Visit the Balboa Park Fountains
Balboa Park is a beautiful cultural playground filled with fun and educational museums, wonderful gardens, and dozens of other points of interest to explore. The park is also filled with subtle beauty and things you might take for granted your first time around, such as a variety of wonderful Balboa Park fountains.
Fountains are a stalwart of urban design. They have long been a central feature of cities and can often serve as a popular gathering place for people too.
In earlier times fountains served as the primary water source for the citizens of a city. The water was used for drinking, bathing, or washing. Fountains also served the practical purpose of helping cool the air around them on hot summer days.
The modern decorative fountain we know today evolved in the 17th century when Louis the XIV of France had fountains installed in Versailles using pumps instead of gravity to make the water flow. The trend quickly spread throughout Paris and other parts of Europe too.
Some of Balboa Park’s fountains have unique histories. Some of them are just… fountains. But they are all wonderful and a joy to see during a tour of Balboa Park. Next time you visit the park, try this Balboa Park fountain tour and hopefully you’ll see some beauty you never noticed before.
The Rose Garden Fountain
We’ll start our tour at the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden right off Park Blvd across the street from the Fleet Science Center. The fountain sits amidst 130+ varieties of fragrant and beautiful roses on display. The roses are usually at their peak in April and May.
While you’re there, you can also take a moment to admire the view east over Florida Canyon and take a walk through the Desert Garden with its fascinating succulents and drought-resistant plants from around the world.
The Bea Evenson Fountain
Walking across the pedestrian bridge to the main part of the park, the next fountain on this tour will be hard to miss.
Located in the Plaza de Balboa between the Fleet Science Center and the San Diego Natural History Museum is the Bea Evenson Fountain. Designed by noted modernist architect Homer Delawie, the fountain honors Bea Evenson, who played a pivotal part in making the park what it is today.
Look to the east of the fountain and you may see a small discrete wind gauge on top of a slim pole. Fun fact! This gauge controls the height of the fountain’s water spout. On windy days the spout is lowered to keep water from spraying into the air. The fountain shoots up with its full strength on days with no wind.
The Spanish Village Fountain
Before walking down the Prado, first turn north, walking past The Nat and the Moreton Bay Fig tree until you see the colorful tiled courtyard of the Spanish Village Art Center. Made to resemble a Spanish village, this quaint group of buildings hosts painters, sculptors, metalsmiths, jewelry designers, printmakers, and more.
There’s also a fountain in this courtyard. Do you see it? Hint: It’s on the far northern end of the courtyard.
The Botanical Building and Lily Pond Lagoon
Walking back towards the Prado, cut through the courtyard just after the ornate facade of the Junior Theater and before the Casa Del Prado building. This will take you to the garden of the Botanical Building and Lily Pond.
If you’re not already familiar, you might recognize the Botanical Building and Lily Pond as one of the most photographed areas of Balboa Park, if not all of San Diego.
The Botanical Building, Lily Pond, and two fountains on either side of the Botanical Building all date back to the original architecture from the 1915 Panama Exposition.
The two fountains in this area have also recently been restored to match their original 1915 conception.
The Plaza de Panama
From here continue west and you’ll eventually find yourself surrounded by beautiful buildings on all sides. This is the unmissable courtyard of the Plaza de Panama,
Right in the center of the plaza is a fountain surrounded by benches and sun umbrellas. This can be a great spot to rest for a bit and enjoy the people-watching.
When you’re ready to get up again, look west until you see the looming California Tower and start walking towards that. There will be a fountain right underneath it. Can you find it? Hint: It’s near the courtyard of the Old Globe Theater.
Once you’ve marked that off your list, head south and cross the street to the Alcazar Garden.
The Alcazar Garden and House of Hospitality
The Alcazar Garden is known for its colorful tiles and vibrant floral displays that change throughout the year. It was made to resemble a similarly famous garden from Seville, Spain. There are two fountains in the garden. They should be easy to spot.
Once you’ve had enough time in the garden, walk east towards the colorful Niki de St Phalle sculpture on the far end of the garden and through the ground floor of the newly remodeled Mingei Museum. There’s plenty worth seeing here, but we’re looking at fountains today, so keep walking past another Niki de St Phalle sculpture (the Niki Gator), past the El Cid statue, and straight across the plaza to the House of Hospitality.
In the courtyard of this opened-up building is the Woman of Tehuantepec sculpture and fountain.
The sculpture represents the preciousness of water to our desert region. The sculpture’s artist, Donal Hord, was once called “one of the most eminent American sculptors over a period of about 40 years.” What do you think?
Just south of the adjacent Prado restaurant is one more garden and fountain called the Casa del Rey Moro garden. Designed and created in 1935, the fountain replicates the wishing well in the Guadalajara Museum of Gardens in Spain.
When you’re ready, make your way south to probably the most nondescript fountain in this section of the park. It’s right in front of the much more stunning Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Do you see it?
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You’ve found all the fountains in this section of the park. Yet there are a couple more Balboa Park fountains, so if you’ve got the energy, let’s keep exploring!
This next part of the tour will take you to lesser-known and beautiful corner of the park.
The Balboa Park Administration Courtyard
Inspiration Point is at the end of Presidents Way across Park Blvd.
At first glance, there’s not much inspirational about it. All you’ll see is a big parking lot with the Veterans Museum and the Balboa Park Administration Building beyond.
If you make the trek across the parking lot and behind that building, you’ll find the beautiful, if un-inspiringly named, Balboa Park Administration courtyard. It is a treat.
This can be a quiet and beautiful place to relax or even have a picnic. There are three fountains in the courtyard, including a reflecting pool with a mythologically inspired statue in the middle. This pool is a holdover from when the area previously housed a naval hospital. You could see how the pool might have been a quiet spot for patients to relax.
If you enjoyed this tour, try the Seven Bridges walk next time!