Jennifer Davies

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

Lily Pond - Balboa Park

As summer heats up, so are the good times in Balboa Park. Friday nights continue to sizzle with food trucks, folks and fun featuring extended hours at many of the most popular museums. But every day in the park offers plenty to explore with provocative new exhibits, theater productions and more. Continue reading

Jennifer Davies

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

Balboa Park

June is the start of full slate of summer fun in Balboa Park – from food trucks to extended hours at many of the most popular museums to a plethora of 21-and-up parties. Here are some of this month’s highlights. Continue reading

Jennifer Davies

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. Continue reading

Jennifer Davies

Picnic Perfection in Balboa Park

One of the best ways to soak in the splendor of Balboa Park is with a leisurely picnic. The good news is there are picnic spots for every age and desired experience. Continue reading

Jennifer Davies

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

When it comes to things to do in April, Balboa Park is not fooling around. From secrets to star gazing to sonnets in celebration of Shakespeare, there is plenty to see and do all throughout the park. Continue reading

Jennifer Davies

Can’t Miss February Events in San Diego’s Balboa Park

Balboa Park

It’s February and love is in the air and there is plenty to love in Balboa Park, too. From the science of love to pop-up Latin art to strolling Japanese gardens in a kimono, the park is alive with experiences you won’t want to miss. Continue reading

Brent Bernasconi

Celebrate the San Diego Zoo’s Centennial

San Diego Zoo Centennial

San Diego Zoo Centennial

In 1916, Dr. Harry Wegeforth, a local physician, exclaimed “Wouldn’t it be splendid if San Diego had a zoo! You know…I think I’ll start one.” With a rag-tag collection consisting of a row of cages along what is now Park Boulevard, with wolves, coyotes, bears, monkeys, lions, and a few other small species, plus groups of bison, elk, and deer in Balboa Park, Dr. Wegeforth and others established what would become the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

A century later, the San Diego Zoo is known for its two world-class facilitates in San Diego County, cutting-edge conservation efforts that span the globe, its pioneering concept of cage-less animals, panda and California Condor re-population programs, kids outreach and education programs, and more.

In 2016, the San Diego Zoo invites everyone to share their memories and celebrate 100 years of conservation, research, and most importantly, inspiring generation after generation to care for the world and the animals around us.

San Diego Zoo Centennial Celebration

The San Diego Zoo is turning 100, and we’re ready to celebrate. This is the Zoo’s way to say “thank you” to the community for a century of support! Join us for a spectacular evening filled with excitement and fun, including:

  • Family-fun crafts, food, face painting, hands-on activities…and an opportunity to set a Guinness World Record
  • Live bands, dancers, and Dr. Zoolittle
  • Animal presentations by Zookeeper Rick
  • Free entrance to several Balboa Park museums, including the San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Photographic Art
  • And featuring a magical, musical extravaganza featuring a live orchestra, and Tony and Grammy award-winner Heather Headley at Spreckels Organ Pavilion at 8:00 PM.

Participating Food Trucks:

  • New Orleans Food Truck: New Orleans Cuisine
  • Seoul Man Food Truck: Korean
  • Smoothie Rider: Fruit Smoothies
  • Salt + Lime: Mexican
  • Totally Tasty: Sliders & Burgers
  • Bella Vita Pizza: Pizza
  • Sun & Sea: Mexican Seafood
  • Wishbone Wings: Chicken
  • Slider House: Sliders & Burgers
  • Back to Foods: Spanish Sandos
  • Sushi Uno: Sushi

Where: Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park
When: May 14, 2016
Time: 6:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: Free

More Centennial Highlights and Events

Wegeforth Bowl

During 2016, the history of the San Diego Zoo is part of the daily Centennial Show at Wegeforth Bowl. It opens with a film sharing 10 reasons to celebrate the San Diego Zoo’s 100th birthday – including the amazing animal collection and world-class Safari Park – leading into an exciting new animal show that incorporates special video clips and features some of the Zoo’s most beloved animal ambassadors.

Where: San Diego Zoo
When: All Year

Centennial Plaza and San Diego Zoo History Mural

After the show at Wegeforth Bowl, a new costumed character experience designed especially for children features performances on a gigantic birthday cake stage in Centennial Plaza. Characters include Dr. Harry Lion, Bamboo Panda, Churchill P. Bear, Matilda Koala, and Sydney Koala. Kids join in a rousing chorus of “You Belong in the Zoo” and have the chance to dance with the characters. Then take a stroll down memory lane with the San Diego Zoo History Mural: a 75-foot-long graphic art installation located next to the birthday cake stage, which features historical photos from the San Diego Zoo archives with descriptive captions of 10 extraordinary decades.

Where: San Diego Zoo
When: All Year

Centennial Theater and Guided Bus Tour

For their 100th birthday, the San Diego Zoo has opened the Centennial Theater at the bus depot. Before boarding a double-decker tour bus, groups of guests enter a standing theater and are treated to a beautiful short film about one of San Diego Zoo Global’s many conservation field projects. The 40-minute guided bus tour then shares details about the Zoo’s history, and efforts underway to end extinction by saving one species at a time. The Guided Bus Tour is included in the 1-Day Pass admission price. A Spanish version of the bus tour is offered Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 PM.

Where: San Diego Zoo
When: All Year

Nighttime Zoo

The summer nighttime activities for 2016 will carry the theme from the community event throughout the summer. Nighttime Zoo will include special presentations and a fun procession to add centennial dazzle, plus a special centennial-themed show from zany Dr. Zoolittle and lively musical entertainment.

Where: San Diego Zoo
When: June 19 – September 5, 2016
> Find out more about Nighttime Zoo

The Lore Behind the Roar

In collaboration with the San Diego Zoo, this celebration of the Zoo’s centennial explores its evolution to the World-Famous San Diego Zoo. Lore explores the Zoo’s contributions to popular culture, to San Diego and to the animal world, from the pioneering concept of cage-less animals to the high-tech Frozen Zoo.

Where: San Diego History Center – 1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
When: Through January 1, 2016
Cost: Included with Admission
> Find out more about The Lore Behind the Roar

> Find out more about the San Diego Zoo Centennial


Destination San Diego Episode 7: City Heights, History and Culture

In this episode of Destination San Diego, we’ll introduce you to City Heights – an urban neighborhood that is a true melting pot of different ethnic groups. Home to authentic ethnic restaurants and markets, hidden artworks and live music venues, City Heights is an undiscovered destination in San Diego. We’ll also check in at the beautifully restored Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town, and explore another historic building restoration that “electrified” the downtown skyline. World-renowned conductor of the San Diego Symphony, Jahja Ling, shares his most inspirational sites and favorite art and cultural experiences around town. And, we have your tickets to watch the many evolutions of Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theatre.

What’s In This Episode of Destination San Diego

> Watch all the Destination San Diego Episodes


Destination San Diego Episode 3: North Park, South Park and Balboa Park

Tune in to this edition of Destination San Diego to learn more about two of Balboa Park’s neighbors – North Park and South Park. These revitalized urban neighborhoods are fueled by art galleries, diverse restaurants and nightlife, and North Park proudly holds claim to being “the best beer neighborhood in the nation.” In North Park’s north end, we’ll travel down El Cajon Boulevard for a quick history lesson. Over in Balboa Park, we’ll take a look at the many faces of the Ford Building and show you a miniature wonderland inside the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Plus, the San Diego Zoo’s animal trainer, Rick Schwartz, takes you behind-the-scenes at some of San Diego’s best spots for kids of all ages.

What’s In This Episode of Destination San Diego

> Watch all the Destination San Diego Episodes

Sarah Weinberg

All Aboard! San Diego on Track with Train Travel

Pacific Surfliner - Amtrak California

Take a step back in time and explore San Diego aboard everything from steam locomotives to exquisite model train exhibits to coastal views to die for.

Coaster Train – Ride with a View

View from the second story seating on North County’s Coaster from Oceanside to San Diego.

View from the second story seating on North County’s Coaster from Oceanside to San Diego.

Visitors to San Diego County can ride the rails on double-decker Coaster and Amtrak California trains along the coast with not-to-be-missed views of the ocean. The trains also travel through seaside surf towns like Encinitas and intersect the Pacific Ocean and Del Mar Race Track and fairgrounds (“where the turf meets the surf”) on each side of the train, making taking San Diego’s “commuter” trains vacation-worthy excursions.

> Find out more about San Diego’s Trains & Trolleys

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Is this a real town or a model?! Step back in time to the old San Diego at the Model Railroad Museum

Once in the city, visit the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (SDMRM) in Balboa Park. The world’s largest operating model railroad museum, this unique venue contains four enormous scale and model layouts that will delight young and old with their accurate and playful re-creation of famous railways throughout the southwest. In addition, the museum features a Toy Train Gallery with an interactive Lionel layout for children, and seasonal visiting exhibits, such as the John D. Spreckels: Building San Diego’s Crown Jewel exhibit currently on display.

Centennial Railway Garden

San Diego Model Railroad Museum Centennial Railway Garden

A portion of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum’s new Centennial Railway Garden Exhibit to debut April 25, 2015

Balboa Park is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year and the SDMRM is creating a 2015 Centennial Railroad Garden to be unveiled in late April. This open-air model railroad features a miniature recreation of Balboa Park as it existed in 1915 and showcases new technology that enables visitors to interact with the layout directly by using a smart phone or tablet.

Vintage San Diego Silver Line

San Diego Silver Line Car

I did a double take the first time I saw this vintage car on the tracks of our trolley line downtown. Photo by By Nehrams2020 (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to actually ride in vintage trains, opportunities abound. Even our city trolley system has a restored green 1946 vintage car on the tracks running limited service on a downtown loop among the modern red trolley cars.

> Find out more about the San Diego Vintage Trolley Project

Poway Midland Railroad

My daughter rides the rails at a train-themed birthday party at Old Poway Park.

My daughter rides the rails at a train-themed birthday party at Old Poway Park.

Family fun can be had at Old Poway Park where the Poway Midland Railroad offers weekend rides on various vintage trains, including an original steam locomotive, a speeder and a trolley depending on the weekend and season. The park plays host to many community events and festivals year round and is a great place to bring a picnic.

Where: 14134 Midland Road, Poway, CA 92064
> Find out more about the Poway-Midland Railroad

Pacific Southwest Railway Museum

Golden State Train - Pacific Southwest Railway Museum

All aboard the PSRM’s Golden State Limited Train!

A trip to Campo in San Diego’s southeastern regions lets visitors experience the Old West at the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum. The 40-acre interpretive museum at Campo and a small satellite museum in downtown La Mesa educate visitors about the rich history of rail travel in the U.S. At the Campo venue, PSRM operates real, old-time trains on 14 miles of the mountainous San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway, a historic rail line built by John D. Spreckels in the early decades of the 20th century. Passengers can take weekend, select Tuesday, and seasonal rides aboard the Golden State Limited locomotive during a one hour round trip train ride on the historic railway. The PSRM offers special event excursions for private groups, school field trips and seasonal rides such as “The Bunny Train” and “The Polar Express” during the winter holidays, offering rides to The North Pole to visit Santa.

Where: 750 Depot Street, Campo, CA 91906
> Find out more about the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum

A Few More “Train” Stops in San Diego

And finally, if you are interested in buying vintage model trains, San Diego’s Frank the Train Man retail store opened in 1943 and is still going strong in its current North Park location. Or if you’d like to sip one of San Diego’s famous craft beers while sitting in an old trolley stop, check out Station Tavern for a burger and a family friendly play area that includes a model trolley car for the kids to play on. The site was originally a trolley station for San Diego’s No. 2 line from 1929-1948. Make your last stop The Whistle Stop Bar, a hangout for locals that dubs itself “the little bar that could” and is only a few steps away from Station Tavern.