulevard, and at Sixth and Upas. No matter when you start or where you end, you’ll get a chance to commune with nature while staying close to downtown.

GANDER AT GARDENS

With more than 19 garden spots throughout the park, there is more than enough flora and fauna to find and fancy. Looking for a rosy point of view? Head to the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. This award-winning three-acre garden off Park Boulevard is home to some 1,600 roses and more than 130 varieties. Right next door is the Desert Garden—one of two in the park—containing more than 1,300 succulents and drought-resistant plants from around the world, including a towering candelabra cactus. If you still haven’t gotten your cactus fill, you should head over to the newly revitalized Old Cactus Garden, which Kate Sessions developed for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. Overlooking the 163 Highway, it contains some of the largest cactus and succulent specimens in the park.

PICK A PICNIC

There’s nothing that says summer like a picnic, and Balboa Park has any number of grassy spots that serve as the perfect place to take a seat and soak it all in. There’s the West Mesa’s extensive lawn that offers plenty of space to spread out and roam free along with trees for shade. If you a looking to have some libations as part of your picnic plan, you can’t beat the East and West lawns in front of the Botanical Building, which was built in 1915. Not only is the backdrop stunning but you can also bring your own alcoholic beverage—just so long as it is not in glass. If you’re not big into planning but still want to plop down on a picnic blanket and enjoy an adult beverage of some sort, then head to Panama 66. There you’ll find an array of local craft beers, wines and cocktails as well as picnic blankets behind the bar that you can lay down on the grass of the San Diego Museum of Art’s Marcy S. May Sculpture Garden. You’ll even have the iconic California Tower serving as your backdrop.

Balboa Park Deals

Galleries & Museums

Save up to $3 on admission to The Nat

San Diego Natural History Museum
Valid: Sep 25, 2019 - ongoing

Save $3 on Adult Admission and $2 off other admission categories at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Admission includes access to 3D films. 

Events in Balboa Park

Event

Port of San Diego's Day at the Docks

Apr 19, 2020

This is the 41st year the San Diego Sportfishing Council has sponsored its special showcase of San Diego sportfishing. We hope you'll take this opportunity to join us and discover a bit more of what...

Event

Gator By The Bay-Zydeco, Blues & Crawfish Festival

Bon Temps Social Club of San Diego
May 7 - May 10, 2020

Largest, authentic Louisiana-themed festival this side of the bayou. Features 4 days of live music - more than 100 performances on 7 stages, dancing, delicious Southern food - including beignets,...

Event

Mission Federal ArtWalk

ArtWalk San Diego
Jun 6 - Jun 7, 2020

On April 25-26, 2020, the Mission Federal ArtWalk will celebrate its 36th annual event in the streets of Little Italy. Featuring more than 300 artists filling 17 square blocks of the iconic urban...

Event

SeaWorld's Seven Seas Craft Beer & Food Festival

SeaWorld San Diego
Mar 7 - May 3, 2020

Foodies and craft beer aficionados will love SeaWorld's Seven Seas Craft Beer & Food Festival, featuring craft beer from favorite local breweries, plus fresh international cuisine infused with...

Event

San Diego Surf Film Festival

May 14 - May 17, 2020

The 9th Annual San Diego Surf Film Festival (SDSFF) invites everybody to come celebrate the passion that we all share for simply being in and around the ocean.

Event

Beachside Wine Festival

California Wine Festival
May 29 - May 30, 2020

The quintessential California wine tasting experience – sun, sea, food, wine and music – all come together at this sun-splashed wine fest overlooking lush rolling hills with the shimmering...

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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