When visiting San Diego, one of the places that we knew we wanted to visit was Balboa Park. What we didn’t know was all that Balboa Park has to offer!
And it’s a lot.
Balboa Park is like a one-stop shop. Between museums, gardens, a zoo and trails, this 1200 acre park has it all. And the list goes on! It’s pretty spectacular, we didn’t even touch the surface of all that Balboa Park has to offer. If you want a brief history lesson, the park began construction in 1868 and a lot of the buildings were built for the Panama-California Exposition; which was a celebration for the opening of the Panama Canal. The idea was for San Diego to be the first US port for ships as they made their way to the Panama Canal.
Now if you want to experience some of the museum or zoo, you’re going to have to pay. The zoo alone for a one-day adult ticket can run you a good $58! That’s just slightly out of my price range. I’d totally recommend getting San Diego’s Go San Diego Card, which will cost you $199/adult ticket and $179/child. You can use it over a 3-day period and it allows you access to 39 area attractions (some of which include, Legoland and Sea World).
But what if you’re on a budget?
We were when we went. Clearly, as I mentioned that the zoo was more than I could afford. But what can you do for FREE at Balboa Park? Here is a list of things that either we did, or that I found are FREE.
Although is may seem silly to mention, parking is free. But for a budget conscious traveler like myself, anything that reduces the cost is an added bonus.
Resident Free Day
This one doesn’t really fit a traveler, but if you’re a resident, military and their families in San Diego, there are FREE days to visit some of the museums and gardens. Check out those FREE days HERE.
Timken Museum of Art
The Timken Museum of Art of one of the few free museums within Balboa Park. The museum’s collection ranges from past to present. European, Spanish and American artist, to touch on a few places some of the artist are from. They also offer free tours, which last about 30 minutes.
Balboa Park December Nights
If you happen to be in San Diego during the month of December, I’d suggest attending on one Balboa Park’s December Nights. During these nights, the museums open their doors for FREE from 5 pm-9 pm. The days may vary, but seem to be the first Friday and Saturday of December. Not only can you get into the museums for free during this time, but you can also view Balboa lit up for the holiday season! They even host a few shows for your viewing during this time. From ballet, dance presentations and plays.
Free Sunday Concerts at Spreckels Organ Pavilion
Since 1917, Spreckels Organ Pavilion has hosted FREE Sunday concerts. View a civic organist every Sunday from 2 pm- 3 pm.
Free Tram Ride
You can take a free tram ride around the park and get a brief history lesson while you take the ride.
Through the months of June, July and August Balboa Park offers FREE concerts that range from Latin, blues, jazz, rock and roll and more. The event is a family friendly event, starts at 6:30 pm and you can view the dates HERE.
The park has a lot of space for you to roam and explore, like trails! This is one of the things we did when we went. The trails can be long but we just took a short one. Along the trail we seen a lot of gorgeous flowers and plants that we don’t usually see in our native Georgia. Here are a few gorgeous shots.
San Diego Botanical Garden Fountain
If you love gardening and plants, then you’ll want to check out Balboa Park Botanical Garden Fountain calendar of events. They host an array of events from sales, workshops and educational programs for FREE.
San Diego Mineral and Gem Society
The San Diego Mineral and Gem Society has a goal is to educate people about gems, minerals and fossils. The museum features different gems, minerals and fossils from throughout the world. And you can view it all for FREE. For a small additional fee, you can attend a class about lapidary and jewelry art.
San Diego Museum of Art
Although admission to San Diego Museum of Art isn’t free for adults, it is free for children 17 and under. This is great if you’re traveling as a family. Tickets for adult are $15/person, with military and seniors at $10/person. The museum houses gorgeous pieces of art from around the world!
Spanish Village Art Center
Live music and colorful concrete is the setting for this section of Balboa Park that allows creative artist to experience with their talents. 200 local artist share the space and their expertise range from glass blowing, photography, basket weaving and more! A lot more! Check out more of the Spanish Village Art Center has to offer HERE.
Here are some more photos from our visit to Balboa Park. Honestly I didn’t know all the FREE things that Balboa has to offer, but I will definitely visit again to experience it all!