CISL San Diego students may spend a lot of their free time at the city’s stunning beaches, but they spend just as much time in San Diego’s most beautiful and famous park: Balboa Park. The 1,200 acre park is a collection of museums, history, and outdoor recreation.

Balboa Park is full of so many activities that students are sometimes overwhelmed with options. To help students navigate the park, we have provided a list of some of the Park’s highlights:


The Museums

El Prado is a long, wide promenade located in the middle of Balboa Park and is the center of the Park’s many museums. Along El Prado students can visit the following museums:

The Museum of Man. Photo by Richard Benton

San Diego Museum of Man

San Diego Museum of Art






 Discounted admissions to Balboa Park’s major museums are available through the Balboa Park Pass. The Passport is valid for one week, costs $39, and allows entrance to Park’s 13 museums, which is nearly a $100 value.


*The Timken Museum of Art is always free to the public.


The San Diego Zoo

Lions, pandas, bears, reptiles . . . you name it, and the San Diego Zoo has it! CISL hosts many Student Trips to the Zoo, but students can also visit the Zoo on their own and enjoy a peaceful day of wildlife. Visit the San Diego Zoo website for information on park hours and passes.


The Old Globe 

London is far, far away from San Diego, but Balboa Park offers a piece of British culture with its replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The venue has hosted award-winning plays throughout the year. A complete list of Old Globe plays can be found at the theater’s website, Tickets can also be purchased at the site.


The Starlight Bowl

The Old Globe is not the only theater on the Park’s premise: the Starlight Bowl, a theater constructed in 1935, also hosts some of the city’s most prominent productions. It is one of the nation’s oldest continuously producing musical theaters.

The most interesting aspect of the theater is its location: the venue is almost directly underneath the flight path for the San Diego Airport, creating quite a lot of noise when planes land! To deal with this problem, the theater created a very interesting solution: before each plane passes over the theater, the conductor signals for all the actors to freeze until the plane has passed. This creates some interesting positions for dancers who are in the middle of a performance! For a list of productions, check out the Starlight Theater’s website.


Spreckels Organ Pavilion

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Photo by Dave William.


Constructed in 1915 and consisting of 4,518 pipes, the Spreckels Pavilion has one of the world’s largest pipe organs. In addition to the free public concerts held every Sunday at 2 p.m., many private concerts are held throughout the year. The schedule can be found at .


If you are studying at CISL during Christmastime, make sure to visit the Pavilion during the Festival of Lights: there are beautiful displays and performances!



The Gardens

Are you a nature lover? Balboa Park has 16 gardens for you to walk through! The following is a list of the Park’s many nature escapes:

Botanical Building

Balboa Park’s Botanical Garden is one of the Park’s most popular sites.

Japanese Friendship Garden

Old Cactus Garden

Alcazar Garden

Australian Garden

California Native Plant Garden

Casa del Yet Moro Garden

George Washington Carver Children’s Ethnobotany Garden

Desert Garden

Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve

Balboa Park Rose Garden. Photo by Allyson Krasny.

Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden

Marston House Garden

Palm Canyon

Trees for Health Garden

Veterans Memorial Garden

Zoro Garden


We hope each of our students has an opportunity to visit Balboa Park and enjoy some of its many exhibits, museums, events, and gardens! For more information on the Park, visit its website.