Travel Rankings & Advice

Balboa Park free

1549 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | Official website
Balboa Park Photo info
Steve Heap /Shutterstock
  • Type: Parks and Gardens, Recreation
  • Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
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Overall Rating: 5.0 (4.9)
Value: 5.0 (5.0)
Facilities: 4.5 (4.5)
Atmosphere: 4.5 (4.5)
About these ratings

Home to the renowned San Diego Zoo, this 1,200-acre park is the city's cultural hub. As one TripAdvisor user puts it, "You could spend your entire trip to San Diego at Balboa Park; it is an amazing place." Located in the heart of downtown San Diego (about 2 miles north of the city center), Balboa Park is a great place for a stroll, a bike ride or a picnic. Wander around the park's many gardens (don't miss the beautiful Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden) while admiring the intricate Spanish-Renaissance architecture. Past visitors say this is a prime people-watching spot. But if you find yourself growing antsy, there are plenty of attractions located here (many of them free). Take in a show at the Old Globe Theatre or the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater or enjoy the arts at the Casa de Balboa which houses three separate art museums and the Spanish Village Art Center. If you've got the kids with you, take some time to check out the San Diego Air and Space Museum or the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (just two of the park's 15 total museums).

The park is open every day of the year. Admission to the general grounds is free, but several individual attractions charge fees. If you're looking to save a little coin, consider purchasing the Passport to Balboa Park ($89 for adults and $52 for kids) which offers entry into all the museums and zoo for seven days or the Stay-for-the-Day pass for $43, which covers any five attractions found here (excluding the zoo). Parking here is free, but if you don't have your own set of wheels, you can easily get to the park via bus: Route Nos. 7, 3 and 120 all stop at the park. For details, visit the Balboa Park website.

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