Thanks to the foresight of its early settlers, San Diego is blessed with an oasis of green that functions as its recreational heart. Balboa Park began as an 1,400 acre track set aside as a public park in 1865. The first master plan was prepared in 1903 and the city levied a tax in 1905 to support the master plan.
Many of the buildings in the park date to the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition and are excellent examples of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. At the time the buildings were not intended for permanent use, but they have remained in constant use since the Exposition. In recent years as termites and time have taken their toll buildings are being refurbished or rebuilt as exact replicas. The site was also the host of the 1935-36 California-Pacific International Exposition.
The park's attractions include the world famous San Diego Zoo, The Old Globe Theatre, a replica of the 16th-century Elizabethan Globe Theatre, a number of museums and acres of scenery for walking and hiking. The open air Starlight Bowl offers concerts and musicals, all carefully paused to let the aircraft on approach to Lindbergh to pass overhead.
Other attractions include a Japanese friendship garden, a carousel, an organ pavilion and a miniature railroad.
The San Diego Zoo is known world over for its efforts to preserve endangered species. The two giant panda cubs born recently are just one of their many successes. The exhibits are state of the art and allow visitors to see animals in close to native habitats. There are restaurants and excellent gift shops as well.