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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 experience all summer has to offer than Balboa Park. From evening concerts to extended museum hours to food truck feasts to gardens and picnics and more, Balboa Park is the destination for summer fun – all day and into the night.

Balboa Park Logo

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

And the best place to be this summer is Balboa Park. There is simply no shortage of things to see, do and enjoy. From evening concerts to kid-friendly fun to festive food and drink to cool cultural events and extended museum hours, this summer there is always more to explore at Balboa Park.

More Summer info from Balboa Park and the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership.

A Little Night Music

Actually, make that a lot of night music – a lot of free night music to be exact. It all starts on June 1 with a free summer kickoff concert featuring the San Diego Youth Symphony & Conservatory in the Plaza de Panama in front of the San Diego Museum of Art at 5:45 PM. From there the summer nights are filled with musical delights at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion from the 32nd Annual International Summer Organ Festival spearheaded by new civic organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez to twilight concerts in the park that run the gamut from Dixieland jazz to Latin salsa. The International Summer Organ Festival free concerts start on June 25 and run through August 3 with performances on the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ that range from a silent film night to a tribute to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. All the concerts are on Mondays at 7:30 PM. The free Twilight in the Park Summer Concerts are held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening at 6:30 PM from June 19 to August 30.

Food (Trucks) for Thought

If you believe that variety is the spice of life, then you’ll find Friday nights in Balboa Park to be pretty spicy. From June 1 through September 28, a fleet of food trucks will roll into the park at 4:00 PM to provide a wide range of gastronomic options from appetizers to desserts to everything in between during Food Truck Fridays. The event also features DJs and musicians playing in the Plaza de Panama. It is also a perfect way to have a low-stress picnic. Just grab something to eat at one of the many trucks in tow and then head over to the West or East lawns right outside of the Botanical Building to soak up the scene. Of course, after filling your belly, it’ll time to feed your mind by visiting the many museums offering extended summer hours. 

More Museum Time

And speaking of extended hours…Summer in Balboa Park is all about the gift of time – the time to explore some of the park’s coolest treasures during extended hours at many of the most popular museums on Friday nights. Even better some of the museums offer deals on after hour tickets. The San Diego Natural History Museum is open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, with half-off admission after 5:00 PM and access to its rooftop bar. The San Diego Museum of Art is also open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM and admission is only $5 after 5:00 PM. The Museum of Photographic Arts is open until 8:00 PM on Thursdays. The Japanese Friendship Garden is open from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM not only Fridays but all week long during the summer. Both the Museum of Man and the San Diego History Center are open until 7:00 PM on Friday nights.

For Love of Countries

Travel around the globe without ever leaving Balboa Park. On Saturdays and Sundays in the summer, the International Cottages – which were built for the 1935 Exposition – are open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., giving visitors a window into the world through the 34 cultures and countries that are all housed in the quaintest of quaint structures. On most Sundays, there are performances at 2 p.m. from the different cottages that feature music, dance, traditional costumes, arts, crafts and ethnic foods. Need another reason to check out this multicultural charm? The area is one of the best places to picnic in the park and alcohol – but no glass of any kind – is permitted between the hours of noon and 8 p.m.

Outdoor Art House Theater

Sure, San Diego is filled with outdoor movie options in the summer. But if you are looking for some more high-minded fair, you’ll want to grab a blanket and hightail it to the East lawn in Balboa Park on Thursday nights in August for the San Diego Museum of Art’s Screen on the Green. This summer the focus is on critically acclaimed films from India to celebrate the museum’s summer exhibition Epic Tales from Ancient India. The films range from a documentary about one of the last movie muralists working in Mumbai to a full-scale Bollywood extravaganza to stories that explore human connections familial and otherwise. All the films are on Thursday nights throughout the month of August, starting at 8:00 PM, which is also when it is no longer legal to consume alcoholic beverages in the park. Dogs, however, are welcome.

Nights Out

Balboa Park is always beautiful, but it is downright magical at night with colorful lights illuminating its already eye-catching architecture. But you don’t have to merely settle for a leisurely stroll along the El Prado to enjoy the scene. This summer several of the museums are having adults-only events that provide the perfect opportunity to enjoy the park at night and experience the museum’s exhibits in new ways all while sipping adult beverages. The Fleet Science Center is hosting the “Busting the Myths of Wine” with a curated wine-pairing dinner on June 2. Beer more your thing? Then you’ll want to head over to the Museum of Man on June 7 for “Beer, Bir, Bjór,” an international beer tasting after-hours event. Does the start of summer make you wistful for a simpler time? The San Diego’s Natural History Museum’s quarterly Secret Society of Adultologists is offering a summer camp-themed event on June 16. Not to be outdone, the San Diego Museum of Art is holding a “Sculpture and Cocktails” event outside at its May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden on June 21 that will feature a DJ and, of course, creative cocktails.

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day

What could be better than taking in a timeless tale by the bard? How about doing it under the stars on a San Diego summer night? That’s exactly what The Old Globe offers each summer with its Shakespeare Festival. In fact, there is really nothing quite like seeing some of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays – Much Ado About Nothing, King Richard II and Hamlet to name a few – featuring seasoned Shakespearian actors in the 615-seat Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, which is framed by towering Eucalyptus trees. This summer’s production of The Tempest is a definite must-see as it features noted Shakespearean actress Kate Burton – who played Vice President Sally Langston on the TV series Scandal and who is also daughter of Richard Burton – playing Prospero, which is a traditionally male role. The festival also gives attendees plenty of chances to get up close and personal with material as well as the cast and crew with free seminars and question-and-answer sessions on select nights.

Balboa Park Deals

Galleries & Museums

Traintastic Deals

San Diego Model Railroad Museum
Valid: May 22, 2018 - ongoing

Save $1.00 off regular adult admission 

Galleries & Museums

Save up to $3 on admission to The Nat

San Diego Natural History Museum
Valid: Oct 30, 2018 - 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. 


Travel Agent Discount

San Diego Zoo
Valid: Feb 22, 2019 - ongoing

Travel Agents, wholesalers, and tour operators presenting a valid IATA or IATAN card with picture ID receive a 10% discount off the 1-Day Pass at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park ticket windows. One...

Events in Balboa Park


Nighttime Zoo at the San Diego Zoo

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Festival of the Sea, produced by the Maritime Museum and sponsored by the Port of San Diego, is one of the keynote events that will take place during 2019 commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the...

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

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