Location: Balboa Park (3 Miles Northeast of Downtown San Diego)
Show Times: Generally Wednesdays – Sundays at 11AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM. (More details below.)
Cost: $5 ($3 for Kids 2 and up; $4 for Seniors 65+)
Features: Nation’s Longest Running, Full-Time Puppet Theater
Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater Highlights: The oldest puppet theater in the country has been operating in Balboa Park since 1947. Six puppeteers provide a very wide variety of shows that appeal to children and their parents on a year-round schedule.
Insider Tip: When you walk into the theater, take a quick look in the hallway to your left side. You will get to read the story of how Marie Hitchcock, namesake of the puppet theater, and her sister Genevieve Engman helped save the California Condors from becoming extinct. As the condor population dwindled to just two dozen remaining in the wild, biologists brought all newly laid eggs to the San Diego Zoo. When the eggs hatched, it was difficult to persuade the babies to be fed by humans. The sisters came to the rescue by creating a hand puppet to resemble a mother condor. These hand puppets were successfully used to feed the baby condors and improve the condor population. Now hand puppets are a common tool used to feed animals born in captivity. Stroll the hallway to see pictures taken of the puppets being used to feed these original condors and a letter of commendation from then Governor Ronald Reagan.
What to Expect
- The Puppet Theater is indoors and seats 200 guests.
- Shows last about 30 minutes.
- No Smoking is allowed in or around the Puppet Theater.
Upcoming Puppet Shows – There is a different show each week. To give you an idea of the show themes, recent puppet shows have included Cowboys in the Old West, Kings with the Midas Touch, Mother Goose, animals in the sea, and the circus.
Kids Activities – The Marie Hitchcock Theater provides a step-by-step guide for parents to help kids create their own puppet characters. You can also make your child’s trip more memorable with a birthday party or other special activity with the puppets.
Food – There is no food available at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. The closest option is the Home Plate Bar & Grill just outside the admission gate at the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum. It serves a wide variety of hot and cold sandwiches and snacks. If you are looking for something more than what is offered in a cafe, Balboa Park’s Prado Restaurant is more of an upscale full service restaurant. You can read more about the food options on the Balboa Park web site.
Information on Visiting the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
Show Times – The Puppet Theater offers shows from Wednesday through Sunday. Performance times are typically at 11AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM. During the school year, weekday performances are generally at 10AM and 11:30AM only. Check the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater calendar for the show schedule.
Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)
- Parking is Free
- Standard Fee is $5; ($3 for Kids ages 2 and up and $4 for Seniors 65 years and over)
Directions from Google Maps to 2131 Pan American Place in San Diego, CA 92101
Parking – There is a parking lot in front of the Puppet Theater. However, this often fills up quickly, especially during the summer and on weekends since it also shares the parking lot with the San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum. You will see there is additional parking nearby if you look at the Google Map for the directions above or the Balboa Park Map noted below. However, these lots often get busy as well.
If you don’t want to deal with parking hassles, especially during the summer and on weekends, go to the large parking lots on the opposite side of Park Boulevard. They are on Presidents Way on the east side of Park Boulevard, away from the museums. The Tram starts at the end of the driveway and circulates every 10 minutes from 8:30AM – 6PM daily with extended hours during the summer and special occasions. Get off at the first stop (Pan American Plaza northbound) if you don’t mind walking about 75 yards to the Museum. Otherwise, stay on the Tram for 15 – 20 minutes until the last stop (Pan American Plaza southbound) to be dropped off less than 20 yards from the Marie Hitchcock Theater.
Traffic – Unless there is a major event at Balboa Park, which occurs a few times during the year, getting in and out of Balboa Park is relatively easy using Park Boulevard. If you approach Balboa Park using southbound SR-163, traffic occasionally backs up a little over a mile before reaching the Park Boulevard Exit, which is the same exit for the I-5 northbound. However, the delay will only take a few extra minutes. Likewise, if you are planning to get on SR-163 northbound after leaving the Puppet Theater, plan on a short delay during the mid and late afternoon hours as a few entrance ramps merge together before reaching the highway. (Learn how to get the latest traffic updates.)
Transit - Buses serving Balboa Park drop passengers off on Park Boulevard at the intersection with Presidents Way. You will have to walk about 200 yards to reach the Theater or you can catch the Free Balboa Park Tram. The Tram starts at the end of the driveway, on the east side of Presidents Way and circulates every 10 minutes. You can get off the first stop (Pan American Plaza northbound) if you don’t mind walking about 75 yards to the Theater. Otherwise, stay on the Tram for 15 – 20 minutes until the last stop (Pan American Plaza southbound) to be dropped off less than 20 yards from the Theater. (See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map, which includes Balboa Park, and information for the online Transit Planner.)
Balboa Park Map – The map shows a listing of all Balboa Park Museums, attractions, bus and tram stops, and places to eat. You should also print out the Balboa Park Tram Map from the City of San Diego. It is not as detailed but is helpful because it includes names on each of the buildings. With the other map, you need to use a map key to find the name of a building.