발보아 공원의 보태니컬 빌딩(Botanical Building)이 인스타그램에 수없이 올라오는 데는 이유가 있습니다. 식물에 적합한 적당한 햇볕과 공기 순환을 위해 슬래트로 건축된 이 우뚝 솟은 래드 하우스는 1915년~1916년 파나마-캘리포니아 엑스포를 위해 세워져 전 세계에서 동종 건축물 중 가장 큰 규모를 자랑합니다. 건물 주변에는 꽃으로 장식된 수련 연못이 자리합니다. 건축물과 식물의 특별한 조화 덕분에 발보아 공원에서 사람들이 가장 많이 기념사진을 찍는 곳입니다.
팀켄 미술관(Timken Museum of Art) 옆 엘 프라도(El Prado) 산책로에 자리한 이 아름다운 건축물은 단지 외관만 아름다운 곳은 아닙니다. 마치 정글과 같은 내부로 들어가면(입장료는 무료입니다) 높이 솟은 양치 식물, 총천연색을 뽐내고 있는 이국적인 난초와 화려한 꽃들 아래를 지나다닐 수 있습니다. 내부에는 약 2,100종의 열대 식물이 상주하고 있으며 봄에는 부활절 백합을 선보이는 등 계절에 맞는 꽃을 전시하여 아름다움을 한층 더 뽐냅니다. 양치 식물, 소철목, 야자수를 비롯해 손으로 만지고 향을 맡아볼 수 있는 정원도 구경할 수 있습니다.
하지만 야외에 위치한 아름다운 발보아 공원의 정원들도 당연히 구경하고 싶으실 것입니다. 옛 선인장 정원(Old Cactus Garden), 사막 정원(Desert Garden), 캘리포니아 야생 식물 정원(California Native Plant Garden)에서는 다육식물과 선인장류를 비롯해 일반적으로 1월부터 3월 사이에 꽃이 피는 가뭄에 강한 식물을 만날 수 있습니다. 1,600여 종의 꽃이 피어 있는 아이네즈 그랜트 파커 메모리얼 로즈 가든(Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden)은 특히 봄에 발보아 공원에서 가장 달콤한 향기를 풍기는 장소입니다.
보다 이국적인 경험을 원한다면 스페인 세비야의 알카자르 성에서 이름을 따온 알카자르 정원(Alcazar Garden)에서 모자이크 옥색 분수를 둘러싼 아름다운 화단과 회양목 울타리를 만나보시기 바랍니다. 별로 멀지 않은 곳에는 알카자르 정원과 완전히 다른 분위기의 오스트레일리아 가든(Australian Garden)이 자리하고 있으며, 이곳에서 유칼립투스와 풍접초 등 다양한 꽃을 만날 수 있습니다. 재패니즈 프렌드십 가든(Japanese Friendship Garden)은 일본의 스키야 건축 양식과 석조 장식, 잉어 연못이 어우러져 소박한 아름다움을 자랑합니다.
어린이들은 먹을 수 있는 식물이 가득한 민속식물 어린이 평화 정원(EthnoBotany Children’s Peace Garden)에서 즐거운 시간을 보낼 수 있습니다. 유기농 허브, 과일 나무, 채소에 대해 배우고 모나크 웨이 스테이션(Monarch Way Station)에 방문하여 사랑스러운 생물들을 관찰하시기 바랍니다. 플리트 과학센터(Fleet Science Center) 옆에 있는 조로 가든(Zoro Garden)은 다양한 나비를 만날 수 있는 곳입니다. 매월 5월이면 조로 가든에서 나비 날리기 행사(Annual Butterfly Release)를 주최하여 수백 마리의 작은멋쟁이(Painted Ladies) 나비들을 하늘로 날려보냅니다.
유용한 팁: 보태니컬 빌딩의 입장료는 무료입니다. 매일 오전 10시부터 오후 4시까지 운영되며, 목요일에는 휴관이오니 방문 시 참고하시기 바랍니다.
샌디에이고 도심에 4.86제곱킬로미터(1,200에이커) 규모의 녹지를 담당하고 있는 발보아 파크는 뉴욕의 센트럴 파크와 시카고의 밀레니엄 파크를 합한 것보다 더 큰 규모를 자랑합니다. 이 공원에는 16개의 박물관, 104.6킬로미터(65마일)에 달하는 산책로, 그리고 세계적으로 유명한 샌디에이고 동물원(San Diego Zoo )이 자리하고 있습니다. 19세기 초에 생겨난 발보아 파크는 미 공원 중 가장 오랜 역사를 자랑합니다.
상징적인 캘리포니아 타워(California Tower)등 이곳의 초기 건축물은 흠잡을 데 없이 보존되어 있어 방문객에게 뛰어난 볼거리를 제공합니다. 파나마 운하를 기념하여 건축된 이 화려한 건물은 2016년에 다시 문을 열었습니다. 125개 계단을 올라 캘리포니아 타워에 오르면 샌디에이고에서 가장 뛰어난 경관을 볼 수 있습니다.
야생 식물과 세심한 조경을 통해 손질된 정원이 조화를 이루는 발보아 공원은 원예학이 주는 경이로움을 선사합니다. 아이네즈 그랜트 파커 메모리얼 로즈 가든(Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden)에만 해도 130여 종의 장미가 피어 있습니다. 재패니즈 프렌드십 가든(Japanese Friendship Garden)은 빼어난 우아함과 사랑스러운 잉어 연못을 자랑하며, 팜 케니언(Palm Canyon)은 450여 그루가 만든 울창한 정글 같은 분위기를 방문객에게 선사합니다.
이곳에는 샌디에이고의 인류 박물관(San Diego Museum of Man), 샌디에이고 미술관(San Diego Museum of Art), 샌디에이고 자연사 박물관(San Diego Natural History Museum), 플리트 과학 센터(Fleet Science Center), 샌디에이고의 에어 앤 스페이스 뮤지엄(San Diego Air & Space Museum) 등 다양한 박물관이 위치하고 있습니다. 문화 공간도 못지 않게 다양합니다. 디 올드 글로브 시어터(The Old Globe Theatre)는 유명한 셰익스피어 페스티벌(Shakespeare Festival)을 매년 여름 개최합니다. 야외 영화상영, 연극, 콘서트도 발보아 공원에서는 일 년 내내 만날 수 있습니다.
이에 더해 세계적으로 손꼽히는 동물원도 자리하고 있습니다. 샌디에이고 동물원(San Diego Zoo)에서는 660종, 3,700여 마리의 동물이 방문객을 기다리고 있습니다. 코알라, 오랑우탄, 높은 인기를 구가하는 자이언트 판다를 꼭 만나보시기 바랍니다. 특별 일정은 발보아 파크의 웹사이트에서 확인이 가능하며, 동물원과 박물관 패키지 입장권 또한 웹사이트에서 구매 가능합니다.
정원, 레스토랑, 깊숙한 곳에 자리한 산책로 등 발보아 파크를 완전하게 즐기는 방법에 대해 더 읽어보시기 바랍니다.
The San Diego Museum of Art is only one of Balboa Park’s many fine art museums, but as the largest and oldest, it’s a good place to start. The collection features pieces from 5,000 B.C. to present day, all housed behind an intricate facade designed to mimic a Spanish cathedral. The free-admission Timken Museum of Art offers a similar range of pieces in a smaller space. In the Museum of Photographic Arts, visitors can gaze on the more than 24,000 pictures in the permanent collection, or head to Mingei International Museum, which celebrates beauty in ordinary objects like textiles and bowls.
If you’d like to visit an actual artist’s studio—or better yet, several of them—Balboa Park is home to the Spanish Village Art Center, a picturesque cluster of building and courtyards originally constructed to resemble a charming town in Spain in 1935 for the second California Exposition. Today it houses studio and gallery space for more than 250 local artists of every imaginable discipline: painters, sculptors, metalsmiths, mixed-media artists, photographers, glassblowers, and many more. You can stroll through shows and sales, watch demonstrations, and observe the artists at work; the studios are open and questions are encouraged.
Those curious about engineering will appreciate the handful of park museums dedicated to how stuff works. The San Diego Air & Space Museum houses an impressive number of original and replica aircraft—Apollo 9, Wright Glider, and Super Marine Spitfire, to name a few—which help visitors understand the wonder of flight. Gearheads should check out the San Diego Automotive Museum, which has a 1947 Cadillac that still holds the record for driving from San Diego to New York and back—without stopping. For a better understanding of the physics behind machines, head to the Fleet Science Center for interactive exhibits that are good for kids (and adults) of all ages, while kids and train spotters will also love the Model Railroad Museum. Some kids would argue, too, that the park’s 1910 Herschell-Spillman Carousel, near the Activity Center, is a museum in itself.
Two more can’t-miss stops include the San Diego Natural History Museum, which allows visitors to channel their inner archaeologist with dinosaur skeletons and mastodon bones. The truly unique San Diego Museum of Man focuses on one of earth’s most peculiar creatures with rotating exhibits on animal cohabitation, cannibalism, and the invention of mythical beasts.
Useful info: As a public park, entrance to Balboa Park is free, but tickets to the various museums, performance venues, tours, etc. vary, as do their hours of operation. Visit the site for details and a useful map. The Balboa Park Explorer Pass, a pass with one-day, one-week, and one-year options is available. The park also has an app to help you make the most of your visit.
Located in San Diego’s Balboa Park, the Fleet Science Center combines serious learning with hands-on fun. The center is part-museum and part-theater/planetarium, both of which offer immersive experiences tailored to explorers of every age. With a motto of “please touch,” the Fleet Science Center uses tactical techniques to help visitors better understand our world and how it works.
When the center’s Giant Dome Theater opened in 1973, it was the first IMAX Dome (or OMNIMAX) in the world. Today, the theater continues to transport viewers with films about nature, technology, and more. For a special experience, head to the Fleet Science Center on the first Wednesday of every month for The Sky Tonight show and listen to astronomers as they lead you through a journey to infinity and beyond.
The museum features a mix of roughly a dozen permanent and visiting exhibitions. The permanent areas include “Nano,” which breaks down the field of nanoscience from the visible to the unseen, and “Kid City,” a play-place dedicated to children age 5 and under, complete with firetruck and ball wall. Each exhibit challenges children (and adults) to master difficult concepts like electricity and the power of air flow by balancing power grids and creating miniature tornados.
Browse the North Star Science Store for quirky, science-themed souvenirs and books, while hungry future-astronauts can try the outer space ice-cream sandwiches. For a more down-to-earth option, the museum's attached café Craveology serves fresh options like five-grain salad, yogurt parfaits, and turkey lasagna.
The history of Balboa Park stretches all the way back to 1835, so it’s little wonder that some nutty stuff has gone down within its 1,200 acres. Did you know, for instance, that Zoro Garden was once the site of a nudist colony, or that in the 1980s, orangutans escaped from the San Diego Zoo a total of nine times? A number of tours offered within the park highlight the park’s fun tidbits while also giving visitors a closer connection to San Diego’s fascinating park.
For an excellent overview, start at the Balboa Park Visitors Center (find it on this map). Ninety-minute, self-guided audio tours are available for purchase (both adult and children’s versions), while free ranger-lead walking tours embark from the center every Sunday. The park also hosts specialized tours focusing on specific areas of interests. There’s an Architectural Heritage Tour, held on the first Friday of each month, which highlights the way the park introduced the Spanish Colonial Revival style to Southern California. Garden fans, meanwhile, can enjoy a 45-minute Botanical Tour every third Friday. Or go on a free docent-led Japanese Friendship Garden Tour of the park’s lower 4.5-acre canyon expansion area. Check the tour schedule to time your visit. Tours of the California Tower, or bell tower, will not be offered for much of 2019 while the tower is receives a seismic retrofit. Work is expected to be completed by January of 2020.
If you want to get a workout along the way, try the 3.2-mile trail run offered by City Running Tours(which includes an after-dark option on Saturday). If you prefer a sweat-free experience, We Love Tourists offers a Segway tour, as well as ebike tours and even tours with a focus on food. Or take a seat and enjoy the view with San Diego Trolley Tours, which stops at various museums along the loop.
All the world’s a stage at Balboa Park, where you can enjoy just about every sort of theater—from puppet shows to people-watching. The various stages within the park spotlight acting, dance, and song, while cultural programs create the opportunity to study the performing arts yourself.
The park’s oldest and most famous venue, The Old Globe Theatre, was created in 1935 in the image of (and named after) the famous London landmark. In the years since, The Old Globe has produced more than 20 original plays that ended up on Broadway or Off-Broadway—and in 1984 the company won a Tony Award for best regional theater. Today, the legend lives on with 15 plays a year on the main stage, as well as smaller performances on the two auxiliary stages. From November through December every year, the must-see Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! transforms the theatre into a holiday wonderland.
Enjoy charmingly old-fashioned fun at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, which is the oldest continuously running puppetry venue in the United States. The 234-seat theater shows short adaptations of classic tales like “Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstiltskin.” Kids will love the puppet meet-and-greet and the gift shop filled with marionettes. In a separate celebration of an oft-forgotten art, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion—the world’s largest outdoor organ—holds free outdoor concerts every Sunday afternoon. The venue also hosts various musical acts as part of the Summer Nights series.
In the spirit of community education, Balboa Park cultivates a number of children’s and continuing education in the arts programs. Civic Dance Arts, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, San Diego Junior Theatre, and San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory all call Balboa home. Check their respective performance schedules to see the best of the city’s young talent with very affordable admissions.
When it comes to dining while at Balboa Park, forget everything you know about “park food.” In fact, some of San Diego’s most exciting restaurants can be found inside this massive urban green space.
The courtyard in the heart of the park, for instance, is not only the center point for many of the park’s museums, but it also offers a romantic backdrop for Balboa’s very best food. Panama 66 pours a rotating tap of 20-plus San Diego brews along with locally sourced salads and sandwiches. The open dining room, tucked inside a sculpture garden, hosts live music every Wednesday–Saturday night. If you’re after high-end food and service, head to The Prado at Balboa Park where you can enjoy whimsical Spanish decor, inventive cocktails, and creative entrées—think pan-seared duck breast with quinoa fried rice and tangerine gastrique.
Balboa Park’s museums and gardens keep the food charmingly on-theme. Hungry animal watchers can climb the steps to Albert’s Restaurant at the San Diego Zoo for a treetop meal next to a private waterfall. Enjoy a tea service—the loose-leaf menu is massive—with your noodle soup at the bamboo Tea Pavilion inside the Japanese Friendship Garden. The Flight Path Grill, housed in the San Diego Air & Space Museum, keeps the meals simple—pizza and salads—but the real attraction is the buzz of engines swooping low on their way to San Diego International Airport, just a few short miles west.
As you plan your visit, keep an eye out for special food-themed events. Depending on the season, you might find a row of food trucks on the Plaza de Panama. Every Friday in the summer (and for a week during the holidays), more than a dozen trucks serving everything from wood-fired pizza to boba tea make for a pop-up food court. On Sunday afternoons between March and October, stroll the lawn among the little houses at the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages and you can nosh on a variety of international tidbits from Austria to Peru, Turkey, and Korea.
One of the very best things about Balboa Park is that it’s free to enter. With grounds open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can always walk right in. Once inside, some exhibits, museums, and attractions do require a fee, but there are still plenty of things to do in the Jewel of San Diego without spending a dime.
An incredible 65 miles of trails snake through the park, and there’s no charge for hiking or running. For a short-but-memorable hike, try Palm Canyon. The trail starts at a raised boardwalk accessible from the Mingei Museum and dips into a lush palm forest with a prehistoric feel. The Sixth and Upas Trails Gateway is the perfect place to start a longer trip. Maps and markings clearly outline loops that range from 1.5 to 6.6 miles long, which take explorers through oak-shaded paths.
While most of Balboa’s museums charge some kind of admission, there are a few notable exceptions. Don’t miss, for instance, the Timken Museum of Art, which is home to a wide array of masterpieces, from Rembrandt to John Singleton Copley. The Botanical Building is also free: Relax among the ferns and orchids, and see if you can find the turtle in the lily pond outside.
For some quirky fun, check out a night of races at the Velodrome to watch local cyclists jamming at breakneck speeds around the steeply banked track. Events are free and normally held every Tuesday and Friday nights from April through September, but check the website for details. The Spreckels Organ Pavilion also hosts a Twilight in the Park summer concert series, with free organ concerts every Sunday year-round. Nearby, weekend afternoons are prime time to explore the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages—a collection of little houses, each dedicated to one nation’s culture. Its open houses and lawn programs (which welcome donations, but charge no admission) feature live music, cultural displays, and culinary samples.
Balboa Park’s calendar is filled with festivals, tours, concerts, and special events nearly every weekend of the year—and some events are worth building a whole trip around.
Holidays are huge in San Diego’s emerald gem. December Nights, held the first weekend of the month, features special performances and light displays, unique shopping in the Starlight Winter Marketplace, and free admission to any museum. Balboa Park also goes big for Halloween: The Haunted Trail challenges the courage of hikers with a mile of terrifying sights, while kid-friendly Halloween Family Day has carnival games, craft projects, and a rooftop pumpkin drop from the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
San Diego has a rich history of supporting diverse cultures, which is on full display in May during Balboa’s annual Ethnic Food Fair. Held at the International Cottages, representatives from nearly 40 countries set up shop to serve up local delicacies along with song and dance on the main stage. In February, the Chinese New Year Festival celebrates with a lion dance, calligraphy lessons, steamed dumplings, and milk tea. Each March, the Japanese Friendship Garden welcomes spring with the Cherry Blossom Festival, when visitors flock to the gardens to see the pink blooms in all their glory, while enjoying cultural performances and sake tastings.
The heart of June’s San Diego LGBTQ Pride weekend is the two-day festival in Balboa Park. Often cited as the largest civic event in the city, more than 200,000 participants enjoy live music, delicious food, and an inclusive community.
There’s a reason why Balboa Park’s stunning Botanical Building graces countless Instagram posts. Constructed with slats to allow for the proper sunlight and air circulation for plants, this soaring lath house was built for the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition and is one of the largest of its kind in the world, flawlessly framed by a flower-trimmed lily pond. With its distinctive blend of architecture and flora, this is easily one of the most photographed spots in all of Balboa Park.
But this dramatic building—located on the El Prado walkway, next to the Timken Museum of Art—is more than just a pretty face. Step inside the jungle-y interior (no entry fee required) to walk beneath towering tree ferns and a Technicolor display of exotic orchids and other showy blooms. The indoor collection includes some 2,100 tropical plants permanently on show, and seasonal flower displays—like special Easter lily shows in spring—add even more eye-popping beauty to the scene. Be sure to check out the ferns, cycads, and palms, as well as a “scratch-and-sniff garden.”
But you’ll want to head outdoors, of course, to explore Balboa’s many lovely gardens. The Old Cactus Garden, Desert Garden, and the California Native Plant Garden all showcase succulents, cacti, and other drought-resistant plants that typically flower from January through March. With more than 1,600 blooms, the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden is the sweetest smelling spot in the park, especially in spring.
If you’re looking for a more international experience, check out the Alcazar Garden (patterned after Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain) where manicured flower beds and box hedges meet at mosaic turquoise fountains. On the other side of the world, but just a few hundred yards away, the Australian Garden invites visitors to explore flora, including eucalyptus and spider flowers. The Japanese Friendship Garden offers an austere beauty coupled with Sukia Style structures, stone arrangements, and koi ponds.
Kids will love the EthnoBotany Children’s Peace Gardens, where nearly every plant is edible. Learn about organic herbs, fruit trees, and vegetables, and visit the Monarch Way Station to watch the lovely creatures flit by. The Zoro Garden, next to the Fleet Science Center, is also home to a number of butterfly species. Every May, the Zoro hosts an Annual Butterfly Release where hundreds of Painted Ladies take flight.
Insider tip: The Botanical Building offers free admission, but be sure to plan your visit right: It’s open every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Thursdays.