Balboa Park, San Diego

January 11th, 2012 | Posted by Steve in Buildings | California | Parks | United States of America

Time and events have gotten away from me.  In early November I had my 2nd cataract successfully removed with a lens implant taking its place.  The necessity of using a contact lens to balance out my vision ceased with that operation.  Now I only wear glasses for close up work, reading and the computer.  I have 20/20 binocular vision from about 3 feet to infinity, a first for me since I was about 8.

While healing I had little to do, nowhere to go, and not a whole lot of enthusiasm for picking up a camera.

That changed as the holidays approached.  Jonathan and Rebecca flew in from Texas for an 8 day visit.  We picked them up the evening of the Dec. 19 and the next morning left early for what was close to a 2 hour drive to San Diego.  We planned on visiting Balboa Park and some of the museums there.  Our plan was to arrive about 11:00 am and catch an early lunch at the Prado Restaurant in the park before it began to fill with people.  I was able to get a lot of placement/I was here type snap shots.  Maybe 1 or 2 have some merit.

But first, a little about Balboa Park.  It is a very large urban cultural park almost within a stone’s throw from downtown. In fact about all that separates the park from downtown is Interstate 5.  This is the plaque near the entrance.

In 1915 it was home to the Panama-California Exposition and in 1935 the California Pacific International Exposition.  It is also home to the world famous San Diego Zoo and on the list of the National Register of Historic Places.  Fran and I visited before the children were born and often as they grew up.  Sometimes we took the train from Orange County to San Diego and caught a bus to the park.

Many buildings built for the two fairs still stand and are currently home to a number of different museums.  The architecture is officially called Spanish Colonial Revival.  The centerpiece and grabbing the eye from many points in the park is the 200 foot tall California Tower. A shot of  the tower is the lead off photo.

The tower commands the entrance of the Museum of Man with a beautiful dome lies right behind it.  Unfortunately, the dome was wrapped by scaffolding for maintenance.  I try to avoid the scaffolding in these photos.

Enough history, it is available in detail on the internet if any of you care to look farther.

We arrived at about 11:00 am and the park seemed already close to full.  We finally found a parking spot way to the south of the restaurant. After a long walk we arrived at the restaurant at 11:15 only to find it opened at 11:30.  At least our early arrival put us second in line.  The Prado Restaurant is a very popular place to eat.  It is in the heart of the park central to many of the museums and offers a Latin & Italian fusion cuisine.  The restaurant is decorated to match the early 20th Century California style of the park.  By the time we finished lunch the restaurant was full with a long line outside waiting for seats.

From our table I grabbed this fish eye photo of the part of the restaurant we were in.

Outside of the entrance to the Prado is this interesting fountain.  I had to stoop to get the black background of the arch to frame the head and use a telephoto setting to crop out the myriad of visitors in the area.

The restaurant itself lies inside one of the ornately decorated buildings of the original fair at a corner of the Plaza de Panama.  I think the building is named Casa del Rey, but I’m not sure.



Across the plaza to the west from the restaurant is this tower.  It tops the building that houses the Museum of Living Artists.


The main drive through the park is El Prado.  It runs east/west.  This is one of the museum facades along El Prado.


After leaving lunch we walked to the Botanical Building above the plaza on the north.

This being just before Christmas the building was festooned with Poinsettias.  This 2nd photo is with the fish eye.  It shows the top of the dome to the flower display below.

One large bush in the building had been cut back revealing a hollow portion of its trunk.  I couldn’t resist a photo so I could turn it into black & white.


The Lily Pond stretches most of the way from the front of the Botanical Building down to to El Prado.

Balboa Park has many gardens, but we spent a lot of our time in one.  Behind the building housing the Museum of Living Artists is the Alcazar Garden.  It is also near the California Tower.  The garden has beautiful fountains and benches, all wrapped in decorative tile.


The lead off photo is shot from the Alcazar Garden.  You can see from the above shots I had more fun with the fish eye lens.  By this time it was getting into the middle afternoon.  We headed back to the car.  Along the way are other interesting buildings, gardens, and sights.  One garden, named Palm Canyon, had a very large tree with large exposed roots.  I got this shot then converted it to black & white.

Across the street from the Palm Canyon garden is a large amphitheater, currently named the Spreckles Organ Pavillion.

Near our parking spot there are a few cottages promoting various countries, mostly Latin American, and a gift shop in what is named the UN building.  The building is very old.  The interior, despite it being [converted to?] a gift shop, is very ornate.  Again with the fish eye.


From that point on we were getting a bit tired and decided to go to our hotel so that is about all from our trip to Balboa Park.

We were staying at the old Holiday Inn in downtown San Digeo.  The interesting thing is we programmed the address for the hotel into Fran’s GPS.  It took us over the bridge into Coronado some 6 miles from our true destination! Fortunately we were sight seeing and decided to drive by the old Coronado Hotel that dates from the 1880s.  If any of you have ever seen the movie Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, & Jack Lemmon you know of the place.  Some of the scenes were filmed there.  Of course there were no parking spots so photos will have to wait for another time.

Our second day in the San Diego area took us to Pt Loma, La Jolla & the Birch Aquarium.  Those photos will be in the next post.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 Both comments and pings are currently closed.