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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: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

2. San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

Join the Hop-on Hop-Off Tour of Old Town San Diego at any of the tour's 12 boarding points and visit more than 100 interesting points in Coronado and San Diego at your own pace. You can begin at any time of the day and listen to the entertaining narration of the onboard conductors along the way. San Diego is known as America’s Finest City, and as you explore the sights of Old Town and the scenic coastline you’ll see why. Opt to begin your tour at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, where you’ll see original adobe homes and artifacts from the earliest Mexican settlements. At the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, you’ll learn about the importance of the U.S. Navy's presence in San Diego. Then continue on to nearby Seaport Village, where you can stop for refreshments and enjoy shopping and entertainment. In the historic Gaslamp Quarter, you’ll find loads of shops and other interesting places located in Victorian-themed buildings. One particular house of interest is the William Heath Davis House. Built-in saltbox style, it is similar to the original home of Davis, who founded New Town San Diego. When you’re back on the trolley you’ll be entertained once again by the conductor’s narration. Continue on to the well-known Hotel del Coronado, one of America’s leading resorts. You may choose to take a stroll through nearby Balboa Park, along El Prado, the promenade lined with Spanish-style buildings. With more stops than any other tour, this hop-on hop-off trolley ride is guaranteed to deliver. In addition to sightseeing, enjoy free shuttle service to and from select area hotels, a map and day planner, and $70 in discount coupons to use at restaurants and area attractions. Hop on or hop off at 12 convenient stops: 1) 4002 Wallace St: Old Town State Historic Park 2) 1492 N Harbor Dr: Maritime Museum of San Diego/Star of India 3) 200 Marina Park Way: San Diego Embarcadero 4) 849 W Harbor Dr: Seaport Village 5) 333 W Harbor Dr: Marriott Marquis & Marina6) Gaslamp Quarter 7) 111 W Harbor Dr: Petco Park/San Diego Convention Center 8) Barrio Logan9) 1500 Orange Ave: Hotel Del Coronado10) Coronado/Orange Avenue 11) 1549 El Prado: Balboa Park and El Prado Museums 12) Little Italy

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

3. 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: Go City All-Inclusive Pass with 55+ Attractions

4. San Diego: Go City All-Inclusive Pass with 55+ Attractions

The San Diego All-Inclusive Pass is an all-access pass offering the ultimate in convenience and savings for visitors to the area. Simply choose between a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7-day pass and save up to 45% compared to the cost of buying separate attraction tickets. With one single pass, you can enjoy dozens of popular attractions and fun things to do in San Diego. Visit the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND, The U.S.S. Midway, take a sightseeing harbor cruise, rent a bike, stand-up paddleboard or kayak, and much more. With a total of over 55 attractions and tours included with your pass, there is something for everyone and you can visit as many attractions as you like per day. The San Diego All-Inclusive Pass also comes with a digital guide including helpful attraction information including how to get there and opening times. Activities, attractions, and tours included on the San Diego All-Inclusive Pass: Theme Parks and Zoos • San Diego Zoo • SeaWorld San Diego • San Diego Zoo Safari Park • Belmont Park • Knott's Berry Farm • LEGOLAND California • Sesame Place (coming soon) Outdoors • San Diego Speedboat Adventures • La Jolla: 90-min Tandem Kayak Rental • La Jolla: Full-Day Snorkel Adventure • La Jolla: All-Day Bike Rental • La Jolla: Surfboard Rental • La Jolla: Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Rental • San Diego Harbor: 2-hr SUP • San Diego Harbor: 2-hr Kayak Rental • Coronado: 90-min Tandem Kayak Rental • Coronado: SUP Board Rental • Coronado: Full-Day Bike Rental • San Diego Pier Fishing Tours and Cruises • 1-hr San Diego Harbor Cruise by Hornblower Cruises • Whale Watching by Hornblower Cruises • Whale Watch & Dolphin Tour - Beautiful Newport Beach • San Diego Hiking Tour • San Diego Sightseeing Walking Tour • Catalina Flyer (ferry to Catalina Island) • One Way Coronado Ferry • Petco Park Tours - home of the San Diego Padres • GoCar San Diego 30-min tour • Dolby Theater Guided Tour Museums and Places of Interest • USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum • Japanese Friendship Garden • San Diego Air and Space Museum • San Diego Natural History Museum • The Fleet Science Center with IMAX • Birch Aquarium at Scripps • Museum of Us • San Diego Automotive Museum • San Diego Model Railroad Museum • San Diego Museum of Art • The New Children's Museum • The Whaley House Museum • Coronado Museum of History and Art • Museum of Photographic Arts • Museum of Contemporary Art (Downtown) • San Diego Art Institute • The Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House • Mingei International Museum • The Plunge San Diego • Living Coast Discovery Center • Museum of Making Music • Hollywood Museum • Richard Nixon Library • UTC Ice Sports Center • South Coast Shop & Dine Package

San Diego: Downtown & Balboa Park GPS Talking Car Tour

5. 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: 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: San Diego Natural History Museum Ticket

7. 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: Art of Science (running until Jan 15, 2023) Data is beautiful and science has style - see the beauty that can emerge from scientific research. In collaboration with the UC San Diego library, see the winners of the Art of Science competition, showcasing the work of UC San Diego students and researchers. Expedition Baja The Baja California Peninsula: our neighbor in nature. Explore towing mountains, desert flats, and isolated islands, and follow along with researchers working to conserve the peninsula's wild beauty. Living Lab Meet more than 20 of your not-so-cuddly neighbors, from stinging scorpions to elusive nocturnal lizards. Caught on Camera (coming Nov 18, 2022) Wildlife is all around, even when we don't see it. So, what exactly are animals up to when we're not looking? Find out in this new photography exhibition featuring animal candids taken with the help of camera trap technology. 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. Allosaurus Meet Al, a member of our skeleton crew. Allosaurus fragilis, a genus of large theropod dinosaur that lived in North America during the late Jurassic Period, is a relative of T. rex, which lived later. Al's bones are casts made from original fossil bones collected in Utah. Megalodon This replica of an extinct megalodon shark was modeled from and inspired by teeth collected from Miocene sandstones in Oceanside, California and near Ensenada, Baja California by Museum paleontology staff. It hangs in the Atrium as part of Fossil Mysteries and is one of the best selfie spots in the museum. SkullsTake a look at 200 of the weirdest, wildest, and most fascinating animal skulls from our research collection. Demonstration Lab See scientists at work and learn some of the ways they prepare, preserve, and study specimens. Science Spotlight: Baleen Whale Evolution Baleen whales are the largest living animals on the planet, and their ability to filter feed on small organisms in the ocean is an astounding adaptation. Scientists have new evidence for how and when the evolution from teeth to baleen occurred in the ancestors of today's filter-feeding whales. 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: City Lights Night Tour

8. 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's Balboa Park: 3-Hour Scavenger Hunt Adventure

9. 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: Balboa Park Guided Sightseeing Walking Tour

10. San Diego: Balboa Park Guided Sightseeing Walking Tour

Experience an unforgettable tour of Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the nation, located in bustling San Diego. Immerse yourself in stunning locales such as the Panama-California Sculpture Court, Natural History Museum, and Japanese Friendship Garden, on this walking tour with a local guide. Home to over 16 museums, several cultural organizations, and numerous gardens, Balboa Park is a historic entity with a rich and fascinating history. Learn more about the origin and development of the park from a local guide, beginning with a tour of Plaza de Panama in the center of the park.  Pass by key locations including the Timkin Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden, and Old Globe Theater. Keep your eye out for the Museum of Us, a historic museum of anthropology tracing it's origins to the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. Continue your way towards the Mingei International Museum, Palm Canyon, El Cid Statue, Zoro Garden, and the Japanese Friendship garden. Pause at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, the world's largest pipe organ located in a fully outdoor venue. Finalize you tour by passing by the iconic Bea Evenson Fountain, the historic Moreton Bay Fig Tree, and finally the Panama-California Sculpture Court and Botanical Building.

Available activities

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Other Sightseeing Options in Balboa Park

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What people are saying about Balboa Park

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 1,240 reviews

There was free parking across from the trolley prick up point and that was pretty great! My mom and I enjoyed the tour very much. Our driver, Sherry, was extremely knowledgeable! The weather was perfect for December and I highly recommend that you take this tour, regardless of whether you’re a stranger to San Diego or a local.

Jen was a great guide. She was friendly and very knowledgeable and shared many great insights to make our visit to Balboa Park memorable. We have visited before, but the historical context and other insights really enriched our experience.

Loved all the sights and history that was given. Freedom to hop off and explore and the jump back on. So much fun and the tour guides were terrific... thank you!!!

Totally worth the experience! Had a great time. Staff was super friendly. We went on the latest ride and we got to catch the sunset. Buy your picture afterwards!

chilly wind dress for cooler weather. Max was a great host.