It just doesn’t make sense to join a gym when, like us, you live near Balboa Park, a sprawling, 1,2oo-acre park in the middle of the city, where museums, cultural centers, and rose gardens mingle amongst dog parks, archery courses, lawn bowling, and miles of trails. For a city without a lot of traditional attractions, Balboa Park makes for a pretty impressive sight, whether you’re a tourist or not.
I remember the first time Eaman and I walked around Balboa Park after moving here—I was basically giddy. I couldn’t believe that all this beautifully manicured space was at our disposal whenever we wanted. And since I’m a sucker for Spanish-style architecture and bougainvillea, this place has become a fast favorite.
The Park hosts tons of events throughout the year, including free yoga on Sundays, free outdoor movies in the summer, and multicultural programs at the International Houses, but I love it most at quieter times—during my morning runs, walking with Teddy in the evening*, or picnic-ing in one of the many, many grassy areas.
Take a look:
Spreckels Organ Pavilion, a huge open-air theater with the largest outdoor pipe organ, offers free concerts every Tuesday at 2 p.m. I know, who can actually make a weekday concert at a random time in the afternoon? But if you’re on vacation, you know where to go on Tuesdays…
*As cute as the dogs are at Nate’s Point dog park, this place gives me bad juju. I always see more dog fights here than any other dog park and don’t love that nearly all of it is dirt. Teddy is so light-colored that a romp in this park leaves him dirty and smelly. That said, so many people consider this park their mainstay. Me? I just can’t argue with juju.
I don’t quite understand the point of sister cities, but apparently Yokohama, Japan is one of San Diego’s. This Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park is a tribute to its sis and is in its final phase of renovations. Come 2015, there will be a cherry tree grove, tea and herb garden, and outdoor amphitheater. I’ll wait until then to pay the $6 entrance fee.
Visiting the Spanish Village Art Center feels like you’ve stepped into a cozy European artisan quarter. The walkway is paved in colorful tiles, and the area is filled with craftspeople of different skills—painters, metalsmiths, jewelry makers, etc. It does feel a little touristy, but I can’t deny the charm. Plus, there’s a painter there who always has biscuits for Teddy!
One of the many trails that run through Balboa Park. This one above is just a block from our apartment and kicks off a beautiful 3.2-mile loop that takes me through all the best stuff in Balboa Park. Yep, I feel lucky.