Charter Bus Rentals to Balboa Park

Often considered the crown jewel of the San Diego cityscape, Balboa Park is overflowing with education, culture, and leisure activities for all ages.

Need a ride to this famous park? Look no further! National Charter Bus is your go-to provider for group transportation in SoCal, the West Coast, and nationwide. Our network of charter buses, minibuses, and professional drivers means we have access to all the transportation services to make your group trip to Balboa park a breeze! Call 619-344-0549 today to learn more and to receive a free, no-obligation quote.

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Balboa Park Fun Facts

  • First established in 1835, Balboa Park is one of the United States’ oldest tracts of land set aside for recreational use.
  • When it officially opened as a park in 1868, it mostly served as an open, public green space with minimal buildings and large swaths of wildflowers.
  • Notice the distinctive style of the park’s architecture? These constructions—like the Botanical Building, Casa del Prado, Cabrillo Bridge, and much more—are built in a combination of Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival, and Spanish Baroque style.
  • Many of these iconic buildings were constructed in preparation for the 1915 Panama–California Exposition and the 1936 California Pacific International Exposition. These multi-year cultural fairs drew in nearly 10.4 million visitors!
  • While the multiple museums, centers, and gardens operate on their own hours, Balboa Park’s grounds are open 24 hours a day.
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Getting Around Balboa Park

Public Transportation

If you’re traveling via public transportation in San Diego, you’ll be taking the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). San Diego’s public transport services most popular destinations in the downtown area, but if you’re specifically heading to Balboa Park, use...

Route 120 if you’re coming from the north side of town, like Kearny Mesa, Linda Vista, or Mission Valley.

Route 7 if you’re coming from the northeast, like Rolando, the Corridor, or North Park.

Rapid 215 if you’re coming from San Diego State University campus.

A 1-Day bus pass costs $5 and includes unlimited rides on MTS buses and trolleys for 24 hours. For information about public transportation throughout San Diego, visit the MTS Website or dial (619) 233-3004.

The Park Tram

So you just hopped off the MTS bus, but you’re dreading the near-mile walk between the Park Boulevard-Presidents Way bus stop and your favorite museum.

Look for a little green shuttle bus or an open-air, train-style cart—aka, the Balboa Park Tram.

It stops in 3 major parking lots—Inspiration Point, the Organ Pavillion, and the Palisades Lot by the Automotive Museum—and is free to ride.The tram runs from 9am - 8pm from June through the end of October, and you can expect it to operate from 9am - 6pm between May and November.

While it usually takes 10 minutes to complete the route’s circuit on slow days, it’s not uncommon to wait up to 40 minutes for a ride during peak tourism season.

Private Transportation

Of course, public transportation isn’t for everyone.

Sure, following a preset route in a crowded public bus may be perfectly viable for lone-wolf travelers and small groups, but when you’re traveling with a lot of people, it can be all too easy for someone to get lost or make the wrong transfer. These problems only compound when you’re transporting large groups of children, senior citizens, and (especially) out-of-towners.

Even worse—when you limit your group to public transportation or the Park Tram, you are stuck to a set route that runs on a rigid schedule. What if you need something more flexible to fit your itinerary?

a tour group explores Balboa Park on the San Diego charter busThat’s where National Charter Bus comes in.

No more waiting around in the hot sun for the tram or trolley to roll by. Instead, we’ll pair you with a private motorcoach that will be right where you need it, whenever you need it. Letting a professional take the wheel not only means your travel fate is secure in the hands of an experienced, local driver, but it also means your passengers have a customizable ride plan that’s tailored to their needs.

Shuttling 15-20 aspiring artists to the Timken? We’ll be happy to set you up with a zippy and efficient minibus. Don’t let its compact frame fool you; there’s plenty of room and overhead bins to store sketchpads, pencil cases, and photography equipment en route.

Have a bigger crowd in mind? Covering a lot of ground? No problem. The spacious charter buses in our network are ideal for getting large quantities of people from here to there as comfortably as possible. So bring on your class field trip of en-zoo-siasts! We’ll not only get them to the SDZ safe, sound, and all together, but we’ll connect them with a bus loaded with entertainment options—DVD players, TVs, WiFi, and more—that will keep them occupied between stops.

Even if you need a combination of ride services throughout your visit, our reps can mix and match your fleet and rental plan to best fit your itinerary, budget, and list of ideal amenities. Simply call us today at 619-344-0549, and we’ll work around the clock to get you going!

Parking at the Park

The good news? Parking in any of Balboa Park’s 12 lots is free to the public year-round.

The not-so-good news? Considering the park’s popularity throughout the seasons, finding a spot near your most-anticipated attractions can be tricky.

Never fear. When you reserve a ride through National Charter Bus, your driver can drop you off curbside to your first destination, handle the parking while you explore the park, and meet back up with the group when you’re ready to roll out.

That being said, take note of where oversized vehicles can park and unload. Not that you’ll need to direct your driver to an adequate lot—your driver will have all the parking logistics mapped out before you depart—but it’s helpful to have a sense of where your bus is coming from as you anticipate pickups and dropoffs.

The only public lot in Balboa Park that accepts oversized vehicles is located at Inspiration Point, far south of most attractions. This lot is considered the park’s overflow parking lot and seldom fills to capacity. However, if your group is attending a major event or visiting on a particularly busy weekend, your driver may park curbside along the east side and south end of Park Boulevard.

Looking to avoid crowded lots and congested roadways? Read up on the park’s list of anticipated heavy traffic days and plan accordingly. As a rule of thumb, it’s safe to assume the park will be busier in the summer months and around holidays generally associated with parades, like Memorial Day or Thanksgiving.

Popular Attractions at Balboa Park

The San Diego Zoo

Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: (619) 231-1515

giant panda eats bamboo at the San Diego ZooNo trip to Balboa Park would be complete without a stop at the San Diego Zoo! Known for its cageless, naturalistic exhibits and calendar chock-full of events, it’s no wonder that many consider it the coolest zoo in the country. Come check out the giant pandas—one of only 4 exhibits of its kind in the US—take in a birds-eye view of Balboa Park from the Skyfari Aerial Tram, or catch an after-hours show at one of the zoo’s many concert venues!

The San Diego Zoo offers multiple membership tiers that can include one-on-one encounters with the furry residents, nighttime tours, and free concerts. These exclusive packages may be worthwhile if you plan to frequent the SDZ, but for most out-of-town visitors, a 1-day pass is the best option. This general admission ticket includes access to a guided bus tour, a cross-park express shuttle, and all regularly scheduled shows, and prices are as follows:

Adults aged 12 and up: $56 - 62

Children aged 3 - 11: $46 - 52

The Museums

While this list is by no means exhaustive—in reality, you could spend days wandering through all the collections—here are some of Balboa Park’s most popular museums for tour groups:

Timken Museum

Address: 1500 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: (619) 239-5548

This small and selective showcase of fine arts is the only Balboa Park museum with consistently free admission year-round. Collections here feature 19th century American art, Russian iconography, and work from European “old masters”—including the only Rembrandt painting on public display in San Diego. Typical daily hours are from 10am to 4pm, but these can vary based on time of year and the museum’s schedule of private events.

areial view of San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa ParkSan Diego Museum of Man

Address: 1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: (619) 239-2001

What images come to mind when you think about Balboa Park? Sure, there’s the zoo, but what buildings come to mind? More likely than not, you’re picturing the colorful, tiled dome, Spanish-Colonial entrance façade and iconic tower of this landmark museum. In these finely crafted halls, you’ll find exhibits dedicated to many facets of anthropology—from celebrating the culture of native Californians to learning how and why we have pets and from the history of beer brewing to the art of cannibalism. The Museum of Man is open 10am - 5pm every day except major holidays and offers $13 general admission (kids 5 and under get in free).

San Diego Air and Space Museum

Address: 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: (619) 234-8291

Whether you’re here to check out the only real GPS satellite on display in the world, meet the Gumdrop—the original Apollo 9 command module—or simply marvel at the overhead aircraft in the pavillion, this museum is sure to delight visitors of all ages. Admission tickets can cost anywhere between $10.95 and $19.95, based on age and number of visitors per group. Open from 10am to 4:30pm.

The Gardens

Beyond its role as a cultural and educational hub in the city, Balboa Park is one of the most beloved greenspaces in San Diego. If you’re in town and just need a place to get out and stretch your legs, come to the park and breathe in the fresh air. Here are just a few well-loved landscapes your group can traverse during your time at Balboa Park:

Japanese Friendship Garden

Address: 2215 Pan American Rd E, San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: (619) 232-2721

Originally constructed as a showcase of Japanese culture in 1914, the since-dismantled-and-then-revamped garden now serves as a 12-acre expression of friendship between San Diego and its sister city Yokohama, Japan. Come explore this blend of traditional Japanese gardening principles and local flora in all its quiet beauty by taking in the bonsai collection, saying hi to the koi fish, or stopping for tea and some soba at the Tea Pavilion.

Botanical Buildingexternal view of the Botanical Building in San Diego's Balboa Park

Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: (619) 239-0512

This garden is one of the most photographed spots in the park, and once you see it for yourself, you’ll understand why. With a picturesque reflection pool and lily pond outside the intricate lath structure—one of the largest in the world!—and a permanent collection of cycads, ferns, orchids, and other tropical plants within, this iconic greenspace boasts beauty from all angles.

Alcazar Garden

Address: 1363 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

Phone: (619) 239-0512

Patterned after the grounds of Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain, this stately garden is nestled between the Art Institute and Mingei Museum. Here, your group will find ornate fountains, boxwood hedges, 7,000 vibrant annuals, and multicolored tilework in authentic Moorish style. This space is the perfect backdrop for elegant affairs like weddings, company dinners, or professional photoshoots.

Reserve Your Balboa Park Bus Rental

As you can tell, this rich San Diego landmark has a lot to offer. So why let the travel process keep your group from making the most of it? Book with National Charter Bus, and take the stress out of your transportation plans!

Our staff is available around the clock to assist you with the reservation process, answer any questions you may have, and hash out itinerary revisions should you need to make last-minute changes. Don’t believe us? Call 619-344-0549 today! We’ll be waiting with a friendly reservation specialist and a free quote—no strings attached.