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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.

Events in Balboa Park

Event

Museum Month

San Diego Museum Council
Feb 1 - Feb 28, 2021

San Diego area residents and visitors are in for a special treat in February! Pick up your Museum Month discount pass at participating libraries or when you stay at a Hilton to enjoy 50% off the...

Event

Taste of December Nights

Balboa Park
Dec 4 - Dec 6, 2020

For more than 40 years, the San Diego community has welcomed in the holiday season by celebrating the annual December Nights at Balboa Park. Due to the current pandemic conditions, we are saddened...

Event

Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The Old Globe
Nov 26 - Dec 24, 2020

Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! On the Radio is a wonderful, whimsical musical based upon the classic Dr. Seuss book. The family favorite features the songs "Santa for a Day,"...

Event

Tequila, Tacos, and Tombstones

So Diego Tours Inc
Jul 1, 2020 - ongoing

Tequila, Tacos, and Tombstones combines food and history into a one of a kind, unforgettable experience. Travel back in time with us as we explore the Birthplace of California and the events and...

Event

The Nutcracker Drive-In

San Diego Ballet
Nov 27 - Dec 6, 2020

Ringing in the holiday season, San Diego Ballet presents this outdoor matinee of The Nutcracker, enchanting playgoers with sugarplum fairies, leaping cossacks and flurries of snowflakes underneath the...

Event

Penguin Cam

San Diego Zoo
May 18 - ongoing

There’s always something exciting going on in the big Dan and Vi McKinney Penguin Habitat in Africa Rocks, home to a large colony of African penguins. The spacious Penguin Beach features a...

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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