San Diego’s unknown tiny corner of heaven.

This hidden gem is the perfect spot for a picnic or quiet relaxation.
This hidden gem is the perfect spot for a picnic or quiet relaxation.

This morning I headed out to enjoy a special event in Balboa Park: the Japanese Friendship Garden’s Cherry Blossom Festival. Unfortunately, lots and lots of people were in line at the front entrance, and my feet didn’t want to stop. So I kept moseying along, pointing my nose toward the park’s Gymnasium, where I believed the big annual Rummage Sale was being held. This massive fundraiser is put on every year by the Thursday Club, and attracts thousands of eager bargain-seekers. Well, what do you know? The only thing going on in the Gymnasium was a basketball game. Strike Two. Okay, I thought to myself, I’ll just keep on going and have a leisurely walk…

Thursday Club Rummage Sale banner on Park Boulevard.
Thursday Club Rummage Sale banner on Park Boulevard.

Wham! Suddenly in front of my eyeballs loomed a gigantic banner–the Rummage Sale was being held this year across Park Boulevard, in Balboa Park’s Activity Center, a building I’d never visited. In fact, I’ve seldom walked about the park’s Inspiration Point area, except to visit the Veteran’s Museum. My restless feet were once again redirected…

People descend stairs of Balboa Park Administrative Building.
People descend stairs of Balboa Park Administration Building.

The handsome Spanish Colonial Revival style Balboa Park Administration Building (which originally was headquarters for San Diego’s Naval Hospital, built in the early 1920s) lured me forward into uncharted territory.   Several people leaving the Rummage Sale were heading down the stairs.  So up the stairs I went, around the quiet building and…WOW!

Gazebo with colored tile roof near entrance to hidden park.
Gazebo with colored tile roof near entrance to hidden park.

I’d stumbled upon a corner of heaven.

Balboa Park Administration Building Courtyard's benches are empty.
Balboa Park Administrative Courtyard’s benches are empty.

After a bit of research, I learned this beautiful and seldom-visited area is called the Balboa Park Administrative Courtyard. One website calls it a San Diego hidden gem, and I must concur. The place was stunningly beautiful–and completely empty. Nobody was present. Not a soul. On this warm Saturday, the rest of Balboa Park was crowded with people.

Fountain in the Balboa Park Administrative Building Courtyard was once part of San Diego's United States Naval Hospital.
Fountain in the Balboa Park Administrative Courtyard was once part of San Diego’s United States Naval Hospital.

The park-like courtyard and three nearby buildings–the old Navy chapel (now the Veteran’s Museum), the administration building, and an old medical library and auditorium building–used to be part of a sprawling Navy Hospital campus. Today the modern hospital is located just east of the courtyard, down in Florida Canyon. You can see a small part of it in the first photo. Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) is also known as Bob Wilson Naval Hospital or Balboa Hospital.

Palm trees line courtyard behind Balboa Park's Administrative Building.
Palms line the tranquil courtyard behind Balboa Park’s Administration Building.
Another view of Balboa Park's seldom-visited paradise.
Another view of Balboa Park’s seldom-visited paradise.

I’m glad I randomly walked in a new direction! Adventures and discoveries await in unexpected places!

Trees, green grass, blue sky and a small corner of heaven.
Trees, flowers, walkways, blue sky and a small corner of heaven.

I revisited this beautiful place in late 2014…

Plane approaching Lindbergh Field flies above Balboa Park Administration Building.
Plane approaching Lindbergh Field flies above Balboa Park Administration Building.
A pleasant stroll past bird of paradise flowers.
A pleasant stroll through an arbor past bird of paradise flowers.
Fountain is near center of a large, quiet grassy space.
This fountain is near the center of a large, quiet grassy space.  A second, slightly smaller fountain can be found to the north.
Some people rest on a bench in the sunny courtyard.
Some people rest on a bench in the sunny courtyard.

Two more pics from September 2015.  Still as beautiful and peaceful as ever!

Have a picnic.
Have a picnic.
Read (or write) a book.
Read (or write) a book.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

10 thoughts on “San Diego’s unknown tiny corner of heaven.”

  1. Thanks for this post. I have often come to San Diego as a tourist and only spent a little time in Balboa park. But in July, August and Sept, I spent time in San Diego and got to know many more places to explore and fell in love with Balboa park and went there often. I’m assuming that this place you are mentioning is on the east side of Park Blvd. toward the south end of Balboa park, correct? I’ll have to check it out next time I go to Balboa park.

    I had hoped to make it to the Cherry Blossom festival today but didn’t, but it sounds like it was quite crowded. My favorite thing to do at the park is just stroll the outdoors and take in all the wonderful architecture and landscaping.

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    1. That is correct. The “courtyard park” is behind the big building up on the hill east of Park Boulevard.

      It looks like the Cherry Blossom Festival was a big hit. The Japanese Friendship Garden, even with its recent expansion, can’t accommodate hundreds of people at once, so a very long line formed outside, stretching all the way to the House of Hospitality!

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      1. That’s a very long way for a line. Wow..glad I didn’t attempt to go. I will check out the courtyard next time I go to the park, thanks!

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  2. I was able to get into the cherry blossom fest (line wasn’t so long when I went) and it was ok. Blossoms weren’t full and amazing, but maybe that’s what happens when san diego forgets to have a winter? But the path leading to the trees was pretty thin of people … they congregated around the food at the top of the hill. So it ended up ok.

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