San Diego’s Balboa Park, dubbed “The Jewel of San Diego” is by far one of our favorite places to visit. It’s arguably one of the most magical places on this planet, with its stunning gardens boasting of rare, tropical flora and fauna, as well as the towering Spanish colonial architecture. It is a place that hearkens back to a different time.
The main entrance is located next to the Natural History Museum and the San Diego Zoo. As we walked in, we skirted past the museum and headed right over to the Spanish Village Art Center. This colorful village was built back in 1935, but has continued to be a creative haven for over 200 local artists in residence. This village was incredibly beautiful, with the multicolored tiles by our feet, to the seemingly endless displays of artwork lining every doorframe. We watched some demonstrations, bought some postcards featuring watercolor cats, and we couldn’t help ourselves from buying some iced coffee at Daniel’s Coffee Cart before we embarked on our next adventure.
We took our time as we strolled along the neatly trimmed hedges and manicured gardens, taking in every detail of our path. Somehow we found our way to the Botanical Building and the lily ponds. This magnificent tourist attraction housed over 2,000 plants, and there was enough rare and exotic plantlife to keep us occupied for the afternoon. We were amazed at the vines, the flowers, and the tall trees that climbed to the top of the building, stretching out toward the sky. Just outside, the lily pond spread out before us and we snapped as many photos as we could of this landmark. Next, we splayed out a blanket on the lawn and had a picnic near the lily pond before continuing.
Next, we found ourselves at the Plaza de Panama. This place was abuzz with activity. As the main hub for the park, vibrant street perfromers danced through the crowds as the congregation’s affirming cheers echoed in the square. The historic El Cid Statue loomed over the scene as kids zipped past us on tandem bikes. Above it all, the colossal monolith, otherwise known as the California Tower, overlooked us all. This icon was contructed in 1915 and was created in the image of the stunning Spanish Colonial churches in Mexico. This tower housed the Museum of Man. There were 17 museums located within Balboa Park, and we definitly want to go back and pay a visit. On the other side of the tower was the Old Globe, a theatre specifically created for housing Shakespeare plays.
As we continued our journey east, we walked under the California Tower and onto the Cabrillo bridge. From the top of this lanky bridge, we could make out downtown San Diego and the lush green valley below. At this point we were as far east as we could go without leaving the park, so headed back to the Plaza and explored the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. This grove of 34 little cottages, each representing a different country, was created in the 1930’s. Each house offered different cultural activities including dance classes, food tastings, and art exhibitions.
On our way out of the park we quickly explored Spreckel’s Organ Pavilion, the stunning Alcazar Garden, and the Casa del Rey Moro Garden. The afternoon was quickly vanishing but we didn’t want our day to end. As the sun dipped low on the horizon we quickly crossed the footbridge by the Natural History Museums and took pictures of the Desert Garden and the Rose Garden. We figured that the best way to end the day was in a garden. Now that we’ve gone, we’ve realized how much there is to see, and have already started planning our next trip.