Balboa Park Walking Tour, San Diego, San Diego (Self Guided)

Named after the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Balboa Park is one of the largest cultural parks in USA. The park features 15 famous museums, wonderful gardens, renowned cultural venues and the San Diego Zoo. It is a must see attraction in San Diego and plays host to a constant stream of plays, musicals, museum exhibitions and live concerts. Take this walking tour to discover the amazing Balboa Park in San Diego.
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Balboa Park Walking Tour, San Diego Map

Guide Name: Balboa Park Walking Tour, San Diego
Guide Location: USA » San Diego (See other walking tours in San Diego)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 km
Author: doris
San Diego Zoo

1) San Diego Zoo (must see)

The San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, is one of the largest and most progressive zoos in the world, with over 4,000 animals of more than 800 species. It is also one of the few zoos in the world that houses the giant panda. The zoo offers a guided tour bus that traverses 75% of the park. There is an overhead gondola lift called the Skyfari, providing an aerial view of the zoo. Exhibits are often designed around a particular habitat. The same exhibit features many different animals that can be found side-by-side in the wild, along with native plant life. Exhibits range from an African rain forest to the Arctic taiga and tundra in the summertime. Some of the largest free-flight aviaries in existence are here. Many exhibits are "natural" with invisible wires and darkened blinds (to view birds), and pools and open-air moats (for large mammals).

Why You Should Visit:
One of the best zoos (if not the best!) in the US and the world.

Book online and wear VERY comfortable walking shoes!
No coolers or straws allowed in the park, but you can bring in food and beverages.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Fleet Science Center

2) Fleet Science Center (must see)

Get ready for some real fun at the Reuben H Fleet Science Center. It is located in Balboa Park, and is just three miles northeast of downtown San Diego. It was always been well known as an institution that stays on the cutting edge of technology. For example, this location had the first IMAX Dome anywhere in the United States, and that was back in the 1970s. In recent times, it also built the world’s first seamless IMAX dome screen.

There are over 100 hands-on exhibits here to help keep the children entertained for hours. You can create colored shadows in one exhibit or design images with a sand pendulum, and then spend some time examining how guitar strings work. The Virtual Zone has one of the most popular exhibits that is called the Do-Undo. It makes you the theme of the display, as it records the movement of visitors, and allows people to play it forward and backward at different speeds.

You can also enjoy a presentation in a world-class Planetarium. You can get the ride of a lifetime here also in their one of a kind flight simulator.

Why You Should Visit:
So many different things to experience, try out, play with. AND the bottom floor is all about the history of video games.

If you are planning to stay for lunch, consider having it at the adjacent park or packing your own.

The Center is open daily from 10 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. during the summer. It closes at 5:00 p.m. during the winter months.
Alcazar Garden

3) Alcazar Garden (must see)

This famous garden is located in Balboa Park in San Diego, California. It derives its name from a famous castle that is located in Seville, Spain. It sits near the Art Institute and the Mingei Museum.

The gardens are well known for more than their beautiful flowers and plants. There are some stunning ornate fountains located here that are covered in Moorish tiles of yellow, green, and blue. In terms of design, it is a formal garden that is surrounded in classic boxwood hedges. You will want to note the designs that get created in the garden displays by the plants themselves. These designs are typical of classic gardening design. The topiaries are beautiful here. It is planted with over 7,000 annuals that bring a cacophony of color to the location all year long. It has been set to replicate the design of the gardens that was put in place in 1935 by architect Richard Requa. He spent two years designing the overall scheme, so it is quite neat that the design has been brought back for modern visitors.

The Alcazar Garden is open all year long, 365 days a year. Admission is free. So, this place can be a real cost saver on a tight vacation.

Why You Should Visit:
Small but gorgeous place. The Spanish tile and water features amongst all the flowers make an excellent backdrop for pictures.

Benches in shady area dot the garden, so you can take a breather from exploring Balboa Park and its many attractions.
Japanese Friendship Garden

4) Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden is one of the true gems of the Balboa Park complex in San Diego, California. It started as a tea house during the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, and has continued to please visitors ever since. It now covers over two acres of ground.

As you wander down its paths, and allow yourself to relax, you will be able to visit a Zen Garden, the exhibit house, and a real koi pond. The designs that are created in the sand are a piece of art all in themselves. You need to note the strategic placement of the rocks and plants, though, as they help tell a story of about how the garden creates harmony among the individual pieces. One of the best features of the area is the bonsai exhibit. There are hundreds of examples of this classic Japanese art. Don’t miss it.

There are a lot of weekend classes taught here, and they cover subjects like sushi making, bonsai gardening, calligraphy, and conversational Japanese. It is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and most major holidays.
San Diego Air & Space Museum

5) San Diego Air & Space Museum (must see)

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is dedicated to the world of aviation and space exploration. It is located in the famous Balboa Park. The museum finds its home in the historic Ford Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The history of aviation and space are displayed in some really great hands-on style exhibits. The story begins with a display that is dedicated to the Montgolfier brothers. In 1783, they built the first hot air balloon in recorded history, and thus became the first people to be able to fly.

You will also be able to see some well preserved historic aircraft and spacecraft here. There is a great replica of Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis also, as well as the only GPS satellite on display anywhere in the world. You can see some great mint condition aircraft here too, like the Spitfire Mk XVI, a Navy F6F Hellcat, and an A-4 Skyhawk jet, just to name a few.

One of the best hands on displays is the MaxFlight exhibit, which lets you imagine you are flying the Space Shuttle. They also recently added an Interactive Space and Air Technology Kid Zone.

Why You Should Visit:
See planes and capsules that you saw on TV and the newspaper.
You can also try out your skills in a flight trainer. Some exhibits have films and slides for further explanation.

The 'Flight Path' cafe is a great place to stop for a meal or snack. It has an outdoor patio with beautiful views of the city.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
San Diego Automotive Museum

6) San Diego Automotive Museum (must see)

The San Diego Automotive Museum is located in the historic Balboa Park Sector of town. It is simply a wonderful collection of cars and motorcycles from all the various phases of automotive history. You really get to see it all here under one roof.

You can see Louie Mattar’s 1947 Cadillac that has been driven across the whole country. You may be more intrigued by the 1948 Tucker on display, or the 1969 Fiat 500. The nice thing is that the exhibits change about every three months. Traveling auto shows from around the United State come here, as the museum is tied to the Smithsonian Institute. So every time you come back you will get a new treat.

In addition to the wonderful cars on display here, there is a world class automotive library on the premises. They have automobile manuals on practically every car ever made. Imagine being able to go back and find the original manuals on the Model T, or an old Studebaker. It can happen in this library, and the staff is always willing to help you look.

Why You Should Visit:
If you're a lover of classic and vintage automobiles then this is for you.
There is also a large motorcycle section to see some really nice early bikes.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm; Mon: 10am-4:30pm
Cabrillo Bridge

7) Cabrillo Bridge

The Cabrillo Bridge in San Diego, California is a historic pedestrian and automobile bridge providing access between Balboa Park and the Uptown area of San Diego. It was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Building began in December 1912 under the supervision of Frank P. Allen, Jr. The bridge was designed by Thomas B. Hunter of San Francisco.

The innovative design featured a multiple-arched cantilever structure, the first such bridge in California. It was constructed at a cost of $225,154. One million board feet of wood, mostly redwood, was used to make the concrete forms alone. The length of the bridge is 916 feet (279 m) including approaches. The main span is 450 feet (140 m) long and 120 feet (37 m) high. The seven arches are each 56 feet (17 m) across and are supported by fourteen hollow concrete pillars.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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.
Top Museums Walking Tour in San Diego

Top Museums Walking Tour in San Diego

San Diego has over 90 amazing museums. They reflect the incredible variety and interests of the region. The museums present a wide range of collections from classic to contemporary art and from natural history to science. Take this walking tour to explore some of the most famous museums in San Diego.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 km
Old Town Walking Tour, San Diego

Old Town Walking Tour, San Diego

Old Town San Diego is considered the "birthplace" of California. The Old Town Historic Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. It features amazing old historic houses, unique specialty shops, the first San Diego newspaper office and spectacular gardens. Take this walking tour to discover some of the most beautiful sights that the Old Town of San Diego has to...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour, San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour, San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter is a historical neighborhood established in 1876. It features 16 blocks of wonderful buildings, unique shops, amazing galleries and a wide range of restaurants. This tour highlights some of the most important tourists attractions in San Diego.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 km
Gaslamp Quarter Nightlife

Gaslamp Quarter Nightlife

San Diego is famous for its buzzy nightlife. There are plenty of clubs and lounges in the city that offer a relaxing atmosphere, a chance to strike a nice conversation, enjoy great cocktails - classic signature martinis and beautifully mixed drinks with fine liquor atop, and party crazy all night long. Take this walking tour for a unique nightlife experience in San Diego.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 km
Core-Columbia Nightlife

Core-Columbia Nightlife

San Diego is famous for its buzzy nightlife. There are plenty of clubs and lounges in the city that offer a relaxing atmosphere, a chance to strike a nice conversation, enjoy great cocktails - classic signature martinis and beautifully mixed drinks with fine liquor atop, and party crazy all night long. Take this walking tour for a unique nightlife experience in San Diego.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.5 km
Souvenir Shopping Part 1

Souvenir Shopping Part 1

It would be a pity to leave San Diego without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to San Diego, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.7 km

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...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in San Diego for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best San Diego has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as San Diego, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.