Balboa Park is home to dozens of museums, attractions, gardens and performing arts centers. We only spent one day there, but from what we saw, it was beautiful. We drove in through the recently renovated Cabrillo Bridge and drove around taking in the scenes. We passed by the Spreckels Organ Pavillion, which finally solved the mystery of the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park. The Spreckel family is super rich and loves the arts! After a bit, we parked the car, and wandered amongst beautiful flowers and palm trees everywhere.
The only thing I knew I wanted to do was climb the California Tower. The California Building (including the attached tower) was originally built in 1915 for the International Exposition, which lasted for 2 years and was a big reason San Diego became one of the major ports on the west coast after the Panama Canal opened. Finally, the Museum of Man, which is housed inside the California Building, invested in upgrading the interior so that the public would be able to climb up for the view for the first time in 80 years. This opened up January 1st of this year, so it’s brand new. Despite being deemed fit for tourists to climb, we still had to sign a waiver for any liability and no more than 3 people were allowed at a time on the final flight of spiral stairs.
Most of the buildings built were made of plaster and wood, and were only designed to last for 2-3 years. Because of this, most of the mission-style buildings seen above in the park are actually replicas. The California Building, on the other hand, was built to last. Each of the figures on the front of the building is an important person to California history.
The Museum of Man definitely has too large of a focus, so it’s a bit random inside. Aside from being forced to buy admission in order to go up the California Tower, we actually were looking forward to the beer display, where we learned quite a bit about beer’s role through the history of mankind. In Ancient Egypt, the builders/workers who worked on the Great Pyramids were primarily paid in beer, which had really low alcohol levels, but lots of complex carbs. It was much more like an oatmeal back in the day apparently. Another very cool factoid is that archaeologists discovered how important beer was to the Aztec people. An examination of bones under fluorescent lighting reveals that they had heavy doses of a probiotic that would have only been found in the beer everyone drank–even the kids!
For only $2.50 extra per person, we also got to see a special exhibit on Torture, which was visiting from Italy. I’m 99% sure it’s the same exhibit I saw when I was in Tuscany, but it’s much better now. It’s primarily focused on medieval torture implements, but they’ve added in a modern element so as to remind us that torture is not a thing of the past, but something that people still justify today. No photos were allowed, but we spent well over an hour in the one room.