HIDDEN GEMS OF BALBOA PARK

**THIS IS AN ONGOING PAGE OF UNIQUE HIKES AND PLACES TO EXPLORE IN BALBOA PARK**

If you are a business and feel like you should be included in our list, please shoot us an email: [email protected]!

 

Balboa Park is one of the city’s most cherished treasures.  It is actually one of the oldest parks in the United States dedicated to public recreational use, being reserved in 1835.  The park gained notoriety during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and the 1935–36 California Pacific International Exposition, both of which left architectural landmarks.

This place is BRIMMING with hidden gems all over the place.  Every little nook has potential for a secret surprise and I really recommend keeping your eyes peeled.  Here are our favorite spots (some secret and some just plain old amazing) that we recommend exploring while at Balboa!

 

1. BALBOA DESERT & ROSE GARDEN 

This is a historic garden that was created under the supervision of Kate Sessions in 1935 for the California Pacific International Exposition. Some of the largest cactus and succulent varieties can be found here. It is rumored that Dr. Seuss was inspired by the plants grown here and used these inspirations for the plants illustrated in his books.

link

 

2. JAPANESE FRIENDSHIP GARDEN

The Japanese Friendship Garden is an expression of friendship between San Diego and its sister city, Yokohama. It illustrates two cultures and creates an immersive experience into Japanese culture.

link

 

3. MARSTON CANYON & FOOTBRIDGE

Heading over the Upas St. footbridge takes you over highway 163, heading into downtown. This bridge was built in 1946 and connects Balboa Park to Hillcrest. The canyon is filled with multiple trails and greenery all year long!

link

 

4. MUSEUM OF MAN

Specializing in cultural anthropology, the Museum of Man explores the human experience from multicultural perspectives to spark dialogue, self-reflection, and human connections. During your visit, you’ll explore a variety of unique, interactive exhibits that cover a vast range of human history and culture.

link

The Museum of Man in Balboa Park is one of San Diego's oldest and most prestigous museums. Free to San Diego residents the 3rd Tuesday every month.

5. NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

The San Diego Natural History Museum traces its roots to an enthusiastic group of amateur naturalists, who formed the San Diego Society of Natural History in 1874.

link

Visit the world-famous Natural History Museum in Balboa Park!

 

6. BRIDLE TRAIL

This trail is located west of Route 163 in Balboa Park, and in fact, during parts of the trail you will walk right alongside the freeway and underneath the Cabrillo bridge! There are redwood trees growing here, though sadly most have died within the past few years.

link

 

7. PALM CANYON

Palm Canyon is a tropical oasis, containing more than 450 palms (58 species) within its 2 acres. A true hidden spot in Balboa Park, the winding paths take the visitor into a shady, lush canyon.

link

Visitor's Guide: Balboa Park

7. SPANISH VILLAGE

Located between the Zoo and the Natural History Museum, these quaint buildings and colorful courtyard were originally built in 1935. They depicted a charming old village in Spain for the second California Pacific International Exposition. In 1937, the Village reopened as an art destination by a group of dedicated artists. During World War II the U.S. Army used the village for temporary barracks, and in 1947 it was reclaimed and restored by the artists.

link

8. BALBOA BOTANICAL BUILDING

The view of the Botanical Building with the Lily Pond and Lagoon in the foreground is one of the most photographed scenes in Balboa Park and a “must-see” destination in San Diego. Built for the 1915-16 Exposition, along with the adjacent Lily Pond and Lagoon, the historic building is one of the largest lath structures in the world.

link

 

 

9. MARSTON HOUSE & GARDEN

The Marston House was constructed in 1905 and was designed and built by the internationally renowned architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill for businessman George Marston.  Today the home and garden are open to the public for tours.

link 

 

10. HOUSE OF PACIFIC RELATIONS INTERNATIONAL COTTAGES

Housed in historic 1935 Exposition cottages, 32 groups promote multicultural goodwill and understanding through educational and cultural programs. Open Houses: noon-4:00 p.m. every Sunday, showcase the national traditions from many lands.

link

Visit Balboa Park's historic international homes and get a taste of cultures from around the world! The House of Pacific Relations International Cottages.

 

11. OLD CACTUS GARDEN

This historic garden was developed under the direction of Kate Sessions for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. It contains some of the largest cactus and succulent specimens in the Park and has also been developed to include the exotic African and Australian Protea plants. It is located on the west side of the Balboa Park Club.

link

 

12. BALBOA BMX BIKE TRAILS

Whether you are a hiker or biker, this area offers plenty of challenges and scenic beauty. With jumps, inclines, drops, twists and turns, I would imagine this to be a dirt biker’s heaven.  This will connect you to the Bridle Trail, which is another beautiful, hidden gem in Balboa Park.

link

Visitor's Guide: Balboa Park

 

13. ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS

Have you ever looked at the details of the buildings?  They are rich and often help to tell stories of the past.  I’ve barely begun to examine them, but the more I do, the more significance I see in them.

 

14. WORLD BEAT CENTER

As a non-profit multi-cultural arts organization, tey are dedicated to promoting, presenting & preserving the African & Indigenous cultures of the world through Music, Art, Dance, Education & Technology.

link

Located in Balboa Park, the World Beat Center aims to present African & Indigenous cultures of the world through Music, Art, Dance, Education & Technology

 

15. NIGHT EXPLORATION

Everyone knows how beautiful Balboa Park is in the day.  But how often do you appreciate it at night?  Yes, there are the nights of events when it is PACKED, but try going on an empty night when you practically have it to yourself.  You’ll notice a whole new magic.

 

 

16. CENTRO CULTURAL DE RAZA

San Diego’s Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park was founded in 1970 as a Chicano Community Cultural Center and functioned as an alternative space that encouraged and facilitated artistic growth and cultural interchange in the San Diego/Tijuana region. The Centro’s mission is to promote preserve and create Mexican, Chicano, Indigenous and Latino art and culture.

link

A Chicano Community Cultural Center & alternative space in Balboa Park that encourages and facilitated artistic growth and cultural interchange in the San Diego/Tijuana region

 

17. BALBOA’S TREES FOR HEALTH GARDEN

Trees for Health is a 3.5 acre garden with over 77 medicinal trees and shrubs. Each plant comes with its own plaque identifying it as well as educational guides of the plant’s uses. What a gem of a spot!

link

Balboa Park has one hidden area that may be healthier than the rest: Trees For Health. Educate yourself on medicinal trees while taking a nature stroll.

 

18. GOLDEN HILL PARK

Golden Hill Park actually has the oldest features in the entire park, which is an old, stone fountain and staircase.

link

Visitor's Guide: Balboa Park

 

Write a Comment

Register

You don't have permission to register