Explore Balboa Park
Thursday, October 15, 2020 9:15 am to 2:30 pm
The bus, escorted tour and lunch is a ticketed tour: $148 per person.
Museum entrance fees are not included in the tour price.
If the initial tour for 24 guests fills, we will have a wait list to try and accommodate more participants. If you pay to hold a spot on the wait list and the second bus does not fill, your tour payment will be fully refunded.
Balboa Park is one of the oldest (est. 1868) and most varied parks in the United States. Named for Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the first European to spot the Pacific Ocean while on exploration in Panama, it sprawls over 1,200 acres. San Diego hosted the 1915 Panama-California Exposition here, with some of these original buildings still home to some of the many museums in the park.
You won’t have time to explore all of the many museums, gardens, zoo, walks, and other attractions here… but that doesn’t mean you can’t try! Grab a friend, or explore on your own or stick with the guides … this is your opportunity to enjoy this historic park and choose how you spend your time in the park. Entrance fees to museums or the zoo are not included in the NCBJ tour pricing. Be prepared to pay $9 - $15 per museum.
Travel by coach from the Marriott to one of two drop off locations. The tour guide will tell you what is near each location, so you can make you way to the things you find most alluring. Maps will be provided.
After an hour on your own 10 - 11 am, you may choose to rejoin the tour guides in the central plaza to stroll down a palm-lined street to the Spanish Village Art Center (or not… you are welcome to continue exploring on your own, if you wish). The Center was patterned after a typical Spanish village, with many small shops and galleries clustered around a central plaza with shaded seating. This plaza is home to nearly 200 local artists, with dozens of studios and featuring paintings, pottery crafts, sculptures, jewelry, and other forms of art. Browse, admire, or purchase, the choice is yours.
Next the guide will lead the group on an easy walk along the upper Palm Canyon boardwalk, on the way to Prado, a popular Mexican restaurant located in the Hospitality Center. The unique décor blends the historical aspects of the House of Hospitality and whimsical accessories inspired by the Park museum collections. You will have time to relax, and savor the foods from a special limited menu especially for the NCBJ group. You’ll be able to choose your entrée meal choice in advance included in the tour price. Any extras or other options that you choose to order at Prado are on your individual tab.
After lunch we’ll board the bus at 2 pm sharp for the return to the Marriott by 2:30 pm. You will be informed by the guide of the exact 2 pm pick-up location near Prado Restaurant when you arrive at 10 am. If you miss the 2 pm group return, you will need to make your way back to the hotel on your own. "Hello, Uber!"
Remember: sun screen, comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, and cameras. Flash photography is not permitted inside the fine arts museums.
This tour can be enjoyed by leisurely-paced strolling on nearly flat sidewalks and streets if going to the museums mentioned in this article. The overall park also offers moderate to active hiking with steep terrain, steps and elevation changes and park features that are a distance from each other across 600 acres. Some museum are closed for changing exhibits or rehabilitation of the building. Consult the Balboa Park website for posted closures. ComiCon’s new location will not open until fall 2021.
Departure from the hotel: Bring your ticket. Meet at the curb just outside the Pacific Ballroom foyer doors (lower level) at 9:15 am. The bus will depart promptly at 9:30 am.
Best Known Museums Near the Central Plaza:
The Museum of Man is an anthropological museum, and is housed in four of the historic building constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. These ornate buildings include the California Quadrangle and the California Tower, two of the most famous structures in San Diego. The collections here focus on pre-Columbian history of the western hemisphere, including the Maya and many local native American tribes. Their Egyptian collection is one of the most collections in the United States. You will enjoy the many interactive displays and informative exhibits. The buildings of this museum are adjacent to the Central plaza. Entry fee: $13
The San Diego Museum of Art’s mission is to inspire, educate, and cultivate curiosity through great works of art. The museum regularly features major exhibitions from around the world, bringing new works of art to San Diego. The museum’s nationally renowned collections include Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings including the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings, and 19th and 20th century American paintings and sculptures. This museum is on the Central Plaza. Entry fee: $10-15
"Choo, choo!" The San Diego Model Railroad Museum has amazing track layouts and model designs, sure to delight the most discriminating train enthusiast. Elaborate dioramas and to scale models and tracks fill entire rooms with the vintage history of how the railroads shaped our country. This museum is located on the walking route from the Central Plaza to the Spanish Art Center. Entry fee: $9-12.50
Also along the walking route to the Spanish Arts Center, and across the street from the Railroad Museum is the Conservatory and surrounding gardens.
Space… the Final Frontier! San Diego was home to some of the earliest aviation efforts in the country. John Montgomery likely made the first human-carrying glider flight in America in 1883 at Otay Mesa. The museum’s exhibits span the history of aviation. Your journey through the history of flight begins as you stand beneath a model of the Montgolfier brothers’ hot air balloon of 1783 - the first manned vehicle in recorded history to break the bonds of gravity and lift humans above the Earth. Rare aircraft from WWI, WWII, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts provide a glimpse into the increasingly complex technology used in flight. This culminates with our entry into space… with the actual command module from Apollo IX, launched in March 1969, mere months before our first lunar landing. This museum is at coach stop # 1 and is a 10-minute stroll from the Space Museum to the Central Plaza. Space Museum Entry fee: $17-20. For more information about the park visit: www.BalboaPark.org.