Finding outdoor activities during the winter months won’t be difficult for San Diego-area residents. Not with a backyard as big as Balboa Park. So big it comes complete with an 18-hole golf course, hundreds of acres of open space to roam, and dozens of facilities and fields for sports and recreation.
If your concept of Balboa Park consists solely of world-class museums and performing arts venues, historic architecture and gardens, and a spectacular zoo, this may come as a surprise. The truth is all San Diegans have access to a massive recreational park beyond the cultural park most people know and love. Some may call it Morley Field, Golden Hill Park, or the Municipal Golf Course. But it’s all part of Balboa Park’s expansive East Mesa.
Here are just 8 things you can do on the East Mesa:
1. Tennis Anyone?
25 lighted tennis courts add new meaning to #LoveBalboaPark. And the shorter days mean more time under the bright lights. Anyone new to the game can get into the swing of things with lessons from one of Balboa Park Tennis Club’s 11 tennis pros.
2. Follow the Trail
New canyon adventures await intrepid hikers and mountain bikers. Several moderate difficulty trails crisscross Florida Canyon, exposing explorers to the native flora while connecting you to Morley Field proper for a respite and ample parking.
3. Going Native
Another great way to experience a large sampling of local flora is by strolling the California Native Plant Garden, located just west of the tennis courts. Dozens of plant species line the pathways of this charming demonstration garden, presenting great landscaping ideas for home gardeners.
You don’t need a set of clubs and a caddy to enjoy 18 holes of golf. The Morley Field Disc Golf Course, one of the first in the world, combines safe outdoor exercise and affordable fun with friends and family. Pins are moved every Monday, adding replay value.
5. Petanque Is the New Cornhole
If flinging frisbees isn’t your thing, the East Mesa offers plenty of other unique activity venues, including petanque and boccie courts, a fitness parcourse, a velodrome, archery ranges, and an entire recreation center’s worth of activities for families in Golden Hill. Pickleball anyone?
6. Fitness for Fido
The East Mesa boasts not just one, but two leash-free dog parks. The Morley Field Dog Park offers easy connects to the East Mesa trail network and Morley Field amenities. The friendly neighborhood Grape Street Dog Park is nestled amid the municipal golf course greens.
7. Going Green
Your pet won’t be the only family member getting excited about the park’s trees. The East Mesa, like the rest of the park, is benefitting from the Conservancy’s massive reforestation efforts. Be sure to visit the site of last year’s Plant It Forward event to see how the new trees are doing.
8. Hidden Playgrounds
After a pit stop at one of the dog parks, you can unleash the rest of your brood on one of the play equipment sets scattered throughout the East Mesa. There’s one tucked behind the Bud Kearns Pool (closed for renovation), one in Bird Park, and another at 28th and Cedar in South Park. Nearby picnic tables offer snack spread space for refueling.