Best of Balboa Park: An Insider’s View on What to Do in May in the Park

When it comes to things to do in May, Balboa Park is not fooling around. From Cinco de Mayo to crafty cocktails, there is plenty to see and do all throughout the park.

Face the Nation


When: Thru June 3, 2018
Where: San Diego Art Institute – 1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
San Diego Art Institute likes to push the envelope using contemporary art to illuminate of-the-moment social and cultural issues. Its About-Face exhibit features seven artists who explore the hot topics of sexuality, race and cultural heritage using a variety of mediums, including photography, sound installation and video spotlight. Take the perplexing dive into the shoes of these seven innovative artists as they share their thoughts on these taboo topics.

Must-See Cinco de Mayo

1st Annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Balboa Park

When: May 5, 2018
Where: El Prado and Plaza di Panama in Balboa Park
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo isn’t to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, it is an annual celebration held on May 5th in remembrance of the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French. Now that the history lesson is over—it’s time to talk about Balboa Park’s first annual Cinco de Mayo fiesta. Get your fix of Mexican culture with a medley of family-friendly activities from fashion shows to folklorico dancing to mariachis to a horseback procession down El Prado at noon.  Of course, no Cinco de Mayo celebration would be complete without some traditional food and drink. The Prado Restaurant is serving street tacos, margaritas and cervezas on their garden terrace and Panama 66 will offer food specials and beers and wine from Baja. Also, a fleet of food trucks will be on hand to deliver a range of culinary choices. The event festivities run from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Crafty Cocktails

Crafter Hours

When: May 10, 2018
Where: Mingei International Museum – 1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
It’s time to let your creative side loose with an evening of crafting and craft cocktail sipping at the Mingei International Museum. Join Eva de León of Sage Sisters as she guides attendees through the process of creating those ever-so-trendy bath salts and smudge sticks. Artist Allison Manch will lead an embroidery workshop while Ryan Vicente gives a tutorial on silk screening tote bags. In addition to cocktails, there will be cheese and charcuterie boards and a live DJ spinning music to inspire. Now all you need to do is call up mom to schedule the perfect mother-daughter outing or grab your craftiest girlfriends for a Pinterest pinner’s dream evening. There’s also a little commerce to this craft with attendees receiving a discount to The Collectors’ Gallery, the Mingei’s to die-for-store that features unique items from around the globe. The event runs from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. Tickets are $45 for Mingei members and $55 for non-members.

All That Jazz

Portraits in Jazz: Salute to the West Coast Jazz

When: May 12, 2018
Where: San Diego Museum of Art – 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Want your jazz infused with the smooth stylings of some of West Coast’s most prominent musicians? Then make sure to join Gilbert Castellanos, a leading American jazz trumpeter, and his special guest lineup as they play compositions from Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker and more. Ken Poston, KSDS Jazz 88.3 general manager, jazz historian and founder/director of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute, will start the show by sharing insights and stories about the West Coast jazz icons and their unique styles that gave birth to a new sound. The event starts at 7:30 PM.

All Glass

Art Glass Guild Show and Patio Sale

When: May 12-13, 2018
Where: Spanish Village Art Center – 1770 Village Place, San Diego, CA
Did you forget about Mother’s Day? Lucky for you, your secret is safe with us. Even better is that we also have a great gift idea – not to mention a special activity that is sure to delight any mom. Spanish Village Art Center is hosting its Art Glass Guild Show and Patio Sale. The upshot? You can find the perfect gift while strolling through the picturesque artistic enclave that has made its home in the park since 1935. Better yet, make a day of it with mom. You can start off with a special Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch Buffet at the Prado or pack a picnic and sip some wine and soak up the sights on the East or West lawns just next to the Botanical Building. After your satiated, it is just a short walk over to the Art Glass Guild Show, which runs from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM on both Saturday and Sunday.  A “thank you” might be in order.

Come to a Garden Party

Fiesta Botanica: Celebrating Balboa Park’s Plants & Gardens

When: May 26, 2018
Where: El Prado in Balboa Park
What’s that saying? April showers bring May flowers.

While there have been scant showers lately, there’s certainly a good time blooming in Balboa Park when it comes to Balboa Park’s annual Fiesta Botanica, which celebrates the plants and gardens that make the park such a special place. The family friendly festival kicks off with a wagon parade down the El Prado and is filled with a bounty of botany-inspired events from lectures and demonstrations to hands-on kids’ activities, tours of the park’s historic gardens as well as plant sales. There will also be live entertainment and food trucks on hand, too.  This year’s celebration should be extra special as it will recognize the 150-year anniversary of the park’s founding on May 26, 1868. The event runs from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

A World of Good (Food)

38th Annual Ethnic Food Fair

When: May 27, 2018
Where: House of Pacific Relations Cottages – 2191 W Pan American Rd, San Diego, CA 92101
Take your stomach on a world tour at the 38th Annual Ethnic Food Fair. You’ll be able to sample culinary treats of 33 different countries all while enjoying performances inspired by the cultures being celebrated. This foodie fantasy is being held at the International Cottages – one of Balboa Park’s many hidden gems.  Don’t miss your chance to try savory and sweet treats that you may never get a chance to try again—unless you take the voyage to visit places like India or Ukraine. The good-time gluttony gets going at 11:00 AM so bring your adventurous appetite.

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