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Balboa Park: History and Main Attractions

By Rodolfo González |

Travel to San Diego to visit Balboa Park, home to the famous San Diego Zoo and the Natural History Museum.

Whenever you visit a city, planning a day just to be in touch with nature is a synonym of stress relief and a chance to promote creativity. That’s why we’ve taken you to Park Güell in Barcelona with its magnificent artistic works by Gaudi, and the Royal Park in Greenwich with its modern planetarium. Today, we’ll travel to the United States to visit Balboa Park in San Diego.

If you haven’t decided where you’ll spend your vacation next summer, DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, recommends visiting Balboa Park in San Diego, California. Why this park? Simple. It has a little bit of everything. It houses the famous San Diego Zoo and open-air theaters where they host cultural events. It also houses several museums, and areas where you can delight in great food. Best of all, all the fun takes place among the enjoyable tropical weather of the US West Coast.

In order for you to have a better idea, these attractions are scattered along 4.8 km2 of natural areas. If you can’t picture how huge this is, we’ll tell you that it’s even bigger than the Central Park of New York!

History of Balboa Park

Kate Sessions - The Mother of Balboa Park

Balboa Park was created in 1868 under the name City Park. Nevertheless, it was abandoned for 24 years. It was until 1892 when, thanks to botanist Kate Sessions, the park was once again brought to life. Because of the work she did, she was named The Mother of Balboa Park. Now, little by little, throughout more than a century, the park has grown even more beautiful. For example, they have added new buildings with different architectural styles and for diverse purposes including: museums, auditoriums, a zoo, recreational areas and restaurants, among others.

The Best Museums in Balboa Park

Take note of these museums where you’ll have fun and learn a lot.

Natural History Museum of San Diego

There are 19 different museums in Balboa Park. Still, one of the most renowned among them is the Natural History Museum of San Diego. There you’ll learn about the state of California’s natural past. You’ll find dinosaur fossils; insects, animals and plants, and you’ll be able to participate in scientific experiments.

Natural History Museum of San Diego

More Museums in Balboa Park

Other attractions you’ll find in Balboa Park are the Art museums and the San Diego Museum of Man; the Air and Space Museum, the San Diego Automotive Museum and the San Diego History Center. Also, you’ll feel like a giant visiting the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, and if you’re a fan of comics, then you’ll have a great time at the Conventions Center where they host the famous COMIC-CON.

The Conventions Center where they host the famous COMIC-CON

After these visits, cross the historic Cabrillo Bridge which was built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, or enjoy the view from the California Tower.

Natural Attractions in Balboa Park

Something that you’ll find all around you in Balboa Park is nature. You’ll get the chance to walk along the 19 botanic gardens that the park houses. There, you’ll find cactuses, lilies, roses, palm trees and plenty endemic plant species. Best of all, these gardens are found inside the museum buildings or along the park’s trails. By the way, if you prefer something more active and adventurous, you can follow the hundreds of trails you’ll find in the park on a bike.

Natural Attractions in Balboa Park

Wildlife Preservation in San Diego Zoo

This visit would be incomplete without discovering the most iconic attractions in Balboa Park. Evidently, we’re talking about the marvelous San Diego Zoo that is home to 3,700 animals that belong to endangered species. Here they offer them the protection and care they need to overcome this tragic situation. Polar bears, koalas, elephants, orangutans and many more friendly animals are waiting for you to visit them.

Protection and care of the Koalas in Balboa Park

Pet-Friendly Initiatives in Balboa Park

If you love pets, you’ll be thrilled to learn that you can spend a day at Balboa Park accompanied by your four-legged best friend. There’s even a special area where dogs can enjoy some playtime.

What to Eat in Balboa Park

Finding food won’t be a problem at Balboa Park. There are 12 restaurants and coffee shops for all tastes and they all offer great experiences. Enjoy a classic hamburger with French fries and a good beer, a romantic dinner in a terrace or even a luxurious meal surrounded by gorillas and other animals from the jungle. Also, take some time to relax with a cup of tea or coffee.

How to Get to Balboa Park

Balboa Park is located only 20 minutes away from San Diego’s International Airport by car. There are also several public transport routes that can take you from the airport to the park in only half an hour.

Another option is to drive 20 minutes from the Tijuana-Mexico and California-USA border.

How Much Does it Cost to Visit Balboa Park?

Here’s some good news. Entrance to the park is free. Yet, some attractions such as the Natural History Museum and the zoo have an entry free that varies between 10 and 60 USD. Take into account that you’ll have other expenses including food and souvenirs, so visit the park on “Free Tuesday”. It takes place once a month and offers free entrance to several museums.

Add more days to your adventure by staying at one of the nearby hotels. They vary in costs; so surely, you’ll find one that adapts to your budget.