Guide to Holiday Shopping in Balboa Park

San Diego History Center Gift Shop - Balboa Park

It’s the holidays. Also known as the most wonderful time of the year. That is unless you are wandering around a crowded mall. But holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a dispiriting slog. In fact, there is place where you can stroll through a picturesque landscape all while finding unique and thoughtful gifts. That magical place? Balboa Park, obviously.

With gift shops at its many cultural institutions, Balboa Park has something for everyone. Especially the person doing the shopping as you can drink in the sights of the historic urban park while enjoying a decidedly less hectic vibe. Adding to the experience is the fact that you can catch lunch at either the Prado or Panama 66. And take in a tasty beverage while you rest.

Here are just a few of the gifts ideas that might make your holiday shopping easier and more enjoyable.

Outdoor Enthusiast

Head over to the gift shop at The San Diego Natural History Museum where gifts are naturally focused on nature. Pick up a copy of the “50 Best Short Hikes San Diego” and pair it with a T-shirt that features a map of some of San Diego’s best trails including Pyles Peak, San Diego River Park, Black Mountain and Otay Valley Regional.  

Photo Fiend

For that friend that must first take a selfie at every turn,there’s plenty of fodder at the Museum of Photographic Arts’ gift shop. Filled with a well-curated selection of photography books, including “Read This If You Want to be Instagram Famous” or “Feast for the Eyes,” which focuses on food photography. The shop is also has a nice selection of with cameras, camera bags and even a coffee cup that looks like a camera lens.

Silly Scientist

Do you have a science enthusiast with a silly streak? Then the gift shop at the FleetScience Center is worth a visit. There is everything from a Steminst T-shirt ($26.99 ) for your geeky girl or “prayer” candles featuring such big thinkers as Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin for those who worship at a more empirical altar. There are also games galore for those with a scientific bent including “Rock Me Archimedes” named after the Greek mathematician who discovered the laws of the lever –think seesaw– which is the foundation for game, which has a wooden board that rocks like a teeter-totter.

Art Enthusiast

There are plenty of options for the arty types on your list. The San Diego Museum of Art has everything from arts and crafts for kids to luminous art books. The shop also carries everyday items with an artful twist socks featuring famous artists and a set of slim modern, magnetic vases that will cast a sleek glow on any table. The shop also has jewelry with a decidedly artsy bent from delicate earrings to colorful Esslip fabric necklaces from Greece($35).

Not to be outdone the Timken Museum also has a small but thoughtful gift shop. It carries lovely pieces from glittery beaded drop earrings from San Diego native Sandra Russell to almost incandescent necklaces by Michael Vincent Michaud.

For more edgy and eclectic pieces, head over to the San Diego Art Institute. Pick up playful reprints from Jana Brike and her Sea Change exhibit.

Also,don’t forget to check out Spanish Village Art Center. More than 200 artists have their work on sale from blown glass to pottery to paintings.