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
The 6-acre garden between the Fleet Science Center and the San Diego History Center was once a nudist colony. Now curious spectators flock to the sunken stone grotto to see a different type of exhibition–colorful monarch, sulfur, skipper, and swallowtail butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.
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.
Mingei Gift Shop
After touring the Mingei's extensive collection of handcrafted artwork from around the world, stop by The Collectors' Gallery and take home unique decor, clothing, accessories, and more from artisans in San Diego and abroad.
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.
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