Parks & Gardens

San Diego is acknowledged by many as one of the most beautiful regions in the world.  A perfect climate lends itself to biodiversity ranging from marshes and lagoons to grasslands, deserts, wooded areas, and manmade parks and gardens just waiting for you to explore.

The most well-known of all park and garden destinations is Balboa Park.  Set aside by planners almost 200 years ago, this 1,200-acre oasis of recreation facilities, cultural attractions, and the San Diego Zoo is complemented by an incredible array of open spaces, natural vegetation zones, gardens, greenbelts, walking paths, and more.  The park features 16 unique gardens, including the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, and the Botanical Building with an adjoining koi and lily pond.  The zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido also have noteworthy botanical collections with a combined one million-plus plants.  You can spend days wandering the grounds, taking in the sites and visiting museums and still be left wanting more.

Mission Bay Park is just as spectacular. Consisting of more than 4,200 acres, the park is a favorite for leisurely strolls and active health and recreation enthusiasts. On any given day, you’ll see hundreds of joggers and bike riders, picnicking families, kayakers, stand-up paddlers, and more. Many people stay into the evening and enjoy after-dark activities centered around fire rings.

The Port of San Diego manages a network of 20 parks with stunning open spaces and breathtaking views of San Diego Bay.  From dawn to dusk, you’ll see walkers, jugglers, bikers, skaters, and others who weave throughout miles of pathways at the water’s edge.  Anglers can drop a line from five piers at various locations as well.

San Diego Waterfront Park is also a popular destination in the Embarcadero.  This 12-acre destination has large grassy areas, gardens, a playground, and an interactive fountain set against an unforgettable waterfront view.

Another garden worth your time is the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, featuring four miles of garden trails and the nation's most extensive collection of bamboo species.  Just a short drive away, few things are more spectacular than visiting Anza Borrego Desert in the spring when much of the largest state park in California is awash in orange flowering blooms. 

Your list should also include stops at Mission Trails Regional Park, with 6,000+ acres of open space and home to the highest peak (1,592 feet above sea level) in San Diego and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park, still considered one of the most pristine and wildest stretches of land on the Southern California coast. 

And finally, take some time to visit Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, widely considered the birthplace of San Diego and California.  It includes several original adobes, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a carriage collection, and a museum filled with artifacts.