Balboa Park is home to gorgeous gardens, lovely walking paths, and plenty of cultural gems, from theatres to museums featuring the arts, the sciences, and more. You’ll get a full overview of the park and its rich history on this private San Diego walking tour that explores how the park has become a symbol of the city.
We’ll kick things off at the Founder’s Statue on the west side of the park. We think you’ll agree San Diegans were visionaries, when they set aside 1800 acres of land for the park all the way back in 1867. Then we’ll stop at the California Tower, built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, it has since become a city landmark. The face of the tower depicts the early history of the city.
Next up, we’ll head to Alcazar Garden, which was inspired by the same-named gardens in Spain. Used for both the 1915 and 1935 expositions, the garden offered fair-goers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the exposition, and now provides a picturesque foreground to photos of the California Tower. Snag the perfect Instagram shot while you’re here (remember, #localsknow).
Following after, we’ll head to the Old Globe Theater which is a Tony Award-winning, world-renowned professional theatre group.
From there, we’ll walk through the heart of the Prado, where you’ll get to spy unique building façades and roof supports that most visitors don’t notice. We’ll also check out Zoro Gardens, a sunken garden that was once a nudist colony (seriously) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. Today, it’s a butterfly garden that contains everything butterflies need for their full life cycle.
We’ll then continue past the Bea Evenson fountain, the Natural History Museum and we’ll pop into the Spanish Village Art Center to observe artists at work in their studios. By now you will have worked up a thirst so we’ll grab a drink at a local coffee cart before continuing on past one of the largest Morton Bay fig trees in California and the San Diego Junior Theater.
But we’re not done yet! We’ll then head to the Botanical Building (currently closed on Thursdays), home to more than 2,100 plants, It’s the perfect stop for photographers and flower-lovers alike, and the adjacent lily pond full of koi makes more than just a pretty picture — you’ll learn how the pond was an important part of the war effort during WWI and how it helped injured sailors and soldiers during WWII.
Our tour will end at the Plaza de Panama, but before we say goodbye, your guide will give you directions to the nearby Visitor Center (for snacks, maps, souvenirs, and museum passes), suggestions for places to eat, and tips on what else to see and do within the park.
If you’d prefer to travel as part of a regular group experience, please book our Balboa Park Historic Highlights and Secret Spots group tour
Inclusions: Local English-speaking guide, one beverage at a park coffee cart.
Exclusions: Souvenirs and personal shopping, food and drinks beyond what is included, gratuities for your guide. Entrance to the museums are not offered with this tour, but your guide will provide suggestions along the way for you to come back and visit during your own time.
Dress standard: Please wear casual dress and comfortable shoes. Take current weather conditions into consideration.
Confirmation of booking: If you have your voucher, your booking is confirmed. We'll see you at the start point. Get in touch if you have any concerns or require more information via the email address or phone number (business hours only) on your voucher.
Additional Information: Although our tour doesn’t include access to any museum, your guide will be more than happy to provide specific info on entry fees and attractions at each site for you to consider and visit during your time after our tour has ended.
Closure of sites: Very occasionally museums, gardens and roadways are closed due to special events or routine maintenance. If this occurs, we will find a similar alternative for you to visit during your tour. If you have any concerns, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Child Policy: This is a child-friendly tour. Children over 6 inclusively are permitted on this tour at the rate listed above. Please select ‘child’ above when booking. Children under the age of 6 are permitted to join this tour free of charge. Please inform us at the time of booking if you’ll be bringing a child under the age of 6. You can do so in the special request box on the checkout page.