Balboa Park is one of San Diego’s top attractions—there’s so much to see within its 1,200 acres of theaters, gardens, zoological gardens and assorted other attractions that there’s no way you could see it all in one day. In fact, it could take you a week to visit just the museums. So why not do exactly that?
The Passport to Balboa Park is the best way to do this. You throw down $53 (or $29 for the kids) and get a one-day pass to each of 14 different museums. Well, actually 13 museums and the Japanese Friendship Garden, but it’s something of a museum too—in addition to the acres of flowers and the tea pavilion, there’s almost always an art exhibition as well. The tickets are good for seven consecutive days, which means you can go at the leisurely pace of two museums a day and still see everything.
The San Diego Zoo is also part of Balboa Park, so while you’re at it you might as well spend a day there during your week-long museum extravaganza. And of course the marketing whizzes at the park thought of that, too. There’s a Passport/Zoo combo available for $89 or $52, depending on your age, which ups your collection of day passes to a nice 15.
If your time in San Diego is limited and you don’t have the leisure to see it all, there’s also the $43 Stay-for-the-Day Pass (children $25). With this one, you pick five museums out of the fourteen and get tickets all valid only for the same day. Its inevitably a bit of a whirlwind tour if you’re getting your money’s worth, but it can be a great way to see as much of the park as possible before the sun goes down. If you’re looking to save money, it’s worthwhile to compare the full admission prices of the five museums you’re considering, since the amount you save, or whether you’re saving at all, can vary considerably.
All three options are available for pre-order online, but you can purchase any of the passes at the Balboa Park Visitors Center or in participating museums. The voucher you get online must be printed out and exchanged for the actual tickets when you arrive, so the only real benefit is that you won’t have to deal with money at the park itself.