Spring in the park

Posted: April 1st, 2016 | Columnists, Featured, Growing Balboa Park | No Comments

By Ann Wilson | Growing Balboa Park

It’s spring! I do believe this is my favorite time of the year in Balboa Park. The gardens are at their colorful best, daylight lasts longer and the throngs of summer visitors have not yet arrived.

I urge you to take advantage of the season and take a stroll through our beautiful park. If you’re not sure where to go, take a tour. Park rangers lead tours of the park’s historical and botanical treasures every Tuesday and Saturday at 11 a.m., departing from the visitor’s center in the House of Hospitality on the Prado. Volunteers in the visitor’s center will also be happy to assist you and recommend things to do and places to see.

There is so much going on in the park every day.


(l to r) Lucy Warren (horticulture committee chair) and Leslie Yu (community programs coordinator) at last year’s volunteer event (Photo by Ann Wilson)

As I write this on March 25, I see that there are over 40 different events going on in the park today: 20 different exhibitions, 20 films, one theater performance, one tour, and two events just for kids. And that doesn’t count the people-watching.

Balboa Park is one of my favorite places to just sit and watch the world go by. I see a wide diversity of people and hear a number of languages being spoken.

I especially enjoy seeing couples in their wedding clothes being photographed. The Organ Pavilion and Alcazar Garden are prime spots for wedding photography. Check out for daily schedules of events in the park.

There are several upcoming events that will showcase the park and what it has to offer.

On Saturday, April 9, the City of San Diego Park & Recreation Department is hosting the annual Volunteer Recognition and Opportunity Fair. This event will take place in the Organ Pavilion from 9 – 11 a.m. The event will feature entertainment, including performances by the Civic Dance Association, park ranger tours and the presentation of volunteer awards by Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Various park groups (including the Friends of Balboa Park) will have booths where you can learn how to volunteer in the park and sign up.

April 29 is the Friends of Balboa Park’s Annual Arbor Day Celebration, taking place from 10 a.m. – noon just behind the Pepper Grove Playground west of Park Boulevard. We will be planting 14 new trees in this area; eight wollemia nobilis, a rare, endangered pine tree; and six ginkgo biloba trees. If you would like to donate one of the trees in honor or memory of a loved one, or “just because,” you may do so. To make arrangements, please contact Leslie at our office number below or via email at

Second graders from Albert Einstein Academy will ably assist our tree-planting team, following a short program where light refreshments will be served.

The 2016 Garden Party will take place May 28, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

This is an official city of San Diego event, in partnership with the Friends, the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership and the Balboa Park Conservancy. Last year’s event was so successful, so well attended, and so much fun, it was decided to repeat it again. This year’s theme is “A Thirst for Landscape.”

In addition to a fun time, attendees will learn how the park is improving its water usage, as well as other energy-conserving programs, while maintaining and enhancing the beauty of the landscapes.

WP_20150422_009The highlight of the event is the children’s wagon parade. Children, as well as adults and organized groups throughout the county, are invited to participate. Decorate a little red wagon, or similar vehicle, and come march in our parade!

Costumes are optional but encouraged. If you would like more information, a parade participant application, or would like to volunteer to help with the event, please contact Leslie in the Friends office.

The parade will begin at 9 a.m. in front of the Spanish Village Art Center, proceed to the Prado, turn west on the Prado and finish up in the Plaza de Panama. Activities for the remainder of the event will center on Plaza de Panama, and include talks and demonstrations by gardening experts, tours of park gardens, entertainment and food trucks.

The Friends will also sponsor the annual Butterfly Release in the Zoro Gardens. This is a wonderful event for children. At designated times, each child present will be given a small container with a live butterfly. On the count of 10, the butterflies will be released into the garden, which is specifically designed and planted to be a butterfly habitat. There will also be storytelling, face painting and crafts.

Even if you are unable to attend one of these events, do take time to come enjoy the park this spring. Enjoy a cup of tea at the Japanese Friendship Garden, smell the roses in the Inez Grant Parker Rose Garden, admire the Easter lily display in the Botanical Building and enjoy a free Organ Pavilion concert on Sunday afternoon.

See you in the park!

—Ann Wilson is a native San Diegan and has been a board member of the Friends of Balboa Park since 2009. She can be reached through their office at 619-222-2282 or

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