San Diego Walking Tour: Balboa Park with a Local Guide
- Discover the inspiring, quirky, and fascinating history of one of the nation’s largest urban cultural parks
- Uncover historical and architectural treasures hiding in plain sight
- Explore a botanical garden’s vibrant collection of more than 2,100 plants
- Learn about the early 20th-century expositions that shaped Balboa Park
- Find the best spots to photograph Balboa Park’s beautiful Spanish colonial revival architecture
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 1800 acres of land for the park all the way back in 1867. 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 (remember, #localsknow).
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 (currently closed on Thursdays), home to more than 2,100 plants. It’s the perfect stop for photographers and flower-lovers alike, 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.
- Local English-speaking guide
- One beverage at a park coffee cart
- Food and drinks beyond what is included
- Souvenirs and personal shopping
- Tips/gratuities for your guide
- Entrance to the museums are not offered with this tour, but your guide will provide suggestions along the way for you to come back and visit during your own time
Prepare for the activity
Next to Founder’s Plaza statues between 6th Ave and Balboa Drive on Laurel Street at the west entrance of Balboa Park. They are located in Sefton Plaza and are directly across the street from the Lawn Bowling Club.Open in Google Maps ⟶
For your Urban Adventure you will be in a small group of a maximum of 12 people.
This is a child-friendly tour. Children under the age of 6 are permitted to join this tour.
Very occasionally museums, gardens and roadways are closed due to special events or routine maintenance. If this occurs, we will find a similar alternative for you to visit during your tour. If you have any concerns, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org