We have a visitor! Tim’s mom Carol traveled all the way from Connecticut to visit us for the holidays. We’re very excited that she’s here with us, and are having a blast exploring San Diego with her. For our first adventure we took a trip to Balboa Park. A 12,000 acre urban park, Balboa Park is a virtual oasis of culture, architecture, history and botanical delights in the heart of San Diego. You could spend days, or even weeks, exploring the park and all it has to offer. The first thing that jumps out at most visitors is the astonishing architecture. Balboa Park was established in 1868, but it remained largely an area of open space for the first few decades, until the early 1900s when development began. Most of the buildings were constructed between 1909 and 1914 in preparation for the Panama-California Exposition. All of the buildings in the park’s famous El Prado pedestrian walkway date back to that period and are constructed in the flamboyant Spanish-Renaissance style.
The second exposition held in the park, the 1935-1936 California Exposition, led to the creation of the Spanish Village Arts Center. A charming area that mimics the look and feel of town square in Spain, the Spanish Village houses 35 working art studios. This time of year it’s all decked out for the holidays with bright packages, ornaments hanging from the trees, and red and green banners flying in the breeze.
For me, one of the great attractions of the park are the nearly 20 different established gardens throughout the park. Here’s a view looking down into the Japanese Friendship Garden. We didn’t walk through because it was late in the afternoon, but it looked very cool from afar.
Last year we spent time in the desert garden, and this year we made a quick pass through the maze of towering cati and succulents. Unfortunately it was too late in the day to get any good photos.
The garden that we did fully explore was in the Botanical Building. The view of the building with the lily pond in the foreground is one of the most photographed spots in the park. Sadly, the lilies are not in the pond this time of year, so no picture for us.
The Botanical Building is one of the largest lath structures in the world and plays host to a permanent collection of over 2,100 plants including ferns, orchids, palms and more.
There were lots of bright red poinsettias intermingled around the plants offering up a colorful pop of Christmasy color to the lush green foliage.
Many people come to the park to visit one of the 16 museums. We decided to do the same and spent a fascinating couple of hours exploring the Museum of Man. The museum is housed in the iconic California Building, which served as the entrance to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.
Inside the museum are several permanent collections along with a few revolving exhibitions. The newest exhibit is called Beerology.
It was an interesting and surprisingly complete look at the history of beer from the days of the ancient Sumerians all the way though modern day.
Another exhibit highlighted the Maya. It featured huge casts of Maya monuments from Quirigua, a site in Guatemala. The casts were made for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and have been on display since then.
By far the largest exhibit was called Footsteps Through Time. Covering an impressive 7,000 square feet and featuring five galleries, this exhibit chronicles a 65 million year journey through time from primates to early humans to cyborgs.
Finally we strolled through the Ancient Egypt exhibit that contains two authentic Egyptian mummies along with tons of other artifacts.
For a mere $12.50 per person this museum was well worth the money and we left feeling like we had gained an enormous wealth of knowledge. Balboa Park has soooo much more to offer, and although we won’t have time to visit again before we leave town, we’ll be sure to go back the next time we find ourselves in San Diego.