balboa park

Balboa Park's Central Mesa Reopens

The areas reopening at the San Diego landmark include El Prado, Plaza de Panama, Cabrillo Bridge and Pan American Plaza, plus all non-ticketed gardens, trails and lawns

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After being shuttered for nearly three months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the heart of Balboa Park – plus all parking lots – reopened Friday.

The city of San Diego announced last week that Balboa Park’s Central Mesa would reopen June 12, and all parking lots at the landmark would reopen to 100% capacity. The Central Mesa area includes El Prado, Plaza de Panama, Cabrillo Bridge and the Pan American Plaza. Balboa Park will also reopen all non-ticketed gardens, trails, and lawns.

Also reopening on June 12: The Prado – the Cohn Restaurant Group’s iconic restaurant in the heart of Balboa Park – which the Balboa Park Conservancy said would reopen with modified hours, from 12 p.m. to late afternoon, Wednesday through Sunday. The restaurant is offering a "grab-and-go" picnic basket that patrons can pick up and eat around the park. The Balboa Park Conservancy Visitors Center has also reopened, staffed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, as well as the Tea Pavilion at the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Of course, like all places reopening across San Diego County in times of COVID-19, there are new rules to keep in mind when visiting these spaces in Balboa Park.

Balboa Park said physical distancing is required by visitors in the reopened areas, as well as face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Gatherings and group activities like sports are still not allowed. If you’re feeling sick and have a fever, cough, or any symptoms of the coronavirus, stay home and do not visit the park.           

The playgrounds, basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, rec centers, and nature centers at Balboa Park will remain closed.

Meanwhile, the many museums and cultural organizations that give Balboa Park its character will also begin reopening, bit by bit.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on June 5 said the next stage of reopening for the state would include indoor museums, as well as gyms, hotels, card rooms, day camps, campgrounds, and family entertainment attractions like bowling alleys and zoos.

On Monday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said local museums -- among places like gyms, bars, and hotels -- would be able to reopen as early as June 12.

Places like the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego History Center, the San Diego Museum of Man, the Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Air and Space Museum have been closed for months.

The Balboa Park Cultural Partnership released a list Monday of which museums are reopening at the landmark, and when.

June 12 and June 19:
The San Diego Air and Space Museum will open its doors on June 12, followed by the San Diego Automotive Museum on June 19.

June 20:
The San Diego Zoo will reopen, with modifications, on June 20.

The San Diego Zoo will reopen after a historic closure due to the coronavirus. NBC 7's Nicole Gomez has more.

June 22:
The Balboa Park Cultural Partnership said the Japanese Friendship Garden will reopen on June 22, at limited capacity. That nonprofit attraction is mainly outdoors, unlike the landmark’s museums.

July 1:
On July 1, several Balboa Park museums plan to reopen: the Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the San Diego Art Institute. The historic Balboa Park Carousel will reopen on July 1, too.

July 3 and July 4:
On July 3, the San Diego Natural History Museum is set to reopen, as well as the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park. On July 4, the San Diego History Center, the Museum of Photographic Arts, and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum will all reopen.

Remaining cultural attractions like the Worldbeat Cultural Center, the Spanish Village Art Studios, the Timken Museum of Art, and the Centro Cultural de la Raza have not set reopening dates just yet, but those dates are forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the weekly, free concerts at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion are also still suspended, as well as performances at the Old Globe Theatre.

The Balboa Park Cultural Partnership has been updating visitors online about the closures at Balboa Park since the coronavirus pandemic reached San Diego County in mid-March, and those updates will continue as parts of the landmark reopen, little by little.

Other areas in Balboa Park that were reopened by the city of San Diego last month and remain open to the public include: Balboa Park Golf Course (with restrictions); Bird Park; Morley Field; Morley Field Off-Leash Dog Park; East Mesa (28th Street Corridor); Grape Street Off-Leash Dog Park; Golden Hill Community Park; West Mesa (6th Avenue side of Balboa Park); Nate’s Point Off-Leash Dog Park.

The reopening of Balboa Park’s Central Mesa comes on a week when city piers, boardwalks and East and Mission Bay Parks have or will reopen to the public as well. For details on what’s open for recreation around San Diego – under new public health rules and all – read this.

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