San Diego–the city of beautiful beaches and endless fun. A vacation to San Diego without visiting the infamous Balboa Park would be an incomplete one. If you haven’t put Balboa Park on your bucket list, seriously, what are you waiting for? No other educational park in the city or perhaps America that could offer you the kind of experience that awaits you in this place. I’m talking about breathtaking architecture, stunning manicured gardens, and numerous different kinds of museums. With so many interesting things offered here, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you try to plan your trip. Worry no more because this article is here to be your guide to Balboa Park San Diego. Read on to find out more.
Things to do
There is no easy answer to the question “What’s the best things to do in Balboa Park?” given that the amazing park has more attractions than one could possibly explore in a day or two. Even so, to help you organize and narrow down your itinerary, look into this list of totally unmissable things to do in this 4,856 square kilometers (1,875 square miles) spectacular place.
San Diego Natural History Museum
Perhaps you are already used to visiting history museums where there are plenty prehistoric fossils, yet there is only one place in the world that has the kind of fossils that, as described by the Los Angeles Times, have the possibility to alter the beginning chapter in the origin of the world, and that is in San Diego Natural History Museum, at Cerutti Mastodon Discovery Exhibition. The exhibit showcases the bones of a 130,000-year-old mastodon as well as the process which leads to the discovery. Other than bones, the exhibition also features the molars and tusk of the creature as well as stones which paleontologist believe were used as weapons by early humans.
San Diego Zoo
Remember that 2005 Madagascar movie where one of the characters mentioned San Diego Zoo upon seeing a spectacular jungle? Once you set foot here you’ll immediately know why. San Diego Zoo is one of the world’s leading animal conservations and recreational sites. The place is designed to mimic the natural habitat of each species that they have. Here you’ll get to see animals all around the world without having to leave San Diego! To name a few, gorillas, Komodo dragons, polar bears, flamingos, mandrills, and so much more. For visitors who don’t want to tire their feet by walking, they may enjoy the beautiful scenery from a double-decker bus.
If you find the view of Balboa Park from its entrance gate beautiful, wait until you see the bird-eye’s view of its landscape from almost 200 feet (60.96 meters) up in the air. There is only one place where you can see such a view and that is California Tower in the Museum of Man. The iconic tower which was closed for over eight decades is now open to the public. Keep in mind that it takes time to reach the top floor as there are 125 steps that you will need to climb. But all that fatigue will disappear once you witness the unbroken 360-degree view of the park and the city.
What to eat
Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account
Having a glass of high-quality beer after hours of roaming around wouldn’t hurt, right? If any, it will add excitement to your trip. For visitors who feel like quaffing down a pint of local craft beer at the end of their tour (or during!) accompanied with freshly made foods sourced from local ingredients, head over to Panama 66. It is indeed a must-to-go place for a scrumptious drink under the city’s friendly weather.
Alaska Airlines Flight Path Grill
In the middle of touring around and suddenly craving for some good old-fashioned American hamburgers with fries and salad? Then you should drop by this restaurant with outdoor seating where you can enjoy meals at picnic tables. The must-order food from this place is their chocolate chip cookies which is said to be the best in all of San Diego. If you feel like treating yourself after a day of walking, get yourself some of their creamy ice cream and savory nachos.
Things to buy
San Diego artsy merchandise
When the memories are so unforgettable, photos alone aren’t enough to keep the memories alive–take home a piece of San Diego with you! Before you exit Balboa Park make time to buy artsy merchandise at Bibliotique at San Diego Museum of Art, where you can find an array of artsy and innovative items. From books, key chains in quirky models, to miscellaneous items that you won’t find anywhere else, the store is a good place to do some souvenir hunting.
San Diego Natural History Museum collectibles
The cherry on top of a stop to San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park would be buying the nature-inspired collectibles sold at theNAT gift store. One of the store’s most unique collections is the Signature Series of A. R. Valentien - a gifted, early 1900s artist whose artworks are now sought by antique collectors. The collection consists of note cards, placemats, prints, and other items showcasing the artistic works of the renowned artist.
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It’s good to keep in mind that since Balboa Park attractions, museums, and museum stores are operated by different entities, the opening times and admission fees of each entity will vary one from another. Also, in case you are wondering whether the park is wheelchair-friendly, the answer is yes it is. There is even a wheelchair rental within the park. Additionally please beware of third-party websites or ticket scalpers who offer tickets at rates way below the ones listed on their official website, as the tickets they sell could be invalid or have expired.
The most important thing that those who plant to visit here must know is to come prepared and with an itinerary. The park is vast, and if you come without a plan you’ll find yourself getting lost and getting tired quickly. You’ll get to experience the best of this place if you at least have an idea of the things you want to do and see here. Whether you want to devote a day to bounce between one museum to another, or you want take a lot of pictures outdoors, make sure you plan your trip right.
How to get there
You can get to Balboa Park by so many ways, however most people opt for taking public transportation or walking, for rush hours or holidays make driving and parking difficult.
For the most accurate walking route to Balboa Park use an online GPS director. But keep in mind that certain areas along the route to the park might not be very safe to be walked alone when the sun is down. Travel in a group if possible, or if you must travel alone, be sure to avoid secluded neighborhoods.
These are the lines and routes of public transportation that stops in close proximity to the park: for bus, take route 120, Rapid 215, and 7. For train, take the coaster train.
The full address of Balboa Park is 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. It is recommended to check Balboa Park’s Traffic Alerts page on its website before traveling down, for they usually post notifications of events or situations that might affect the traffic to the park so visitors can plan the most convenient route to the park based on the traffic prediction.
How to book tickets
The passes to Balboa Park are available on its official website and also on third-party websites. There are multiple types of passes and packages that you can choose depending on how long do you plan to stay and how much area of the park that you want to explore. A one-day pass which gives you access to 5 venues starts at 48 USD for adults and 29 USD for children on its official webpage. It’s also wise to check on their official website first before making any purchases as a number of museums in the park are open for only a limited time or on holidays like Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day.
Let's visit Balboa Park
Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
Website: Balboa Park
Department of tourism: Visit California
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