Strolling Balboa Park in San Diego

San Diego is famous for its beaches, zoos and theme parks but a visit to beautiful Balboa Park should also be among its top attractions. This expansive 1,200 acre park is the country’s largest “urban cultural park”.  Filled with family and cultural activities, the park has 15 museums, a few theaters, pavilions, varied gardens and the world famous San Diego Zoo.

balboa park pool

This particular afternoon wasn’t spent on museums though but a leisurely walk to enjoy some of the architecture, plazas and well-maintained gardens.  Our kids were also ready to explore the outdoors after being stuck indoors from a morning downpour.

Balboa park

A stroll through the promenade and a path never taken before led us to some interesting discoveries and sceneries.

Balboa park promenade

One of the reasons I love coming here is to walk around and admire the many ornate buildings that almost make me feel like I’m in Spain.  One of my favorites is the Casa del Prado Theater and its adjacent buildings simply known as the Casa.

Casa del Prado Theater

Casa del Prado Theater

These are historic reconstructions of buildings from the 1915 Pan American Exposition that was held here.  Some almost looked like old churches in Europe.

casa del Prado theater

Casa del Prado Theater facade

The Spanish Colonial architecture is evident in many of the museum buildings.  I’m sure there’s some fascinating information on those statues that adorn the buildings but I haven’t found that information yet.

Casa del Prado

There aren’t many parks that can claim it has a shopper’s paradise for unique home accessories within it.  The Spanish Village Art Center is a haven for all types of artists, painters and sculptors.  The red-tiled roof structures house 37 working studios and over 200 artists.  There are always artists working in their studios so it’s a great place to watch them.

Spanish Village Art Center balboa Park

The quaint shops were such a delight to wander through. It was almost closing time which is why this place looks deserted.   I love the colorful pathways and wide open spaces that are so inviting.  My kids enjoyed playing their version of colored hopscotch here.

Spanish Village Art Center Balboa Park

There is also always something interesting to see along the pathways.  For instance, we found one of the residents friendly and photo ready.

Balboa park squirrrel

Perhaps the park’s symbol and most photographed attraction is the Botanical Building with the “Laguna de las Flores” (Lake of the Flowers) or commonly known as the lily ponds.  Both were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

The Botanical Building is one of the largest wood lath structures in the world.  This 250-foot long and 60-foot tall structure contains more than 2,100 permanent plants ranging from orchids to palms. Unfortunately, it closed by the time we got there.

balboa park botanical building

As dusk approached, all the buildings began to radiate an orange glow that almost looked like a hundred candles were suddenly lit.

Balboa prado

This is the other side of the Casa del Prado building that housed the Botanical Garden Foundation and Floral Association – quite possibly one of the prettiest places for non-profit centers.  This is almost the same facade as the Prado theater.

casa del prado at dusk

Another favorite – the Railroad Museum and Museum of Photographic Arts building was also illuminated with warm colors which gave it that old-world charm and appearance.

Balboa park museums

The great thing about living here is that we will never get tired of exploring this wonderful park.  We’ve lived in San Diego for over a decade and have not explored all of Balboa Park’s museums and everything it has to offer.   These pictures are just a sample of the south side of the park. This is one of our favorite places and one of the top attractions for both locals and visitors who have spent some time here.

Balboa park fountain

*Have you taken a stroll through Balboa Park?  Is there someplace in your hometown similar to Balboa Park you’d like to share?

*Need more ideas? Here are 50 Things to do in San Diego with Kids

Where to Stay in San Diego

For the Bucket List:

  • Legoland California Hotel – This is perfect for Lego lovers and those staying in Legoland. There is plenty of space for families with bunk beds. We also love their various four themed rooms. They offer free buffet breakfast and nightly kids entertainment.
  • Hotel del Coronado – This iconic and beachfront San Diego hotel is worth the splurge. The grounds are beautiful and they offer first class amenities. There are many reasons why this has been a favorite among former presidents and movie stars.

Downtown Area and within a few minutes of Balboa Park

  • Embassy Suites San Diego Bay – This hotel has a great location downtown and steps from Seaport Village and the Embarcadero. Families can spread out in any of the two-room suites. They have a great cooked-to-order, buffet breakfast and an evening reception.
  • Hilton San Diego Bayfront – The views from this 30-story hotel overlooking the bay and the skyline are beautiful. It’s a convenient location to all the downtown festivities and the convention center.The rooms are spacious and they offer great amenities.
  • Manchester Grand Hyatt – This waterfront hotel is huge and has a convenient location by the boardwalk and adjacent to Seaport Village and the convention center. There are over 1,600 rooms and suites. Amenities include the pool and sun deck with whirlpools and fire pits.
  • Omni San Diego Hotel – This 500+ room hotel is perfect for a game at PETCO park or to explore downtown. We’ve stayed here and overlooked the ballpark which was quite special.
  • See the best prices from the major travel sites on HotelsCombined.
  • Find the best San Diego hotels and read reviews on TripAdvisor.

Vacation Packages

  • Save up to 50% on your next Southern California vacation package with Get Away Today.  You can also use promo code: *WorldBook* to get an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package (hotel and 2 ticket minimum)


  • Save Money on San Diego and Southern California’s top attractions by using CityPASS

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Balboa Park San Diego

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