San Diego’s Balboa Park is the United State’s largest urban cultural park. Home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo, the Park has an ever-changing calendar of museum exhibitions, plays, musicals, concerts, and classes—all in the beautiful and timeless setting of this must-see San Diego attraction.
Are skyrocketing prices taking a big bite out of this year’s travel budget?
Balboa Park, offers numerous activities that you can do for free, or for a relatively small fee.
1. Explore beautiful gardens
Balboa Park is renowned for the lush landscaping and lovely gardens on its 1,200 acres, offering a magnificent backdrop for the cultural attractions. The Park was ranked among the Best Parks in the World by the Project for Public Places in 2003 for its mixture of horticulture and art and culture.
There are many gardens in the Park which are free and open to the public, including the lovely Alcazar Garden, the award-winning Inez Grant Parker Memorial rose garden, the desert garden and the historic Botanical Building.
2. Enjoy free tours
Get to the root of the Park’s flora on an Offshoot Tour or Park Ranger Tour (both free) or take in the Park’s historic grounds with a Walking Audio Tour ($5).
3. Take in free music, dance, and performances
Balboa Park is the perfect venue for free performances year round. Enjoy a cultural festival at the International Cottages (free) every Sunday at 2:00pm with music, dance and food from around the world. Take in a Sunday Organ Concert at Spreckels Organ Pavilion (free) and listen to gorgeous music on the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ.
4. Summer Nights in Balboa Park are special!
Twilight in the Park kicks-off a free concert series on June 16. Twilight’s live music under the stars has been delighting visitors to the Park for 29 years with music from military bands and Dixieland jazz to big band swing and Latin salsa. Concerts run through August 27, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. on the stage of the majestic Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Twilight Schedule The 22nd year of the International Summer Organ Festival begins Monday, June 22. The concerts are at 7:30 p.m. every Monday evening through August 31 on world’s largest outdoor pipe organ in Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Internationally renowned concert and theater organists accompany elegant vocal works, brass, bagpipes, and a silent movie on August 24. Summer Organ Festival Schedule
Other fun and affordable ideas
Explore miles of well-maintained nature trails (free). Be a kid again and ride the Balboa Park Carousel and Miniature Railroad (prices vary – open weekends and school holidays – daily during summer). Take up lawn bowling, archery, or bocci ball (free). Window shop at the Spanish Village art studios or at the vast assortment of museum shops in the Park (free).