Balboa Park, Bankers Hill, and San Diego Zoo Neighborhood Snapshot
- San Diego Zoo: San Diego’s best-loved attraction, the world-renowned zoo, is set amid spectacular scenery in the heart of Balboa Park.
- Museums galore: Automobiles and spacecraft, international folk art and baroque masters, dinosaur fossils and mummified humans—there is something for everyone at Balboa Park’s many museums.
- The great outdoors: Escape down a hiking trail, try your hand at a new sport, or just soak in the sunshine from your own stretch of grass. You may even forget you are in the middle of the city.
- Gorgeous gardens: From the lush tropical feel of the Botanical Building to the refined design of the Rose Garden, Balboa Park’s intricate gardens and landscaping are sure to delight.
- Free cultural events: The park is full of freebies, from weekly concerts at the organ pavilion to annual events like Earth Day and December Nights.
Although Balboa Park is massive, many of its star attractions are located quite close to each other. That said, exploring the park can lead to a lot of walking, particularly if you throw in a trip to the zoo or take on one of the many hiking trails. The park’s free tram service stops at several spots around the park, and can give tired feet a welcome rest at the end of a long day.
Quick snacking opportunities abound throughout the park, from cafés tucked in among the museums and grounds, to hot dog, tamale, or ice-cream carts along the walkways and plazas. Good bets include the sushi, noodles, and, of course, tea at the Tea Pavilion outside the Japanese Friendship Garden; the flatbreads, smoothies and ice cream at Craveology adjacent to the Fleet Science Center, or the Cafe in the Park, an espresso bar serving salads, panini, and baked goods inside the Casa de Balboa.
Located just north of Downtown, Balboa Park is easily reached from both Interstate 5 and Highway 163. The most spectacular approach is from 6th Avenue over the Cabrillo Bridge. There are also several entrances off Park Boulevard.
Balboa Park is served by public buses, particularly the No. 3, 7, and 120 lines. Taxis can often be found inside the park near the visitor center and lined up outside the zoo.
House of Hospitality. The visitor center located here is an excellent resource for planning your visit to the park. Check the website before you go or spend a few minutes at the center when you arrive. They also offer a free mobile app with information on sites, special events, and useful tips to help maximize your time. 1549 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, California, 92101. 619/239–0512; www.balboapark.org. Daily 9:30–4:30 (until 5 pm from July 4th—Labor Day).
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