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San Diego Park Celebrates Centennial

SAN DIEGO — San Diego’s Balboa Park, often referred to as the Smithsonian of the West for its concentration of major cultural institutions, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2015.

The 1,200-acre Balboa Park features eight gardens, 15 museums, the Tony Award-winning Old Globe theater and the San Diego Zoo.

Originally built for temporary use during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, Balboa Park has served as the cultural heart of San Diego for a century. Many of the museums along the park’s celebrated El Prado walkway are housed in Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings that reflect San Diego’s history and ethnic diversity.

As part of the centennial celebration, one of Balboa Park’s most historic and iconic landmarks, the California Tower at the Museum of Man, will reopen to the public for the first time in 80 years. Visitors can ascend the 150-foot tower to take in 360-degree views of Balboa Park and the surrounding San Diego cityscape.

Balboa Park and its many institutions have also lined up a yearlong celebration of events.

“Coast to Cactus,” a 9,000-square-foot permanent exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum, debuted in January with immersive, lifesized dioramas, interactive elements and live animals that explore the habitats of Southern California.

Opening February 14, the Museum of Photographic Arts presents “7 Billion Others,” a multimedia exhibition featuring voices and video portraits from more than 6,000 individual interviews filmed in 84 countries by nearly 20 directors. The exhibition marks the world premiere of the 30-week presentation, which features individuals as diverse as a Brazilian fisherman, a Chinese shopkeeper, a German performer and an Afghan farmer.