Surfing San Diego: Balboa Park

San Diego’s Balboa Park is a veritable universe unto itself. While everyone knows about the famous zoo tucked away in the 1,200-acre urban oasis, oodles of other attractions combine to make this a truly world-class destination.

Here are 10 ways you can make the most of this natural and cultural wonderland with your kids:

1. Jump on a century-old carousel, with original European hand-carved animals, for a five-minute whirl.

2. See how your face changes as you age, and peer through a microscope at real human cells at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

3. Visit the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages between 2 and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays to experience traditional costumes, food, and dance from a different country each week.

4. Find “Showa,” a five-year-old fish that lives in the koi pond at the Japanese Friendship Garden.

5. Have lunch (with a side of cheese fries) and watch a ball game at the Home Plate Bar & Grill inside the Hall of Champions Sports Museum.

6. At the WorldBeat Cultural Center, learn how medicinal plants are used around the world.

7. Explore Palm Canyon Trail, home to a group of century-old palm trees, and count the elephant-ear-shaped leaves from the wooden bridge.

8. Enjoy a free concert from one of the largest outdoor pipe organs in the world at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion on Sundays.

9. Ride the U-Fly-It flight simulator at the Kids’ Aviation Action Hangar in the San Diego Air and Space Museum, where the wind tunnel makes it feel like the real deal.

10. Check out Louie Mattar‘s souped-up ’47 Cadillac, which has a fridge, washing machine, shower, and a kitchen sink, at the San Diego Automotive Museum.

This piece, written by Laura Willard, appeared in the June/July 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.


  1. Alexander
    Berlin, Germany
    September 16, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Thank you very much for sharing this lovely article and picture!
    I’ll take up the topic on my blog