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Balboa Park

Culture and nature converge in this diverse park located in the heart of the city.

This is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, and one of the most diverse in the world. You could spend a week exploring its 1,200 acres (486 hectares) of walking trails and gardens, museums and galleries, theaters, restaurants, and world-famous zoo. This wealth of year-round entertainment makes it a popular location for both locals and tourists.

A good starting point is the Visitor Center in the middle of the park. Here you’ll find helpful volunteers, information on current exhibits, and a schedule of performances and events. Free, guided tours of the park are available during the week to take you around the park’s major highlights, explaining the historical, architectural and horticultural features. Check at the Visitor Center for times.

The Spanish Colonial-style buildings located around the Visitor Center house many of the city’s largest museums, galleries and theaters, including the San Diego Museum of Art, the Air & Space Museum, the Natural History Museum and a dozen more.

Performances take place year-round in the various theaters. The Old Globe, for example, stages more than 10 plays and musicals during its season.

Balboa Park’s gorgeous gardens offer a peaceful respite, including the Japanese Friendship Garden, Palm Canyon and the Inez Grant Parker Rose Gardens. The Californian Native Plant Garden showcases more than 2,600 varieties of species native to San Diego along a peaceful mile-long (1.6-kilometer) path.

If you’re looking for some fun and physical activity, head to the eastern side of the park to practice your golf swing, try your hand at petanque or bocce, or enjoy a game of tennis under the shade trees. 

The park grounds are open all year, 24 hours a day. Museum operating hours vary, but most open between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Popular Activities at Balboa Park

We know you want to make the most out of your time at Balboa Park. So, we've put together some of the most popular things you can do on your visit:

For more things to do, have a look at our San Diego things to do page.

*Savings based on all vacation package bookings with Flight + Hotel on Expedia.ca from January through December 2019, as compared to price of the same components booked separately. Savings will vary based on origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings not available on all packages.


Guide to Exploring around Balboa Park


Map

Best Lodging Options Near Balboa Park

See all 4,061 properties near Balboa Park
Urban Boutique Hotel CA $105
Urban Boutique Hotel

Urban Boutique Hotel

1654 Columbia Street, San Diego, CA
     
    3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Little Italy, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Waterfront Park, Balboa Park and Port of San Diego. B Street Cruise Ship Terminal and Maritime Museum of San Diego are also within 15 minutes. County Center - Little Italy Station is only a 4-minute walk and America Plaza Trolley Station is 9 minutes.

    Wyndham San Diego Bayside CA $195
    Wyndham San Diego Bayside

    Wyndham San Diego Bayside

    1355 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA
       
      4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in Downtown San Diego, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Maritime Museum of San Diego, Port of San Diego and B Street Cruise Ship Terminal. USS Midway Museum and Waterfront Park are also within 10 minutes. County Center - Little Italy Station is 7 minutes by foot and America Plaza Trolley Station is 10 minutes.

      Porto Vista Hotel CA $143
      Porto Vista Hotel

      Porto Vista Hotel

      1835 Columbia St, San Diego, CA
         
        3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in Little Italy, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and Balboa Park. Port of San Diego and USS Midway Museum are also within 1 mi (2 km). County Center - Little Italy Station is 6 minutes by foot and America Plaza Trolley Station is 11 minutes.

        Balboa Park Luxury Bungalow With Palm Veranda
        Balboa Park Luxury Bungalow With Palm Veranda

        Balboa Park Luxury Bungalow With Palm Veranda

        3403 Herbert St, San Diego, CA
           
          0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in Hillcrest, this holiday home is within a 15-minute walk of Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo. Hotel Circle and Petco Park are also within 3 miles (5 km).

          Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio
          Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio

          Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio

          3438 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA
             
            3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Hillcrest, this apartment building is within a 10-minute walk of Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo. San Diego Air and Space Museum and San Diego City College are also within 2 miles (3 km).

            Found Hotel San Diego CA $90
            Found Hotel San Diego

            Found Hotel San Diego

            505 West Grape Street, San Diego, CA
               
              2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Little Italy, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Balboa Park, Waterfront Park and Maritime Museum of San Diego. B Street Cruise Ship Terminal and Port of San Diego are also within 1 mile (2 km). County Center - Little Italy Station is 8 minutes by foot and America Plaza Trolley Station is 13 minutes.

              Spacious Luxury Apartment at Tropical Resort-like Oasis by Balboa Park
              Spacious Luxury Apartment at Tropical Resort-like Oasis by Balboa Park

              Spacious Luxury Apartment at Tropical Resort-like Oasis by Balboa Park

              3444 Mississippi St, San Diego, CA
                 
                0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in North Park, this historic holiday home is within 1 mile (2 km) of Desert Garden, Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo. Hotel Circle and Petco Park are also within 3 miles (5 km).

                Terrace Garden suite at Resort-like Oasis near Balboa Park
                Terrace Garden suite at Resort-like Oasis near Balboa Park

                Terrace Garden suite at Resort-like Oasis near Balboa Park

                3444 Mississippi St, San Diego, CA
                   
                  0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in North Park, this historic holiday home is within 1 mile (2 km) of Desert Garden, Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo. Hotel Circle and Petco Park are also within 3 miles (5 km).