The collection of over 90 museums in San Diego County reflects a broad and diverse range of interests and subjects, spanning from fine arts to transportation, from classics to contemporary and from science to natural history. San Diego’s museums collectively dedicate themselves to preserve the past, observe the present and inspire future citizens to take part and take care of our cultural, natural and historic heritage. Wherever your interest may lie, you’re sure to find a museum that will provide you with deeper insight, engagement and inspiration.
Often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West," Balboa Park is the largest urban park with cultural institutions in the United States. Fifteen museums cover topics including anthropology, art, aviation, natural science and technology.
If you are planning on visiting Balboa Park over the course of a few days, take advantage of the Passport to Balboa Park which includes one admission to 14 museums over 7 consecutive days. If you only have a day, visit the Visitors Center in Balboa Park for a Stay-for-the-Day pass that includes admission to 5 of the museums in one day.
Considered the “birth place” of California, Old Town San Diego gives visitors a glimpse into colonial life in San Diego from 1821 to 1872. Mixed among award-winning restaurants and more than 100 shops are historical sites and museums, many with free admission. At the center of Old Town is the Whaley House Museum Complex, which consists of five historic buildings, the most famous of which is the Whaley House, called the number one most haunted house in the U.S. by the Travel Channel's America's Most Haunted.
View a rare original stagecoach at the Wells Fargo Museum, see a scale model of nineteenth century Old Town at the reconstructed Robinson-Rose House, and tour the Black Hawk Livery & Blacksmith, the first public schoolhouse in San Diego, and Casa de Estudillo, considered one of the finest adobe haciendas in the state.
Up the hill are Heritage Park, a 7.8 acre county park where seven Victorian homes have been relocated and now house shops and bed and breakfasts, and the Serra Museum, site of California’s first mission and fort.
While most of the museums are child-friendly, a few cater specifically to children. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park brings science to life with hands-on experiments that are sure to make a child want to learn more. Also in Balboa Park you’ll find the San Diego Model Railroad Museum with an interactive Lionel layout for children.
The New Children’s Museum in Downtown and the Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido bring art and discovery to life with fun activities, projects and play areas. Each children’s museum also has space for the littlest visitors so they can join in the fun as well.