Perched high up on my father’s shoulders back when I was four years old, I remember the excitement of walking around Balboa Park. With so much to see from performing artists to the lily pond in front of the Botanical Building, even picnicking on the grass was a delight all of its own. Now that I am a mom of five, I continue to treasure the beautiful scenery, the iconic Cabrillo Bridge east/west entrance, gardens and so much more. And that’s before ever stepping foot inside one of the many museums and attractions! Over the past few decades (yes, I’m aging myself), I’ve also narrowed down some favorite spots that are frosting on the cake of family adventure.
Here are five must-do family activities in Balboa Park:
1. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
Truth be told, I didn’t find out about this delightful show for the whole family that features marionettes, hand, rod, and shadow puppets, until one of my kids was invited to a birthday party there a few years back! With two shows daily Wednesday-Friday and three on weekends, be sure to pop in for some entertainment for all ages!
2. Balboa Park Miniature Railroad
Located just outside of the zoo, I used to always beg my mom to let us ride on this train! Now, I beg my kids to let me go on…kidding…kind of! The 3-minute ride around the tracks is a must and don’t miss a ride on the classic 1910 carousel, too!
3. San Diego Model Railroad Museum
And speaking of locomotives, this is another gem I learned about when invited to a birthday party here: the train museum! Watch as the mini-trains travel through large layouts, with four set-ups choo-chooing along at once in a 28,000 square foot space!
4. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
It’s hard to narrow down the must-see museums, but if you are short on time and could only choose one, this would be it! A definite field trip favorite when I was in elementary school, it’s a treat to see my kids enjoy the hands on exhibits all the while learning. And if you have the time, be sure to catch the IMAX theater located in a giant dome that makes you feel like you are in the movie! An absolutely incredible experience, it’s also great for a date night for parents if you can squeeze one in.
5. Spreckels Organ Pavilion
One of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs (no, really!), this is a must-see (or is that hear?). Be sure to check the schedule but shows are generally on Sundays and a great place to rest after enjoying all the above attractions.
Truly, there is so much to do and see in Balboa Park it was hard to narrow down my top picks. With activities the family can enjoy together, be sure to park (ahem) your family here!