Earlier this month, I was contracted by the good folks at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance to photograph their Leadership Trip to San Diego. The trip featured three full days of panel discussions and meetings with business and community leaders from the fields of transportation, housing, arts, healthcare, education and more. Not to mention a dinner program featuring San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. It was a pretty big deal.
I chose to arrive a day early which gave me a free day to explore a city I’ve never been to. Now, whenever I travel, I always check to see if there’s a public park in the vicinity. Why? Because I’ve learned that if you want to understand the cultural heart of a community, you’ll find it beating at the local park. And Balboa Park in San Diego ain’t just any park, it’s 1,200 acres of park featuring 17 museums, several gardens and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
Located just blocks from downtown San Diego hotels, Balboa Park is a cultural oasis that includes 17 museums, gardens galore and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. At 1,200 acres, Balboa Park is one of North America’s most iconic urban parks.
The park began as 1400 acres of land set aside in 1868 by San Diego civic leaders. Known then as “City Park”, the scrub-filled mesa that overlooked present-day Downtown San Diego sat without formal landscaping or development for more than 20 years. (Today the Park’s total land parcel has been reduced to 1,200 acres.)
The first steps in Park beautification were made in 1892, largely due to the contributions of American botonist (and “Mother of Balboa Park”) Kate Sessions who offered to plant 100 trees a year within the Park in exchange for 32 acres of land within the Park boundaries to be used for her commercial nursery.
From 1903 through 1910, water systems were installed, planting continued, roads were built, and the Park began to take on much of the familiar look of today. And with San Diego set to play host to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, “City Park” was a less-than-distinctive name for such an internationally prestigious event.
After months of discussion and great public interest, the Park Commissioners decided on the name Balboa Park, chosen in honor of Spanish-born Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the first European to spot the Pacific Ocean while on exploration in Panama.
During both World Wars the park was taken over for use by the military, and after the wars, the buildings reverted to use by cultural and recreation organizations, many of the facilities becoming the museums and institutions we see today.
Extensive rehabilitation of Park buildings and facilities has been underway since 1946, and in 1960 a master plan for Balboa Park was submitted and allowing for $2 million to be spent on Park improvement and renovations. In 1989, a new master plan was adopted for a 20-year period to restore and continue the improvements.
Balboa Park has always been special to the people of San Diego and you just need to spend an afternoon there to see why. It is truly the cultural heart of the city and it’s located just blocks from downtown San Diego hotels.
Here are a few photographs from a lovely Sunday afternoon spent walking the park with my Sony a7RV and the very street photographer friendly Sony FE 24–105 mm F4 G lens. Enjoy the photographs…
The San Diego Museum of Art opened as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego on February 28, 1926, and changed its name to the San Diego Museum of Art in 1978. The museum houses a broad collection with particular strength in Spanish art.
The Mingei International Museum celebrates human creativity and furthering the understanding of folk art, craft and design from all eras and cultures of the world…
Located on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Kumeyaay people, the Museum of Us presents exhibitions and programs that address a vast range of histories and cultures, fostering conversation, self-reflection, and interpersonal connections…
From birds and bees to dinosaurs and fossils, the San Diego Natural History Museum is the second oldest scientific institution west of the Mississippi and the oldest in Southern California. It just ain’t the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, that’s all.
Balboa Park was well worth the visit and was one of the highlights of my trip. Should you ever find yourself in San Diego, don’t skip the park. Nuff said.