Check-In San Diego

A lifestyle guide by the Sofia Hotel

Take in a Free Sunday Concert at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion

Did you know that, among its many other superlative features, Balboa Park plays host to the world’s largest outdoor organ?

And opportunities for appreciating this grand instrument, the Spreckels Organ, and the glorious sounds it makes abound. On Sunday afternoons, you can head over to the park’s Sprecklels Organ Pavilion and enjoy a free hourlong concert by San Diego’s very own civic organist. In summer, meanwhile, the pavilion additionally holds Monday evening concerts of wide-ranging focus.

With downtown accommodations at the Sofia Hotel (one of the most beloved San Diego hotels), you’re just minutes from the wonderland of Balboa Park and those wonderful weekly programs at the Organ Pavilion, so why not take advantage?

The Spreckels Organ

The organ and the pavilion itself were a gift to the city from brothers John A. and Adolph Spreckels on the occasion of the Panama-California Exposition, which in 1915 transformed Balboa Park into the world-class urban oasis we see today. (President Woodrow Wilson launched the Exposition remotely through the magic of the telegraph, and in 1915 two former White House occupants, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, spoke at the Organ Pavilion.)

The Spreckels Organ, manufactured by the venerable Austin Organs, Inc. of Connecticut, sports better than 5,000 pipes—the largest more than 30 feet tall—in 80 ranks. It’s an amazing construction still producing sublime sounds more than a century after its installation in Balboa Park.

San Diego’s Brand-New Civic Organist

Since 1917, San Diego has employed a civic organist to helm the Spreckels Organ; eight fine musicians have held the title. The current organist, Raúl Prieto Ramirez of Spain, took over the job just this January following the retirement of Carol Williams. Ramirez, who established the Barcelona-Mataró International Organ Festival, partly earned the position with an audition concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion last October that covered, among other numbers, Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre, which the San Diego Union-Tribune described as “one of Ramirez’s signature pieces,” and the theme from The Pink Panther, for which he mustered the audience in finger-snapping duties.

“The San Diego civic organist position is like nothing else out there,” Ramirez, who moved to our city with his pianist/sommelier wife Teresa Sierra, told the Union-Tribune. “It gives me the opportunity to make and present powerful, meaningful music for a wonderful community like the citizens of San Diego on a weekly basis.”

Take in a Sunday Concert at Spreckels Organ Pavilion During Your Sofia Hotel Stay

The free Sunday concerts at Spreckels Organ Pavilion begin at 2 PM, and you won’t have trouble finding a seat at the 2,500-person-capacity outdoor venue. The Monday concerts in summer, though, often fill up.

You can bring along a picnic to enjoy alongside the music—or maybe follow up the concert with cocktail hour or dinner at the Sofia’s restaurant, Currant American Brasserie!

You can bring along a picnic to enjoy alongside the music—or maybe follow up the concert with cocktail hour or dinner at the Sofia’s restaurant, American Currant Brasserie!