It’s Allison again, and I’m here to share with you my family’s love of Balboa Park. It’s one of my family’s favorite destinations in San Diego. It is located near downtown San Diego and is the largest urban cultural park in the United States. It is home to 15 museums as well as performing arts venues, gardens, playgrounds and the San Diego Zoo.
If you’re planning a trip to San Diego, I recommend spending one full day at the zoo and another full day enjoying other attractions in Balboa Park. Here are my top 10 attractions for families at Balboa Park.
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is a must-see for families. It is a beautiful zoo, filled with animals like pandas and koalas that you are not likely to find at most zoos. My daughter loves seeing monkeys on the board walk through the tree tops. My son loves lions and cheetahs. Whatever animals your kids love, you’ll probably find them at the San Diego Zoo.
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
This is the museum that my kids remembered best from our first trip to San Diego, and they begged to return. The Fleet Science Center is a hands-on museum for children. It also has an IMAX theatre. My children loved the exhibit that showed them how they might look as they age, the paper airplane launcher and the building area.
San Diego Natural History Museum
The “NAT” is located directly across from the Fleet Science Center and is full of interactive, educational exhibits for families. There is a play area on the main floor that is especially fun for young children. Admission includes a movie in the Giant Screen 3-D Theater.
San Diego Museum of Art
My 9-year-old daughter loves art and is familiar with the works of famous artists, so this museum was at the top of her list on our recent trip. We wandered the museum in search of Monet and enjoyed classical and modern exhibits from Asia, Europe the Middle East and the United States along the way. My 6-year-old son was not as enthused about the museum, but even he liked the room where kids are encouraged to create their own works of art.
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
This museum feels small compared to the others on this list, but the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is the largest operating model train museum in the world. It’s a can’t-miss for kids and adults who love trains. It’s located next door to the Fleet Science Museum.
The Botanical Building is representative of the many gardens you might choose from at the park. The Botanical Building is free and located among the popular museums. It’s a pleasant place to explore during your day at Balboa Park.
The Balboa Park carousel dates back to 1910, and it is one of the few carousels in the world where you can still try to grab the brass ring for a free ride. The ride costs $2 per person and is open daily during the summer and on weekends and school holidays the rest of the year. The carousel is located near the zoo.
The miniature railroad is located near the carousel, and families with young children will likely enjoy both. The three-minute ride on an antique train will take you through four acres of the park. The ride costs $2 per person and is open daily during the summer and on weekends and school holidays during the rest of the year.
We packed a blanket and picnic supplies and enjoyed a lunch on the lawn. San Diego’s mild climate means that families can enjoy a picnic in the park almost any time of year. We saved the extra expense of a café lunch and my kids loved picnicking at Balboa Park.
Balboa Park has five playgrounds for children. There is a fun one behind the Fleet Science Center. Let young children play before the museums open in the morning. You’ll get a great parking space if you do. Set up your picnic nearby to make your lunch even more fun and relaxing. Balboa Park’s playgrounds are a great place to unwind anytime you need a break in your day.
These activities are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other museums, gardens, and recreational activities at Balboa Park to choose from. To find your family’s favorites, visit Balboa Park’s website at www.balboapark.org for a full list of attractions.
Feel free to let me know if you’ve discovered any other wonderful attractions for families at Balboa Park!