California Building and Tower, San Diego

California Building and Tower, San Diego

The California Building and California Tower, situated in Balboa Park, San Diego, are esteemed historical edifices. They were constructed for the Panama-California Exposition held from 1915 to 1916, serving as the grand entrance to the Expo. Architect Bertram Goodhue designed both the buildings and the courtyard. On May 17, 1974, the California Building and California Tower were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The California Building, distinguished by its intricate facade and blue-and-gold dome, alongside the adjoining California Tower, stands as an iconic landmark in San Diego. Currently, they house the Museum of US. The design and ornamentation of these structures amalgamate various stylistic elements such as Gothic, Plateresque, Baroque, Churrigueresque, and Rococo, evoking the ambiance of a Spanish Colonial church. The dome's design drew inspiration from the dome of the Church of Santa Prisca and San Sebastián in Taxco, Mexico.

Adorning the building's facade are stone embellishments and numerous sculpted figures and busts, crafted from modeling clay and plaster. These portray significant personalities from California, England, Mexico, and Spain, including Junípero Serra, Philip III of Spain, Sebastián Vizcaíno, George Vancouver, Luís Jayme, and Carlos III of Spain, among others. The facade also showcases the United States shield and the coats of arms of California and Mexico.

The California Tower, standing at 198 feet (60 meters), opened for public tours on January 1, 2015. The Spanish design and vibrant Mexican-inspired colors make it visually captivating. The tower has three tiers, transitioning from a quadrangle to an octagon and then to a circle. Inside, a Maas-Rowe carillon, installed in 1946 and replaced in 1967, plays melodic tunes throughout the park. It chimes the Westminster Chimes every fifteen minutes and a carillonneur performs three songs at noon each day. Known as "San Diego's Icon," the tower is the city's most famous landmark, frequently photographed.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in San Diego. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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California Building and Tower on Map

Sight Name: California Building and Tower
Sight Location: San Diego, USA (See walking tours in San Diego)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in San Diego, California

Create Your Own Walk in San Diego

Create Your Own Walk in San Diego

Creating your own self-guided walk in San Diego is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Embarcadero Marina Walking Tour

Embarcadero Marina Walking Tour

Adjacent to downtown San Diego and the picturesque San Diego Bay is a vibrant waterfront area. Embarcadero Marina, a testament to the region's colorful maritime heritage, houses several outstanding ship museums and is home to other notable sites. The abundance of shopping and dining options, complete with the pristine views of the city skyline, delight numerous locals and tourists and make...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Balboa Park Walking Tour

Balboa Park Walking Tour

Named after the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Balboa Park is one of the largest cultural parks in the United States. A renowned cultural and recreational hub, it offers a plethora of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages.

One of the prominent landmarks within the park is the California Building and Tower, which boasts stunning Spanish-Colonial Revival architecture....  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Old Town Walking Tour

Old Town Walking Tour

Old Town is the oldest settled area in San Diego which claims to be the first site visited by Europeans on the West Coast of modern United States.

The Native American culture in the area, however, goes back thousands of years. Historically, this land had been a home to the Kumeyaay people who settled on the banks of the San Diego river since around 1000 AD. The first European explorer to...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Historic Gaslamp District Walking Tour

Historic Gaslamp District Walking Tour

The Gaslamp Quarter is a lively 16½-block neighborhood in downtown San Diego, known for its nightlife, diverse entertainment and, just as importantly, historical appeal.

Back in the 1860s, the area was known as New Town, in contrast to Old Town, the original Spanish colonial settlement. After a period of decay, the neighborhood underwent redevelopment during the 1980s and 1990s, and was...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


Souvenir Shopping Guide: 14 Gifts That Say San Diego

Souvenir Shopping Guide: 14 Gifts That Say San Diego

San Diego is known for its beautiful, temperate climate, but you can’t take the weather home with you. If you want a piece of San Diego as a souvenir, it’s best to shop with the natives. Whether it is made locally or just made famous locally, following are 14 perfect gifts that capture the...