What better way to complete a public park than a larger-than-life, stately outdoor organ? Built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in San Diego is exactly that. It’s also the largest outdoor pipe organ in the world.
This century-old pavilion in the middle of San Diego’s Balboa Park now includes bench seating and a dramatic Renaissance-style wraparound archway flanking the giant musical instrument’s 5,000 pipes. The pipes range from the size of a pencil to 32 feet high, and are positioned facing north to be protected from the sun.
The open-air organ can make sounds for almost every instrument in a band—hi-hat, horns, piano, you name it—all through the wind billowing in its pipes. The one sound it does not make is commercial airplane noises, those are just added embellishments from the planes flying overhead to the nearby SAN airport.
If you’re in town, check out the free Sunday concert that is performed by San Diego’s civic organist. San Diego is one of just two places in the U.S with a city-designated organist (the other being Portland, Maine.) An odd job, perhaps, but certainly a crowd pleaser on sunny Sunday afternoons.
Know Before You Go
Check out the website for evening or special performances. Concerts always free on Sundays at 2 p.m., rain or shine.