Your Ultimate Guide for Taking Kids to Balboa Park: Must-See & Secret Spots, Free, Deals, Fun & Eats

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Your ultimate guide for taking kids to Balboa Park, what to see, what's free, what to do, eat and where to play


Balboa Park is huge and it's no wonder that locals sometimes don't even know where to start. I've been there hundreds of times with and without kids, so I'll break it all down for you and fill you in on everything Balboa Park has to offer.

I'll spill about all the world-class museums (with fun kids play centers!), theaters & puppet shows, playgrounds & sports to where to eat & drink your way around, those ultra secret spots that not even some locals know about and how to get the best deals.

Plan as much or as little as you want, sometimes it's fun just to walk around and see where you end up. But if you time your visit right, you can get in on free admission (or avoid the large crowd days, you're welcome ;).





Dog Parks






Food & Drink

-Coffee Spots


* This guide is a work in progess because there's so much information to share. What I have so far will get you started, but I'll be coming back here to add more, so keep checking back for updates. (last updated 4/24/22)

And let me know if you have anything else to add.



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  • 7 Bridges Walking Tour

  • California Tower Climb

  • Carousel

  • Junior Friends Patch Program

  • Hikes & Walks

  • International Cottage Days

  • Mini Train Ride

7 Bridges Tour

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California Tower Climb

You can actually climb up that tower you hear bells ringing out of at noon. You only go up to the 4th floor level (so not all the way to the top), but you've never seen views of Balboa Park like this before. It's accessed from inside the Museum of Us, where you'll buy your advanced timed tickets and meet your tour guide.

🕰 Get there early! If you're late and miss it, you don't get a refund.

👟 Wear sneakers for all the steps you'll climb and you're only allowed to bring a camera, no bags. You'll get a free locker to stash your stuff.

👧🏻 This is only available to ages 6+, you're not allowed to carry or give piggy back rides to kids. All kids must independently walk up the stairs on their own.

👉 TIP: When you're done, grab dinner & a cold beer at Panama 66 nearby. You can walk around the hidden sculpture garden while you wait for your food.


🎠 This is just behind Spanish Village, north of The Nat with a large parking lot nearby.

🕰 It's only open on weekends, school breaks, holidays and summer time.

💳 They do take cards or cash (I think it's $4/ticket) to ride either the carousel and/or the cute little butterfly merry-go-round ride.

👉 Play The Brass Ring Game: If you don't have to stand next to your kids and they're independent to ride, adults and teens can sit on the outside horses and play the Brass Ring game! They start this after a few circles around. Look for the worker sitting on top of the ladder, rolling out the rings for you to grab. They only roll out one brass ring per ride and if you're lucky you'll get a free ticket to ride again. You can toss all the other rings into the clown's mouth as you spin around. You'll see what I mean when you're there.

🚻 The nearest bathrooms are inside Spanish Village, just past Daniel's Coffee (you'll have to walk around towards the mini train on the Zoo side).