Balboa Park is one of the most popular urban landmarks in the city of San Diego California. Spanning 1,200 acres and comprised of gardens, walking paths, green belts, museums and theaters, the park is also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. It houses many shops, restaurants, theater, and museums, among other points of interest.
Balboa Park was known as the City Park before efforts to beautify it transformed it into the cultural landmark that it is today. The first steps for beautifying the park came in 1892. Kate Sessions, known as the Mother of Balboa Park, donated trees and shrubs from her personal nursery, most of which is still alive today.
More improvements were done from 1905 onwards, such as the installation of a proper water system, roads, and more trees and greenery. In 1910, it was officially renamed Balboa Park in honor of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the Spanish explorer who was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean.
Many of the buildings standing in the Park today were built in 1915 during the Panama-California Exposition. More structures were added during the 1935 California Pacific International Expo such as the Old Globe Theater and the Spanish Village. The Park and the Expo buildings in its grounds were declared National Historic Landmarks in 1977.
Must-See Attractions in Balboa Park
This is the central hub of the park where visitors can stroll down and enjoy the architecture of the buildings that line the main thoroughfare. Most of the buildings here have a Spanish-Moore influenced architecture, making them great spots for taking photos, especially in front of such landmarks like the Old Globe Theater, the Museum of Art, and Natural History Museum.
Spanish Village Art Center
Get your dose of arts and culture at this strip of arts and crafts shops and galleries. The area is located between the San Diego Zoo and the Natural History Museum and hosts over 200 painters, sculptors, and other artists in 37 studios. The area is dotted with historic buildings done in Spanish-tile making this one of the most colorful places inside the Park.
Worldbeat Cultural Center
One of the landmarks for music and culture inside Balboa Park, Worldbeat Center is housed in a former water tower and is the place to go to if you want to sample the music of indigenous cultures around the world. The center offers regular shows showcasing African-American music and dance, as well as year-round classes, concerts, and lectures. The Center is located just across the street from the Veterans Memorial Garden.
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is home to 3,500 animals. It pioneered the open-air, natural habitat concept and is one of the few zoos in the world that successfully breeds and houses giant pandas. Like most of the buildings in the Park, the buildings in the zoo are done in the Spanish-Revival style.
Balboa Park is home to multiple cultural and historical attractions that are too numerous to be visited in one day. These include the numerous gardens such as the Botanical Building and Lily Pond, Marston House Garden, Desert Garden, and the Casa del Rey Moro. For culture, visit its museums such as the Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Museum of Art and the free-admission Timken Museum of Art. Other options include the Air and Space Museum and the San Diego Automotive Museum. The Park also houses a couple of hiking trails for those who prefer the outdoors. These include the Golden Hill Trails, Marston Point, and Sixth and Upas.
Visit their site at www.balboapark.org for more information on the most interesting attractions and activities that this San Diego landmark offers.
Also check out Coronado Beach!