Adopt a Pumpkin

Fall Display Botanical GardenAdopt A Pumpkin in the Balboa Park Botanical Building

This year, Friends of Balboa Park is pleased to announce a new fundraising initiative in partnership with the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department. For the first time, the public can now adopt a pumpkin in the Annual Fall Floral Display, inside Balboa Park’s Botanical building.

You can now dedicate a pumpkin for a loved one with a tax-deductible donation of $20. Donors and honorees will be recognized in the Botanical Building for the duration of the display, approximately one month long for the month of November.

Adopt a pumpkin today and support the annual Fall Floral Display in Balboa Park’s Botanical Building.

Annual Pumpkin Display





We would like to acknowledge your donation.

Celebrate National Carousel Day in Balboa Park

In July 2017, Friends of Balboa Park became the new owner of the historic Balboa Park carousel, a landmark feature that has contributed to the park’s world-renowned heritage.  Friends is now working to ensure this extraordinary 1910 Herschell-Spillman carousel remains the beloved icon it’s been known for since becoming a permanent fixture in Balboa Park in 1922.  Friends’ mission – to “preserve Balboa Park’s legacy for future generations through park-wide projects” – makes the operation and preservation of the carousel one of our highest and most noble initiatives.  The acquisition was made possible thanks to a small but generous group of San Diego philanthropists who contributed towards the necessary down payment.  With the continued help of the public, Friends of Balboa Park will not only be able to carry on the traditions of the carousel but revenue from ticket sales will be reinvested into what Friends’ has become known for: Making meaningful capital improvements throughout Balboa Park.

Now we need your help!  Support our $3M capital campaign to will enable Friends of Balboa Park to complete the purchase, launch a comprehensive restoration effort, and establish a healthy maintenance fund for the carousel.  Make your tax-deductible donation today!

National Carousel Day - July 25th

Councilmember Chris Ward, County Supervisor Ron Roberts and other dignitaries will help celebrate the capital campaign launch:

Time: News Conference: 9:30 a.m.
Public Event: 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Free Carousel Rides: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Where: Balboa Park Carousel (Park Blvd. and Zoo Way off the Zoo entrance parking lot)

The public event will entail children’s music and carnival activities, face painting, and more until 2:30 p.m., while free rides will be available until 5 p.m. 

Hours & Location

June –September: 11:00 am – 5:30 pm
October – May: Saturdays and Sundays only, 11:00 am – 5:00pm

$3 per ride (seven minutes long!) / 4 for $10
For special large group rates, call 619-232-2282

Email: info[at]
Phone: 619) 232-2282

1889 Zoo Place, San Diego, CA 92101 (corner of Zoo Place and Park Boulevard)

“I grew up in (San Diego) riding this carousel and I recently had the opportunity to take my own son for the first time.  It was as much a joy for him as it was for me 30+ years ago. And a brass ring winner gave his free ticket to my son!  A priceless experience both as a child and now a parent.”

– Valerie J., Franklin, Wisconsin

Annual Awards Luncheon

2016 Awards Luncheon Inspiration

Annual Luncheon Celebrates Balboa Park Milestone Accomplishments By Volunteers, Institutions 

The Friends of Balboa Park Annual Awards Luncheon celebrates Balboa Park milestone accomplishments by volunteers and institutions. Save the date for Tuesday, October 17, 2017
from 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM at the Balboa Park Club. 

“The Annual Awards Luncheon is a flagship event of the Friends organization, and I am thrilled we can again recognize such distinguished talent and unequaled dedication amongst the Park’s volunteers and employees this year,” said Friends of Balboa Park Executive Director John Bolthouse.

Download sponsorship letter here



There are 3 categories of awards.

 The Millennium Awards

The Millennium Award is presented each year to individuals and/or organizations that have made important, long-term contributions to Balboa Park.

  • Friends of Balboa Park has selected to honor the families that have preserved the carousel for over the past 100 years.
  • Arlene Simpson, Virginia Long, and William Steen


The Inspiration Awards

In recognition of significant and long-term contributions of service to Balboa Park and/or to one or more of the organizations in the Park. These unsung heroes contribute thousands of hours of service to the Park.

The nomination period for this award is now closed. Check back soon to see who has been selected.


The Betty Peabody Emerging Young Leader of Balboa Park Award

Beginning in 2016, this award recognizes exceptional promise and potential of emerging professionals who have demonstrated leadership by example in Balboa Park.

The nomination period for this award is now closed. Check back soon to see who has been selected.


Thank You to our Donors and Table Sponsors!

Photos from the 2016 Annual Awards Luncheon


Exhibits and Performances

Museum of ManSeptember 2017.  Thank you to the Balboa Park Visitors Center for compiling this monthly list. Download and Print the list

Centro Cultural de la Raza

  • Permanent Exhibits — ongoing

Fleet Science Center

  • IMAX films: “Dream Big: Engineering Our World,”  “National Parks Adventure,” “A Beautiful Planet(ongoing ) and “Island of the Lemurs:  Madagascar”
  • Dream! Design! Build!  – thru 1/1/18
  • Game Masters: The Exhibition – thru 1/15/18
  • Retro-Active Science – ongoing

Japanese Friendship Garden

  • Yokai: Demons and Monsters in Japanese Folklore (3/1 thru 10/31)
  • Shuichi Hashimoto: Landscape in the Memory (thru 10/29)

Marston House Museum & Gardens

  • Permanent Exhibits

 Mingei International Museum

  • Arline Fisch –  thru 1/7/2018
  • Indonesian Shadow Puppets – thru 3/18/18
  • Kanban –  thru 10/8
  • Trappings – thru 11/12
  • Art of the Americas: Pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican Art from Mingei’s permanent collection (9/16 thru 2/18)

 Museum of Photographic Arts

  • Seeing is Believing? – thru 10/29
  • Sebastião Salgado: Genesis – thru 9/30
  • Point/Counterpoint: Contemporary Mexican Photography 2000 – 2015 (9/30 thru 2/11/18)

San Diego Air & Space Museum

  • 3D/4D films: “Legend of Apollo,”  “Aerobic Challenge,” and “Night at the Toy Store”
  • Be the Astronaut – ongoing

 San Diego Art Institute

  • Millenial Pink – thru 9/3

 San Diego Automotive Museum

  • Japanese Steel – thru 9/17
  • No Roads Required – opening TBA

San Diego Hall of Champions

  • Closed permanently

 San Diego History Center

  • Part of the Patchwork: Reflections of African-American Life from the Archives thru 1/25/2018
  • Art & Heritage,3 San Diego Jewish Artists: Baranceanu,Braun, & Sternberg (thru 9/24)
  • Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community – thru 5/20/2018
  • Marston’s History Emporium: A Hands on Learning Lab – opens 8/15
  • Outside the Barbed Wire: Other Options to Internment (JAHSSD) – thru Dec. 2017

 San Diego Model Railroad Museum

  • Autos By Rail: Moving America’s Auto Industry – thru 11/19

 San Diego Museum of Man

  • Living With Animals – ongoing
  • Cannibals: Myth & Reality— thru 2018
  • Monsters! –  ongoing
  • BEERology – ongoing
  • Graffiti Art Murals – ongoing
  • California Tower Tours — ongoing
  • Race: Are We So Different? — ongoing

theNATSan Diego Natural History Museum·        

  • Giant-screen films: (Note: No Films 9/5 – 10/13):  “Ocean Oasis” (ongoing),   “Galapagos 3D” (thru 1/2/18), and “Sea Monsters 3D” (thru 9/4)
  • Ultimate Dinosaurs –   thru 9/4··        
  • The Cerutti Mastodon Discovery – thru 9/4        
  • Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science – ongoing·  
  • Baja’s Wild Sidethru 1/14/18       

The San Diego Museum of Art

  • Brenda Biondo: Play – thru 1/1/18
  • Views of Balboa Park – thru 2/18/18
  • Reflections on Monet – thru 1/21/18
  • Art of the Open Air – thru 2/13/18
  • Richard Deacon: What You See Is What You Get – thru 9/4
  • The Art of Papua New Guinea – thru 2/4/18

Timken Museum of Art

  • Monet’s Étreat: Destination & Motif – 9/7 thru 12/31

Veterans Museum & Memorial Center

  • Jamul Indian Village Veteran Exhibit – ongoing

 WorldBeat Center

  • Permanent Exhibits


 Old Globe Theatres

  • “Kevin Ludwig’s Robin Hood!” (thru 9/3)
  • “Benny and Joon” (9/7 thru 11/22)
  • “Hamlet” (thru 9/10)
  • The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (9/30 thru 10/29)

 Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

  • “Lions, Tigers and Frogs, Oh My!” (8/30 thru 9/4)
  • “Flying With Fairies: New Show!” (9/6 thru 9/10)
  • “Michael, A Bigfoot Love Quest” (9/13 thru 9/17)
  • “The Town Musicos of Bremenjillo” (9/20 thru 9/24)
  • “The Three Little Pigs” (9/27 thru 10/1)

 San Diego Civic Youth Ballet

San Diego Junior Theatre 

San Diego Youth Symphony & Conservatory

Twilight Concerts in the Park


Summer Concerts

The Twilight in the Park Concert Series in Balboa Park have been a 30 + year tradition that began with a dedicated volunteer group who wanted to offer musical performances and entertainment to the longer summer days. These concerts had traditionally been held at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park and we thank them for this extended partnership. Our role, as Friends of Balboa Park, in this concert series began in 2016 to assist with the administrative duties of hosting a concert series. We are very excited for this partnership and look forward to many more years of adding culture into this Park.

Concerts will be held at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 6:30 -7:30 pm, with some special events on select days at 5:30 pm during through August.

Click here for more information and the schedule.

Ice Cream Social – Thurs., August 24, 5:30 p.m. Free Ice Cream Social, while Ice Cream last. Sponsored by Friends of Balboa Park.

Additional Activities

Dance lessons throughout the concert season given by Swing Dancing San Diego. Lessons start at 5:45 p.m. July 5, 12; August 8, 24, and 30.

Family Day – July 20, 5:30 p.m. Arts and Crafts



Balboa Park Garden Party

Since the Balboa Park Centennial in 2015, we are proud to have been part of the team to begin a new annual tradition in Balboa Park. Friends of Balboa Park had been busy with the Balboa Park Garden Party 2016 that took place Saturday, May 28, 2016. The day was filled with activities for all to enjoy.

We began the day with a Kids’ Floral Wagon Parade down El Prado, where kids, families, and friends decorated a small wagons to display their creativity with flora and fauna. The horticulture clubs had a great time with park visitors and had hands-on activities for kids of all ages. The day featured special ‘Garden Talks’ with Master Gardeners and local landscapers about popular topics and offered resources and solutions. Plus, who could forget about the food trucks to satisfy that lunchtime hunger.

This park-wide event celebrates the history and horticulture highlighting the plants and programs that make Balboa Park, San Diego’s gem and one of the world’s most interesting civic gardens. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the upcoming years’ event, please contact Leslie at



Garden PartyFloral Wagon Parade - Wagons will be decked with flowers by Garden Clubs, families, and Recreation organizations in the parade from Spanish Village to the Plaza de Panama along El Prado in Balboa Park. Each individual or group receives 2 FREE San Diego County Fair tickets.  Garden Party Costumes

Booths at the Garden Party - If your organization would like to have a booth at the Garden Party.

Garden Clubs Galore! Over 60 garden clubs and organizations will participate with information booths, floral shows, plant sales, demonstrations, and fun!

Garden Party Vendors - Contact us if you're interested in becoming a vendor.

Pacific Photographic Society
 will have a fun booth with borrowed period costumes from San Diego Junior Theater.




The Balboa Park Garden Party 2016 will be co-partnered with the City of San Diego’s Park & Recreation Department, Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, Balboa Park Conservancy, MTA and Friends of Balboa Park. 


SD Development Services Logo

Arbor Day in Balboa Park

Friends of Balboa Park has brought back the tradition of celebrating Arbor Day in Balboa Park. On Friday, April 28, 2017 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., we will be planting and dedicating a new grove of trees in Balboa Park. Location to be determined shortly.


Dedications are available for a one-time $500 donation to Friends of Balboa Park. Donors and honorees receive a certificate, tree specimen summary, map noting the tree location, and a temporary tag for the day of the celebration. 2017 Dedications are SOLD OUT.

For Arbor Day 2017 we will be planting beautiful Rainbow Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Deglupta and Eucalyptus Corymbia ficifolia-Red Flowering Gum.



Greening the Park

San Diego's first Arbor Day celebration was on Saint Patrick's day in 1904. Kate Sessions helped to organize that first planting, a community event attended by 3500 school children who came to what was then named "City Park" to plant 60 pine and cypress trees. Mary B. Coulston, then secretary of the Chamber's Park Improvement Committee, solicited messages from Governor Pardee and President Theodore Roosevelt to be read to the children, thereby insuring avid press interest. To read more about Balboa Park's original Arbor Day, click here to read the full article from "The Trees of Balboa Park: 1910," from the Journal of San Diego History, by Nancy Carol Carter.

Pictured at right is Jean Palmer, great grand daughter of Arbor Day Founder, J. Sterling Morton.  Jean was our special guest in 2014 and she is pictured planting a native California Oak tree in Zoro Garden with school children from Roosevelt Middle School.  Zoro Garden was host to our 2014 Arbor Day, where we planted 12 drought tolerant native species.   Click on our Arbor Day program archives below for more information on this and prior Arbor Day celebrations in Balboa Park:



Since 2008, Friends of Balboa Park brought back the annual celebration by planting Trees in areas designated by Park & Recreation Department that are a part of the Balboa Park Tree Management and Reforestation Plan that includes maintenance, conservation, and replanting guidelines.  Tree groves planted and funded by Friends of Balboa Park since 2008 are located in all areas of the Park:

  • (2008) along Park Blvd near the War Memorial Building Lawn
  •  (2009) on the west side just east of the Lawn Bowling green between  Balboa Park Drive and 6th Ave.
  •  (2010) along Golf Course Drive across the street from the Golden Hill Recreation Center
  •  (2011) at Morley Field near Texas and Upas Street and along the upper east rim of Palm Canyon along Pan American Road West behind the International Cottages.
  •  (2012) at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion around the outer perimeter
  •  (2013) at Quince and 6th Streets on the west side
  •  (2014) at Zoro Garden Gulch
  • (2015) at War Memorial Building Lawn
  • (2016) at Pepper Grove Playground 

Help us Purchase Trees for Arbor Day!

Your tax deductible contribution can help us plant trees for future generations. Contact the office to find out how you can become a Balboa Park Tree donor.

Arbor Day 2015

Picture 1 of 8

Arbor Day 2014

Picture 1 of 65

Arbor Day 2013

Picture 1 of 117

Arbor Day 2012

Picture 1 of 102

Arbor Day 2011

Picture 1 of 25

Arbor Day 2010

Picture 1 of 48

Annual Poinsettia Display

poinsettia displayHelp us fund the Annual Poinsettia Display in the Balboa Park Botanical Building. The annual display opens the first weekend in December and runs through the first week in January. The Botanical Building is closed to the public on Thursdays. We are now accepting donations for the 2016 display. 

The Poinsettia Celebration will be held on Thursday, December 8, 2016 from 3 to 5 p.m. inside the Botanical Building. We invite all donors, honorees, and members to celebrate the end of a wonderful year with us. This event is free, but RSVP is requested by December 2nd: or call 619-232-2282.   Download your invitation!  

Your donation of $25 or more will help fill the Botanical Building with the beautiful flowers and the Friends will acknowledge your gift by:

Placing your name and your honoree’s name on the Poinsettia Honor Roll featured inside the Botanical Building during the display. Click here to view the 2015 Poinsettia Donor Honor Roll. *(Donations received after Dec 1 are not listed)
Sending a lovely e-mail Poinsettia card will be sent to that special someone special acknowledging your gift in their honor.

Please use the special instruction field in the checkout process to send us the e-mail and/or address of the person being acknowledged with your Poinsettia donation

poinsettiasJoin us in become a part of this special holiday tradition! We must receive your donation by December 1, 2016 to be listed on the 2016 Poinsettia Honor Roll inside the Botanical Building.

You may call our office 619.232.2282 to make a donation using your credit card or check. Email us at if you have any questions.

To make a donation online using PayPal or a credit card use the form below

Donate up to ten plants @ $25 each

Annual Poinsettia Display




We would like to acknowledge your donation.

December Nights Information Booths

December Nights VolunteersDecember Nights Information Booth Educating People About The Park

December Nights has been a tradition within Balboa Park for over the past 30 years. This event is a San Diego tradition to celebrate the holiday season with plenty of free music, dance performances, vendors, and of course food!

Friends of Balboa Park has traditionally hosted an event information booth to guide park visitors to various performances and activities. Volunteers hold an  important role and it wouldn’t be possible without people like you. To get more information about available time-slots, please contact or call (619) 232-2282.

This year, it will take place on:

Friday December 2: 3 to 11 p.m. 
Saturday December 3: 12 to 11 p.m. 

Annual Butterfly Celebration!

butterfly garden


Friends of Balboa Park has hosted the Annual Butterfly Release in Zoro Garden since 2007. Each year, we look forward to releasing hundreds of Painted Lady butterflies with the help of children, families, and friends. This event is made possible by generous donors and sponsors, the 2017 Sponsorship Opportunities are now available.

This year, we will continue to host the butterfly release as part of Fiesta Botanica, on Saturday, May 27, 2017. Butterflies will be released at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, and 2:30 p.m. in Zoro Garden.

Between butterfly releases, children’s activities are provided by the San Diego Floral Association. Performance schedule to be updated closer to the date of the celebration.

This event is made possible by generous donors. To make a contribution in support of the annual butterfly release, click here or contact us at

SD floral association