Plan a visit to San Diego's Balboa Park with care as some museums are closed on Mondays, while others have free entry on some days and the zoo alone can take a whole day to see.
The Botanical Building in Balboa Park
All Photos (c) Donna Dailey
Balboa Park in San Diego covers almost 1200 acres so making the most of a visit here requires some careful planning. It includes some of the best things to do in San Diego, including the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA). And that's only some of the museums – there are several more!
Here are some hints and tips when planning a visit:
It is impossible to see all these attractions in one day. The San Diego Zoo alone will easily occupy an entire day, and even longer for those visitors who like to see everything and be able to linger to watch the animals properly rather than just take a quick photo and move on.
An orchid in the Botanical Building
Families will want to see the kid-friendly attractions which include the huge San Diego Zoo, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center with its Planetarium, and the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Allow at least two days to visit these three attractions alone. The good news is that the first two attractions are open every day, 365 days a year, while the Air and Space Museum only closes on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
The Museum of Art
The Natural History Museum
Not all Balboa Park attractions are open every day. If planning a long weekend then don't leave Balboa Park till Monday. Although weekends are busier, at least everything is open and there won't be any unexpected disappointments.
On Mondays the Mingei International Museum and the Museum of Photographic Arts are closed, and the San Diego Museum of Art is closed on Wednesdays.
In the Cactus Garden
If visiting San Diego during the week, check the calendar. Some attractions offer free admission on one Tuesday each month, but the days rotate. Contact the Balboa Park Visitor Center (tel: 619-239-0512) for the current information.
At the Visitor Center you can buy Explorer tickets. There are several options. A One-Day Explorer gets you admission to up to five museums in one day (though not the zoo). For that you need a Multi-Day Explorer with One Day Zoo Admission, which will also get you into the zoo free for one day. There's also a Multi-Day Explorer, which gets you into 17 museums and is valid for seven consecutive days.
In the Cactus Garden
Apart from the major museums mentioned here, Balboa Park also contains other attractions including:
And there's more!
Inside the Botanical Building
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In all there are over 200 hotels listed, complete with 8 pages of color maps showing the towns where our recommended hotels can be found. There are both alphabetical and geographical indexes, helping you plan your journey.
We also include color photos of all the hotels that are our Personal Favorites. Here's the link to read more about our ebook guide to Pacific Coast Highway hotels.
The 2016 edition of our Hotels Guide is available with maps and color photos (if you have a color reader) in the US Kindle Store for only $4.99 and in the UK Kindle Store and other Kindle stores worldwide at prices based on the US price.
If you want a paperback edition of the 2016 guide with only black and white photos and black-and-white maps, it costs $6.99 at the US Amazon Book Store and £4.99 in the UK Amazon Store.