Summer in the park

Posted: June 3rd, 2016 | Columnists, Featured, Growing Balboa Park | No Comments

By Ann Wilson | Growing Balboa Park

Summer is here and it’s time to enjoy Balboa Park on these sunny days and long, balmy evenings.

In addition to all the usual exhibits, performances and events in the park each and every day, there are special events that only happen in the summertime.

Concerts in the Park

During most of the year, the Spreckels Organ usually only has one regularly scheduled weekly concert, on Sundays at 2 p.m. During the summer months, however, there are concerts on four other days as well.

The Spreckels Organ Society presents its annual International Summer Organ Festival on Monday evenings at 7:30 p.m., starting June 27 and running through Aug. 29. San Diego Civic Organist Emeritus, Robert Plimpton, will perform with the Marine Band San Diego. This concert will be preceded by the Organ Society’s annual “Bach’s Supper” fundraiser. Reserve your supper by contacting the Spreckels Organ Society at

For a really fun time, come Aug. 22, Movie Night with Tom Trenney. Tom will accompany Buster Keaton’s comedy, “The General” (1926). A full schedule of concerts, including artists and programs, is available at the Spreckels Organ website.

The Twilight in the Park series of summer concerts kicks off Tuesday, June 21, with the Kearny Mesa Community Band. Concerts are held every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., and a wide variety of music groups are featured. You can check out the schedule at Many concertgoers bring a picnic and enjoy al fresco dining before the concert.

At the Aug. 16 big band concert, the Friends of Balboa Park will be dishing up complimentary ice cream sundaes to all in attendance.

The Sunday concerts, with Civic Organist Dr. Carol Williams, will also continue throughout the summer at 2 p.m.

Food Truck Fridays

For something fun and new, check out Food Truck Fridays in the Plaza del Panama. Food trucks will be parked in the Plaza de Panama for your dining pleasure on June 3 and 17, and every Friday in July and August from 4:30 – 8:30 p.m. The first two food truck events were a huge hit. Visit to see which trucks will be serving up delicious food each week. There is limited seating, so bring a blanket and sit on the lawn in front of the Botanical Building. To further entice you into the park in the evening, the Museum of Art will be open until 8 p.m. on Fridays through Labor Day.

The electriquettes are back!

Electriquettes are the small, quaint, wicker carts powered by electric motors that were so popular during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. You can now rent replicas of these carts and take one for a spin around the Park. Rates start at $10 for 15 minutes, up to $25 for the first hour, plus $10 an hour for each hour after that. The rental shop is located near the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center on the Prado and open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Summer camps

Many of the park institutions have a variety of summer camps for young people from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Junior Theatre, Museum of Photographic Art, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Art and the Zoo all have full-day camps. The Air & Space Museum, Fleet Science Center, Japanese Friendship Garden, Museum of Man, Model Railroad Museum, Art Institute, Automotive Museum, Civic Youth Ballet and Spanish Village Art Center all have a variety of half-day programs. Two half-day programs may be combined to create a full day of fun!

As a convenience to parents and students, morning camp staff provides lunchtime supervision for children participating in two half-day camps. Morning camp staff will escort children to the afternoon programs. Children can be dropped off at the morning camp at the beginning of the day and picked up at the afternoon camp at the end of the day.

Bird Park concerts

Did you know that Bird Park, located at the southeast corner of the Upas Street, 28th Street and Pershing Drive intersection is a part of Balboa Park? This is a wonderful park within a park. The Friends have been partnering with Park & Recreation to improve Bird Park for several years. We are gradually replacing existing landscaping with more native and drought-tolerant plants and replacing existing irrigation with more efficient systems.

The North Park Community Association (NPCA) puts on a series of summer concerts here every year. These concerts draw an enthusiastic crowd of adults, children and canines for picnicking, visiting with friends and neighbors, and enjoying the music from local music groups. This year’s concerts are every other Saturday: June 11, June 25, July 9, July 23 and Aug. 6.

The Friends are sponsoring the concert on Aug. 6. Check out the NPCA website,, for more information, including groups that will be performing.

Other news

Have you driven into Balboa Park from the Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street entrance lately? If so, you will likely have noticed scaffolding around the Gate Houses, located near the entrance to Cabrillo Bridge. The Gate Houses are historic structures from the 1915 Panama California Exposition and the Friends have been hard at work refurbishing these small but charming buildings. They were in an advanced state of disrepair before we were approved to do this project. Originally, the Gate Houses were topped with finials and flagpoles. We have found historic photos showing what they looked like and are in the process of replicating them. Look for the Gate Houses to be finished during the summer. If you would like to attend a party to celebrate their completion, please send an email to our office, to join our mailing list.

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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