Balboa Park in San Diego is ranked # 6 on the Best Parks in the World list. This urban cultural park is located on 1200 acres that were placed in reserve in 1835 making it the oldest park site in the United States dedicated to pubic recreation use.
It is comprised of green belts, picnic area, playgrounds, an urban forest, walking and jogging tails, sports fields and courts, gardens, restaurants, gift shops, museums, theaters and of course the world famous San Diego Zoo.
There is so much to see and do in Balboa Park. What you see here is a view of the exterior of the park — grounds, the buildings, the magnificent architecture, the fountains, the Botanical Garden. Parking is free and walking through the park costs nothing. We spent about five hours looking at the gardens, grounds, and buildings. The museums and galleries are run by nonprofit organizations and they do charge a reasonable admission. There is also a nominal charge for the Japanese Gardens. There are, however, nine more gardens for which there is no charge.
Many of the buildings were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition . They were never intended to be permanent and when they began to crumble it was decided that they could be restored for a cost just slightly above the cost to demolish them. Among the buildings restored and converted were the California Bell Tower, the botanical garden, the building that now houses the Museum of Man, and the Cabrillo Bridge.
Museum of Man and the California Bell Tower
During both World War I and World War II the park was turned over to the Department of the Navy and was used as barracks and training grounds in addition to a hospital for returning injured servicemen. During World War II the park was renamed “Camp Kidd” after Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd.
In 1943 the Navy needed more buildings so it took over the Museum of Man and the Museum of Natural History. The museums cleared their exhibits putting them in storage to make room for thousands of hospital beds. It was October 1, 1946, when the park reclaimed the buildings. It took them months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to return it to its original state.
Sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington donated her 23 foot bronze statute “El Cid” to the park in 1930. In addition she and her husband donated an art library.
The Botanical Gardens are located in the The Botanical Building. The building was designed by Carleton Winslow for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. It was said to have been the largest wood lath building in the world when it was built. It sits at the end of a reflecting pool.
The palms, plants and flowers in the Botanical Garden were beautiful. I was disappointed that while they had marked the plants and palms the flowers had no identification markers. It will take me a very long time to attach a name to these beauties.
Cabrillo Bridge is one of the entrances into the park. It is currently under construction so for the time being it’s a walking bridge only. It will reopen to vehicles in time for the 2015 Centennial Celebration.
Sixth Avenue borders the park on the west side and I had the good fortune to work on Sixth Avenue in the late 60s. I ate my brown bag lunch in the park across the street. Lucky was I.
Just another place to visit in Southern California that won’t break the bank!