If you are visiting the Zoo, take the 7 to Park Boulevard and Zoo Place.
MTS buses 3 and 120 serve the playgrounds and trails on the western side of the park. Get off and 5th and Laurel Streets, and walk over the Laurel Street Bridge to reach the park entrance.
Consider a “Stay for the Day” one day passport for $35, good for 5 museums of your choice (the Zoo is Not included). For information about “Stay for the Day”and other Balboa Park passports, and purchase them online, visit http://www.balboapark.org/info/passport.php.
Here are a few ideas for weekend visits to Balboa Park:
Weekend for the Art Lover:
Mingei International Museum Dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of art of people (mingei) from all world cultures, Mingei International Museum presents traditional and contemporary folk art, craft, and design in modern, state-of-the-art gallery spaces..
Museum of Photographic Arts
One of the few institutions in the country devoted to the photographic arts, the Museum of Photographic Arts houses over 4,000 works, representing the entire history of photography, The museum’s collection is particularly strong in modern and contemporary work, specifically social documentary photography and photojournalism, and houses a state-of-the-art movie theater.
The San Diego Museum of Art
As the region’s oldest and largest art museum, the San Diego Museum of Art’s renowned holdings include a fine selection of European old masters, 19th–20th –century American art, an encyclopedic Asian collection, and growing collections of contemporary and Latin American art..
Spanish Village Art Center
Daily art demonstrations featuring contemporary fine arts and crafts directly from San Diego County’s largest community of artists. Thirty-seven working artist studios/galleries host over two hundred independently juried local painters, sculptors, metalsmiths, jewelry designers, clay artists, gourd artists, photographers, printmakers, fiber artists, basket weavers, mixed-media artists, glass artists, and more. Enjoy the colorful flagstone patio filled with seasonal blooms, and unique shops housed under the historic Spanish-tile roofed buildings.
And remember to visit the following museum that has free admission all the time:
Timken Museum of Art
Considered one of the great small museums in the world, the Timken houses the world-class Putnam Foundation Collection of European old master paintings, American paintings, and Russian icons. Artists represented include Rembrandt, Rubens, Fragonard, Bierstadt, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, John Singleton Copley, and Eastman Johnson. The Timken’s modern, white marble building was designed by San Diego architect Frank Hope, Jr.
Weekend for the Science Lover
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
The Fleet is home to Southern California’s only IMAX® Dome Theater and 100+ hands-on science exhibits for all ages. Watch immersive giant-screen films and amazing planetarium shows on the IMAX Dome and experience seven galleries of fun, interactive exhibits. A 23-passenger motion simulator ride thrills visitors with journeys into exciting realms.
San Diego Museum of Man
Located beneath the ornate 200-foot California Tower, the San Diego Museum of Man is the city’s only museum devoted to anthropology. With its Spanish colonial and mission style architecture, the landmark building was originally constructed for the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition. Today, a key focus of the museum is to create and display dynamic and educational anthropological exhibits about people and places throughout the Americas and around the world.
San Diego Natural History Museum
The Museum spotlights Southern California-Baja region’s evolution and diversity.
San Diego Zoo
Home to more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals representing more than 800 species and subspecies, the San Diego Zoo is a world famous conservation organization where visitors view exotic animals in habitat environments. Guests may view rare giant pandas, cuddly looking koalas, reptiles of various shapes and sizes and many more interesting species.
Trains, Planes and Automobiles:
San Diego Air and Space Museum
The Air and Space Museum covers five centuries of aviation history, demonstrating the remarkable progress of manned flight. The exclusive exhibit, Apollo 9 Has Landed, features the only Apollo Command Module flown in space west of the Rockies. The Museum is housed in the Ford Motor Building built in 1935 for the California Pacific Exposition.
San Diego Automotive Museum
The museum offers a nostalgic look at the icon of the 20th century—the automobile. The permanent collection contains more than 80 historic autos and motorcycles, including a 1948 Tucker and the world-famous Louie Mattar’s Fabulous $75,000 Car (a vehicle equipped for non-stop distance driving back in the 1950’s).
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
At 28,000 square feet, the museum is the world’s largest operating model railroad museum.
A Weekend for garden lovers:
Japanese Friendship Garden
The Garden originated as a teahouse during the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition and now lies on two acres near the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Along the Garden’s winding paths are a Zen garden for meditation, an exhibit house, koi pond, bonsai exhibit, ceremonial gate, and a Fujidana (wisteria arbor). Admission is just $4 ($3 for seniors, students, and military).
Weekend classes are offered in sushi making, bonsai, calligraphy, and conversational Japanese.
Three centerpiece gardens (all Free to the public): the award-winning Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, the historic Botanical Building and the colorful Alcazar Garden—are counted among Balboa Park’s most cherished assets. Continually evolving, these horticultural landmarks provide colorful, fragrant, and serene natural environments for the more than twelve million visitors that flock to Balboa Park each year.
Balboa Park is easy to reach from most San Diego neighborhoods. For more information about Balboa Park, call (619) 239-0512, or visit www.balboapark.org.
For information about where to stay, contact San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.sandiego.org, or call 619-236-1212.
For Bus and Trolley route and schedule information, visit: www.sdmts.com, or call (619) 233-3004 between 5:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. weekends.
24-hour automated transit information is available by calling Info Express: (619) 685-4900
If you have a favorite place you would like included in a future column, or would like to be a guest columnist and help me spotlight your hometown or favorite vacation spot you can enjoy without needing to drive, e-mail me at