Explore one of the country’s best urban cultural parks. Balboa Park has a bit of everything, including grand architecture, diverse museums, cultural institutions, and captivating gardens. You will visit spots that even locals don’t know about. OPTIONAL ADD ON - add an adult One-Day Explorer Pass to any tour departure. Visit 4 of 16 participating museums for an additional $40.
Discover the inspiring, quirky, and fascinating history of one of the nation’s largest urban cultural parks
Uncover historical and architectural treasures hiding in plain sight
Explore a botanical garden’s vibrant collection of more than 2,100 plants
Learn about the early 20th century expositions that shaped Balboa Park
Find the best spots to photograph Balboa Park’s beautiful Spanish colonial revival architecture
Balboa Park is home to gorgeous gardens, lovely walking paths, and plenty of cultural gems, from theaters to museums featuring the arts, the sciences, and more. You get a full overview of the park and its rich history on this San Diego walking tour that explores how the park has become a symbol of the city.
We kick things off at the Founder’s Statue on the west side of the park. We think you’ll agree San Diegans were visionaries when they set aside 1,800 acres of land for the park all the way back in 1867. Then, we stop at the California Tower, built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which has since become a city landmark. The face of the tower depicts the early history of the city.
Next up, we head to Alcazar Gardens, which was inspired by the same-named gardens in Spain. Used for both the 1915 and 1935 expositions, the garden offered fair-goers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the exposition and now provides a picturesque foreground to photos of the California Tower. Snag the perfect Instagram shot while you’re here (remember, #localsknow).
Following that, we head to the Old Globe Theater which is a Tony Award-winning, world-renowned professional theater group modeled after The Globe Theatre London.
From there, we walk through the heart of the Prado, where you get to spy unique building façades and roof supports that most visitors don’t notice. We also check out Zoro Gardens, a sunken garden that was once a nudist colony (seriously) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. Today, it’s a butterfly garden that contains everything butterflies need for their full life cycle.
We then continue past the Bea Evenson fountain, the Natural History Museum, and we pop into the Spanish Village Art Center to observe artists at work in their studios. By now, you should have worked up a thirst so we grab a drink at a local coffee cart before continuing on past one of the largest Morton Bay fig trees in California and the San Diego Junior Theater.
But we’re not done yet! We then head to the Botanical Building (currently closed on Thursdays), home to more than 2,100 plants. It’s the perfect stop for photographers and flower-lovers alike, and the adjacent lily pond full of koi makes more than just a pretty picture — you learn how the pond was an important part of the war effort during WWI and how it helped injured sailors and soldiers during WWII.
Our tour ends at the Plaza de Panama, but before we say goodbye, your guide gives you directions to the nearby Visitor Center (for snacks, maps, souvenirs, and museum passes), suggestions for places to eat, and tips on what else to see and do within the park
Add One-Day Explorer Pass to any tour departure for only $40.
Sefton Plaza at Founder's Statue
Laurel St. between Balboa Drive and 6th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92121
Jan 10, 2020 - ongoing
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Recurs every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Next to Founder’s Plaza statues between 6th Ave and Balboa Drive on Laurel Street at the west entrance of Balboa Park. They are located in Sefton Plaza and are directly across the street from the Lawn Bowling Club.
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