San Diego has a plethora of attractions to offer, and Balboa Park is easily one of the cities most beautiful. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or someone who’s just trying to understand more about the world that we live in.

Certain parts of the park, such as the San Diego Zoo and the Reuben H. Fleet Center, are constantly on the tourist stops, but there are so many other venues, attractions and gardens to visit, one day would not be enough to fit them all in.

A Perfect Day in Beautiful Balboa Park

For this day of exploration, start at Daniel’s Coffee Cart, located at the House of Hospitality in the heart of the park. This little shop offers a variety of coffee drinks and your choice of breakfast pastries to satisfy the taste buds.

Follow that with a trip into the past, visiting the classic cars in the San Diego Automotive Museum. With over 80 vehicles from throughout the 20th century, anyone who’s got a need for speed will have the time of their life learning about how far the car has evolved.

Continue your day with the San Diego Air and Space Museum, which features five centuries of aircraft history. With actual airplane engines and rooms filled with plane models with moving parts to touch and look at, time will fly as you discover how the gigantic machines soar above us.

Next, head over to the Japanese Friendship Garden for a moment of tranquility. The winding paths lead through a garden that takes you into two acres of beautiful wisteria-covered trees with a koi pond and a Zen garden for meditation. While here, stop for a cup of tea and a sushi roll at the teahouse. It will be hard to leave the garden without feeling completely peaceful.

The next stop is the San Diego Museum of Man. Housed in the landmark 200-foot California Tower, the museum is dedicated to anthropology, and filled with mummies, artifacts, and monuments that will capture the attention of anyone who loves discovering secrets about the past. Mummy lovers will revel in the rare Egyptian tomb artifacts and Peruvian mummies.

Nearby is one of the most photographed scenes in Balboa Park, the Botanical Building. The Lily Pond and the lath structure of the building beckon botany lovers to see its flora display inside. Once through the building’s doors, a garden with a variety of plants and a couple of waterfalls will beckon you to stay and enjoy nature’s beauty for hours. Be sure to take a picture out front for memory’s sake.

Next, stop at the Timken Museum of Art. It’s considered to be one of the finest small museums in the United States, and is filled with some of the best European and American artwork available. The museum is always free, so art lovers can enjoy Rembrandt and Rubens and everything in between to their hearts’ content.

After a long day of walking around museums, nothing satisfies a hungry appetite like a gourmet meal. The Prado Restaurant in the heart of Balboa Park is the best place for a romantic dinner for two, or a great place for an intimate gathering with friends after contemplating the artwork. The award-winning restaurant located inside the House of Hospitality, has a beautiful interior that makes eating a meal a work of art. A cocktail lounge with a variety of signature and exotic drinks makes waiting for your table a time to relax you and help get you into the mood for a wonderful meal. The Prado is known for its delicious entrees, such as the garlic and rosemary pan roasted boneless half chicken, but the dessert here is to die for, like the Tahitian vanilla bean cream cheese flan. For the ultimate dining experience try the cap steak followed by the chocolate soufflé cake. Decadent.

To finish the day, stroll through the park once more for Park After Dark. Every night year round, there’s always something to enjoy, whether it be jazz programs or lectures and classes on artwork.

But the best part of the nightlife in Balboa Park is the opportunity to catch a play at the Old Globe Theatre. This remake of Shakespeare’s Globe has both indoor and outdoor stages and every seat is a great one. The Old Globe is internationally acclaimed, and has even won a Tony Award. Performances vary, but the plays always offer a great way to end your day at Balboa Park.

Helpful Hints: To begin your day, arrive a little before 10 A.M., which is when most of the museums and attractions open.

What and Where:
Daniel’s Coffee Cart (Park Location 0)
San Diego Automotive Museum (619-231-2886, Location 24)
San Diego Air and Space Museum (619-234-8291, Park Location 25)
Japanese Friendship Garden (619-232-2721, Park Location 28)
San Diego Museum of Man (619-239-2001, Park Location 7)
Balboa Park Botanical Building (Park Location 17)
Timken Museum of Art (619-239-5548, Park Location 12)
The Prado (619-557-9441, Park Location 0)
The Old Globe Theatre (619-231-1941, Park Location 6)

For more information, check out or call 619-239-0512

About the Photographer: Joanne DiBona is the Communications Manager for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau and serves as the official photographer and writer for the tourism marketing association. She is also a widely-published travel writer and photographer. Her images of the San Diego region have appeared in travel publications and on websites around the world. When not capturing the beauty of her San Diego home on camera, she enjoys traveling the world together with her husband and fellow photographer, Tony. She can be reached at

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