By Stacey Kuhns
Most San Diegans have visited Balboa Park. There is always some event happening in the 1,200 acre park; either on the main galley walk or around the museums and grassy areas across from the VA hospital.
On Tuesdays, you will find great deals for free museum entry for residents at many of the museums (check the websites for information).
The Reuben H. Fleet museum offers residents free admission and reduced IMAX tickets on the first Tuesday of the month. The tickets are $9.95 instead of $19.95.
Most of the museums also offer student or military discounts anytime. There are so many places within Balboa Park that many people never see. One of my favorites, because it reminds me of an old enchanted forest, is the old stone stairs and walking area just past the Reuben H. Fleet museum. The tree roots alone are amazing and the area makes for some great photo opportunities.
On 09/27/15, a friend and I went to Balboa Park. We started off the day with one of the IMAX movies. They are pricey for a one hour movie but it is a cool experience to see a movie in a 3D surround theater. We saw Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Hidden Ocean movie.
It was a good movie but with the large surround screen, it does lose some focus and the images and color are not as crisp as they should be. The movies change on a regular basis and there are usually three different movies to choose from at any one time.
The very small children in the theater seemed frightened by the large screen around them and I noticed a few parents leaving with small children soon after the movie started.
Also, if you are planning to visit the Rueben H. Fleet museum, the bottom floor is under construction so there are no exhibits open. Upstairs is open with interactive exhibits for the kids. This is a great hands-on museum for children of all ages (including adults who still feel like kids!)
If you love interesting plants, visit the Botanical Building (right behind the lily/koi pond). It is well worth a visit and sometimes they feature different plants during certain times of the year, such as orchids (which are amazing). The lily/koi pond is beautiful and if you stand near the Botanical building and look back over the pond, you get one of the many beautiful views in the park.
There is also a sculpture garden that people do not seem to know about. Large sculptures dot the lawn and there is an outdoor eating area in front of the garden. If you go out of the back door of the sculpture garden, the path takes you to the Old Globe Theater and the California Tower (recognized by most San Diego residents). The tower was initially built for the 1915 California-Panama Exposition. It soars 200 feet above the equally beautiful California building and has bells that chime every quarter hour.
My favorite museum in Balboa Park is the Mengei International Museum. (They used to also have a Mengei International Museum on Grand Avenue in Escondido, but is has been turned into a church property.) You will notice the entrance to the Mengei when you see several of Niki de Saint Phalle's sculptures outside. Her sculptures are also found in many areas of Escondido.
The Mengei may not be a museum to entertain young children, like the Reuben H. Fleet or the San Diego Air and Space Museum, but if you love seeing art from the USA as well as from around the world, this museum is a true find.
Every time I am at Balboa Park, I visit the Mengei. When you walk into the museum, there is a fantastic gift shop on the right. To the left is usually where they have their featured exhibit (limited time). Last time I was there, it was an exhibit of black dolls which was fascinating. This past weekend, it was an exhibit of carved walking canes from a myriad of different areas and eras.
Heading upstairs, you cannot miss the giant Dale Chihuly glass sculpture. Also upstairs is the extremely unique Procession, made by artist Alice Hudson. This took her 25 years to complete and was her final major work. You can spend quite a bit a time studying the creatures in her exhibit and marveling at her imagination.
There are many artists and different works on display upstairs, including a fascinating doll exhibit. This museum is not to be missed.
Balboa Park also offers a variety of entertainment on the main Prado walk. We watched a man play his digeridoo, which was beautifully carved.
Balboa Park offers a variety of entertainment for all ages. It can also be a beautiful place to visit that does not have to cost any money. There are plenty of things to see.
Bring a picnic and enjoy the miles of hidden treasures in the park. Sometimes, all it takes is looking up or down to find beauty around you. For instance, the leaves that have fallen from the trees in the park.