Most big urban areas, like San Diego have a city park. Balboa Park is San Diego’s version of Golden Gate Park (SF), Griffith Park (LA), or Central Park (NYC). Balboa Park is a 1200 acre urban park containing museums, theaters, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. And it is highly under rated!
Would you believe Balboa is the largest urban park in North America (bigger than New York’s Central Park)? Many call it the Smithsonian of the West. The park is open 24 hours, and does not charge an admission fee.
The park began in 1924 when it was placed in reserve, and one of the oldest park site’s dedicated to public recreational use. The park was named for the Spanish explorer, Vasco Nunez de Balboa. The park hosted the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition, and the 1935-1936 California Pacific International Exposition.
From their web site: In 1892, local horticulturist and botanist Kate Sessions leased 36 acres for a nursery. In exchange for using the land, she agreed that the nursery would be open to the public, and that she would donate hundreds of trees and plants to the city every year for its beautification. Sessions, who would become known as “the mother of Balboa Park,” is credited with bringing in many of the different varieties of native and exotic plants to the park, and many of her original trees are alive and visible today.
The park and its exposition buildings were declared were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
The park’s museums are:
Places to eat in Balboa Park:
Albert’s Restaurant at the San Diego Zoo.
- The Prado at Balboa Park is an award-winning, full-service restaurant located in the House of Hospitality.
- Café Mingei serves up coffee, tea and treats on the Plaza de Panama.
- Flight Path Grill found outdoors at the Air & Space Museum.
- Daniel’s Coffee Cart in the courtyard of the House of Hospitality across from the Balboa Park Visitors Center.
- Dinosaur Café in the atrium of the Natural History Museum.
- Galileo’s Café located in the east rotunda of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center with tables outside next to the fountain.
- Home Plate Bar & Grill located in the Hall of Champions.
- Lady Carolyn’s Pub at The Old Globe’s outdoor food and beverage pavilion.
- Panama 66 located in the outdoor sanctuary of the Museum of Art’s May S. Marcy Sculpture Court and Garden features locally sourced food, local draught beer and craft cocktails.
- Snack Carts are conveniently located along the El Prado pedestrian walkway and also near the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
- The Tea Pavilion is located in the Japanese Friendship Garden.
- Village Grill is located on the corner of Village Place and Old Globe Way.
And its gardens:
Other attractions and venues: