This guide to Balboa Park Museums in San Diego is a quick reference to opening hours and admission fees so you can coordinate your day and your budget.
It also gives an overview of what each museum offers, to help you decide which ones to visit this time and which to save for later.
What an amazing array of offerings! How can anyone see them all in one day? You can't. To do them justice, you really need to limit yourself to a few and really soak them in, rather than get burned out by running around, trying to beat the clock. Save the rest for your next beach vacation in San Diego.
HOURS: Most, but not all of these Balboa Park museums, are closed Monday. See specific individual times and days below.
Please note: times may have changed since the time of this writing so please check before making your plans.
ADMISSION FEES: Admission fees vary, so check each listing below, and call the museum if you want to clarify. Some of the museums are free, others offer free or reduced rates to seniors, students, active military and their dependents. Also, some of the museums have one free Tuesday a month to San Diego city and county residents, offered on a rotating basis. And of course, there is free admission to any museum for its members.
TICKETS: Many of the museums offer online ticketing on their websites, some through Ticketmaster. Special deals can be had by buying a Passport to Balboa Park, which includes admission to all the museums, and there's even an option to add the San Diego Zoo to your passport.
Another good deal is the Go San Diego Card, in which you can combine a whole lot of attractions in 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 days at up to 50% off.
To help you decide, these 18 museums and centers are loosely grouped into 5 categories, but please note that many of these places have overlapping interests, so keep an open mind when scanning through. The 5 arbitrary categories are: Culture, Art, Science, Transportation and History (though nearly all contain elements of all 5!)
Centro Cultural de la Raza
Tuesday thru Sunday 12-4
Exhibits and performances relating to hispanic and indigenous art & culture, including art, theater, dance and more.
Japanese Friendship Garden
Tuesday thru Sunday 10-3
Includes a tea pavilion, a Zen garden, a koi pond and a bonsai exhibit.
San Diego Museum Of Man
Daily 10-5 Sunday through Wednesday, 10-7:30 Thursday through Sat
Exhibits on anthropology and archaelogy, covering cultures the world over
Has programs and events promoting music, art, dance, education and technology of indigenous and African cultures.
Mingei International Museum
Tuesday thru Sunday 10-5
Folk art, craft and design exhibits from around the world.
Museum of Photographic Arts
Tuesday thru Sunday 10-5, in summer Thursdays open till 9pm
Exhibits span the history of photography.
San Diego Art Institute
Tuesdays thru Saturdays 10-4, Sundays 12-4
Many juried shows and exhibitions of local emerging artists
San Diego Museum Of Art
Tuesday, Thurs through Saturday 10-5, Sunday 12-5, Wednesdays closed
Major art museum featuring everything from European old masters to South Asian works to 19th and 20th century American paintings.
Timken Museum Of Art
Tuesday thru Saturday 10-4:30, Sunday 12:00-4:30
A smaller museum, featuring Russian icons, American paintings and works of European Old Masters.
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
Monday thru Thursday 10-5, Friday-Sunday 10-6
(IMAX is extra)
Interactive science exhibits plus IMAX films.
San Diego Air & Space Museum
call for prices: 619-234-8291
All about the history of aviation and space travel. Also has an interactive kid zone.
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
Tuesday thru Friday 11-4, Saturday and Sunday 11-5
Really amazing place for anyone with even a remote interest in model trains. Lots of working trains set up with elaborately detailed sets.
San Diego Automotive Museum
World class collection of automobiles and special exhibitions.
summer: Thursday thru Sunday 10-5, winter: Friday thru Sunday 10-4
Historic Arts and Crafts house is 8500 square feet, surrounded by gardens. Self-guided and docent-led tours.
San Diego History Center
Tuesday thru Sunday 10-5
Exhibits allow you to immerse yourself into all aspects of the history of San Diego. Get tickets
San Diego Natural History Museum
Admission includes the 3D large screen theater shows. Exhibits which illuminate the natural world of minerals, fossils, animals and the environment.
Veterans Museum & Memorial Center
Tuesday thru Sunday 10-4
Covers all branches of the military through displays and living history tours led by docents.
San Diego Hall Of Champions Sports Museum
Three levels of all kinds of sports memorabilia, a theater and an interactive media center.
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