OK, so I know a lot of people probably mention these cottages within reviews of the Balboa park listing, but if you look at the attractions in San Diego, lots of the listings are for individual museums within Balboa Park, so I figured these cottages also deserve their own listing because they are one of my most favorite things in SD. When I lived close to Balboa park I used to walk up here every Sunday to visit them.
Imagine a quaint 1930s version of Epcot because that's what this is. Now, before you get really high expectations, let me start by saying that these little houses are all run by volunteers and run on donations, so the only reason I give them 4 stars instead of 5 is because sometimes a house will be closed if there is no volunteer to staff it, or the volunteers obviously didn't have time to make any snacks so they'll just be offering store-bought cookies and lemonade. (If I still lived here I would totally volunteer and help them out. Tell all your foreign-born friends living in SD!) However, when the volunteers are up to par you'll find real homemade food from that country on offer in the house for just whatever you choose to give for a donation- lumpia in the Phillipines, soda bread in Ireland, Norwegian waffles with jam and sour cream in Norway, delicious pastries in the Czech Republic, etc. You'll also find displays about the various countries, maps, info on the products made in that country, information on joining the houses if you are a descendent from that country, etc. There is often a band playing in the Irish house. Sometimes the Chinese house has a volunteer who will write your name in Chinese characters for a donation, likewise in Hebrew at the Israel house. Please donate generously when you do take a snack or other service - I really think that's almost all that's keeping these little cottages going.
Here's the thing- these little houses are only open on Sundays from around noon-4 pm, and on a few other special occasions throughout the year, so you have to know to plan your Balboa park trip for Sunday afternoon. At around 2 pm one of the countries is also featured each week and they sing and dance for about an hour on the lawn. The host country also has more food on offer than just a snack. Once I was there when the US was the host and they had burgers and hot dogs going, and last weekend Turkey was the host and they were grilling kebabs. For that type of food I think prices are set, but they are still very cheap. Have some food and snacks here, chill on the lawn, watch the dancing, shop in the nearby Hall of Nations shop which has handicrafts from all the different countries on offer, then catch part of the Sunday at 2pm free outdoor organ concert at Spreckles Pavilion which is only about a block away. It's a great way to spend a Sunday. So relaxing and a throwback to the 1900s. :)
If you own or manage House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.