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Bucket List

Outdoor Center

Balboa Park

What They Are about

Balboa Park is a magnificent cultural oasis that includes 17 museums, tranquil gardens and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. At 1,200 acres, Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in North America and a must see on any visit to San Diego. Located just blocks from downtown San Diego hotels, the park has a rich history reflected through stunning architecture, art installations, and cultural events throughout the year.


Balboa Park has a storied history – one that is central to the story of San Diego. It started 150 years ago, when civic leaders took the audacious step of setting aside 1,400 acres of a scrub-filled mesa overlooking downtown San Diego to establish a park. While San Diego was home to just 2,300 residents in 1868, its leaders had the vision and desire to create an iconic park that would serve its citizens and visitors for years to come. In fact, San Diego was the second city to dedicate a large urban park behind only New York City’s Central Park. In 1870, the state legislature passed a law stating that the lands would be held in trust for a park forever. 

Museums and Cultural Institutions


Performing Arts 



Our Notes 

  • HOURS OF OPERATION : The Balboa Park grounds are open 24 hours a day with no admission fee; this includes outdoor gardens and some attractions. The Botanical Building is free, however hours of operation may vary. Admission fees and hours of operation vary at the other cultural attractions and the San Diego Zoo.

  • GETTING TO BALBOA PARK: Balboa Park is located just north of downtown San Diego and is accessible by car and public transportation as well as by walking and biking from many of the nearby historic neighborhoods. You can also take the Old Town Trolley from various locations around San Diego and hop off at Balboa Park for the day. With on-and-off privileges, the trolley makes a convenient option if your schedule is flexible.

  • GETTING AROUND: The Balboa Park website is optimized for use on phones and tablets, as well as desktops. This site has various maps plus the most up-to-date information about the Park. Another way to navigate the park is by downloading the Balboa Park Official smartphone app powered by Guru (Android | iOS) to your smartphone. It gives directions and descriptions of all sites throughout the park from museums to gardens to restaurants and even shows you where all the parking lots are, giving you directions back to your car at the end of the day. Available for free in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Balboa Park

1549 El Prado

San Diego, California

(619) 239-0512

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