Whether you are just passing through San Diego or a long-time resident like me, Balboa Park’s 1,200-plus acres of cultural and recreational activities can seem a bit daunting. And while the Park’s website offers a wealth of information to help you plan your visit, there are at least five reasons why you should first stop by the Balboa Park Visitors Center.
1. Directions—There’s no need to sniff around in circles when you can pick up colorful maps, brochures, and guide books that describe everything there is to do at the Park’s many museums, performing arts venues, gardens, trails, and activity centers.
2. The Personal Touch—Let the Visitor Centers’ knowledgeable volunteers help you customize a visit based on your particular, if not peculiar, interests. You can then have that personal touch extended by joining one of the many tours led by a Park Ranger or other expert guide that leaves from the Visitors Center.
3. Great Deals!—Whether you are in town for a day or a week, the Stay-for-the-Day Pass and the Balboa Park Passport are the most affordable ways to visit several or all of the Park’s 14 museums, which otherwise charge for admission separately.
4. Souvenirs—While your memories and photos you take of Balboa Park will last a lifetime, don’t neglect the pack members you left behind at home who will appreciate a picturesque postcard, travel mug, T-shirt, or visor emblazoned with logos and graphics of San Diego and the Park.
5. Provisions—Did you forget your water bottle or extra camera batteries? The Balboa Park Visitors Center’s gift store also stocks beverages, snacks, and basic accessories to make your visit even more enjoyable as only a chocolate bar can. There's even a ground-level water dish outside the entrance during regular hours for me and all my four-legged friends.
Since getting lost trying to find the Visitors Center defeats the purpose, I should mention that it is centrally located at the southeast corner of the historic House of Hospitality Building and is open every day from 9:30am to 4:30pm. (It’s the “i” symbol on this linked map.)