Since the early 20th century, Balboa Park has awed San Diegans with its romantic hillside setting, lush landscaping, and splendid architecture. The park’s magnificent Spanish structures date from the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition. On weekends, thousands of visitors come to indulge their interests, whether it’s recreational, Shakespeare, or art. However, the park is probably best known as the home of the world-famous San Diego Zoo, where almost 4,000 animals and 800 species reside.


Balboa Park Map



prac_info House of Hospitality: 619 239 0512; open 9:30am–4:30pm daily

prac_info House of Pacific Relations: 619 234 0739; open 11am–5pm Sat & Sun;

prac_info Spreckels Organ Pavilion: 619 702 8138; regular concerts: 2–3pm Sun; summer concerts: 7:30–9pm Mon (mid-Jun–Aug)

prac_info San Diego Zoo: 619 231 1515; open 9am–6pm (to 9pm Jun 24–Sep 4); adm adult $54, child $44;

Google Map

  • Explorer passes can be purchased at the visitor center, giving admission to five or 17 museums.
  • Get lunch at the Japanese Sculpture Garden’s Tea Pavilion.
  • Some parking lots aren’t open until 8:30am.

1. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

Google Map

Explore sense and touch in the Gallery of Illusions and Perceptions (see Reuben H. Fleet Science Center), learn about electricity, digital recording, and tornados, or catch an IMAX movie or a planetarium show.


Children enjoying an exhibit at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

2. Botanical Building

Google Map

Constructed for the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition, the Botanical Building is one of the world’s largest lath structures. It houses more than 2,100 orchids, palms, and other tropical plants, and seasonal flowers.

3. The Old Globe

Google Map

The Tony-winning Old Globe Theatre, the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, and the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre form a wonderful cultural resource.

4. Casa del Prado

Google Map

The outstanding structure is a reconstruction of a building from the Panama-California Exposition. Wall reliefs commemorate Saint Junípero Serra and Juan Cabrillo.

5. Spanish Village Art Center

Google Map

Architect Richard Requa wanted visitors to experience the simple life of a Spanish village. This complex houses 37 art and craft studios.


Entrance to the Spanish Village Art Center

6. House of Hospitality

Google Map

Modeled on a hospital in Spain and now a visitor center, this was erected for the Panama-California Exposition and rebuilt in the 1990s.

7. House of Pacific Relations

Google Map

Founded in 1935, these cottages feature cultural ambassadors from 33 countries showcasing local traditions.

8. Spreckels Organ Pavilion

Google Map

One of the world’s largest outdoor organs, it contains 4,530 pipes. The metal curtain protecting it weighs close to 12 tons. Free recitals are held on Sundays.


The grand outdoor organ

9. San Diego Zoo

Google Map

In this zoo, thousands of animals thrive in re-created natural habitats. Thanks to breeding programs and webcams, endangered baby pandas are now superstars.

10. California Tower and Dome

Google Map

Built for the Exposition, this building, with its 200-ft (61-m) tower, has come to represent San Diego’s identity. Famous figures of the city’s past are represented on the facade. Inside is the Museum of Man.


California Tower and Dome


More than 2,000 beds were lined up in Balboa Park’s museums for those wounded in 1941’s Pearl Harbor attack. All buildings were used for barracks. The park became one of the largest hospital training centers in the world: 600 Navy nurses were stationed at the House of Hospitality, and the lily pond served as a rehab pool. In 1947, the military returned the park to the city.

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