Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo are 2 of the most popular attractions in San Diego. This page highlights some of the best that Balboa Park has to offer and of course the world famous San Diego Zoo.
The Palisades Buliding
The Palisades building in San Diego’s Balboa Park was built for for the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935-36. The Palisades Building was known as the Hollywood Motion Picture Hall of Fame when the motion picture industry exhibited there and it, like much of Balboa Park, was used as Navy Barracks during World War II.
The 234 seat Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater is in the north end of the building. A large recital hall with a seating capacity of 400 and a large stage area is in the center. The Recital Hall can be rented for dance classes, rehearsals, meetings, conferences, exhibits, flower shows or parties.
San Diego Automotive Museum
Another of the buildings originally built to house the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition now houses the San Diego Automotive Museum, where classic and antique cars, vintage motorcycles, racers, exotics and prototypes illustrate the evolution of the automobile, opened in December of 1988. The “Firestone Singing Fountains” were originally in front of this building.
The Ford Building
The Ford Motor Company provided the largest building and exhibit in the Palisades area of Balbo Park during the Californian Pacific International Exposition of 1935–36. The “Streamlined Moderne” Ford Building is one of the last remaining examples of this architectural style.
Aviation’s history from the Wright Flyer to the space shuttle is depicted at the San Diego Aerospace Museum’s collection of over sixty-five aircraft and spacecraft. The exhibit opened in the Ford Building in 1980, moving from the Balboa Park Electrical Building which suffered from an arson fire two years earlier.
The Ford Bowl, now Starlight Bowl, built next to the Ford Building for Opera performances is now the home of the Starlight Theatre. Ford had sponsored concerts by the San Diego and Los Angeles Symphonies during the second year of the Exposition.
The Federal Building
The Federal Building in the Palisades section of Balboa Park was built in just nine weeks for the 1935–36 Exposition. The San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum, opened in the renovated Federal Building in Balboa Park, is just as exciting, entertaining and enthralling as the athletic accomplishments and hometown heroes it celebrates. The 70,000 square foot multi-sports museum showcases 40 different sports, and has an athelete’s Hall of Fame devoted to San Diego heroes. Kids are invited to touch sports equipment used by the greats and test their own athletic prowess in the interactive exhibits.
Balboa Park Activity Center
A multi-purpose gymnasium built to accommodate badminton, table tennis, volleyball and other events, including regional, state and national tournaments, the Balboa Park Activity Center is the first new large construction in the park since the 1960’s. There was a girls volleyball tournament taking place the day I visited. Around the building there were plazas and grass coverd lawns suitable for picnics and other gatherings.
San Diego Zoo
The last but certainly not the least of Balboa Park’s attractions is the world famous San Diego Zoo. San Diego Zoo history began in 1916 when 50 animals imported for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition were quarantined and not allowed to leave. Today the zoo has the largest collection of mammals, birds, and reptiles in North America, numbering 4,239 specimens representing 816 species and subspecies.