Balboa Park, San Diego

During my visit to San Diego, I spent one afternoon at the beautiful Balboa Park, which is known for the famous San Diego Zoo, but there are also tons of other things to see in the huge 1200 acre park.

Since I only had a few hours I decided not to go in any of the park’s 17 museums – that will have to wait for another trip. Instead I roamed around photographing the elaborate baroque architecture including the California Tower and Dome which house the Museum of Man.

California Tower and Museum of Man, Balboa Park by Anne McKinnell
Please click any of the images to view larger versions.

Museum of Man, Balboa Park by Anne McKinnell

The park was home to the first world’s fair, the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition which commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal. In preparation for the expo, many buildings were constructed in the flamboyant and ornamented Spanish-Renaissance style of architecture.

Casa del Prado, Balboa Park by Anne McKinnell

El Prado Pedestrian Walkway, Balboa Park, San Diego by Anne McKinnell

Archway in Balboa Park, San Diego by Anne McKinnell

I decided to make an exception to my “no museums” rule when I heard about the Museum of Photographic Arts, but when I got there it was closed. All I could do was peer in the windows to get a glimpse of the display.

The one thing I really wanted to photograph was the famous reflecting lily pond in front of the botanical building. You know how I like icons! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got there and the pond had been drained and there was a big mud pit of construction going on.

Well, I didn’t research this one very well did I? Sigh.

The next stop was over the little bridge to the Desert Cactus Garden.

Eucalyptus Tree and Bridge in Balboa Park by Anne McKinnell

When Balboa Park first opened as the “City Park” in 1868, there wasn’t much there but scrub. But around 25 years later a woman who became known as “The Mother of Balboa Park” offered to plant 100 trees a year in the park plus donate trees and shrubs around San Diego in exchange for 32 acres of land within the park to be used as a commercial nursery.

In 1935 she built the cactus garden. I was astonished to see so many varieties of cacti and succulents I had never seen before.

Balboa Park Cactus Garden by Anne McKinnell

Balboa Park Cactus Garden by Anne McKinnellBalboa Park Cactus Garden by Anne McKinnell
Balboa Park Cactus Garden by Anne McKinnellBalboa Park Cactus Garden by Anne McKinnell

Balboa Park Cactus Garden by Anne McKinnell

When sunset came I returned to the fountain to make my last image of the day.

Fountain in Balboa Park by Anne McKinnell

I hope you enjoyed this visit to Balboa Park with me!

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    • says

      Thank you so much Russ! That’s a great compliment given I only went into town 3 times! I hope to get a chance to go back again next year and spend some more time there.

  1. Karen says

    Wonderful imagery. Thank you! I was in Balboa Park a number of years ago when my son was young and I loved walking around there and walking around the wonderful architecture. It was magical. Thanks for the history lesson as well!

    • says

      Thanks Karen, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The architecture is like nothing I’ve seen outside of Europe. Although I haven’t really been to that many cities. We usually go to parks.

  2. says

    Excellent images (as always) Anne. You bring back so many memories. I used to travel to San Diego for business and would love to hang out at Balboa Park. That was 20 years ago and I wasn’t shooting then. I need to get back there soon.
    Len Saltiel recently posted..The Castle on the HillMy Profile

  3. says

    I really like the 4th image of the arcs and columns. Were you tempted to do a black-and-white version? Seems like a lot of people do that in these kind of images. But I really liked you kept it in color as the sun light is just gorgeous.
    Fabio Bosco recently posted..The Wheel of Fun-tuneMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Fabio, I haven’t tried black and white on that one, good idea! I did a black and white on an image that is similar to the second one, but it didn’t make the cut. Thanks for your visit and comments!

    • says

      Hi Mark, thank you very much! The light does make a huge difference in the images. Many of the cacti I photographed were in the shade. The ones in the direct bright light didn’t turn out so well.

  4. Pete McGowan says

    Anne –
    The architecture in Balboa Park is wonderful, but actually a little hard to photograph because many of the structures are so tall. Great photos!

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