Balboa Park Quick Tour

Balboa Park is very large and it is nearly impossible to see everything in one day. Your best bet would be to take this "Balboa Park quick tour". Expect to spend one hour to complete this quick tour but you will require more time if you visit a museum or or stop to get a bite to eat.

First, start at the large water fountain right outside the Reuben H Fleet Science Center (map location 11). This water fountain is called the Bea Evenson Fountain. Established in 1972, it is the highest water spout in the City of San Diego. From here, walk west along El Prado, the main pedestrian walkway. Balboa park extends to the north (Spanish Village, Zoo) and to the south (Organ Pavilion, International Cottages, Starlight Bowl) but you can get an overview of the park just by walking along El Prado.

Balboa park local artists

Local artists can be found along the way: musicians, balloon sculptors, mime, jugglers, and magicians. Please provide a donation so that they continue to grace the park with their skill and crafts.

Balboa Park Zoro Garden
On your left (south) you will come to the Zoro Garden. This sunken garden is a like a secret hideaway. The stone pathway leading down branches giving the feeling of being in a maze. currently, the Zoro Garden is the home to a community of butterflies. The butterflies feed on the flowers planted within this stone grotto. As peaceful as it may seem, you will be surprised to learn that this was the site of the adults-only, Nudist Colony Exhibition during the 1935 World Fair.

Balboa Park Casa de Prado

Immediately on your right (north) you will see the Casa de Prado. This building is one of the most ornate buildings in Balboa Park. The facade is of the Spanish-Renaissance style. Many of these buildings were build in 1915 and have suffered the effects of age and fire. Some, like the Casa de Prado have been restored to their former glory.

Balboa Park Casa de Prado
Continuing on your Balboa quick tour, you will come to the Botanical Building (map location 17) and the Reflective (Lily) Pond (map location 9).The Reflective Pond houses fish and, when in season, is speckled with lotus and lily plants. Behind, is the Botanical garden which houses over 2100 plants. The building itself is noteworthy as it is the largest wood lath structure in the world. Indeed, it is the most photographed structure in all of Balboa park. Entry into Botanical Building is free. Read more...

Balboa Park Casa de Prado

Moving along El Prado, you will find the House of Hospitality on your left. Here, you will find the Visitor Center (duck inside to get a free park map); Daniel's Coffee cart (grad a drink), and The Prada (settle down for proper meal). Inside this building, you will be pleasantly surprised by open air courtyard with a sculpture of "Woman of Tehuantepec" pouring water out of an urn. This is a good place to sit, get a drink, look at the map and consider where to go next.

Balboa Park Casa de Prado
If you were to continue along El Prada you will come to an intersection with many cars. This is the Plaza de Panama with the central water fountain. At this junction you will have access to 4 museums: Timken Museum (free), Museum of Art, Museum of Man, Mingei International Museum, and the Art Institute: Museum of the Living Artist.

Balboa Park Casa de Prado
This comes to the end of the quick tour. You can either choose of one of the 4 museums at this junction or keep exploring Balboa Park. If you head south (turn left at the intersection) then you will come to the Japanese Garden, the Organ Pavilion (free shows on Sunday), the House of Pacific Cottages (free events on Sundays), and 3 more museums: Sports Museum, Automotive Museum, and Air & Space Museum.