Do a deep dive on Balboa Park’s rich history with a variety of tours – most of which are free.
Discover the hidden secrets of Balboa Park through one of the many tours offered. There are tours for any interest and many are free to the public. Take advantage of the expertise a tour guide can offer and ask questions. The more you ask, the more prepared you’ll be for your exploration of Balboa Park.
Find out about Balboa Park at your own pace with an audio tour that you can rent from the Balboa Park Visitors Center. The tour, which takes about 90 minutes, covers the park’s history, cultural attractions and gardens and comes in both an adult and child version. The latest the audio tour can be rented is at 2:30 p.m.
For those interested in learning more about Balboa Park’s iconic architecture, there is the Architectural Heritage Tour, hosted by The Committee of 100, one of the many volunteer groups in the park. Participants on the tour will learn how the 1915 Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park introduced Spanish Colonial Revival architecture to Southern California as well as gain insights into the California Building and its tower, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and the "temporary" buildings along El Prado. These free tours are offered on the first Friday of each month at 10 a.m.
Step back in time and experience one of the most interesting places in Balboa Park: The Historic Botanical Building. This free, 45-minute docent-led tour showcases the origins, design and horticulture of Balboa Park’s historic Botanical Building and tells the fascinating story of English immigrant and world-renowned begonia expert, Alfred D. Robinson, who is the man behind the building.
Tours leave from the south end of the Lily Pond at 11 a.m. every third Friday.
Included with the price of the admission is the opportunity to participate in one of two docent-led tours of the Japanese Friendship Garden. The first tour explores the 2.5 acres of the upper terrace and its stone lanterns, water basins, dry stone garden, koi pond and Bonsai trees. The second tour showcases the 4.5 acres of the lower terrace and its cherry tree grove, turtle island, babbling stream and waterfall and the Inamori Pavilion. For tour schedules, visit http://www.niwa.org/docent-tours/.
Offered every Saturday by trained volunteers, these tours start at 10 a.m. and provide an easy-paced one-hour walk with rotating themes. Tour themes include Balboa Park’s history (first Saturday of the month), palm trees (second Saturday), other trees in the Park (third Saturday), desert vegetation (fourth Saturday) and tour del dia (fifth Saturday). There are no tours from Thanksgiving through the second Saturday in January. Reservations are not required. Tours meet at the Visitors Center.
Approximately an hour in length, these tours meet at 11 a.m. every Sunday at the Visitor Information Center in the Park's House of Hospitality. Park Rangers, who are the stewards of Balboa Park, discuss the historical and botanical treasures of Balboa Park.
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