Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre (490 ha) urban cultural park in San Diego, California. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens and walking paths, it contains museums, several theaters, and the World-famous San Diego Zoo. There are also many recreational facilities and several gift shops and restaurants within the boundaries of the park. Placed in reserve in 1835, the park's site is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use. Today, Balboa Park is managed and maintained by the stewardship of the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of San Diego.
Named for the Spanish maritime explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the park hosted the 1915–16 Panama–California Exposition and 1935–36 California Pacific International Exposition, both of which left architectural landmarks. The park and its historic Exposition buildings were declared a National Historic Landmark and National Historic Landmark District in 1977, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The park is essentially rectangular, bounded by Sixth Avenue to the west, Upas Street to the north, 28th Street to the east, and Russ Boulevard to the south. The rectangle has been modified by the addition of the Marston Hills natural area in the northwest corner of the park, while the southwest corner of the rectangle is occupied by a portion of the Cortez Hill neighborhood of Downtown San Diego and San Diego High School, both of which are separated from the park by Interstate 5. Also encroaching on the northern perimeter of the park is Roosevelt Middle School.
By 2000, over 12 million people visited the park each year. Plans are in development for a year-long celebration of the centennial of the 1915–16 exposition, called the Balboa Park 2015 Celebration. The Balboa Park Conservancy, a non-profit group to preserve and promote the park, was proposed in 2009 and was officially launched on September 14, 2010.
Balboa Park frequently holds events throughout its museums, venues, and plazas. These events include weekly concerts at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion, guest speakers, and annual parades and fairs. The festival "December Nights" (originally called "Christmas on the Prado") takes place in Balboa Park in early December each year. EarthFair, described as one of the largest free annual environmental fair in the U.S., is held in the park every April. The event celebrates Earth Day, and includes a parade, musical performances, and information booths on various topics related to the environment. In 2010, over 70,000 people attended the fair. The two-day San Diego Pride Festival is held in the Marston Point area of Balboa Park each July; the 2011 event was attended by more than 150,000 people. A cherry blossom festival is also celebrated annually in March in the Japanese Friendship Garden.
Several races and marathons include the park in the courses. The Foot Locker Cross Country Championships are held in Balboa Park annually. First started in 1979, the Race is held in Morley Field. Marathons such as the San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon and the America's Finest City Half Marathon begin or end in Balboa Park.
Balboa Park contains museums, gardens, attractions, and venues.
- San Diego Air & Space Museum
- San Diego Museum of Art
- San Diego Automotive Museum
- San Diego Hall of Champions
- Centro Cultural de la Raza
- Museum of the Living Artist
- San Diego Museum of Man
- San Diego Model Railroad Museum
- Mingei International Museum
- San Diego Natural History Museum
- Museum of Photographic Arts
- Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
- Timken Museum of Art
- Veterans Museum and Memorial Center
- George W. Marston House
- San Diego History Center
Attractions and venues
- Botanical Building
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- 1935 (Old) Cactus Garden
- Alcazar Garden
- Australian Garden
- California Native Plant Garden
- Casa del Rey Moro Garden
- George Washington Carver Children's Ethnobotany Garden
- Desert Garden
- Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve
- Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden
- Marston House Garden
- Palm Canyon
- Trees for Health Garden
- Veterans Memorial Garden
- Zoro Garden
- San Diego Zoo
- House of Pacific Relations International Cottages
- Balboa Park Carousel
- Balboa Park Miniature Railroad
- Old Globe Theatre
- Spreckels Organ Pavilion
- Starlight Bowl
- Balboa Stadium
- WorldBeat Cultural Center