You can spend all day (or weekend) exploring Balboa Park's 1,200 acres of museums, gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. But the Jewel of San Diego also features several lesser-known attractions that are sure to pique your interest, too. Check out these seven hidden gems.
Balboa Park Orange Trail
This scenic 4.1-mile family-friendly trail starts at Sixth Avenue and Upas Street. Hikers follow the orange #2 markers along a paved, gradually sloping path through gardens and museums, past the fountain, and over the historic Cabrillo Bridge.
Parks & Gardens
Tucked away between the San Diego Art Institute and the Mingei Museum, Alcazar Garden is known for its bounty of colors, ornate fountains and marvelous historic sentiment. Modeled after Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain, this exquisite oasis is a must-see with its vibrant display of 7,000 annuals planted year-round. Also, a recent renovation has made this tranquil spot lovelier than ever.
The 1910 Balboa Park Carousel
This Herschell-Spillman menagerie carousel, adjacent to the San Diego Zoo, was built in New York in 1910 and was stationed in Los Angeles and Coronado before heading to its home in Balboa Park in 1922. Its operator, Bill Brown, is also part of Balboa Park’s history: He’s been in charge of the carousel for 45 years, and he’s only the third person to have the job.
Spanish Village Art Center
Arts & Culture
In the Spanish Village Art Center, visitors can watch as artists create their work. This lively artists' collective features nearly 40 studios and galleries, with everything from glass blowing and jewelry making to painting and pottery.
With an astonishing 5,017 pipes, the Spreckels Organ, built all the way back in 1914, is the largest outdoor pipe organ in the world. And the City of San Diego has its own renowned civic organist, Raúl Prieto Ramírez, who puts on a free show for up to 2,500 spectators every Sunday afternoon.
Museum of Photographic Arts Gift Shop
After diving into the many inspiring collections at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), stop by the museum’s well-curated gift shop filled with photography books, cameras, camera bags and a plethora photo-inspired gifts including a coffee mug that could easily be mistaken as a camera lens.
Food & Drink
This happening spot in the San Diego Museum of Art's Marcy S. May Sculpture Garden stays open late Wednesday through Sunday and has live music a few times a week. The bar features more than a dozen local craft beers on tap, and its ever-changing menu prioritizes local, seasonal ingredients.
Bonus - Craft Café
Food & Drink
Located inside Mingei International Museum, CRAFT CAFÉ serves museum guests, park visitors and neighborhood residents with daily grab-and-go breakfast and lunch. The café offers specialty coffee, tea and smoothies; pre-made salads and bowls; made-to-order egg dishes and paninis; house-made and locally sourced pastries; and assorted artisan snacks and beverages including gluten-free and vegan selections.
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