Your Destination Guide to San Diego

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Balboa Park

Balboa Park
Balboa Park

© J. Feeler

More than any other destination in San Diego, the 1000-acre Balboa Park features the cultural diversity, artistic excellence, history, and outdoor recreation that exemplify San Diego and its environs.

Any guidebook to San Diego is laced with dozens of references to Balboa Park, home to more than 15 museums, the famous San Diego Zoo, several arts and international culture associations, historic architecture, famous botanical gardens, the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theater, and a comprehensive sports complex. In addition, there is a pipe organ pavilion, an antique carousel, and a miniature-scale train.

The heartbeat of the park is El Prado, a long, wide promenade running through the center of the park, and the locale for many of the park's museums and cultural attractions. Many of the buildings on El Prado were constructed for the 1915–1916 Panama-California Exposition and are in the Spanish Revival style, a highly ornamented combination of Spanish and Latin American architecture. Along El Prado is the San Diego Museum of Man, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the Natural History Museum, the San Diego Historical Society, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, the Reflection Pond, the Botanical Building, the Bea Evenson Fountain, and Timken Museum of Art.

Balboa Park also houses several cultural organizations, including the Centro Cultural de la Raza featuring Latino culture and arts, the World Beat Center focusing on a wide range of African cultures, the Mingei Museum of International Folk Art, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the House of Pacific Relations.

San Diego's flagship regional arts organization, the Old Globe Theater, produces a year-round season of 15 plays and musicals on its three stages, including its highly-regarded Shakespeare festival. The theater has become a draw for world-renowned theater artists, and has also been the birthplace for a number of plays that went on to win national acclaim, including The Full Monty and Damn Yankees.

During the holiday season, Balboa Park holds its now famous Christmas on the Prado, featuring pageants, plays, food and music.

Balboa Park is managed and maintained by the Developed Regional Parks Division of the City of San Diego Park & Recreation Department.

Discounted admissions to Balboa Park's major museums are available through the Passport to Balboa Park. The $39 Passport, valid for one week, represents a $95 value and allows entrance to 13 Park museums. A child's passport is also available for children 3 to 12 years old for only $21, which is a $43 value. Park museums also offer free admission one Tuesday per month on a rotating basis.

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