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Balboa Park

Balboa Park: Our most recommended tours and activities

San Diego: Harbor Cruise

1. San Diego: Harbor Cruise

See San Diego's best sights. Learn about the city and enjoy a cruise on the bay. Depending on the option booked, this tour takes you under the Coronado Bridge, past military ships, waterfront landmarks, and marine life for a look at San Diego's scenic beauty and fascinating history. This tour’s luxury ships offer three levels with comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, 360-degree views, and an on-board snack bar serving snacks, soda, beer, wine and cocktails (available for purchase). This is a great way to experience San Diego from the water.

San Diego: City Lights Night Tour

2. San Diego: City Lights Night Tour

Your 90-minute night tour boards in Seaport Village and starts off by exploring the West Coast’s premier entertainment district, known as the Gaslamp Quarter, full of vibrant nightlife, bright lights, and Victorian architecture.   Then, make your way to Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the U.S., where stunning buildings, fountains, and statues glow bright at night. From Balboa Park, drive to the top of Coronado Bridge for more spectacular sights, including the lights coming in from Tijuana, Mexico, the bay, and Downtown San Diego. Then, travel to Coronado’s Ferry Landing for a 20-minute stop to take in the stunning beauty of the San Diego city skyline, visible from across the bay and a perfect photo opportunity. From Coronado, make your way back to San Diego to take in the Embarcadero’s bay-front views. You’ll see the Historic County Administration Building, Maritime Museum’s Star of India, the USS Midway Museum, and Navy aircraft carriers from across the bay. The tour ends in Seaport Village, where guests are invited to the Top of the Hyatt for 50% off a glass of wine.

San Diego: San Diego Natural History Museum Ticket

3. San Diego: San Diego Natural History Museum Ticket

The San Diego Natural History Museum is a flagship institution in Balboa Park, showcasing the regional natural history and unique biodiversity of Southern California and Baja California. The museum has four floors of exhibitions, a 3D theater, and San Diego’s only Foucault pendulum. Through its permanent collection, special exhibitions, numerous educational programs, and the opportunity to see scientists at work, the Museum fosters a lifelong love of learning about nature and the environment for visitors of all ages. Current exhibits include: Hidden Gems Get to know The Nat's sparkly side with more than 100 of the best, brightest, and most spectacular selections from our gems and mineral collection. These hidden gems will be on every floor of the Museum. The Backyard Learn and explore the natural world through play. This new space invites our youngest visitors (ages 0-5) to play under a shade tree, search for hidden secrets along a wooden fence, or read their favorite book in a cozy potting shed. Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage This new exhibition gives visitors a rare "backstage" glimpse of the museum's storage areas. Specimens arranged on shelves and in cases offer the opportunity to revel in the natural world in all its beauty and peculiarity. Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science This new, permanent exhibition explores the past, present and future of citizen science through rare books, art, photographs, and historical documents. Coast to Cactus in Southern California This innovative, permanent exhibition tells the story of this amazing place called home. Take an immersive walk through the major regions of southern California's coast, inland valleys, mountains, and deserts and celebrate the abundant variety of life found here. Fossil Mysteries From dinosaurs to mastodons, travel through 75 million years and dig into the rich fossil history of southern California and Baja California. Skulls Take a look at 200 of the weirdest, wildest, and most fascinating animal skulls from our research collection. Giant-Screen Theater The Subaru Giant Screen Experience is one-of-a-kind. Settle into the 300-seat, stadium-style theater and enjoy films on the massive screen.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park: 2-Day Entry Ticket

4. San Diego Zoo and Safari Park: 2-Day Entry Ticket

Experience the best of two worlds with a two-day admission ticket to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Widely regarded as the best in the world, the San Diego Zoo has open-air enclosures and puts an emphasis on animal welfare and conservation. Its sister Safari Park boasts wide open spaces for its many animals to roam freely, mimicking their natural habitat as closely as possible.   Explore the San Diego Zoo, home to over 4,500 rare and endangered animals. Experience their worlds at the Polar Bear Plunge, Elephant Odyssey, and other areas. Winding paths through the tropical oasis of a botanical garden bring you to the zoo’s rare and fascinating animals, including koalas, Galápagos tortoises, tigers, eagles, flamingos, great apes, and more. The festive, lively atmosphere makes this zoo a great place for family fun and gathering friends. Discover the wonders of wildlife with animal encounters, interactive experiences, and exciting animal presentations and shows.   The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an adventurer’s safari paradise in Southern California. The 1,800-acre park is home to more than 3,000 animals representing more than 375 species, many living in wide open field enclosures. Join one of many tours and create memories for you and your family. Visit Sumatra and see tigers, orangutans, rhinos, and elephants. Tiger Trail provides a journey to discover tigers and learn about their current struggles. In Lion Camp, come nose to nose with an African lion pride. And best of all, your participation contributes to the conservation of species here and in more than 35 countries across the globe.

San Diego's Balboa Park: 3-Hour Scavenger Hunt Adventure

5. San Diego's Balboa Park: 3-Hour Scavenger Hunt Adventure

Turn Balboa Park into a giant game board on a small-group, interactive scavenger hunt. Combine the thrill of the race with a sightseeing tour of this popular San Diego destination. Guided by any smartphone, you and your group will make your way to well-known and some overlooked gems of the city, solving clues and completing challenges while learning about local history. Begin at the Veterans Museum, and take in the iconic art and impressive architecture, and admire historical theaters and hidden gardens. The activity involves around 2 miles of walking and generally takes between 2-3 hours to complete.

San Diego: Go City Explorer Pass - Choose 2-7 Attractions

6. San Diego: Go City Explorer Pass - Choose 2-7 Attractions

Experience San Diego's top attractions and tours and get up to 55% off combined admission with Go City's Explorer Pass. Simply choose 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7 top attractions from over 45 options and go at your own pace - you have 60 days to use your pass from first activation. Visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo or the USS Midway Museum. Explore more of the city with a hop-on hop-off trolley tour, or kayak and snorkel in beautiful La Jolla. The possibilities are endless. Your pass is fully digital and no physical card is required. Simply download your pass directly to your smartphone or print at home. Show your pass at each attraction for quick and easy entrance. Choose from the following things to do in San Diego with the San Diego Explorer Pass: Museums and Places of Interest • San Diego Zoo OR San Diego Zoo Safari Park (choose 1) • USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum • Belmont Park Ride and Play Pass • Maritime Museum of San Diego • Air and Space Museum • Birch Aquarium at Scripps • The Fleet Science Center with IMAX • San Diego Natural History Museum • Museum of Us • Living Coast Discovery Center • The New Children's Museum • San Diego Museum of Art • San Diego Model Railroad Museum • Japanese Friendship Garden • PETCO Park Tour - Home of the San Diego Padres • San Diego Automotive Museum • Museum of Contemporary Art (Downtown) • Mingei International Museum Tours and Activities • 2-Day Hop-On Hop-off Old Town San Diego Trolley • Living Coast Discovery Center • 1-hr San Diego Harbor Cruise by Hornblower • 90-min Best of the Bay Cruise by Hornblower • San Diego Speed Boat Adventures • Jet Ski Rental San Diego Harbor • Go Kart and Thrill Park • Whale Watching by Hornblower Cruises • Plunge San Diego • San Diego Fishing Tour • San Diego Hiking Tour • San Diego Harbor: Kayak Rental or Stand Up Paddle Board Rental • La Jolla: Kayak Rental, Snorkel Rental, Stand Up Paddle Board Rental, Surf Board Rental or Bike Rental • Coronado: Kayak Rental, Stand Up Paddle Board Rental, or Bike Rental • UTC Ice Sports Center • Speed Circuit: All Access • San Diego City & Beach Tours • 1-Hour Scooter Rental • GoCar San Diego Tours 1-Hour • San Diego City Tour • Patriot Jet Boat

San Diego: Downtown & Balboa Park GPS Talking Car Tour

7. San Diego: Downtown & Balboa Park GPS Talking Car Tour

This is the essential San Diego tour. You will see almost all of the greatest sights San Diego has to offer, like the visually stunning Balboa park which is littered with Spanish Renaissance inspired architecture. Pass by over a dozen museums, colorful flower gardens, and world renowned outdoor organ pavilion all the way to the always happening Hillcrest, which has a great variety of shops and restaurants. Hillcrest is known to have some of the best food in the county. But best of all you will also get to see Downtown San Diego at its finest, from the Maritime Museum, to the Historic Gaslamp Quarter. Downtown San Diego is one of the best places in the world for its diversity, and visual appeal. Don’t miss the best places San Diego has to offer on this tour.

San Diego Walking Tour: Balboa Park with a Local Guide

8. San Diego Walking Tour: Balboa Park with a Local Guide

Balboa Park is home to gorgeous gardens, lovely walking paths, and plenty of cultural gems, from theaters to museums featuring the arts, the sciences, and more. You’ll get a full overview of the park and its rich history on this San Diego walking tour that explores how the park has become a symbol of the city. We’ll kick things off at the Founder’s Statue on the west side of the park. We think you’ll agree San Diegans were visionaries when they set aside 1400 acres of land for the park all the way back in 1868. Then we’ll stop at the California Tower, built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, has since become a city landmark. The face of the tower depicts the early history of the city. Next up, we’ll head to Alcazar Garden, which was inspired by the same-named gardens in Spain. Used for both the 1915 and 1935 expositions, the garden offered fair-goers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the exposition, and provides a picturesque foreground to photos of the California Tower. Snag the perfect Instagram shot while you’re here. Following after, we’ll head to the Old Globe Theater which is a Tony Award-winning, world-renowned professional theater group modeled after The Globe Theater London. From there, we’ll walk through the heart of the Prado, where you’ll get to spy unique building façades and roof supports that most visitors don’t notice. We’ll also check out Zoro Gardens, a sunken garden that was once a nudist colony (seriously) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. Today, it’s a butterfly garden that contains everything butterflies need for their full life cycle. We’ll then continue past the Bea Evenson fountain, the Natural History Museum and we’ll pop into the Spanish Village Art Center to observe artists at work in their studios. By now you will have worked up a thirst so we’ll grab a drink at a local coffee cart before continuing on past one of the largest Morton Bay fig trees in California and the San Diego Junior Theater. But we’re not done yet! We’ll then head to the Botanical Building and the adjacent lily pond full of koi makes more than just a pretty picture — you’ll learn how the pond was an important part of the war effort during WWI and how it helped injured sailors and soldiers during WWII. Our tour will end at the Plaza de Panama, but before we say goodbye, your guide will give you directions to the nearby Visitor Center (for snacks, maps, souvenirs, and museum passes), suggestions for places to eat, and tips on what else to see and do within the park.

San Diego: Downtown and Gaslamp Loop Scooter Tour

9. San Diego: Downtown and Gaslamp Loop Scooter Tour

Start your day of adventure at the scooter rental location where you will meet with your guide for your tour. After a friendly meet and greet and brief orientation session on proper use of the scooters, you will follow your GPS and set off on your multi-cultural journey through Downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp Loop. You will commence your tour in Little Italy, where you will learn about the rise and fall of San Diego’s Italian population. You will then continue on past the maritime history museum, the USS Midway, and into the beautiful Seaport Village. You will also get to travel past the Horton Plaza, which just begs to be visited again after the tour ends. Following the Horton Plaza, you will make your way into the heart of San Diego, with a quick loop around the home of San Diego Padres, and into the Historic Gaslamp Quarter. The Gaslamp Quarter, following its reinvention, is much more family friendly than it used to be. As you leave the Gaslamp Quarter, you will enter Banker’s Hill, complete with its unique shops which also border the always beautiful Balboa Park. You will then finish your tour of San Diego back at the rental location center, with a new found appreciation and knowledge of this exciting and wonderful city. 

San Diego: Downtown Electric GoCar Rental

10. San Diego: Downtown Electric GoCar Rental

Join a tour with a top speed of 75 miles an hour. Explore San Diego in a green and fun way. See the sights of downtown and see iconic Balboa Park. Embark on a tour of downtown San Diego's sights. See Spanish renaissance architecture, museums, colorful flower gardens, and a world-renowned outdoor organ pavilion. Let your electric tour take you to happen Hillcrest, home to quirky shops and restaurants. Explore an area that is home to some of the best food in the county. Experience a green and open-air adventure as you drive through downtown in a unique way. See the Maritime Museum, the Historic Gaslamp Quarter, and famous Balboa Park among other landmarks.

Other Sightseeing Options in Balboa Park

Want to discover all there is to do in Balboa Park? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Balboa Park

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 1,079 reviews

If you want to spend two excellent days. Go for it with your eyes closed. Advice: Keep your cups for the refill The volunteers are very friendly: very American!!

Our family loved the 2 hour boat ride and tour. The guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining. We highly recommend this tour for all ages including kids.

What a great place to bring the grandkids, we had a great time, thank you.

outstanding zoo and safari zoo,highly recommend you visit both.

Super fun had a great time. Alot of walking but well worth it