Home to that world famous San Diego Zoo, the immense Balboa Park covers 1,200 acres and is home to 16 museums, 17 gardens and a puppet theater, a miniature railroad, an organ pavilion and theaters. And restaurants and gift shops.
Originally known as "City Park", it was a place of wide open spaces and rattlesnakes, bobcats and coyotes. But in 1914 all that was about to change, as San Diego was the first port of call for ships traveling through the newly opened Panama Canal. So the city held the Panama-California Exposition at the newly renamed Balboa Park, after Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the first European to cross Central America and see the Pacific Ocean. It was the smallest city ever to hold a World's Fair and President Woodrow Wilson pushed a button in Washington DC to officially turn on the power for the fair.
The fair was a huge success and was extended for more time - and after two years some 3 million visitors had attended it. It was recommended that the buildings built for the fair - in the ornamental Spanish baroque style - be left for the public's enjoyment. And there you have Balboa Park.
So what does one do at the largest cultural park in the nation? Well, first off there are many events and festivals held here each year. There's a Cherry Blossom Festival in the Japanese Friendship Garden, an Earth Day parade, December Nights celebrates Christmas and the two-day San Diego Pride Festival is held here each July. Several races begin or end here including the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon. You can attend weekly concerts at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion. And you can visit some of the museums such as the San Diego Art Institute or the San Diego Natural History Museum. Tour the gardens. Or visit the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. It's also one of the most popular places to get married in San Diego. We saw one wedding party and a bride and groom being photographed when we were there.
We spent several hours there and I feel like we didn't even cover a fraction of it. First, there was lunch at the delightful Prado at Balboa Park. Delicious food and an outdoor patio - what more can you want from a dining experience? Then we walked through the Botanical Building, visited the Museum of Photographic Arts( where we laughed until we cried trying on animal masks for photographs - seriously, I thought we were going to get kicked out!) strolled the grounds and saw bubble makers and fountains. We were entertained by street musicians who were singing and tango dancing. ( or does one say dancing the tango? I'm not sure)
The one thing that I didn't get to do was ride the Electriques. Originally from the first Expo in 1915, these electric wicker carts look like a blast. You rent them and drive them around the park.Unfortunately, by the time we got to the booth to rent one they were already closed for the day.
I think I could easily say that I was smitten with Balboa Park. And I'm up for another visit sometime soon.
One of the other highlights of my visit to San Diego, besides seeing family, was a piece of Julian pie. We went with the classic apple. And added Tillamook ice cream on the side. Because, well.....Tillamook ice cream. Both are things you can't get your hands on here on the East Coast. Yum. So good.
How about you? Have you been to Balboa Park? Or enjoyed Julian Pie? With or without Tillamook Ice Cream?
This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!