One of the best things about San Diego is the year-round mild weather. I mean, lately people have been bemoaning the “cold” weather and the fact that we had a string of days that didn’t get out of the 50s. Having spent the past three winters in Kansas after spending most of my life in Southern California, I feel like this is how winter really should be. Occasionally rainy, coolish in the 50s and 60s–but warm enough on certain days to continue on with our outdoor activities.
Balboa Park is a beautiful place to visit year-round. The architecture of the Prado and surrounding buildings is are simply gorgeous and the park is like the jewel in the center of San Diego. Like a mini Central Park, if you will. It has been in existence since the late 1800s but the stunning architecture that typifies it today was built in anticipation of the 1915 Panama-California exhibition. This is interesting to me because unlike many museums which are housed in an old church or other structure–these were built specifically for the purpose of being museums.
The park houses a series of museums and the famous San Diego Zoo. For San Diego County residents (who can show ID), the museums are free on Tuesdays, on a rotating basis. I think this is fantastic because it is possible to see a wide variety of things if you plan the trips on the right days. Right after we moved here, we visited the art museum, which is my favorite of the bunch, but last time we visited we checked out the Museum of Man.
Are we tired of hearing about the Mayans yet?
The Museum of Man had an exhibit about the Mayan culture–very appropriate as we visited the week before 12/21/12. In fact, they had a section talking about the “end of the world” Mayan calendar theory and how far-fetched true Mayan scholars believed it to be. Spoiler alert–here we are in 2013.
I found this section fascinating, and I really appreciated learning about a culture I am relatively unfamiliar with. I feel like schools focus a lot on Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China, but other than that many ancient cultures remain a mystery to me. I learned a lot!
Upstairs in the Museum of Man there was a climate-controlled section with real Egyptian mummies in it. There was also a preserved mummy from Peru (if I remember correctly) which is one of the oldest bodies found in this hemisphere.
As far as scope and breadth, I felt that the Museum of Man was very small and limited. Unless a new exhibit opened up that was particularly intriguing, I probably would pass on this for my next visit. I could visit the art museum time and time again, though. They have a broader collection and more interesting exhibits. Just my opinion. Everyone has different fields of interest.
Another feature in Balboa Park is the Japanese Friendship Garden. For this one, we did have to pay to get in and walk through. I loved the variety of plants and it would be really nice to visit this garden in different seasons. I could picture holding a fancy outdoor cocktail hour, or some other kind of event, here–if only I were a millionaire!
There were some fine examples of bonsai trees, and I even got to see someone maintaining one–with tiny garden clippers! See him there in the back? The day we visited was dreary and a bit drizzly. I can only imagine how nice the garden is in the sun. I think they have some cherry blossom trees and I fully intend on making a return visit when the trees are in bloom this spring!
The stops I mentioned are only a fraction of what Balboa Park has to offer! I highly recommend a visit for anyone staying in San Diego for a week, or for locals there is much to see and do–and easily spread out throughout the year! Every trip to Balboa Park will be different.