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Cosmos’ Guide to Balboa Park for n00bs

Alex writes: Dear Cosmos, my dog Joker chewed up my Xbox controller, so I won’t be able to play any of the new video games I got for Christmas. Since it will take a week for the replacement I ordered online to arrive, this might be a good time to check out Balboa Park, but I’m a total n00b and don’t know where to start.

House of Hospitality, Balboa Park, Visitors CenterCosmos responds: Sounds like Joker was just trying to get you out of your parent’s basement for a few days. lulz

When you arrive in Balboa Park, the first thing you’ll notice after your eyes adjust to the natural sunlight is a lot of Colonial Spanish-looking buildings surrounded by lush green landscaping. Don’t be alarmed! You have not been dropped into a Central American town overrun by cartel mercenaries.

After a little exploring to find your bearings, your first checkpoint will be the Balboa Park Visitors Center (pictured). There a knowledgeable volunteer will give you a brief tutorial on the many museums, gardens, performing arts venues, hiking trails, and other points of interest.

Since some attractions require an entrance fee, I suggest acquiring a Passport to Balboa Park at the Visitors Center for $49 (that’s real U.S. dollars, not in-game credits). This will unlock 14 different museums that you’ll have seven days to visit using the Passport.

Think of Balboa Park as an open world game that you can explore freely however you wish. As you travel on foot from attraction to attraction, note there are many rewarding side quests along the way—including the Botanical Building, Zoro Garden, Alcazar Garden, and Palm Canyon—full of hidden treasures to discover. Be aware that some quests are date and time specific, such as the free concerts in Spreckels Organ Pavilion on Sundays at 2pm.

Though I realize seven days amounts to a rental period for most gamers, you should know that Balboa Park offers a ton of extra content, as new festivals, events, performances, and exhibitions are constantly being added on a rotating basis. So be sure to keep an eye on balboapark.org/calendar for announcements regarding new content.

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