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Balboa Park, San Diego Travel Guide

Balboa Park Summary


  • Beautiful weather (average daily temperature is 70 degrees)
  • 15 museums, including the San Diego Museum of Art and Natural History Museum
  • Beautiful gardens
  • Close to lively Hillcrest neighborhood, heart of the LGBT community
  • San Diego Zoo
  • 18-hole golf course inside the park
  • Quiet area
  • Easier parking than in other areas of San Diego


  • Far from the beach and from downtown San Diego
  • Little nightlife in the immediate neighborhood
  • Vast area, not really walkable
  • No other major tourist sites nearby
  • Few accommodation options

What It's Like

Balboa Park is a Spanish Colonial Revival style urban garden that's home to museums, theaters, restaurants, an 18-hole golf course, the San Diego Zoo and a major hospital. Livey Hillcrest, the heart of the LGBT community, is to the northwest of the park, and offers plenty of restaurants, shops and a vibrant nightlife scne. Park West to the west and Burlingame to the east are quiet residential areas with some good restaurants, a few stores and a number of bars. Cortez Hill, directly south of the park, has seen a lot of development in the last few years and features some interesting architecture. It's a short drive away from the beach and from Downtown San Diego, but it’s relatively easy to find parking.

Where To Stay

There are few hotels in the immediate neighborhood of Balboa Park, but for easiest access to the park’s entrance, stay in the area between First and Fifth Avenues, which run along the western border of the park. For better nightlife, stay closer to the northwestern side, where Hillcrest begins.

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