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Live and learn: Museums in San Diego

Whether you’re a history buff, art aficionado, or science fan, these 28 museums in San Diego have it all.

A view of the San Diego Air and Space Museum with an airplane flying above in Balboa Park

The aviation and space exploration hub known as the San Diego Air & Space Museum is just so fly.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Table of Contents

Museums are the cultural hubs of San Diego. Whether you’re looking to learn something new about America’s Finest City or plotting a way to spend your Saturday afternoon, here are 28 museums to visit in our city.

USS Midway Museum San Diego

The USS Midway Museum is iconic.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday


San Diego History Center, 1649 El Prado | Suggested minimum donation: $10
If you want to learn about the past, present, and future of the San Diego region, this museum holds so much local knowledge.

Don’t miss: “Nathan Harris: Born Enslaved, Died a San Diego Legend,” an exhibit dedicated to the homesteader who lived on Palomar Mountain. Also, explore the local craft beer community and culture via docents from Little Miss Brewing, Friday-Sunday.

USS Midway Museum, 910 N. Harbor Dr. | $21-$31
Docked along San Diego Bay, this decommissioned aircraft carrier-turned-museum features more than 60 exhibits throughout its decks, plus 30+ restored aircraft spanning the Battle of the Midway and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Don’t miss: If you’ve got the need, the need for speed — try riding the flight simulators.

Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House, 410 Island Ave. | $8-$12
This museum operates out of a home built in 1850 — the oldest standing structure in downtown San Diego — which also once operated as a county hospital. Its name pays tribute to two influential San Diegans: William Heath Davis and Alonzo Horton — aka, “The Father of San Diego.”

Don’t miss: On Tuesdays, the museum offers private, guided tours by reservation.

Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center

The CPMCC is located in the brick building on the right, adjacent to Chicano Park.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center, 1960 National Ave. | Suggested donation: $25
This long-awaited museum in the heart of Chicano Park in Barrio Logan opened in October 2022 to educate visitors about local Chicana/o, Latina/o, and Indigenous culture and history.

Don’t miss: “PILLARS: Stories of Resilience and Determination,” a collective historical narrative of Chicano Park and the grassroots groups and artists behind the powerful, mural-filled National Historic Landmark.

Whaley House San Diego

How about a little visit to the Whaley House this season — and beyond?

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

The Whaley House Museum, 2476 San Diego Ave. | $13+
Dubbed “America’s Most Haunted House,” this spirited, Greek revival home built in 1857 was owned by Thomas and Anna Whaley. Legend has it the family’s ghosts — and those of a few other San Diegans — still roam the property.

Don’t miss: The evening guided tours or the nighttime paranormal investigation tours — if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, visit around Día de Los Muertos to see the colorful “ofrendas” dedicated to the Whaley Family.

The Museum of Us at Balboa Park in San Diego, California

The Museum of Us at Balboa Park.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Museum of Us, 1350 El Prado | $16.95-$19.95
This museum of anthropology features exhibits focused on cultural and societal topics, with room to reflect, share, and grow.

Don’t miss: “Maya Peoples: Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth” — an exhibit developed with Maya community consultants — “Move With Us,” a recurring yoga session in the museum’s breathtaking rotunda, and tours of the California Tower.

Junípero Serra Museum, 2727 Presidio Dr. | Suggested minimum donation: $10
Located above Old Town San Diego in Presidio Park, this landmark museum marks the site of the first permanent European settlement in California. In 1769, the state’s first mission and fort was established here by Spanish Franciscan missionary Father Junípero Serra and soldiers led by Gaspar de Portolá.

Don’t miss: The core exhibition’s stories about the Kumeyaay settlement of Kosaii, and the museum’s weekend walking tours.

Women's Museum of California Education Center San Diego

Local leaders celebrated the grand opening of the Women’s Museum of California Education Center on June 4, 2022. | Photo via Women’s Museum of California

Women’s Museum of California Education Center, 404 Euclid Ave. | Free
This 1,700-sqft facility dedicated to the history of the women’s rights movement debuted in June 2022 at the Jacobs Center in southeast San Diego. It’s open to the public every first Saturday of the month, and schools and community groups can also book weekday visits by appointment.

Don’t miss: Special events including panels and workshops, typically announced via the museum’s Facebook or Instagram feeds.

A model of a US navy ship with openings on its side so you can see into the different rooms, which are filled with tiny people figurines meant to depict the life of US Navy sailors.

One the many detailed models of a US Navy ship at the Nautical Gallery & Museum at Liberty Station.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Nautical History Gallery & Museum, 2640 Historic Decatur Rd. | Free
Tucked inside the Dick Laub NTC Command Center at Arts District Liberty Station, this 800-sqft gallery chronicles the history of the US Navy and its ships from 1775 to 1945 through incredibly detailed ship models and fun, interactive elements that the kids (and adults) will love.

Don’t miss: Take a moment to chat with curator Joe Frangiosa, the US Navy and Marine veteran who runs the museum and built every model on display. He’s a wealth of knowledge and a truly delightful San Diegan.

San Diego Museum of Art

Art exploration for the ages.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday


San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado | $20
At the heart of Balboa Park, this museum has roots in the 1915 Panama-California Exposition where an exhibition of European old masters and local artists was displayed.

Don’t miss: The museum’s significant collections and exhibitions, plus annual signature festivities like the flower-filled Art Alive.

MCASD La Jolla

Inside the newly renovated + expanded MCASD in La Jolla.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 700 Prospect St. | $20-$25
After four years of construction and a $105 million renovation and expansion, MCASD reopened its flagship La Jolla campus in April 2022 with new spaces and collections.

Don’t miss: The collections across two levels and the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean — give yourself plenty of time to browse this one.

San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art, Virtual | Free
The “museum without walls” features online exhibits that present and preserve African American art.

Don’t miss: The museum’s traveling exhibitions and community events.

SD Mingei Museum

Inside the Mingei’s gallery.

Mingei Museum, 1439 El Prado | Free for Commons Level + $15 for Gallery
The Mingei focuses on works of folk art, craft, and design from all eras and cultures all over the globe — the very collections that inspire the menu at its buzzy in-house restaurant, ARTIFACT.

Don’t miss: Special events are bountiful here; check out the recurring Mini Mingei for kids and Coffee and Conversations.

Timken Museum of Art, 1500 El Prado | Free
Around since 1965, this museum has preserved the Putnam family’s collection of European old masters, American art, and Russian pieces for the ongoing education of local generations.

Don’t miss: The architecture — its symmetry, balance, and palette.

SD WNDR Museum

“Inside Out” at the WNDR Museum in San Diego.

Photo via Tyler Curtis/Tyliner + WNDR San Diego

WNDR San Diego, 422 Market St. | $32
This space debuted in January 2023 as an interactive, multi-sensory showcase of art and tech. The exhibitions are experiential and immersive, truly making you think outside the box.

Don’t miss: The workshops and WNDR After Dark events.

SD Museum of Making Music Carlsbad

Get in tune with the art music at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad.

Museum of Making Music, 5790 Armada Dr., Carlsbad | $10-$15
This North County museum celebrates the achievements and impact of the artists who make, sell, and use musical instruments and equipment.

Don’t miss: Joining the band via live music sessions and music-making opportunities.

ICA San Diego Central, 1439 El Prado | Free (pay-as-you-wish)
With locations at Balboa Park and Encinitas, ICA — or Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego — is a platform for experimental art and “learning with a mission to question everything.”

Don’t miss: The museum’s Insider Series events give guests a chance to delve deeper into art forms.

WorldBeat Cultural Center Mural and sign

WorldBeat Cultural Center will host its 43rd Annual Kwanzaa Celebration starting Tuesday, Dec. 26.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

WorldBeat Cultural Center, 2100 Park Blvd. | Free
This vibrant center was founded by Executive Director Makeda Dread in 1984 with a mission to promote, present, and preserve “the African American Diaspora and Indigenous cultures of the world through music, art, dance, multimedia arts, and education.” To that end, the center offers classes, exhibitions, programs, and community events throughout the year.

Don’t miss: WorldBeat’s annual Tribute to Reggae Legends (aka Bob Marley Day) every February, and the site’s beautiful Peace Garden.

The Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park in San Diego.

The Comic-Con Museum celebrates comics and pop culture year-round.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday


Comic-Con Museum, 2131 Pan American Plaza | $12-$25
Yes, San Diego Comic-Con International comes once a year, but this museum spotlights comics and popular arts year-round with exhibitions centered on iconic characters, writers, and illustrators.

Don’t miss: “Excelsior!” — aN exhibition dedicated to the legacy of Stan Lee — and “Cover Story: Five Decades of Comic-Con,” a look at the cover art created by comics for the convention’s souvenir program year after year.

The Maritime Museum of San Diego with the Star of India ship

Ahoy, you’ve gotta sea this landmark museum to believe it.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Maritime Museum of San Diego, 1492 N. Harbor Dr. | $10-$20
This iconic museum on San Diego Bay boasts one of the world’s finest collections of historic ships — from the iconic Star of India to the San Salvador.

Don’t miss: After you’ve checked out the vessels, treat the kids to one of the museum’s sailing adventures.

SD New Children's Museum

The New Children’s Museum is filled with interactive art installations.

New Children’s Museum, 200 W. Island Ave. | $18-$20
Little ones will love the interactive, playful art installations perfect for exploring their creativity and imagination.

Don’t miss: The sensory-friendly “Breathing Room” is perfect for a relaxing break.

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, 320 N. Broadway, Escondido | $11.50
Designed with kids ages 0-10 in mind, this North County museum offers hands-on, educational activities, interactive exhibits, and programs focused on science, world cultures, and art.

Don’t miss: Moms of infants and toddlers will appreciate the Growing Together classes.

The Fleet Science Center in San Diego

The Heikoff Giant Dome Theater inside The Fleet Science Center is an experience.

Photo via Fleet Science Center


San Diego Air & Space Museum, 2001 Pan American Plaza | $15-$25
Part of SD’s museum landscape since 1963, this aviation and space exploration hub features hands-on exhibits and activities.

Don’t miss: The Apollo 9 Command Module, replica of Charles Lindbergh’s historic Spirit of St. Louis plane, and the animatronic Amelia Earhart.

The Canyoneers volunteer hiking group from The San Diego Natural History Museum

The Canyoneers will lead 60+ free, guided hikes during their 2022-2023 season.

Photo via Alan King + The San Diego Natural History Museum

San Diego Natural History Museum, 1788 El Prado | $14-$24
Affectionately referred to as “The Nat,” this museum — part of SD’s culture since 1874 — focuses on San Diego County’s natural history and biodiversity of our binational region through its fun, informative exhibitions.

Don’t miss: Love hiking? Join the museum’s longtime Canyoneers on guided hikes, September-June. Oh, and in 2024, The Nat will host fun events in celebration of its 150th anniversary.

Fleet Science Center, 1875 El Prado | $19.95-$24.95
The kids will love The Fleet’s 100+ interactive exhibits that explore the wonders of science from optical illusions to electricity.

Don’t miss: An IMAX movie or documentary film in the beloved Giant Dome Theater.

SD California Surf Museum

Dive deep into California’s surf culture at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.

Special interests

California Surf Museum, 312 Pier View Way, Oceanside | $7
Stoked on local surf culture? Us too. Learn all about the sport, surfboards, wave-riding, and surfing legends at this North County gem.

Don’t miss: The collection of boards chronicling the history of surfing and special events like book signings and film screenings.

SD Padres Petco Park Breitbard Hall of Fame

The display of plaques at Petco Park.

Photo via Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres

The Breitbard Hall of Fame, Petco Park | Included in ballpark admission
Located in the Western Metal Supply Co. Building on the ballpark’s Field Level, this mini-museum showcases plaques honoring San Diego Padres players over the club’s history, including local Breitbard Hall of Fame inductees like Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman.

Don’t miss: The historic images at the heart of the display.

The San Diego Automotive Museum

Vroom, vroom: Gearheads will love this one.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

San Diego Automotive Museum, 2080 Pan American Plaza | $10-$15.25
The exhibitions featuring 75+ vehicles and motorcycles will have you revving up to learn about the history — social and technological — of motorized vehicles and transportation.

Don’t miss: Cars & Coffee, the museum’s meet-up for car enthusiasts on the third Sunday of the month; the museum opens early at 8 a.m. on these days, with a $10 admission deal before 10 a.m.

What did we miss? If you know a museum that’s not on the list, let us know via this survey.

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