Are you a fan of all things weird, wild, and wonderful? Follow the stops below to take a tour highlighting some of Balboa Park's fascinating oddities and obscure facts.
Let's start off with an old favorite, the Balboa Park Carousel. Did you know this is one of a handful of carousels in the U.S. that includes the traditional brass ring game? Take a ride and try your skill by reaching out to grab the ring!
Time for a bit of the macabre at the San Diego Natural History Museum. The Skulls exhibition displays over 200 bone structures from a wide range of animals, from tiny mice to big-horned sheep.
What better way to take in the Park's eccentricities than in a uniquely 20th-century mode of conveyance? Originally designed for Balboa Park's 1915 Panama-California Exposition, wicker electriquettes are available for rent to modern visitors at the kiosk in front of the Fleet Science Center.
Speaking of Balboa Park expositions, take a peek at the Zoro Garden. Now a peaceful butterfly refuge, during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition this space was an exhibit featuring...nudists! Visitors could get a full view for a quarter, or catch glimpses through knotholes in the surrounding fence for free.
As you walk by the Casa de Balboa, look up towards the roof. Can you spot the caryatids, or weight-bearing pillars shaped like people? Architecture fans and curious observers alike have been discussing just who these caryatid figures might represent. What do you think?
Take a trip to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, where you can discover whimsical scenes in miniature. Spot the canyon climbers, the church filled for a wedding, and the overturned chicken delivery truck!
More wonders—tiny and otherwise—await at the Mingei International Museum. Discover the otherworldly art dollhouse, A Palace for Wednesday and pick out your favorite detail.
Next, grab a coffee and snack at the Café Mingei. Find a table and enjoy your goodies in view of the Mingei's lively sculptures by Nikki de Saint Phalle.
Take a walk to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. In 2014, the San Diego post-hardcore band Drive Like Jehu played a reunion concert here, accompanied by San Diego Civic Organist Carole Williams. The appeal of playing with a live organ helped convince the band to get back together.
Roll on over to the San Diego Automotive Museum and check out Louie Mattar's Fabulous Car. In 1952, San Diego garage owner Louie Mattar modified this 1947 Cadillac, adding a makeshift shower, washing machine, and even a kitchen sink, in order to set a cross-country endurance record by driving from San Diego to New York and back without stopping.
Pay a visit to the Timken Museum, which holds an art collection donated to the City of San Diego by the Putnams, wealthy and reclusive siblings who lived in a Hillcrest mansion during the mid-20th century. The mysterious siblings traveled around town in a curtained limousine.
Stop for a drink at Panama 66, a Balboa Park bar and restaurant. Enjoy lots of local beers on tap, California wine, craft cocktails, and food made with local ingredients, all in an art-filled outdoor setting.
Visitors would likely not guess that the San Diego Art Institute, today an experimental contemporary art center, was originally founded as the San Diego Business Man's Art Club. In 1950, the organization adopted its current name, and in 1953, accepted its first women.
Have you heard California Tower bells marking the hour or chiming a pleasant tune? These notes aren't coming from actual bells, but from chimes controlled by an electric carillon. End your day with a Tower Tour to learn more about the instrument...and take in the spectacular view!
Thanks for joining us on this tour of the strange and spectacular in Balboa Park. The tour just scratches the surface of all there is to explore; when you start looking around the Park, you never know what you'll discover. Let us know what you find!
Check individual websites for hours and pricing. Get more out of your visits with an Explorer Pass