It’s hard to beat sunny San Diego as a vacation destination with its brilliant blue shores, inviting, sandy beaches, lively neighborhoods, and temperate weather, but in my humble opinion, Balboa Park is the city’s crowning jewel. Originally known as “City Park” this gem has an interesting history dating back to the mid 1800s and offers a vast array of activities. In this 1,200 acre park, you will find museums, gardens, shopping, cultural activities, interesting architecture and the famous San Diego Zoo; there’s something for everyone.
The Spanish Village Art Center is filled with small shops run by local artists. You will find a wide variety of hand crafted items including pottery, jewelry, and many paintings in different mediums.
Not far from the Botanical Building is the Timken Museum of Fine Art. This free museum opened in 1965 and houses the private collections of the Timken family and the Putnam sisters. It has a unique collection of European and American art.
You’ll also find the famous California Tower in the park. Built in 1915 for the Panama-California Expo, this iconic tower combines several unique styles of architecture.
Also in the park is the Japanese Friendship Garden. This beautiful, twelve acre garden opened in 1991 with the purpose of educating people about Japanese culture. I spent a lot of time here!
I recently wrote about Scenic Byway 12 in Utah, and my sister, Nancy, pointed out that State Route 163, that travels through a portion of Balboa Park, is also a designated scenic highway. The park is certainly worthy of this designation.
A fun fact about Balboa Park – an orangutang named Ken Allen who lived in the zoo for over 25 years, was quite an escape artist and managed to free himself from his enclosure nine times! Several times he even strolled along pathways and posed for photos with visitors! I’m not sure I would want to come face to face with an orangutang!
I have been to San Diego only twice, but each time included a visit to the park. Balboa Park is a must see for everyone visiting San Diego. I hope to visit again someday.
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