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Scroll through your favorite social media app and you’ll undoubtedly see at least one smiling subject standing in front of a multicolored wall or dancing to the tunes of live musicians. In San Diego, there are boundless opportunities for capturing compelling snapshots. This Southern California gem is sprinkled with towering murals, vibrant mosaic sculptures, and lively concerts and festivals. Use this guide to tour the most picture-perfect arts and culture offerings in and around San Diego.
There’s more than water under San Diego’s Coronado Bridge. In fact, the artwork on the underside of the structure represents the city’s colorful history and culture. Chicano Park, the largest assembly of outdoor murals in the United States, is a collection of Chicano paintings that pays homage to San Diego’s Mexican-American roots. The site was founded in 1970 when Chicano activists joined together to protest urban construction that would have compromised the integrity of their neighborhood. It was recently named a National Historic Monument, making it one of the newest sites in the country to receive this designation.
Prepare yourself for a sensory overload. The collections at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) include cutting-edge installations that manipulate viewers’ perception of sight and sound with multimedia elements—like video and music—and immersive special effects. The MCASD has an internationally recognized collection and a dynamic schedule of exhibitions and public programs for all to enjoy.
Artwork: Ruben Ochoa, watching, waiting, commiserating, 2010, rebar and wooden pallets, 17 x 70 x 15 feet, Collection of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Orange County Museum of Art through joint purchase, 2011.2
On a walk through La Jolla, an affluent neighborhood along the coastline of San Diego, you’ll encounter sweeping views of the Pacific and could spot the resident sea lions or harbor seals sunning on the rocks. But a contemporary art installation, Murals of La Jolla, is adding creative flair to the already scenic area. Local and internationally renowned artists dreamed up and created the colorful murals on buildings in the community. Follow the map to visit the 16 on display now.
Artwork: Roy McMakin, Favorite Color, 2010
Dotted with galleries, murals, and creative shops, North Park has emerged as one of San Diego’s most picture-perfect neighborhoods. Explore the community on the second Saturday of the month for Ray at Night, an evening art walk where galleries stay open late, local musicians perform live sets, and food trucks serve up favorite San Diego cuisine.
Artwork: @ Kreashun, "Rose" mural, 8′ x 15′, Montana Gold and Black aerosol, 2014 Part of "North Park Mural Project"
Even if you’re not hitting the books, don’t miss a visit to the scenic campus of the University of California, San Diego. Set on 1,200 acres above the Pacific Ocean, the school grounds are home to the Stuart Collection, an assortment of contemporary art works on public display. Download the map and take a walking tour to view the collection, which includes works like Sun God, a 14-foot bird statue that sits atop a lush concrete arch.
Artwork: Niki de Saint Phalle. Sun God, 1983. Stuart Collection, UCSD © 2017 NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved.
A colorful neighborhood on the southern end of the city, Barrio Logan attracts hip and progressive artistic influencers. This community is a creative hub where painters, sculptors, writers, and designers can gather to grow, learn, and collaborate. Galleries like La Bodega are collectives where up-and-coming visionaries can share their works with the public. Go for the gallery hopping, and stay for authentic Mexican food at the neighborhood’s eateries.
In Old Town San Diego, the sounds of mariachi music and scents of authentic Latin cuisine remind residents and guests that Mexican culture is a huge part of life in San Diego. Visit for one of the community’s lively festivals, or explore Old Town State Park’s numerous sites and living history demonstrations.
Pictured: Mariachi Divinas
At San Diego County’s Waterfront Park, kids can play in fountains and on jungle gyms while adults relax and enjoy views of San Diego Bay. Art lovers congregate around three mosaic sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, vibrant works that were unveiled at the park in 2015.
Artwork: Niki de Saint Phalle. Arbre de serpents (Serpent Tree), 1988. Loan to San Diego County, Waterfront Park © 2017 NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved.
The San Diego Museum of Man proves museums are as much about human connection as they are about admiring artifacts. One of the 17 museums at San Diego’s Balboa Park, the institution examines the many sides of human existence. Exhibits and installations chart man’s early evolution and study the challenges experienced in modern society.
Artwork: Jason Gould and Frieda Gould, Identity
Live theater is nice, but what if you could take in a performance on the go? Each September, the San Diego Dance Theater hosts Trolley Dances. To participate in this immersive experience, patrons board the San Diego Trolley and enjoy energetic and funny performances at stops from Barrio Logan to Fault Line Park.
© 2017 Time Inc.
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