Balboa Park

Balboa Park, San Diego is family-friendly fun for all ages! This walkable area is home to top San Diego attractions such as the San Diego Zoo and numerous museums. It also hosts activities such as bike riding, hiking and shopping, while offering park space and picnic tables for public use.
Balboa Park
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Take the Family to the Famous Attractions in Balboa Park

Entrance into the San Diego Zoo in Balboa ParkCasa De Balboa at Balboa Park

If there’s one place that you have to visit in San Diego, it’s Balboa Park. This quintessential San Diego travel destination has everything you could want on a vacation: amazing museums, beautiful outdoor spaces, iconic art, great restaurants and exciting nightlife. The must-see San Diego Zoo is also located at the northern edge of the park, featuring more than 700,000 plants and over 4,000 rare and endangered animals.

Popular Hotels in Balboa Park
Popular Hotels
Price
The US Grant
$265
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InterContinental San Diego
$188
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Omni San Diego Hotel
$170
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Kona Kai Resort & Spa
$189
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Balboa Park occupies 1,200 tranquil acres near Downtown San Diego, making it one of the largest city parks in the world. Whether you feel like walking, jogging, skateboarding or riding a bike, you can explore over 65 miles of trails and many different kinds of terrain.

Getting to the park is relatively easy since it’s close to many hotels and downtown districts. Balboa Park is only 1.8 miles from San Diego International Airport, 1.5 miles from Gaslamp Quarter and 1.3 miles from Little Italy. That makes it easy to go from your hotel to the different areas of the park.

Park Boulevard runs right through the middle of the park from north to south and runs just next to the Natural History Museum. El Prado is on the west side of the park and is next to many of the museums in the park including the Museum of Us and The San Diego Museum of Art.

Families adore Balboa Park because it has activities that kids and parents can enjoy together. Take advantage of Balboa Park’s massive green spaces to throw a Frisbee, play golf, put together a volleyball match or enjoy a relaxing picnic.

Local Tips
Did you know?
Balboa Park is not only home to the famous San Diego Zoo but to over 17 museums and dozens of parks which are great for a romantic picnic.

Couples are in for a treat with the stunning views around the park. There are over 20 different unforgettable gardens to walk through, featuring carefully tended floral arrangements, palm trees, a lily pond, and countless other plants. There's nothing quite like sharing a kiss surrounded by 130 varieties of roses.

One of the most relaxing and romantic places to visit at Balboa Park is the 12-acre Japanese Friendship Garden. Soothing streams, cherry blossoms, Japanese architecture and gorgeous stone walkways are perfect for memorable vacation photos.

A lot of events and festivals happen throughout the year at this city park, including art, live music and other performances. From the end of May to the beginning of October, Summer Movies in the Park treats visitors to free open-air films.

Balboa Park
Why you'll love Balboa Park
Visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo at Balboa Park! Enjoy bike riding, hiking, museums or even picnics at the parks. Walk to the local shops & attractions.

Save BIG with Go Pass!

Orangutan at San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
Explore the top zoo in America! The San Diego Zoo is located in iconic Balboa Park, and features over 3,500 animal in their habitats. Bundle with other attractions in Balboa Park for top savings - like the Air and Space Museum!
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Local Tips
What attractions are included with a Go Pass?

Attractions that you can visit with a Go San Diego Pass include:

The San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, SeaWorld, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Harbor Cruise, USS Midway Museum, the NAT Museum, Whaley House, PETCO Park Tour, iFLY San Diego and many, many more!

Things to Do

Biking
Biking
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Museums
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Picnic Tables
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo

The Best Things to Do at Balboa Park

One of the reasons Balboa Park is popular is that there are so many things to do. No matter what your idea of a dream vacation is, this place belongs at the top of your bucket list. With sprawling hills, perfect vistas, attractive gardens and plenty of room to play, San Diego's premier city park has endless entertainment options.

Stroll through gorgeous gardens

From the legendary Palm Canyon to the breathtaking Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, Balboa Park is filled with incredible gardens and even a koi pond. Photograph blooming roses, cacti, orchids, lotus blossoms, palm trees and koi ponds. These beautiful backdrops are perfect for romantic occasions.

One of our favorite gardens in Balboa Park is the Alcazar Gardens that is complete with a gazebo, benches, paths and a fountain through the massive garden. This garden is inspired by the Alcazar Castle gardens in Spain.

Enjoy live music

In addition to the laid-back street performers that like to hang out along the El Prado main street, you may also be able to take in one of Balboa Park’s incredible Twilight in the Park summer concerts. From June to August, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, you can enjoy big band jazz, folk, rock & roll, soul, blues and classical performances for free.

Visit the Botanical Building

The beauty of Balboa Park isn’t limited to its numerous gardens. Nature lovers can visit the Botanical Building to observe exotic palm trees, orchids, cycads and other plants, in addition to an iconic lily pond. Best of all, it’s free.

Photograph Spanish architecture

Spanish colonial architecture and California mission buildings combine with verdant surroundings for incredible photographs. Visiting places such as Casa del Prado feels like traveling back in time.

Go Walking or Hiking

Balboa Park is great for staying in shape. Its 19 winding trails let you go for a morning jog or an afternoon walk in amazing surroundings. Blue skies, various types of terrain and plenty of shade give you a lot of room to enjoy the outdoors.

Dog Parks

There are different dog parks in Balboa Park. Morley Field Dog Park is a scenic off-leash dog park with canyon views and a grassy area next to hiking trails. Nate's Point Dog Park is a fenced area for dogs to roam with trees and shade. Finally Grape Street Dog Park is on 5 acres that offers off-leash opportunities on a grassy area and is surrounded by a Eucalyptus grove. There are even dog obstacle courses and picnic tables to relax at while your dog explores the area.

Go Golfing at Balboa Park Golf Course

Balboa Park Golf Course is one of three city of San Diego golf courses, the others being the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and the 9 hole executive Mission Bay Golf Course. Balboa Park Golf Course has an 18 hole challenging par 72 course and a 9 hole executive golf course as well. Discounts are available for San Diego residents who purchase an annual residence golf card. This card will offer significant discounts here and even more significant discounts at the Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Don't worry, the Balboa Park Golf Course is not just for San Diegans, this course is one of the best courses in the city of San Diego.

Catch an Art Performance

The Old Globe Theatre company organizes performing art and festivals at several locations throughout the park. The Summer Shakespeare festival is one of the most popular. There’s also the Spreckels Organ Pavilion for Sunday concerts featuring one of the largest pipe organs in the world.

Check out the Nightlife

For a one-of-a-kind experience, head back to Balboa Park after 8:00 p.m. The San Diego Zoo has a Night Time Zoo program, and you can also have fun at Balboa Park After Dark during the summer, with food trucks, craft drinks and unforgettable views.

There are plenty of activities here for adults, teens and kids of all ages. If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, you can always find a private spot to relax.

What to See at the San Diego Zoo

You can’t plan a visit to Balboa Park without including time at the magnificent San Diego Zoo. This world-famous zoo is home to countless exotic animals, endangered species and colorful flora. Kids watch wide-eyed as they get to see wild animals up close and personal.

Adults also have a great time at the zoo. A stroll through the park can be a great way to celebrate special moments as a couple. A few of the fabulous favorites at the San Diego Zoo include zebras, tigers, snow leopards, rhinos, pygmy hippos, polar bears, meerkats, lemurs, koalas, jaguars, gorillas, elephants and countless other species.

What makes the zoo really special are the large habitats created for these wild animals. Polar bears get to enjoy their own frigid habitat and tigers live in a lush jungle zone with a special misting system. Visitors are immersed in these special climate areas to see animals in a unique environment.

Featured Activity

Maritime Museum of San Diego
The San Diego Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum of San Diego is famous for restoring, operating and maintaining historic boats from all around the world. The museum provides daily public tours of their collection of ships.
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A Guide to the Museums of Balboa Park

Choosing the best museums to visit depends on your interests and whether you’re traveling with kids. Children have a blast at places such as the Fleet Science Center. All in all, Balboa Park has 17 museums that make any trip exciting:

Fleet Science Center

A guaranteed hit with kids and adults alike, this museum is completely dedicated to science. It gets visitors involved in the action with over 100 interactive exhibits and science experiments. There’s also a comet simulator ride and a massive IMAX theater.

Museum of Us

History buffs can learn a lot about ancient cultures such as the Maya at this anthropological museum. The Museum of Us also holds another treat: the California Tower tour. A hidden passage takes visitors up eight floors to the top of the California tower for a complete view of the San Diego skyline and San Diego Bay.

San Diego Natural History Museum: The Nat

If your kids are into dinosaurs, you have to schedule a visit to this incredible museum. A large collection of fossils and exhibits provide a peek into the past of Southern California’s flora and fauna.

San Diego Museum of Art

Lovers of art can’t pass up the opportunity to observe the high-profile collections at this incredible museum. Famous paintings, pottery, sculptures and photography exhibits line the immaculate walls. Some notable artists represented include Goya, El Greco and Dali.

San Diego Automotive Museum

The cars at this tribute to roadsters rotate every few months, providing an ever-changing glimpse into the history of the hottest automobiles. Get an up-close-and-personal look at classic Cadillacs, iconic Harley-Davidsons and hip convertibles. Gearheads can’t pass up the chance to see a 1914 Ford Model T, 1960 Alfa Romeo, 1974 Lamborghini Countach, 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 and other vehicles.

Other popular places to visit include the Model Railroad Museum and the Museum of Photographic Arts. At the San Diego Air & Space Museum, you can check out a fantastic collection of history-making aircraft and spacecraft, including the command module from the Apollo IX.

Featured Hotel
Andaz San Diego, a Concept by Hyatt
Rooftop pool, Andaz San Diego, a Concept by Hyatt
Couples
Couples
Near Bay
Near Bay
Nightlife
Nightlife
4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars
Stay in the heart of San Diego with all the amenities you could want at Andaz San Diego. Located near the historic Gaslamp Quarter, this hotel is perfect for all.
Prices Starting at $199
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Parks
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Walkable

Tips for Visiting Balboa Park

If you’re planning on spending a lot of time at Balboa Park or other attractions in San Diego, it can be a great idea to purchase a pass for the museums. These packages can save you time and money because you don’t have to stop and pay a separate admission to every museum. The San Diego Go Card has ticket bundles specifically designed for families with kids, so they offer week-long access to Balboa Park’s museums, the San Diego Zoo and other popular attractions, such as LEGOLAND California and SeaWorld San Diego.

It’s important to remember that Balboa Park’s museums are operated independently, which means they all have different operating hours, costs and rules. When you know which museums you want to visit the most, check out our Balboa Park Museum section to see what their hours are.

You can easily spend a full day or an entire week exploring the culture, history, art and science of this San Diego hot spot. However, to give your legs a chance to rest, it’s usually a good idea to space things out with relaxation at the area’s beaches. A short drive from Balboa Park gets you to the bay’s best sand and surfing, so it’s pretty easy to put together an amazing itinerary.

Balboa Park
is Famous For:
Balboa Park
Balboa Park
Museums
Museums
Parks
Parks
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo
Known For:
Attractions
Attractions
Bike Riding
Bike Riding
Hiking
Hiking
Sidewalk Cafés
Sidewalk Cafés
Walkable
Walkable
This Month's Forecast
66℉ / 82℉
Sunny in September
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61℉ / 81℉
Sunny in October
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53℉ / 75℉
Sunny in November
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48℉ / 69℉
Sunny in December

Stay Nearby

The US Grant
Luxury Hotel
5 Star Rating5 Star Rating5 Star Rating5 Star Rating5 Star Rating
The US Grant
from $265 / night
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InterContinental San Diego
Bayfront
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InterContinental San Diego
from $188 / night
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Omni San Diego Hotel
Family Friendly
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Omni San Diego Hotel
from $170 / night
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Kona Kai Resort & Spa
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Kona Kai Resort & Spa
from $189 / night
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