San Diego's Natural History Museum — Photo courtesy of Richard Benton / Balboa Park
However, public transportation is making getting to the nation's largest urban cultural park easier. A new, limited stop Rapid 215 MTS line takes people to Balboa Park from downtown and all the neighborhoods along El Cajon Boulevard between University Heights and San Diego State University (SDSU).
Rapid 215 operates seven days a week, from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., with 10-minute service during weekday rush hours and 15-minute service the rest of the time during the week and on weekends
The other good news is that it's convenient to visitors arriving to the area via Amtrak and the COASTER. It also connects with the new Rapid 235; the Blue, Green and Orange trolley lines; and many other MTS Express and local bus routes.
For downtown residents, hotel guests and cruise ship passengers, Rapid 215 also has convenient stops across from the Santa Fe Depot, along Broadway at the courthouses, near Horton Plaza and at the City College Transit Center.
MTS Rapid map — Photo courtesy of San Diego Metropolitan Transit System
How does it arrive so quickly? Rapid MTS travels on dedicated lanes on Park Boulevard between University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard, and there is now traffic signal prioritization along El Cajon Boulevard.
The vehicles are powered by clean natural gas and designed for a more comfortable ride. It can also accommodate two bikes on the front of the vehicle. Otherwise, bike lockers are available at some stations. They take cash an Compass Cards on board.
Downtown MTS stations will be upgraded by 2016, with new shelter for waiting and screens with real-time arrival information. Vehicles are low to the ground, making them easy to board and very accessible.
The cost is also quite low. Rapid 215 is $2.25 for a one-way fare or $5 for a one-day pass that enables transfers to other Rapid routes, MTS bus services and the trolley.
A monthly or 30-day transit pass is $72 for adults; $36 for youth; and $18 for seniors (60+), disabled and recipients of Medicare.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the MTS Family Weekends promotion lets a fare-paid adult (18 and older) bring up to two children (12 and under) along for free.
After you arrive in Balboa Park, between the expansive gardens and 17 museums there is quite a bit to do. We've crafted a good one-day Balboa Park itinerary with kids and can tell you everything you need to know about the Balboa Park Explorer Pass.