The Old Cactus Garden (Balboa Park)

I’ve been going to Balboa park for years but had no idea this gem of a hidden garden existed! I’ve spent days pretty much right next to it, not knowing, it was right there merely a few feet away in all it’s historical glory… patiently waiting for visitors to stop by and admire it.

This old treasure of a cactus garden was developed by “The Mother of Balboa Park” Kate Sessions in 1935 for the California Pacific International Exposition.

The intention of the California Pacific International Exposition was to promote San Diego and support it’s economy. Many of the original buildings from 1915-1916 were refurbished and readied for the exposition and many more buildings were added to the park, such as The Old Globe Theater, The Automotive Museum, the Air and Space Museum building (Originally called the Ford Building) and the Starlight Bowl. The last three listed are neighbors of the Old Cactus Garden. Both Museums are worth a visit but Starlight bowl is fighting to survive.

The California Tower (below) can easily be seen from here. The tower is a San Diego Landmark you can tour (temporarily closed currently). It was built in 1915 and features amazing details and many architectural styles such as Rococo, Gothic, Baroque and more. It is designed by Bertram Goodhue who was inspired by Spanish colonial churches and now houses the Museum of Man.

There are no signs or information in this area and not much on the official Balboa Park website. It’s also not very up-kept but that only ads to the charm of it being more hidden, forgotten and historical than the other gardens in the park.
This old stone ruin below is quite a mystery and I haven’t been able to find anything on it. It appears to be an old stone oven that has been filled with rocks and cement, but i’m sure there’s a much more interesting story to it than just that. Please let me know in the comments if you know!

This secret old garden is so lovely. If you’re in the area I’d highly recommend a visit to it.

The garden can be found right between these two buildings (below) that are located between the San Diego Automotive Museum and the International Cottages:

The Puppet Theater (above) is fun to visit. More info on shows here:

Balboa Park is very close to San Diego airport and you’ll see planes go by readying for landing all day long.

We found this little path and followed it through a bit of a wilderness area where many ‘wild’ cats appeared to live. They were very friendly though and showed us empty Tupperware that they’d like filled.

A lovely quite spot to reflect and relax

A few things…
-The garden is not in pristine condition and not very up kept. Keep that in mind when visiting.
-Parking is close by in the lot right in front of the Air and Space Museum

35 Comments on “The Old Cactus Garden (Balboa Park)

    • Thank you 💕 Yes it’s a great place for a walk. The heart cactus was pretty special! My photographer is very creative 😉 The plane one was fun to do.


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