One of the last activities we undertook in San Diego was a big one: exploring the lush, large expanse that is Balboa Park. This park is San Diego’s Central Park, at 1200 acres of urban greenery, housing museums and the Zoo, gardens and walking paths. It was literally across the street from us, but so huge that it took us a few days of on and off exploring to cover as much as we could, from playgrounds to paths.
One day we decided to find this old carousel for Baby J to take a ride on. We parked, got out and walked, and walked…I tried my best to follow my Google map app but we kept getting nowhere and going in circles. So we gave up and took a different turn to this little area that is the Spanish Village Art Center, with art in every media, colourful stones on the ground and tiled roofs on the buildings.
Next we wandered over to the Balboa park fountain and lingered for a bit. There was an instructor giving camera lessons, explaining how to capture the light and kids running around, a happy buzz meandering around in the sunlit air. Baby J loved climbing up all the steps and dipping his fingers into the fountain’s clear green-blue pool.
We spotted a bridge near the fountain and decided to walk over it and see what else we could see. It spanned over a street and led us towards a garden which was just right for stretching our legs and exploring. It held the promise of flowers soon to bloom, and the dry, brittle branches had a kind of rustic appeal. We headed down the road, glimpsing cactus plants on the desert garden, but didn’t really stop for long except to let J twirl around and around a stop sign.
Crossing the street, we walked back towards the parking lot where our car was and realized the almost literally beside our car, inside a structure we’d noticed but not really looked at, was the whirling of old-fashioned horses, bobbing smoothly up and down to tinny circus-reminiscent music. I guess the windows were closed before and we felt a little dumb for looking so hard and missing it earlier when it was so obvious. You know what cheered me up, though? The happy face on a little person who was just so gleeful to sit on the sleek painted creatures, petting the horses mane, saying ‘go!’ while waiting for everyone to get on and the ride to finally start.
All of the most fun thing have to end, though, and it’s a hard thing to explain to a little fella who’d just as soon spend hours on the back of a wooden horse, gazing upwards at the spinning images on the roof of the carousel, bopping along to the music, holding tight to the shiny gold pole and riding around and around for as long as he could.
We softened the blow of it being over by taking a ride on the miniature train as well, spotting animals and going through a dark tunnel briefly (night-night, Baby J declared as we entered the dimness) before coming out on the other side to slow down on the clickity clacking tracks.
We took a Balboa park break then to have lunch and a good long nap at home, but returned towards the end of the afternoon to explore a bit more in the golden light. I was really glad we did, too. The area came alive as it grew into evening, with street performers, caricaturists, and lots of people to watch. Baby J was fixated on watching a steel drummer, first standing and staring, then dancing a bit, and finally getting behind a fire hydrant to drum along, happily imitating the drummer.
Amidst the beautiful old buildings was also a pond perfect for watching ducks and fat goldfish, trying to poke fingers in the water without leaning too far.
Beside the Balboa Park Botanical Building were a few trees with hammocks strung up between then, and we could hear the happy chatter of college students, sipping from cans and munching on snacks, laughing and taking and sounding so carefree that I wished for a split second I was younger. But we kept on going to watch a really neat duo – a fairy and guy playing the violin and singing in gloriously high voices, mimicking the violin notes with their voices, melding sweetly and putting on a mesmerizing performance.
We headed back towards the green lawns and noticed the students had piled out of their hammocks, spilling across the grass and a few of them started kicking a ball with J, letting him steal it and run away, encouraging him and telling us how cute he was as he scurried away, kick kick kicking, pointing his arms upwards as the bells rang and making everyone laugh.
It was a great evening that made me feel so happy. Everyone was so nice and low-key even though it was in a bustling environment full of music and people. It was a great close out to our time in San Diego!