Friday, April 26, 2019

Balboa Park, San Diego's visionary oasis, offers spectacular architecture, entertainment

 The Casa del Prado, also known as the Casa, and the adjacent Casa del Prado Theatre are historically accurate reconstructions of buildings from the 1915 exposition celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal.  

Spreckels Organ Pavilion houses the Spreckels Organ in
Balboa Park, San Diego. The Spreckels Organ is
the world's largest pipe organ in a fully outdoor venue.



MORE THAN 150 years ago, a handful of visionary San Diego citizens strolled through the California scrub and decided to set aside 1,400 acres for a city park. It became an oasis of culture, architecture, nature and the arts. Today, Balboa Park is one of America's largest urban parks and considered by many the jewel in San Diego's crown.
Balboa Park offers several modes of transportation, including
walking, for getting around to the museums and zoo.
In the middle of a bustling city, nicknamed "America's finest" sits this 1,200-acre urban cultural park. It is beloved by locals and tourists alike for its unique blending of open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, restaurants, walking paths, theaters and museums.
WITH ITS 17 museums, in fact, Balboa Park is a museum lovers mecca. Known for its widely diverse collections and cultural institutions, Balboa Park's museums attract scientists, theater lovers and fans of flight, automobiles, trains and art of all kinds.
The San Diego Model Railroad Museum's marketing man,
Fernando Beltran, and young train buff James Ganner.

Penelope Ganner, left, and her
brother James, had a private
tour of the huge Model Railroad
museum with Fernando Beltran.
From satisfying a curiosity for local San Diego history, to the history of air travel, the art of the old masters, native American crafts and cultures of the world, it's hard to beat Balboa Park.
ANY ONE of the museums would be a drawing card, but don't forget the world renowned San Diego Zoo, also part of this unique park.
  Balboa Park at night is a fairyland, with the Old
   Globe Theatre, center-right, lit up for a performance
The magnificent concept was developed for the Panama–California Exposition held in San Diego for two years, between January 1, 1915, and January 1, 1917. The exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, and touted San Diego as the first U.S. port of call for ships traveling north after passing westward through the canal.

A STROLL through the park feels like a walk through the United Nations Assembly Room. You will hear languages from all over Europe, the Far East and Russia (San Diego boasts a large Russian population and there are frequent visitors from that part of the world.)
Lunch time for a handsome gorilla,
one of the stars at San Diego Zoo.
We recently made a double-pronged visit, entertaining young guests who wanted to see the impressive San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the famed San Diego Zoo.
San Diego Zoo is world famous, visited
recently by three generations -- from left,
Olivia Cosgriffe, Peny Ganner, Christene
"Cookie Meyers, James Ganner and
Amarylla Ganner, mother of the kids.
We parked near the organ pavilion and had a pleasant stroll to our first stop, the railroad. Fernando Beltran, the museum's amiable marketing director, toured us around the 27,000 square foot museum, the largest such indoor exhibit in North America, and one of the largest in the world. The museum is on the lower level of the Casa de Balboa Building on the Prado and we spent two interesting hours there with our eight-year-old train buff and Beltran.
WE TOOK a break in the pleasant coffee shop, and headed to the zoo, our second adventure and a 20-minute walk from the railroad museum.
We eyed the bounty of animals from atop the zoo's double-decker bus, with a lively, eco-friendly commentary from Lee, who knows the zoo like the back of her hand and stressed what young and old can do to help preserve animals and habitats worldwide.
The dedication of the Bruce Meyers Poets' Garden in Montana attracted
hundreds of arts lovers for a two-day festival highlighted by an appearance
by  famed poet Allen Ginsberg. Above, Corby Skinner and Christene Meyers.
She gave us helpful directions to see the panda before she returns to China, delighted in telling about a precious baby porcupette and pointed out antelope calves, mini meerkats and tortoises, whose beautiful patterned shells shown in the sunlight.

UP NEXT: Join "Cookie" (Christene Meyers, left, with friend Corby Skinner) as we visit the Bruce Meyers Poets' Garden on the campus of Montana State University-Billings.  It was dedicated as a place for faculty and students to relax, study, paint, write and ponder. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature, family, and unexpected ways to enjoy.


  1. Love Balboa Park and never grow tired of a stroll through her beautifully maintained grounds. Tourists always find a day not near long enough to fully explore.

  2. Bay Area EnthusiastsApril 27, 2019 at 7:49 AM

    Yes, Balboa Park is one of America's finest, in a fine city. We love your town and visit regularly.

  3. Canadians On the Move.April 28, 2019 at 10:31 AM

    From still wintry Ontario this looks so tempting. We will be there again in December. Love your town.