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Things to do in
Balboa Park

Balboa Park: Our most recommended tours and activities

San Diego: Harbor Cruise

1. San Diego: Harbor Cruise

See San Diego's best sights. Learn about the city and enjoy a cruise on the bay. Depending on the option booked, this tour takes you under the Coronado Bridge, past military ships, waterfront landmarks, and marine life for a look at San Diego's scenic beauty and fascinating history. This tour’s luxury ships offer three levels with comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, 360-degree views, and an on-board snack bar serving snacks, soda, beer, wine and cocktails (available for purchase). This is a great way to experience San Diego from the water.

San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

2. San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

Join the Hop-on Hop-Off Tour of Old Town San Diego at any of the tour's 12 boarding points and visit more than 100 interesting points in Coronado and San Diego at your own pace. You can begin at any time of the day and listen to the entertaining narration of the onboard conductors along the way. San Diego is known as America’s Finest City, and as you explore the sights of Old Town and the scenic coastline you’ll see why. Opt to begin your tour at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, where you’ll see original adobe homes and artifacts from the earliest Mexican settlements. At the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, you’ll learn about the importance of the U.S. Navy's presence in San Diego. Then continue on to nearby Seaport Village, where you can stop for refreshments and enjoy shopping and entertainment. In the historic Gaslamp Quarter, you’ll find loads of shops and other interesting places located in Victorian-themed buildings. One particular house of interest is the William Heath Davis House. Built-in saltbox style, it is similar to the original home of Davis, who founded New Town San Diego. When you’re back on the trolley you’ll be entertained once again by the conductor’s narration. Continue on to the well-known Hotel del Coronado, one of America’s leading resorts. You may choose to take a stroll through nearby Balboa Park, along El Prado, the promenade lined with Spanish-style buildings. With more stops than any other tour, this hop-on hop-off trolley ride is guaranteed to deliver. In addition to sightseeing, enjoy free shuttle service to and from select area hotels, a map and day planner, and $70 in discount coupons to use at restaurants and area attractions. Hop on or hop off at 12 convenient stops: A - Old Town State Historic Park (4010 Twiggs St & San Diego Ave.) B - Maritime Museum of San Diego/Star of India (1492 N Harbor Dr) C - San Diego Embarcadero (1004 N. Harbor Dr) D - Headquarters at Seaport Village (789 W Harbor Dr) E - Seaport Village (825 W Harbor Dr) F - Marriott Marquis & Marina (333 W Harbor Dr) G - Gaslamp Quarter (480 4th Ave) H - Petco Park/San Diego Convention Center (855 E Harbor Dr) I - Barrio Logan (1113 E.Cesar Chavez Pkwy) J - Coronado/Orange Avenue (1107 Orange Ave) K - Balboa Park and El Prado Museums (2175 Presidents Way) L - Little Italy (1605 India St)

San Diego: City Lights Night Trolley Tour

3. San Diego: City Lights Night Trolley Tour

Your 90-minute night tour boards in Seaport Village and starts off by exploring the West Coast’s premier entertainment district, known as the Gaslamp Quarter, full of vibrant nightlife, bright lights, and Victorian architecture.   Then, make your way to Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the U.S., where stunning buildings, fountains, and statues glow bright at night. From Balboa Park, drive to the top of Coronado Bridge for more spectacular sights, including the lights coming in from Tijuana, Mexico, the bay, and Downtown San Diego. Then, travel to Coronado’s Ferry Landing for a 20-minute stop to take in the stunning beauty of the San Diego city skyline, visible from across the bay and a perfect photo opportunity. From Coronado, make your way back to San Diego to take in the Embarcadero’s bay-front views. You’ll see the Historic County Administration Building, Maritime Museum’s Star of India, the USS Midway Museum, and Navy aircraft carriers from across the bay. The tour ends in Seaport Village.

San Diego: Go City Explorer Pass - Choose 2-7 Attractions

4. San Diego: Go City Explorer Pass - Choose 2-7 Attractions

Experience San Diego's top attractions and tours and get up to 50%* off combined admission with Go City's Explorer Pass. Simply choose 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7 top attractions from over 40 options and go at your own pace - you have 60 days to use your pass from first activation. Visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo or the USS Midway Museum. Explore more of the city with a hop-on hop-off trolley tour, or kayak in beautiful La Jolla. The possibilities are endless. Your pass is fully digital and no physical card is required. Simply download your pass directly to your smartphone or print at home. Show your pass at each attraction for quick and easy entrance. Choose from the following things to do in San Diego with the San Diego Explorer Pass: Museums and Places of Interest • San Diego Zoo OR San Diego Zoo Safari Park (choose 1) • USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum • Belmont Park Ride and Play Pass • Maritime Museum of San Diego • Air and Space Museum • Birch Aquarium at Scripps • The Fleet Science Center with IMAX • San Diego Natural History Museum • Museum of Us • Living Coast Discovery Center • San Diego Museum of Art • San Diego Model Railroad Museum • Japanese Friendship Garden • PETCO Park Tour - Home of the San Diego Padres • San Diego Automotive Museum • Mingei International Museum • The Whaley House Museum Tours and Activities • 90-Min Best Of The Bay Harbor Tour by City Cruises • 2-Day Hop-On Hop-off Old Town San Diego Trolley • Living Coast Discovery Center • San Diego Speed Boat Adventures • 45 Min. Jet Ski Rental • Whale Watching by City Cruises • Plunge San Diego • San Diego Fishing Tour • San Diego Hiking Tour • La Jolla: Kayak Rental, Stand Up Paddle Board Rental, Surf Board Rental or Bike Rental • Coronado: Kayak Rental, Stand Up Paddle Board Rental, or Bike Rental • UTC Ice Sports Center • San Diego City Tour • GoCar San Diego Tours 1-Hour • Patriot Jet Boat • Best of San Diego eBike Tour • Gaslamp and Balboa Park Bike Rental with Unlimited Biking • Go Car 1-Hour Night Tour • Asylum Outdoor Bouldering • Gaslamp Ghost Walking Tour • Haunted Old Town Walking History + Paranormal Investigation • Historical Old Town Walking Tour *Savings based on itineraries on Go City website.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park: 2-Day Entry Ticket

5. San Diego Zoo and Safari Park: 2-Day Entry Ticket

Experience the best of two worlds with a two-day admission ticket to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Widely regarded as the best in the world, the San Diego Zoo has open-air enclosures and puts an emphasis on animal welfare and conservation. Its sister Safari Park boasts wide open spaces for its many animals to roam freely, mimicking their natural habitat as closely as possible.   Explore the San Diego Zoo, home to over 4,500 rare and endangered animals. Experience their worlds at the Polar Bear Plunge, Elephant Odyssey, and other areas. Winding paths through the tropical oasis of a botanical garden bring you to the zoo’s rare and fascinating animals, including koalas, Galápagos tortoises, tigers, eagles, flamingos, great apes, and more. The festive, lively atmosphere makes this zoo a great place for family fun and gathering friends. Discover the wonders of wildlife with animal encounters, interactive experiences, and exciting animal presentations and shows.   The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an adventurer’s safari paradise in Southern California. The 1,800-acre park is home to more than 3,000 animals representing more than 375 species, many living in wide open field enclosures. Join one of many tours and create memories for you and your family. Visit Sumatra and see tigers, orangutans, rhinos, and elephants. Tiger Trail provides a journey to discover tigers and learn about their current struggles. In Lion Camp, come nose to nose with an African lion pride. And best of all, your participation contributes to the conservation of species here and in more than 35 countries across the globe.

San Diego: All-Inclusive Pass with 50+Attractions by Go City

6. San Diego: All-Inclusive Pass with 50+Attractions by Go City

Simply choose between a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7-day pass and save up to 50%* compared to the cost of buying separate attraction tickets. The San Diego All-Inclusive Pass is an all-access pass offering the ultimate in convenience and savings for visitors to the area. Visit the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND, The U.S.S. Midway, take a sightseeing harbor cruise, rent a bike, stand-up paddleboard, and much more. With a total of over 50 attractions and tours included with your pass, there is something for everyone and you can visit as many attractions as you like per day. The San Diego All-Inclusive Pass also comes with a digital guide including helpful attraction information including how to get there and opening times. Activities, attractions, and tours included on the San Diego All-Inclusive Pass: Theme Parks and Zoos • San Diego Zoo • SeaWorld San Diego • San Diego Zoo Safari Park • Belmont Park • Knott's Berry Farm • LEGOLAND California Outdoors • La Jolla: 90-min Tandem Kayak Rental • La Jolla: All-Day Bike Rental • La Jolla: Surfboard Rental • La Jolla: Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Rental • Coronado: 90-min Tandem Kayak Rental • Coronado: SUP Board Rental • Coronado: Full-Day Bike Rental • San Diego Pier Fishing • Best of San Diego eBike Tour • Gaslamp and Balboa Park Bike Rental with Unlimited Biking • Asylum Outdoor Bouldering Tours and Cruises • 90-Min Best Of The Bay Harbor Tour by City Cruises • Whale Watching by City Cruises • Whale Watch & Dolphin Tour - Beautiful Newport Beach • San Diego Hiking Tour • One Way Coronado Ferry • Petco Park Tours - home of the San Diego Padres • TCL Chinese Theatre Tour OR Movie with Drink • Gaslamp Ghost Walking Tour • Haunted Old Town Walking History + Paranormal Investigation • Historical Old Town Walking Tour Museums and Places of Interest • USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum • Japanese Friendship Garden • San Diego Air and Space Museum • San Diego Natural History Museum • The Fleet Science Center with IMAX • Birch Aquarium at Scripps • Museum of Us • Madame Tussauds Hollywood • San Diego Automotive Museum • San Diego Model Railroad Museum • San Diego Museum of Art • The Whaley House Museum • Coronado Historical Association • San Diego Art Institute • The Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House • Mingei International Museum • The Plunge San Diego • Living Coast Discovery Center • Museum of Making Music • Richard Nixon Library • UTC Ice Sports Center • South Coast Shop & Dine Package *Savings based on sample itineraries on Go City website.

San Diego: San Diego Natural History Museum Ticket

7. San Diego: San Diego Natural History Museum Ticket

Visit the San Diego Natural History Museum, the oldest museum in San Diego and a flagship institution in Balboa Park featuring four floors of exhibition space, a giant-screen theater, and San Diego’s only Foucault pendulum. With permanent exhibitions, rotating films, a robust calendar of events and activities (including late nights on the third Friday of each month during Spring 2024), and the opportunity to see scientists at work, the Museum will expose you to fascinating stories about the natural world, fostering a lifelong love of learning and engaging you in a worldwide scientific dialogue. Come celebrate our 150th anniversary with us! Current exhibits include: Art of Science (running through May 27, 2024) In collaboration with the UC San Diego library, see the winners of the Art of Science competition, showcasing the work of UC San Diego students and researchers. Expedition Baja The Baja California Peninsula: our neighbor in nature. Explore towing mountains, desert flats, and isolated islands, and follow along with researchers working to conserve the peninsula's wild beauty. Living Lab Meet more than 20 of your not-so-cuddly neighbors, from stinging scorpions to elusive nocturnal lizards. The Backyard Learn and explore the natural world through play. The Nat's youngest visitors (ages 0-5) can play under a shade tree, search for hidden secrets along a wooden fence, or read their favorite book in a cozy potting shed. Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage This exhibition gives visitors a rare look into the Museum's storage areas. Different specimens offer the opportunity to revel in the natural world in all its beauty and peculiarity. Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science This exhibition explores the past, present and future of citizen science through rare books, art, photographs, and historical documents. Coast to Cactus in Southern California This exhibition will take you on an immersive walk through the major regions of southern California's coast, inland valleys, mountains, and deserts and celebrate the abundant variety of life found here. Fossil Mysteries From dinosaurs to megalodons to mastodons, travel through 75 million years and dig into the rich fossil history of southern California and Baja California. Giant-Screen Theater The Subaru Giant Screen Experience is one-of-a-kind. Settle into the 300-seat, stadium-style theater and enjoy films on the massive screen. Showing Daily: Shark Kingdom, FUNGI: The Web of Life, and Ocean Oasis

San Diego's Balboa Park: 3-Hour Scavenger Hunt Adventure

8. San Diego's Balboa Park: 3-Hour Scavenger Hunt Adventure

Turn Balboa Park into a giant game board on a small-group, interactive scavenger hunt. Combine the thrill of the race with a sightseeing tour of this popular San Diego destination. Guided by any smartphone, you and your group will make your way to well-known and some overlooked gems of the city, solving clues and completing challenges while learning about local history. Begin at the Veterans Museum, and take in the iconic art and impressive architecture, and admire historical theaters and hidden gardens. The activity involves around 2 miles of walking and generally takes between 2-3 hours to complete.

San Diego: City and Beaches Guided Highlights Tour

9. San Diego: City and Beaches Guided Highlights Tour

Discover the beauty of San Diego and its glorious beaches on this guided bus tour. Take in the sights on a scenic drive to locations like the Gaslamp District and Chicano Park. Stretch your legs with stops at 5 popular destinations. Embarking from the Santa Fe Depot, the journey unfolds first at the historic Gaslamp District before culminating in Little Italy. Travel along the Embarcadero, to the vibrant Chicano Park. Learn the history of San Diego between stops with live narration, music, and video. Cross the Coronado Bridge, and stop at the historic Hotel Del Coronado built in 1888 for a 45-minute stop. Another 45-minute break ensues at the enchanting Balboa Park, the site of the 1915 Panama California Exposition. Head to the Old Town, the birthplace of California, for another 45-minutes of free time. Venture along the 5 freeway, to La Jolla Cove for 45-mintues of free time to soak up some sun on the coast and visit the sea lions. Ride around the Pacific Beach and hit the sands of Mission Beach for a 45-minute stay to enjoy the Boardwalk, Belmont Park, and the Pacific Ocean. Return on a route that leads back to the Downtown pick-up point, the Santa Fe Depot.

San Diego Walking Tour: Balboa Park with a Local Guide

10. San Diego Walking Tour: Balboa Park with a Local Guide

Balboa Park is home to gorgeous gardens, lovely walking paths, and plenty of cultural gems, from theaters to museums featuring the arts, the sciences, and more. You’ll get a full overview of the park and its rich history on this San Diego walking tour that explores how the park has become a symbol of the city. We’ll kick things off at the Founder’s Statue on the west side of the park. We think you’ll agree San Diegans were visionaries when they set aside 1400 acres of land for the park all the way back in 1868. Then we’ll stop at the California Tower, built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, has since become a city landmark. The face of the tower depicts the early history of the city. Next up, we’ll head to Alcazar Garden, which was inspired by the same-named gardens in Spain. Used for both the 1915 and 1935 expositions, the garden offered fair-goers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the exposition, and provides a picturesque foreground to photos of the California Tower. Snag the perfect Instagram shot while you’re here. Following after, we’ll head to the Old Globe Theater which is a Tony Award-winning, world-renowned professional theater group modeled after The Globe Theater London. From there, we’ll walk through the heart of the Prado, where you’ll get to spy unique building façades and roof supports that most visitors don’t notice. We’ll also check out Zoro Gardens, a sunken garden that was once a nudist colony (seriously) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. Today, it’s a butterfly garden that contains everything butterflies need for their full life cycle. We’ll then continue past the Bea Evenson fountain, the Natural History Museum and we’ll pop into the Spanish Village Art Center to observe artists at work in their studios. By now you will have worked up a thirst so we’ll grab a drink at a local coffee cart before continuing on past one of the largest Morton Bay fig trees in California and the San Diego Junior Theater. But we’re not done yet! We’ll then head to the Botanical Building and the adjacent lily pond full of koi makes more than just a pretty picture — you’ll learn how the pond was an important part of the war effort during WWI and how it helped injured sailors and soldiers during WWII. Our tour will end at the Plaza de Panama, but before we say goodbye, your guide will give you directions to the nearby Visitor Center (for snacks, maps, souvenirs, and museum passes), suggestions for places to eat, and tips on what else to see and do within the park.

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What people are saying about Balboa Park

Overall rating

4.6
(1,262 reviews)

Great tour guides - interesting things to see and good locations to get off and look around then hop back on. We used it all day but probably if you have 2 days free that would be better. Would recommend to get around and learn about San Diego.

Our guide was fantastic - he took time to get to know each family individually and his enthusiasm about San Diego really made the tour awesome.

What a great, exciting experience to be a part of! The price was spot on. It happened to be a beautiful day. Unforgettable. Than you!

the enthusiasm of the drivers, they really enjoyed their work and told many fun facts

We loved our tour guide James!!! Wouldn’t stop in Logan Barrio.