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San Diego Arts and Culture

Positively passionate!

Here's just a brief look at why this city by the beach has earned a reputation as a vibrant, artistically rich and culture-loving destination.

It may surprise you to know there are nearly 250 museums throughout San Diego County — and that only one of them is dedicated to surfing. Here's just a brief look at why this city by the beach has earned a reputation as a vibrant, artistically rich and culture-loving destination.

With 18 museums and 10 theaters and performing arts centers, Balboa Park is San Diego's cultural heart. "The Smithsonian of the West," this beautiful park houses its treasures among green expanses, cultivated gardens and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, making it a magical place to spend the day. Wonder at the incredible displays in the San Diego Natural History Museum. See old masters from Rembrandt to Rubens in the intimate Timken Museum of Art. Or visit the San Diego Air & Space Museum to marvel at the actual Apollo 9 Command Module spacecraft. Theater lovers would be remiss not to try and catch the latest show at The Old Globe, one of the most esteemed regional theaters in the country. Balboa Park holds enough wonderful sights and experiences to fill an entire vacation by itself.

Next, head up the coast to the newly re-envisioned Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego in La Jolla. As if the surrounding ocean views weren't inspiring enough, the permanent collection at MCASD includes more than 4,000 works created after 1950. Working to stay on the cutting edge of the art world, the museum has a reputation for collecting works from the most promising emerging artists, as well as major figures in contemporary art. Painting, sculpture, photography, video, film and installation art are all represented. Don't miss Nancy Rubins' site-specific installation, "Pleasure Point," a colorful accumulation of rowboats, canoes, jet skis and surfboards that practically burst off the west side of the building.

One of the latest editions to San Diego's art scene is the wonderful New Children's Museum in downtown. A feast for the eyes and the imagination, this award-winning, environmentally friendly building houses three stories brimming with hands-on exhibits and activities, as well as works by established and emerging artists designed to engage children and adults alike. One visit may just change how you experience the world.

The Art of Hospitality: Hotels with Inspired Collections

Hilton San Diego Bayfront

This 23-story luxury hotel features a number of commissioned public artworks throughout the hotel and grounds, including seven sculptures by Ned Kahn and a suspended sculpture by John Portman in the lobby. The hotel's promenade level includes the Aaron Chang Ocean Art Gallery, featuring works by the award-winning, internationally acclaimed surf photographer, whose work has been published all over the world in hundreds of books and magazines.

Kimpton Hotel Alma

A gem on the city skyline, this 23-story luxury hotel is a unique and very San Diego experience in art and function. Its visual aesthetic bursts with references to the region’s Mexican history and heritage, alongside such contemporary influences as graffiti and tattoo art. A series of large murals by local artists add to the place’s singular vibe.

The US Grant

Built in 1910, renovated in 2016 and boasting more than a dozen presidential stays, this Edwardian masterpiece was the first hotel to commission exclusive, original works by living artists. Sleep next to pieces by the internationally acclaimed French artist Yves Clement, and by the American painter Gene Locklear, who was once an outfielder for the San Diego Padres.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

An authentic reflection of the California Craftsman style of architecture, this elegant hotel proudly displays one of the largest collections of works by the 20th-century San Diego artist Albert Robert Valentien, namesake of the establishment's renowned restaurant.

Performing Arts

San Diego's flourishing arts and culture scene offers performing arts in every imaginable medium. Here are just a few of the performing arts companies and venues that bring art to life around the county.

La Jolla Playhouse, a Tony Award-winning theater, presents bold and innovative productions year-round in the Theatre District on the UCSD campus.

The Tony Award-winning Old Globe, San Diego's flagship theater, was founded in 1935 and produces a wide variety of a new and classic plays and musicals on its three stages in Balboa Park. Like La Jolla Playhouse, the Old Globe has sent numerous shows to Broadway.

One of the oldest LGBT theaters in the country, Diversionary Theatre produces edgy dramatic productions and playful musicals with LGBTQ+ themes in its newly expanded and renovated University Heights complex.

The San Diego Symphony Orchestra presents world-class orchestral works year-round. The symphony currently performs outdoors in the stunning new Rady Shell at Jacobs Park along Downtown San Diego's beautiful Embarcadero.

The San Diego Opera, Southern California's longest-established opera company, presents the world's finest talent in lavish productions at the San Diego Civic Theatre in Downtown San Diego.

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