From the fine arts, including classical, contemporary and folk art, to science and natural history, San Diego's museums and galleries offer an abundance of experiences. Wherever your interest may lie, you're sure to find a collection that will provide you with deeper insight, engagement and inspiration. It's no wonder USA Today has called San Diego "one of America's most creative cities."
Often referred to as the "Smithsonian of the West," Balboa Park is the largest urban park with cultural institutions in the United States. It boasts 18 museums devoted to topics as varied as anthropology, art, comics, aviation, natural science and technology, and they're spread throughout the pristine gardens and historic Spanish Colonial architecture of the park.
The Balboa Park Explorer Passes are San Diego's best cultural value. The one-day, multi-day and annual Explorer passes offer visitors the chance to experience multiple museums in the park, with savings of more than 50% and the convenience of a one-time purchase. The Multi-Day Explorer/Zoo Combo includes the Balboa Park Multi-Day Explorer Pass plus a one-day admission ticket to the San Diego Zoo, all for one low price.
Considered the birthplace of modern California, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park gives visitors a glimpse into San Diego's colonial period from 1821-1872. Many of the historical sites and museums in this neighborhood have free admission. Over a hundred shops and boutiques line the streets, along with plenty of restaurants. 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, the most haunted house in the country according to the Travel Channel's "America's Most Haunted."
View a rare original stagecoach at the Wells Fargo Museum, see a scale model of 19th-century Old Town at the reconstructed Robinson-Rose House, and tour the Black Hawk Livery & Blacksmith, the first public schoolhouse in San Diego. Casa de Estudillo is considered one of the finest adobe haciendas in the state. Nearby is the Iipay ~ Tipay Kumeyaay Mut Niihepok (Land of the First People) park, commemorating the Kumeyaay people, the area's original settlers. And up the hill you'll discover Heritage Park, a 7.8-acre county park where seven Victorian homes have been relocated and now house shops, bed and breakfasts, and the Serra Museum, site of California's first mission and fort.
While most of the museums and other attractions are kid-friendly, a few cater specifically to children. The Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park brings science to life with hands-on experiments that are sure to engage your child's inquisitive mind. Also in Balboa Park, you'll find the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, with an interactive Lionel train layout for children.
In La Jolla, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps showcases a fascinating range of sea life, from sea horses to sharks, and lets kids and their families get hands-on with ocean inhabitants thanks to a simulated tide pool. Kids are also sure to love the diminutive but very active penguins (the world's smallest) that reside in the Birch's newest habitat, the Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins area.
And the New Children's Museum in downtown San Diego brings art and discovery to life with fun interactive activities, craft projects and inventive play areas. Recent exhibits at the New Children's Museum have explored issues such as recycling and food sustainability through child-focused art and craft projects. Many of the museums have toddler areas as well so the littlest ones can join in all the fun.
The USS Midway Museum, named one of the top museums in the country by Tripadvisor, invites the public to learn about America's longest-serving aircraft carrier, with 35 exhibits and tours exploring its rich 47-year history. Many of the storytelling docents are veterans who served aboard the carrier. Just down the Embarcadero, the floating Maritime Museum of San Diego features one of the finest collections of historic ships in the world, including the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship.
Click the links below to discover more wonderful museums and galleries to explore in San Diego.
This unique gathering place within 360 waterfront acres of the former Naval Training Center features historic Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, vast landscaped open spaces and plenty of free parking. ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station is a destination where visitors and locals can stroll the 100 parklike acres, discover something new each time and make lasting memories. Many of the 38 historic buildings are now bursting with authenticity, heritage, creativity and innovation. Always changing and evolving, ARTS DISTRICT is a place to create, connect, learn, shop, dine, meet, explore and buy local art.
Explore the story of San Diego's historical Asian Pacific Historical Thematic District. Learn about the history of Downtown through the years as San Diego's Chinatown of yesteryear. Show your...
Dive into the world of sharks, seadragons and Little Blue Penguins at Birch Aquarium. As the public outreach center for Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Birch Aquarium features...
Show your badge and receive $2 off admission and 10% off in the gift shop at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Offer must be redeemed in person. Spanning over 27,000 square feet of trains,...
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