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9 Unforgettable Experiences in Balboa Park

From miniatures and masterpieces to live concerts and Shakespeare under the stars, head to the park for a spectacular centennial summer.



1. 7 billion Others

Don’t miss this extraordinary exhibition making its U.S. premiere at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA). A humanistic portrait of the world, 7 billion Others consists of 6,000 video interviews filmed in 84 countries, spoken in more than 50 languages. The people interviewed, from a Brazilian fisherman and Afghan farmer to a Chinese shopkeeper and German performer, all answered the same 45 questions about their fears, dreams, challenges, hopes, and more. Exploring what separates and unites us, these intimate portraits of humanity reveal the beauty of the world and the diversity of its people, and raise awareness of the richness of life and the need for living together sustainably. Through September 13, 2015.


2. Paul Ecke Jr. Garden Show at the San Diego County Fair

This lush and relaxing garden show is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the carnival rides at the San Diego County Fair. For 2015, show coordinators have created a tribute to the centennial of the 1915 Panama–California Exposition at Balboa Park with “A Walk in the Park.” Fairgoers will enjoy a replica of the Museum of Man’s San Diego Tower, artisans from Spanish Village, a chalk-art lily pond, and daily entertainment, seminars, and demonstrations offering everything from floral design to vermicomposting. Dr. Carol Williams, the renowned civic organist who gives weekly concerts at Balboa Park, plays daily from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the garden show. June 5–July 5, 2015.


3. Circus: Science Under the Big Top

Ever thought about running away and joining the circus? Well, here’s a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the wonders beneath the big top. Want to try your hand at juggling? Interested in the art of contortion or midair acrobatics? Curious how sword swallowing works? This exciting exhibition at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center shines the spotlight on the science behind the greatest show on earth and offers myriad interactive experiences for every age. And for those who dare, there’s a chance to walk the tightrope high above the ground like a true performer. May 2–September 7, 2015.


4. The Private World of Vermeer

Head to the Timken Museum to experience the brilliance of master artist Johannes Vermeer. Luminous and exquisitely rendered, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (c. 1663) is one of Vermeer’s most captivating portrayals of a young woman’s private world. This generous loan from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, marks the first appearance of Vermeer’s remarkable painting in San Diego. The Timken’s special installation invites visitors to have an intimate experience with the artwork and highlights of one of the most celebrated painters of the Dutch Golden Age. The exhibition runs May 14 through September 11, 2015, and is free to the public.


5. 2theXtreme—MathAlive!

Kids big and small will love this interactive and inspiring exhibition exploring the world of mathematics. 2theXtreme —MathAlive! at the San Diego Air & Space Museum is designed to spark the imagination, revealing not only math at work but its endless possibilities. The exhibition’s immersive and interactive experiences bring math to life by exploring its role in applied worlds like video games, sports, fashion, music, robotics, and more. Ride a snowboard in a 3D experience, design and play your own video game, capture your 360-degree image in a unique interactive display, or test your engineering and city-planning skills on a large-scale eco bridge. 2theXtreme—MathAlive! answers the age-old question “Will I ever use all this math they’re teaching me?”


6. Shakespeare at The Old Globe

Friends, San Diegans, countrymen, lend me your ears: The Tony Award–winning Old Globe celebrates its 80th anniversary with an incredible lineup of summer Shakespeare. The sweetly romantic Twelfth Night and the hilariously madcap The Comedy of Errors play under the stars for the perfect night out, and Cole Porter’s madcap musical Kiss Me, Kate, will kick up its heels in the Globe. The public is welcome to free screenings of some of the best Shakespeare movies ever made, from Henry V and Chimes at Midnight to Much Ado About Nothing and West Side Story. The summer season brings San Diego the very best of Shakespeare and the spectacular theater that has made the Globe world famous.


7. Balboa Park Miniature at the Centennial Railway Garden

Stroll over to the Centennial Railway Garden to view a mini 1915 version of Balboa Park. Former Disney animation director Robert Treat and landscape architect David Reed have created an engaging solar-powered model that features seven park icons and honors the Panama–California Exposition in 1915. Listen to a historic recording from the Organ Pavilion, check out the 3D printed details of Spanish colonial architecture on the California Tower and the period costumes of the tiny figurines, and watch the special streetcars, introduced by John D. Spreckels to move visitors during the 1915 Exposition, circle the model. This charming garden display, opened in late April, is also a beacon of the future for sustainable energy use in exhibit design.


8. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed

Intrigue and mystery are intertwined with Maya culture. The ancient civilization reached extraordinary artistic and intellectual heights with their complicated calendar, glyphic writing system, and awe-inspiring temples. This summer, the largest exhibition about the ancient Maya ever to be displayed in the United States arrives at theNAT. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed includes more than 250 authentic artifacts, iconic sculpted monuments known as stelae, and re-created portions of famous friezes. Exciting interactive elements allow visitors to decipher ancient symbols, explore tombs, and investigate the Maya approach to math and astronomy.


9. Free Concerts at San Diego Museum of Art

In 1915, music was a central component of the Panama–California Exposition, so to celebrate the centennial anniversary, the San Diego Museum of Art has launched the year-long Art of Music Concert Series. Curated by UCSD Professor of Music Jann Pasler, this exciting concert series takes place monthly and is presented in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition The Art of Music (September 26, 2015–January 5, 2016), which explores the long-standing duet of the visual and musical arts.  This summer, music fills the Plaza de Panama when the Art of Music Concert Series heads outdoors for three free concerts (June 18, July 16, and August 20). Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket or chair, grab a bite to eat at Panama 66, or pack their own picnics.

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