Guided tour

San Diego Walking Tour: Balboa Park with a Local Guide

Activity provider:San Diego Walks
Guided tour

San Diego Walking Tour: Balboa Park with a Local Guide

Activity provider:San Diego Walks

From US$ 45 per person

Explore one of the country’s best urban cultural parks. Balboa Park has a bit of everything, including grand architecture, diverse museums, cultural institutions and captivating gardens. Keep the camera handy for what might be the prettiest tour in town!

About this activity

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Covid-19 precautions
Special health and safety measures are in place. Check your activity voucher once you book for full details.
Duration 2 hours
Check availability to see starting times.
Live tour guide
Wheelchair accessible


  • Discover the inspiring, quirky, and fascinating history of one of the nation’s largest urban cultural parks
  • Uncover historical and architectural treasures hiding in plain sight
  • Enjoy a beverage from a local coffee cart
  • Learn about the early 20th-century expositions that shaped Balboa Park
  • Find the best spots to photograph Balboa Park’s beautiful Spanish colonial revival architecture
Full description
Balboa Park is home to gorgeous gardens, lovely walking paths, and plenty of cultural gems, from theaters to museums featuring the arts, the sciences, and more. You’ll get a full overview of the park and its rich history on this San Diego walking tour that explores how the park has become a symbol of the city. We’ll kick things off at the Founder’s Statue on the west side of the park. We think you’ll agree San Diegans were visionaries when they set aside 1400 acres of land for the park all the way back in 1868. Then we’ll stop at the California Tower, built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, has since become a city landmark. The face of the tower depicts the early history of the city. Next up, we’ll head to Alcazar Garden, which was inspired by the same-named gardens in Spain. Used for both the 1915 and 1935 expositions, the garden offered fair-goers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the exposition, and provides a picturesque foreground to photos of the California Tower. Snag the perfect Instagram shot while you’re here. Following after, we’ll head to the Old Globe Theater which is a Tony Award-winning, world-renowned professional theater group modeled after The Globe Theater London. From there, we’ll walk through the heart of the Prado, where you’ll get to spy unique building façades and roof supports that most visitors don’t notice. We’ll also check out Zoro Gardens, a sunken garden that was once a nudist colony (seriously) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. Today, it’s a butterfly garden that contains everything butterflies need for their full life cycle. We’ll then continue past the Bea Evenson fountain, the Natural History Museum and we’ll pop into the Spanish Village Art Center to observe artists at work in their studios. By now you will have worked up a thirst so we’ll grab a drink at a local coffee cart before continuing on past one of the largest Morton Bay fig trees in California and the San Diego Junior Theater. But we’re not done yet! We’ll then head to the Botanical Building and the adjacent lily pond full of koi makes more than just a pretty picture — you’ll learn how the pond was an important part of the war effort during WWI and how it helped injured sailors and soldiers during WWII. Our tour will end at the Plaza de Panama, but before we say goodbye, your guide will give you directions to the nearby Visitor Center (for snacks, maps, souvenirs, and museum passes), suggestions for places to eat, and tips on what else to see and do within the park.
  • Local Friendly English-speaking guide
  • One beverage at a park coffee cart
  • Food and drinks beyond what is included
  • Souvenirs and personal shopping
  • Tips/gratuities for your guide
  • Entrance to the museums are not offered with this tour, but your guide will provide suggestions along the way for you to come back and visit during your own time

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Meeting point

The Founder's Plaza Statues are located near Sefton Plaza and are directly across the street from both the Lawn Bowling Club (east) and the Kate Session's Statue (south) and diagonal to the Dog Park. It is up a small incline near the north west corner of the plaza, between 6th Ave and Balboa Drive on Laurel Street at the west entrance of the Cabrillo Bridge.

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Important information

Know before you go

  •  Please wear casual dress and comfortable shoes. Take current weather conditions into consideration.
  •  This is a child-friendly tour. Children under the age of 6 are permitted to join this tour.
  •  Very occasionally museums, gardens, and roadways are closed due to special events or routine maintenance. If this occurs, an alternative will be provided during your tour. If you have any concerns, feel free to email the local partner at
Customer reviews

Overall rating

5 /5

based on 26 reviews

Review summary

  • Guide
  • Value for money
  • Service
  • Organization

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Incredible tour! Jen was warm, funny and informative. The tour was really well planned out, and she would often circle back to things she’d told us earlier. The coffee stop was a well timed break and nice for a chat with the other guests. Overall the level of detail was great- lots of fun facts and interesting history. We learnt a lot and really enjoyed our walk in the park. Thanks, Jen!

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December 18, 2021

Our guide Brooke was terrific! Enthusiastic, knowledgeable, fun and an excellent ambassador for the city and your company. Her love of the park and the city is was very evident and infectious. It was very enjoyable from start to finish. I would highly recommend this tour.

October 13, 2019

Jennifer was very knowledgeable and fun as she walked us around Balboa Park. Despite iffy weather, we enjoyed learning about the beautiful architecture and history of the park. Next time we travel to San Diego, we will spend more time at Balboa Park and all it's offerings.

April 9, 2019

Product ID: 82182