The Vibe is Alive in Balboa Park | San Diego, California

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Local San Diego resident Shannon Hogan Cohen has shared the news about a wonderful event happening in Balboa Park throughout the summer. As the nation’s largest urban cultural park, Balboa Park is home to 15 art, photography, and history museums as well as a unique array of lush gardens. But this summer, the local buzz is all about Food Truck Friday. From 4:30-8:30 pm every Friday through Labor Day, you can sample gastronomic choices from a caravan of food trucks in the Plaza de Panama. Locals and tourists alike will enjoy this lively event.

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If you’re visiting from out of town and want to be close to the park, stay at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar. It’s located just minutes away from Balboa Park in the exciting Gaslamp Quarter, where you’ll find the city’s best restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife. Sip cocktails and take in the cityscape at the hotel’s rooftop pool and lounge, and relax after a day of sightseeing at their evening wine hour. No visit to San Diego is complete without a trip to the beach. The Everyday California package gives you the chance to get out on the water with a 90-minute guided kayak tour for two at La Jolla Shores.

This week’s guest blog comes from Shannon Hogan Cohen. She recently visited Balboa Park’s Food Truck Friday event with her two sons. Here, she talks about their experience at the event.

get_balboaAll ages were having fun at Food Truck Friday, a program put on by the Balboa Park Conservancy in partnership with the City of San Diego Park and Recreation. The variety of food trucks is aimed to please and tease, offering an assortment of sweet and savory snacks. The event has live entertainment and fun activities including Fringe Festival performers, the Fern Street Circus, a vintage photo booth trailer, stilt walkers, juggling, dance lessons, and even beanbag chairs and a giant chess set. Balboa Park Conservancy’s director of marketing Sue Varga and her team orchestrated this concept to promote the Park after Dark. As part of the event, ten museums extend their hours until 8pm.

When my boys were young, we visited Balboa Park together. I thought inviting my teenagers, now ages 16 and 17, to join me at Food Truck Friday would be a good way to spend time together and reminisce.

As we made our way toward the crowded scene, we noted the enthusiasm in the air. Lively music floated through the park. People indulged in their food finds as they strolled in and out of gardens and museums in the glow of a beautiful summer evening.

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The boys and I treated the art and food around us as serious subjects. We enjoyed a sense of togetherness as we debated which museums to visit and which food trucks to try. A few of our family favorites were the signature bento box with a well-seasoned meatball from YoYo Bento and the BBQ brisket wedge fries from Super Q. These were devoured before I had a chance to sample them. We also loved the milk mustache cupcake, a moist milk-chocolate cake filled with Oreo frosting and topped off with a chocolate stache from Lil’ Miss Short Cakes. Other featured food trucks were Two for the Road, Currywurst Frankfurt, That’s What Cheese Said, Caribbean Escape, Caliano by Spinelli, American Flavors, Haad Sai Thai, Pomrosso Truck, and Beachin’ Boba. These food trucks carve out a niche with their unique, hybrid cuisines. Each is brightly decorated with graphics that mimic personal stories and culinary options.

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As the sun set, we sat on the grass and admired the California Tower atop the Museum of Man and watched the crowd in this prominent San Diego cultural hub. Balboa Park’s Food Truck Friday delivers family fun and a new way to learn, laugh, and eat together. Sue and her team knew what they were doing when they decided to integrate a culinary experience with the arts. The evening was a nourishment of mind, body, and soul. Food and art – what a brilliant way to celebrate diversity and create a bond across generational gaps.

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Spanish Architecture Tour of Balboa Park | San Diego, California

When visitors talk about their lasting impressions of Balboa Park, the topic of Spanish-Renaissance architecture always tops the list of what they remember most.

Balboa Park was the first place in the United States that this architectural style was prominently featured. The El Prado esplanade and Spanish-Renaissance cultural buildings were developed as temporary exhibition halls for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal.

These buildings truly shine at sunrise and sunset any time of year. Take your camera to document your favorite architectural features.

Four Hidden, Water Smart Gardens in Balboa Park | San Diego, California

When most people think of gardens, they think lush tropical foliage, bright colorful flowers and the sounds of a trickling water feature. In California, and especially San Diego, water is becoming a very precious resource and lush gardens are increasingly becoming incompatible with modern day water limitations. Today’s garden tour adventure will feature Balboa Park’s beautiful, water-savvy gardens within a natural environment.

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The Desert Garden
With more than 1,300 plants, The Desert Garden contains succulents and drought-resistant plants from around the world. The garden covers approximately 2.5 acres. The peak blooming period is January through April, but the garden is beautiful anytime of year.  Enter the garden near the pedestrian bridge by the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. The garden is free to the public 365 days a year. Download the tour map with plant reference guide.

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Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve
With over 150 acres of natural habit, Florida Canyon will show you the original landscape of Balboa Park. Choose your favorite hiking trail and venture out to see the natural landscape filled with Coastal Sage Scrub and the native wildlife that call it home. You can even join the park rangers for a tour with the San Diego Natural History Museum. The garden is free to the public 365 days a year.

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Australian Garden
Enjoy a little of Down Under in San Diego. With similar climates, many native Australian plants grow well in San Diego. The Australian Garden contains a range of beautiful Australian natives including Grevellia, Acacia, Callistemon, Banksia, Hakea, Stenocarpus, Leptospermum, Melaleuca, and Eucalyptus. The garden is located in Gold Gulch, just southeast of the Spreckles Organ Pavillion. The garden is free to the public 365 days a year.

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California Native Plant Garden
Adjacent to the Florida Canyon Nature Preserve, this five-acre demonstration garden is located on the west side of the Balboa Park Tennis Club. The quarter-mile long footpath features over 100 drought tolerant California native plants suitable for home and landscape use. During your walk, you can explore some of San Diego’s 2,600 types of native plants. Parking is available immediately adjacent to the California Native Plant Garden. The garden is free to the public 365 days a year.

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Images are courtesy of Gary Waldrop Photography.

An Evening at The Old Globe Theatre | San Diego, California

If you are looking for culture in San Diego, plan to take your special someone to see a world-class production at The Old Globe Theatre. Start out your evening at the park with drinks and nibbles at the signature eatery, The Prado Restaurant in Balboa Park. Every Tuesday, The Lounge has a special Date Night menu as well as a monthly Old Globe Dinner & Show night. Either choice will set the stage for a beautiful, engaging evening in the world famous Balboa Park.

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Tip | Try the Mahi Mahi Tacos if you visit The Lounge for drinks.

Then soak in the culture at The Old Globe Theatre, one of the nation’s top-ranked regional theatres. The Old Globe has been home to the most acclaimed national artists, designers, directors and playwrights in the country. Over 20 productions have gone on to become Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. The Old Globe’s 2005 production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, and the production of The Full Monty garnered 10 Tony Award® nominations in 2000 for its successful Broadway run.

The Old Globe Theatre current production, Buyer & Cellar, is now playing from April 4th – May 3rd at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. Get tickets

Buyer & Cellar is Jonathan Tolins’s Off Broadway hit that will have you rolling in the aisles. What happens when you put a diva and out-of-work actor together with acres of memorabilia at a Malibu estate? You can only find out at The Old Globe Theatre.

“Seriously funny — a remarkably sustained slice of absurdist whimsy” – The New York Times
“This play deserves a hearty ‘Hello, gorgeous!’” – New York Daily News

Visit The Old Globe Theater for more information on show times, purchasing tickets and the upcoming calendar.

Historical Fact | Did you the original Old Globe Theatre was destroyed on March 8, 1978 by an arson fire?

The Rich History of The Old Globe Theatre
Built in 1935 as part of the California Pacific International Exposition, The Old Globe Theatre was originally designed to present abridged versions of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. At the conclusion of the exposition in 1937, The San Diego Community Theatre leased the theatre and adjacent buildings from the City of San Diego. Today, this non-profit organization continues to manage the theatre and has established the Globe as a year-round professional company. The Old Globe theatre is one of San Diego’s largest arts institutions with more than 250,000 people annually attending productions and participating in the theatre’s education programs and outreach services.

Culture in Balboa Park | San Diego, California

April is the perfect time of year to enjoy cultural experiences in Balboa Park in downtown San Diego. Whether you love art, history, food, music or all of the above, Balboa Park is the destination for a full day adventure this Spring.

We recommend you start your day early to see the Park at its finest. Start on the west side of the park and enter like the original park visitors who came for the 1915 Panama-California World Exposition. Your cultural adventure begins with a leisurely stroll across the historic Cabrillo Bridge. Get directions to the bridge.

As you approach the bridge on Laurel Street, you will see Founder’s Plaza and the lawn bowling club. From there, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and harbor as you continue across the bridge and enter on El Prado, the main street of the Balboa Park.

You can soak up the morning sunshine as you enjoy the walk down the Prado. Be sure to snap a few photos of the great Spanish architecture and formal gardens you see along the way. Continue through the Plaza del Panama and past the lily pond as you make you way down to The San Diego History Museum. Download a map of Balboa Park to help you get around for the day.

Visit The Discovery of King Tut exhibition at The San Diego History Museum to learn about the tomb and treasures of Tutankhamun, one of the most famous discoveries in the history of archaeology. The More than 1,000 replicas of the most important finds have been reconstructed to scale by Egyptian master craftsmen. You’ll see a realistic impression of the overwhelming opulence of the offerings meant to serve the king on his magical journey into the Underworld. The exhibition ends April 26th so be sure to book now. Check out the museum’s website for other cultural exhibitions to see while you are here.

Fun Fact | Did you know The San Diego Natural History Museum was founded by a handful of citizen-naturalists in 1874? The museum is the oldest scientific institution in Southern California.

After the exhibition, enjoy a relaxing lunch al fresco on the back patio at The Prado restaurant. You have to try the grilled fish tacos and a margarita with salt – a San Diego tradition. If you want to try something new, try the Prickly Pear margarita – a local favorite.

The afternoon part of your cultural adventure starts with a walk across the Plaza de Panama to The San Diego Museum of Art.  We recommend the Romantic Views exhibition. Explore the romantic adventures of artists Carl Nebel, William Henry Jackson, Charles B. Waite, Abel Briquet, and Hugo Brehme, who traveled to Mexico over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These diverse traveler artists left behind an extraordinary body of work illustrating the romantic nature and geography of Latin America. You won’t want to miss this exhibition!

End your day where you started with a sunset walk over the Cabrillo Bridge. You can people watch, relax, and enjoy the sun as it sets over America’s Finest City.

Fun Fact | If you are a dog lover, be sure to stop by the dog park (near the Cabrillo Bridge entrance) to see San Diego’s furry friends enjoying the Spring weather with their owners.

For those of you looking for a great place to have dinner, Cucina Urbana is an excellent choice and it’s within walking distance. The dressy, casual atmosphere provides the perfect end to a day of culture. Popular favorites include the polenta board, burnt Brussels sprouts and the roasted Atlantic salmon. This is an extremely popular restaurant so reservations are recommended for table service. Cucina Urbana features a community table and martini bar so you can also enjoy happy hour with seating available on a first-come, first-serve basis.