When most people think about San Diego, the first thing that comes to mind is the San Diego Zoo. For nearly 100 years, this world-famous zoo has been attracting visitors from all over the world — and its popularity is as great as ever. However, many may not realize that the San Diego Zoo is just one part of a remarkable collection of interesting attractions.
Balboa Park has 15 museums that are housed in many of the park’s ornate 20th Century structures that were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. The park has become a cultural centerpiece for the city of San Diego and is a combination of historic architecture, lush landscaping, gardens, trails, and a couple of theaters offering live performances.
Balboa Park San Diego Things To Do
Upon arriving at the park, guests will want to stop by the Visitor Center where you can pick up a map and decide what attractions you want to visit first.
From there a good place to begin is at the nearby Museum of Photographic Arts. The photos on display paint a pathway through time from earlier in the century with many black and white pictures that give a glimpse of what life was like in the past.
Next up is the Model Railroad Museum, which houses a train set everyone wishes they could own. It’s actually a series of trains and tracks that show highly detailed dioramas of the local terrain as well as that of Southwestern U.S.
Countless hours have gone into every detail of this miniature recreation with its tiny cities, passenger stations, switching stations, freight yards and even model refineries. The train systems are not located all in one room, but spread throughout a series of rooms that take the visitor through the various geographic regions.
Just a short walk down to the southern edge of the park is Air and Space Museum. The circular building is packed full of real aircraft, all displayed by a historic timeline.
The museum offers a replica of the Wright Brothers’ airplane that gives visitors a chance to lay in a flight simulator as well as World War I exhibits, including aircraft, uniforms, maps, goggles, and other equipment of a real World War I ace.
Your aviation journey continues, taking you through World War II, modern day commercial aviation and NASA, where visitors get an up-close look at the Apollo 9 spacecraft that took some of the first American astronauts into space.
It is the only such craft displayed in the western United States. Moon rocks are on hand, as are examples of space suits.
The adventure continues for the gear heads in your traveling party when you visit the Automotive Museum.
It’s like a permanent classic car show packed with cars from all over the world including Roadsters, Ferraris, a 1953 Jaguar XK 120, 1909 International Harvester, 1905 Tourist, and a 1932 Ford Sport Coupe to name a few. Altogether, there are more than 80 historic cars and motorcycles and, every few months a special display is brought in.
To finish off your day, be sure to make stops at the Mingei International Museum – a collection of contemporary folk art and an impressive collection of children’s toys and dollhouses–, the Natural History Museum, as well as the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center with its IMAX theater, and the Museum of Art.It will probably take more than a day to take in all of Balboa Park’s many museums and attractions and you’ll probably need to find a comfy place to rest your weary feet from all of the walking you’ll do.
There are plenty hotels and motels that are just a short drive from the park that is sure to delight all types of travelers. So plan a “wild” trip, and take in all that Balboa Park has to offer, including a day at the zoo.
Balboa Park is located near downtown and is easily accessible from Interstate 5 or Highway 163 and minutes from downtown.