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Balboa Park San Diego

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San Diego Balboa Park

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Balboa Park is one of must-see attractions of San Diego. There is truly no other place like San Diego Balboa Park. Not only does it house the world-famous San Diego Zoo, but also is well-known as cultural and recreational center of the city, with its 1,200 acres of the verdant wonderland which is claimed to be the largest urban cultural park in the country. Besides the natural splendor of towering Eucalyptus trees, beautiful lawns and vivid floral displays, the park is about architecture as well as nature. Nowhere else does a park boast such an amazing combination of natural and man-made beauty.

Surrounded by a plethora of cultivated gardens, small forests, tropical oases and shaded groves, Spanish-Moorish buildings within the park boundaries house the majority of the city’s museums. Established in 1868, Balboa Park is the second oldest city park. Today it features mature landscaping, the architectural genius of the Spanish Colonial Revival buildings that line the pedestrian thoroughfare, the Old Globe Theatre complex and a diverse collection of city museums.

The arts aficionados would marvel San Diego Museum of Art holding the largest collection of fine arts in San Diego. The Sculpture Garden besides the cafe to west of the main building features works of Alexander Calder and Henry Moore. Timken Museum of Art houses a small, but distinctive collection, including the works by Rembrandt, Rubens, El Greco, Pissarro as well as a remarkable collection of Russian irons. Mingei International Museum (Mingei means “art of the people” in Japanese) usually offers 4 exhibits at a time featuring artist from the countries from all over the world. The displays of the museum include paintings, textiles, costumes, jewelry, toys, pottery and sculpture. The permanent collection is represented by the whimsical sculptures by the late French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. In fact, Mingei International Museum is the only major museum in the United States devoted to folk crafts on a worldwide scale.

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Inside Casa de Balboa you will find the Museum of Photographic Arts having a particular strength in social documentary and photojournalism, the Model Railroad Museum, with working models of actual railroads in Southern California, and the Museum of San Diego History, with engaging exhibits that interpret the past events of the city and relate them to the present. Pay special attention to the realistic looking bare-breasted figures atop the Casa de Balboa.

San Diego Natural History Museum features new galleries and a giant-screen cinema devoted exclusively to the nature world. The museum also offers nature hikes and field trips not only in Balboa Park but also throughout San Diego County.

Delicate wood lath Botanical Building dates back to the 1915-16 Exposition, with Lily Pond just in front. This open-air conservatory is filled with 2,100 permanent plants as well as seasonal displays. Particularly noteworthy are the collection of cycads and ferns.

11-acre Japanese Friendship Garden has been carefully developed to feature traditional Japanese elements. At the entrance of this canyon is a beautiful teahouse, with its deck overlooking the entire ravine and having a small meditation garden beside. It is a nice place to stroll about with its winding paths, koi ponds, a Zen garden and an elegant looking garden pavilion built in a traditional Japanese style.

Balboa Park is home to the profusion of diverse flora that range from desert cactus to tropical ferns. The most remarkable of them are the Alcazar Garden which is a formal Spanish-style garden, Palm Canyon with more than 50 species of palms, the Australian Garden, the Desert Garden that is best in the spring, and Florida Canyon that gives an idea of San Diego landscape before the Spanish settlement.