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  • Writer's pictureMia

Where should I take my Engagement / Elopement / Wedding / Family photos in Balboa Park?

Updated: Mar 3

Lead Photographer Mia Kampka

Great, you just booked a photographer to take your photos in beautiful Balboa Park, now what?

The most frequently question I've always been asked is :"Where should I take my engagement photos / wedding photos / family photos in Balboa Park?"

Hi there, my name is Mia, I am a proactive professional photographer who has shoot at Balboa Park every week, I am happy to share my view of the best spots for photography in Balboa Park.

Balboa Park offers so much variety for your engagement session, wedding session, elopement session, family session and portrait session – with iconic architecture and beautiful nature alike.

Balboa Park Lily Pond Wedding Photography

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No matter other people listed so many "must check-in" locations in Balboa Park, my most concern is always ---- "How much time do you plan to take photos in Balboa Park?"

As we know it's the largest park in San Diego, it takes at least 3-4 hours to walk around everywhere, not including visit the museums or the zoo ( San Diego Zoo belongs to Balboa Park). Besides wedding / elopement, not everyone plans that long time to hire a photographer. (Wedding or elopement clients please plan 3-4hrs due to the ceremony and outfits changing. Wedding photography takes much longer since we might have studio lights involved, and always try to make your veil or dress fly)

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Most of my clients planned 1 or 2 hours to work with me in Balboa Park, and I would love to help people to get as much coverage as possible within limited time, and then please go enjoying your day without annoying camera "Beep". That's why I always plan the shoot and route for my clients, always share photos before we arrive there, always ask my clients to choose 3 of there most favorite locations... So I will design the route to make sure we cover your most favorite spots, and also check in some other spots nearby.

Usually my 1hr session reaches 3-5 locations, and my 2hrs session reaches 6-8 locations.

It depends on how fast we move, how many outfits you want to change, and how far away are the destinations. That's why it's better to plan it smart.

Usually I like to start my shoot at Alcázar Garden or Casa Del Prado Theater, not only because they are next to parking lots, but also because they are at both ends of the park so we don't have to waste time go back and force in the park.

There's a big parking lot by Spreckels Organ Pavilion and we may start from there too.

  1. Alcázar Garden

The Alcazar Garden is a perfect blend of greenery/architecture, with a beautiful view of the famous California Tower in the background. While it’s best captured in full bloom during the spring, its hedges and trees are green year-round so it’s a great spot for a Balboa Park engagement session even in the winter (my photo examples were taken through Sep. to Feb) . Bonus: the adjacent parking makes it easy to find.

2. California Tower (AKA Museum of US)

The California Tower Building, which houses the museum of US formerly known as Museum of Man, and the St. Francis Chapel across the way, have all the architectural stylings people know and love about Balboa Park buildings. Back up to capture the arches from afar or step in close for that Baroque detail – either way it doesn’t get more iconic than this.

3. Palm Canyon Trail

4. Spreckels Organ Pavilion

The Organ Pavilion remains a popular spot in Balboa Park for Engagement photos, Wedding photos, elopement photos, family photos and portraits. Head out front to capture the whole bowl in all it’s glory, or spend time along the sides for beautiful pillars and archways.

5. Lily Pond and the Botanic Building

An iconic spot for engagement photos, wedding photos, family photos and portraits photos…. in Balboa Park is the Lily Pond in front of the Botanic Building. While often busy with tourists and local alike, it’s always fun to stop there real quick for a couple quick pics. And it’s right across from the famous Casa del Prado, which get lit up in the evenings with colorful spotlights – so you might as well grab a shot in front of that too.

Botanic Building is under construction since 2022 summer, but the other side is still beautiful.

6. Casa Del Prado

7. Casa Del Prado Theater

8.Walking Arches

9. Bea Evenson Fountain

10. Plaza de Panama Fountain

11. Spanish Village Art Center

12. San Diego Zoo Picnic Area

13. Casa Del Rey Moro Garden

Below spots are nice but consider the distance or tickets, I would not recommend for less than 2hrs sessions:

14. Rose Garden

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15. Japanese friendship garden

(Need to buy tickets to get in: General $14 | Student $12* | Senior (65+) $12* | Active Military $12*)