Balboa Park: Is it a Wedding or a Quinceanera?

One thing I always find interesting and very amusing about my work in the theatre is the tour groups who come into the costume shop and are instantly amazed and intrigued by the work space.  Having been lucky to work steadily in this business, I have worked in shops of all shapes and sizes; some are in emptied dressing rooms, others are in large rooms with nearly-state-of-the-art storage areas.  No matter what the size, every shop seems to make use of its space, often times finding any possibly empty corner to rearrange and stick a notions drawer in.  A sewing table with machines and someone peering down at pieces of brown paper on a table are all completely normal circumstances to me, so I do understand why it comes as a shock to people who are trapped in a cubicle or office 40 hours per week.  What has been unique for my work in San Diego is the fact that I get to spend time in a very eclectic and uncommon place: Balboa Park.

Dragon Statue

When I first spent time in Balboa Park the air seemed very mellow and relaxing, but as I entered the middle of my stay, activity in the park quickly grew.  Families and children were always visiting, at times a Laughing Yoga group (whose meaning still eludes me) would be seated on the grass, and street performers and vendors crowd the atmosphere.  No largely open area filled with tourists and community members would be without an aggressively pursuing GREENPEACE recruit with clipboard in hand shouting, “Did you come all this way to talk to me?  I love your bag!  Tell me, how do you feel about saving the whales?”  As they try to get my attention, I find a way to awkwardly avoid their questionnaires, although my Catholic guilt nags at me to stay and berates me for lying and saying I’ve already donated or I’m not interested.  Having successfully escaped these people I hear the graduation march in the Sprekels Organ Pavillion, which plays almost a few times a week once June approaches.  Occasionally I’ll see a young girl in a large, poofy, white dress decorated with every embellishment imaginable, and I’m not quite sure if she’s getting married or celebrating her quinceanera (a celebration for a young girl entering womanhood).  My co-workers have joked about putting on both their wedding dresses in Balboa Park to take pictures that have, “Is it a wedding or a quinceanera?” written on them.  Engagement photos are being taken all over the park, which usually disrupts my peaceful lunch observing the flowers in Alcazar Gardens.  Of course, I’m pretty sure I’ve interrupted a few photo sessions and often wonder how many times my butt has ended up in someone’s Senior year pictures.

Fuschia Flowers at the Balboa Park Botanical Building

Pink Lilypads at Balboa Park Botanical Building
It seems as though the park has something new to explore in every corner; there’s countless museums, gardens, performance spaces, and even a zoo.  Sometimes I walk past the pond by the Botanical Building and wish I had my camera as a duck or seagull flies into the pond; I suppose it will have to stay in my memory for now.  I listen for bell chimes when as time passes to tell me it’s time to go back to work.  Tourists fill the park as summer begins and numerous street performers and religious groups are there in hopes of peaking interest in their beliefs.  Hurriedly, I silently walk along, doing my best to avoid the commotion, though I am amused by the group at the corner whose posters read, “Is there a creator who cares about you?”  I ask that question on a daily basis . . .

Trees in the Cactus Garden at Balboa Park

My favorite place to escape to is the Cactus and Rose Gardens.  Having grown up in the southwest, a Cactus Garden did not seem like anything I hadn’t already seen.  To my surprise, I’m delightfully entertained by how the desert flora has so many lanky and curly branches that are almost distorted enough to be in a Salvador Dali painting.  Many times I feel as though I’ve walked right into a Dr. Seuss book since I’m surrounded by trees with leaves that look like a scraggly haircut and bushes with long pointy leaves.  It’s no surprise that Dr. Seuss lived in La Jolla and as a tribute to his donations to the Old Globe Theatre, the company performs “The Grinch” every year as the holiday show.

In addition to having a variety of places and buildings to explore, Balboa Park has also satisfied my tastebuds.  In the costume shop, it’s a daily ritual to go to the coffee cart outside The Prado.  The menu at the Prado is something to rave about as well.  Having never been much of a consumer of seafood, their Mahi Mahi tacos made me a convert and current pursuer of fish tacos.  Perhaps all the religious groups need is a delicious fish taco to lure in a possible convert.  The curry bowl at the Japanese Friendship Garden is one good reason to forget my lunch.  Of course no costume shop would be complete without various treats from cookies, to pies, to chocolate, and Doughnut Wednesday is always something to look forward to.  A couple of days ago, the sewing groups upstairs discovered Flan, and when a first hand offered to take a portion downstairs, immediately the battle of Nobody gets between me and my Flan began.

Lanterns at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park

A typical Saturday lunch for me that occurs because I haven’t gone to the grocery store is the Calfornia Roll Sandwich (it’s pretty much everything in a California Roll Sushi in a sandwich, and yes, it’s as good as it sounds), and once I manage to finish the last bite, I decide to settle my stomach with a short stroll.  A pass through Alcazar Gardens and I see bees clustered around a bright red flower.  A photography class crowds around the garden like the bees, eagerly awaiting the perfect shot.  I hear the bells chime and know it’s time to go inside; later I hear the bells chime, “Heart and Soul,” and want to dance along with it.  The song seems fitting, since after work, a man on one knee holds a small box in his hand as a woman next to him starts to cry tears of joy.  Balboa Park is definitely a landmark for beginnings; engagements, weddings, and Quinceanera’s alike.

This post is a part of #WeekendWanderlust hosted by A Brit and a Southerner, City Tripping hosted by Mummy Travels and Wander Mum and Monday Escapes hosted by My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase.

Weekend Wanderlust

Travel Monkey


  1. Shondra from Dwellable

    I agree…San Diego is so diverse and has so many things going on!

    I’d love to feature this on our San Diego-based site. Email me for details!

    shondra (at) dwellable (dot) com


  2. H

    Thanks for reminding me again of how beautiful Balboa Park is, last time I visited – I really loved the space and the unique people passing by, the buildings with the architectural details.

    I am glad you are enjoying it.

  3. seizetheday20

    Balboa Park looks like an awesome place to spend time. How lucky you are to have such a special place so close by and be able to go there whenever you wish 🙂

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Living and working in San Diego definitely had its benefits. Anytime I get to work and live somewhere new it’s always fun to be somewhere so close with great art and nature.

  4. Elaine J. Masters

    What a fun perspective of my favorite place in San Diego. I live just down the street but never had the chance you do of being a back stage part of things.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I love San Diego and I am happy to hear you enjoyed my take on Balboa Park. It’s such a fantastic area to explore and enjoy!

  5. RobRob @TravelLatte(.net)

    Although I haven’t been there in many years, I always looked forward to visiting Balboa Park. I can’t imaging trying to work there though…just too many distractions for my easily distracted mind! 😉 #WeekendWanderlust

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Balboa Park can be very distracting and there’s always something new to find! I’m glad I got to experience it and enjoy everything the park has to offer.

  6. MummyTravels

    What a great post – I’d never come across the park before (although San Diego is firmly on my ‘To Visit’ list). It sounds like its own little world, so many different areas, quirky things to see. What a fantastic place to wander around. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I hope you get the chance to visit San Diego and enjoy Balboa Park! I would love to hear about your experience and thoughts.

  7. WanderMum

    Sounds like such a wonderful place. I felt like I was there with you as I read your post. I need to try that California roll sandwich! #citytripping

    • brooklyntvlasich

      The California Roll Sandwich is amazing! It was one of my favorite parts about this park.

  8. alex

    This sounds like such a beautiful park – I’d love to go! San Diego is definitely on my list. And hey, if there’s answers as to whether there’s a creator who cares about you then I’d be straight over to them and asking! #CityTripping

  9. Bumble Bee Mum

    I’m sure I’ve never been to Balboa Park before but somehow it didn’t feel that unfamiliar… Then I read about Dr Seuss and I was like… Oooooo…. Now that you say it… #CityTripping

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Dr. Seuss is a great reason to visit Balboa Park and San Diego. Once I learned that’s where he lived, I was on the hunt for anything Dr. Seuss!

  10. mytravelmonkey

    Wow, Balboa Park just looks wonderful. I love open spaces that have so many different parts that you keep finding them. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thanks for visiting and commenting! I’m glad you enjoyed my journey through Balboa Park.

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