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San Diego, an Undiscovered Arts & Culture Hub

The inside scoop on San Diego’s artsy hotspots

When planning a trip to San Diego, sun, surf, and sand may be top of mind. Take note, though: The city’s multicultural history and vibrant art scene are waiting to be discovered.

Balboa Park at Night in San Diego CA

Balboa Park

Visitors to San Diego’s Balboa Park—the country’s largest urban cultural park—will find no shortage of places to explore. The famed San Diego Zoo is located here, as well as a 106-year-old carousel, a functioning miniature railroad, 65 miles of trails to wander, and a dozen gardens. But the park, home to The Old Globe Theatre and 17 museums, is also a hub for fans of the arts.

The San Diego Museum of Art is the largest and oldest art museum in the region and includes a mix of 19th- and 20th-century European and American works. Peruse the collection, then stop at Panama 66 for a bite and a local craft beer. For art in a more intimate setting, head toward the much-photographed lily pond to find the Timken Museum of Art. The mid-century modern building houses a small but prestigious collection of celebrated European, American, and Russian works.

Chicano Park

The Coronado Bridge, which stretches for two miles between San Diego and Coronado, might seem like an unlikely spot for art enthusiasts, but an eye-catching collection of murals is located underneath the bridge’s east side. Chicano Park is a colorful tribute to the vibrant Mexican-American culture that has shaped San Diego for generations. The first murals were painted in the mid-1970s, and Chicano artists have maintained the park since then. Clear your camera roll before you go: The site, recently designated a National Historic Landmark, is home to 70 powerful paintings.


San Diego Central Library

San Diego has taken its local library to the next level—nine levels, to be exact. The nine floors of the San Diego Central Library, one of the city’s newest and most dynamic attractions, house more than a million books and an auditorium. Residents and tourists alike flock to the library for special events, a cup of coffee at an outdoor café, or quiet time with a good book under the building’s architectural masterpiece, a three-story metal dome.

One of the library’s most enticing elements is its free art gallery, On View. Rotating exhibits feature everything from paintings and sculptures to sound installations and costumes.

ArtworkCostume Design by Robert Morgan, Moth, a Faerie from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Old Globe, 1985). Installation View from First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, 2016.


Murals of La Jolla

With views of towering Pacific cliffs, tranquil tide pools, and sunbathing sea lions, a stroll through San Diego’s La Jolla neighborhood is scenic in itself. However, Murals of La Jolla, a collaboration between contemporary artists and community leaders, adds extra charm to a corner of the city already bursting with character.

Billboard-size murals by local and internationally renowned artists adorn the sides of La Jolla buildings, creating an outdoor exhibition best enjoyed via a self-guided walking tour. Explore the 16 pieces currently on display and look out for new works scheduled for completion in 2017.

ArtworkKelsey Brookes, One Pointed Attention, 2014


North Park

Shop, sample local fare, and snap colorful selfies in San Diego’s North Park, an artistic neighborhood dotted with unique boutiques, cafes, and outdoor murals. Here, the city’s creative community comes together to host street fairs, festivals, and live performances for guests and visitors. The second Saturday of each month, North Park puts on Ray at Night, an art walk event that includes live music and food trucks.

ArtworkPangeaseed, Lauren YS, @lolo.ys

Philipp Scholz Rittermann

The Stuart Collection

Picture this: a talking tree, a house perched precariously on the edge of a building, and a slate footpath in the shape of a serpent. These are a few of the eye-catching installations that comprise the Stuart Collection, an assortment of contemporary works at University of California, San Diego. Students, visitors, and San Diego natives are invited to explore the pieces that dot the college campus.  

ArtworkDo Ho Suh, Fallen Star, 2012, Stuart Collection, UC San Diego


La Jolla Playhouse

Iconic stars from the stage and screen light up La Jolla Playhouse, a world-class theater known for staging shows that get sent on to Broadway. The venue produces some of the country’s best performances, featuring famous playwrights and Hollywood actors.

La Jolla Playhouse also hosts a biannual theater festival, Without Walls (WoW). This innovative and immersive experience includes live performances that take place off the stage and in the San Diego community—sometimes on the sand or in the surf. Festivalgoers can expect to interact with actors and participate in the theatrics.

ArtworkBasil Twist renowned puppetry artists, SEAFOAM SLEEPWALK , 2013, Created for La Jolla Playhouse’s inaugural Without Walls Festival.

© 2017 Time Inc.

Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation

Take a short trolley ride from downtown San Diego and hop off to visit the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, a local organization focused on celebrating diversity and infusing Southeastern San Diego with arts and culture. Here, visitors will find live music performances, dance demonstrations, and family-friendly poetry and jazz festivals throughout the year.

© 2017 Time Inc.

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