Balboa Park is home to gorgeous gardens, lovely walking paths, and plenty of cultural gems, from theatres to museums to galleries featuring photographic arts, contemporary design, 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 San Diego.
We’ll kick things off with a stop at the California Tower. This tower and museum was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, but has since become a city landmark. Carved into the face of the tower are depictions of people who had significant roles in the development of San Diego and the west coast of the US. We won’t go into the museum, but we’ll give you tips for coming back after the tour.
Next up, we’ll head to Alcazar Gardens, which were inspired by the same-named gardens in Spain. The gardens also date back to the 1915 exposition, when they offered fair-goers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the exposition. The plantings in the garden change seasonally, and they, along with the trees and architecture, provide a picturesque foreground to photos of the California Tower.
Following after, we’ll head to the Old Globe Theater which is a Tony Award-winning, world-renowned professional theatre group located in the city's famous Balboa Park. Built in 1935, The Old Globe Theatre San Diego is a copy of The Globe Theatre London, where many of Shakespeare's plays had their first runs.
We’ll then head to the Botanical Building, home to more than 2,100 plants, including seasonal displays that change throughout the year. 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.
From there, we’ll walk through the heart of the Prado, where you’ll get to spy unique building façades and roof supports, including one that represents the history of California but that is virtually invisible to most visitors. We’ll then continue past the San Diego Junior Theater, one of the largest Morton Bay fig trees in California, the Spanish Village Art Center, the Natural History Museum, and the Bea Evenson fountain.
We’ll also check out Zoro Gardens, a sunken garden that was once a nudist colony (seriously) during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition. Today, it’s a butterfly garden that contains everything butterflies need for their full life cycle.
We’ll then stroll past the San Diego Model Railroad Museum — at 28,000 square feet, this is the largest operating model railroad museum in the world.
Our private 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 group tour.)
This tour is priced for a minimum group size of two travellers. A solo traveller may still book this private experience but will be charged the base rate for two travellers.
Inclusions: Local English-speaking guide.
Exclusions: Food and drinks, souvenirs and personal shopping, tips/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.
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.