El Prado is the primary thoroughfare of Balboa Park, the cultural heartbeat of San Diego. The street has a very peaceful atmosphere, attracting pedestrians, cyclists, dog walkers, and tourists. The street's glorious history dates to 1915 when San Diego was under the spotlight for the Panama-California Exposition. Some of the city’s grandest buildings were constructed for the event and most still exist today. In the 21st century, the El Prado Complex around the street is among San Diego’s most historic districts.

El Prado is known for its proximity to world-renowned attractions in San Diego, as well as art exhibits, dance recitals and outdoor cafes. The thoroughfare indulges just about every interest imaginable, whether you’re attending a play or wish to unwind in the gardens.

El Prado in Balboa Park - one of the highlights of 10 Most Popular Streets in San Diego (Read all about San Diego here)

What are the highlights and features of El Prado?

El Prado connects you to many of San Diego’s best museums, performance venues, and peaceful gardens. Starting on the western side of Balboa Park, this is where you’re able to combine natural beauty and cultural institutes into a single enjoyable day.

The Cabrillo Bridge is usually the 1st highlight when you visit El Prado. Overlooking the freeway, the pedestrian bridge boasts fantastic views of the San Diego skyline and signals the entrance to Balboa Park.

Past the verdant foliage, Balboa Park’s famous attractions begin to appear on the avenue. The Museum of Us has fascinating anthropology exhibits and grants you stunning views from its ornate tower. You can head next door to catch a resounding Shakespeare performance or musical at The Old Globe.

If you prefer tranquillity, spend time roaming around the colourful flowers of the Alcazar Garden. Towards El Prado’s curve, the Mingei International Museum has inspirational exhibits by renowned artists.

What are the best museums near El Prado?

With 17 museums in Balboa Park, El Prado is a gateway to an infinite source of knowledge in San Diego. Whether you’re interested in photography, model trains, or history, you’re bound to tempt your curiosities wandering El Prado.

The San Diego Museum of Art highlights beautiful artwork from many parts of the world, while the Museum of Photographic Arts includes historical photos from different eras. If you love San Diego’s art collection, stop by the Timken Museum of Art to view works from famous European and American artists.

Science lovers aren’t left out, as the Fleet Science Center has interactive fun for all ages. Study California’s extensive railway system at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum or learn San Diego’s story at the San Diego History Center. Immerse yourself in the world of animals at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Good to know about El Prado

While El Prado has a notable reputation for its gardens, museums, and theatres, it’s also a delightful place for dining in San Diego. Located inside the House of Hospitality, The Prado serves an enticing menu of appetisers and entrees. The restaurant also offers beer, wine, and cocktails with outdoor seating to enjoy San Diego’s sunny weather.

For a quick bite, stop by Panama 66 for delicious sandwiches with vibrant jazz music playing in the background. Plaza de Panama Fountain has tables with umbrellas for a relaxed meal.

While El Prado is the main street of Balboa Park, there’s much more to discover inside the 1,200-acre park. Walking paths crisscross around El Prado and guide you to the beautiful corners of Balboa Park.

The Palm Canyon Trail leads to the Old Cactus Garden and its feline colony. Bridle Trail loops around Nate’s Point Dog Park and eventually runs into the scenic Cabrillo Canyon.

El Prado in Balboa Park

Daniel Grenier | Contributing Writer