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.
House of Hospitality: 619 239 0512; open 9:30am–4:30pm daily
House of Pacific Relations: 619 234 0739; open 11am–5pm Sat & Sun; www.sdhpr.org
Spreckels Organ Pavilion: 619 702 8138; regular concerts: 2–3pm Sun; summer concerts: 7:30–9pm Mon (mid-Jun–Aug)
San Diego Zoo: 619 231 1515; open 9am–6pm (to 9pm Jun 24–Sep 4); adm adult $54, child $44; www.sandiegozoo.org
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.
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.
The Tony-winning Old Globe Theatre, the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, and the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre form a wonderful cultural resource.
The outstanding structure is a reconstruction of a building from the Panama-California Exposition. Wall reliefs commemorate Saint Junípero Serra and Juan Cabrillo.
Modeled on a hospital in Spain and now a visitor center, this was erected for the Panama-California Exposition and rebuilt in the 1990s.
Founded in 1935, these cottages feature cultural ambassadors from 33 countries showcasing local traditions.
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.
In this zoo, thousands of animals thrive in re-created natural habitats. Thanks to breeding programs and webcams, endangered baby pandas are now superstars.
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.
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.