Learn and Go Hands-On at San Diego's 10 Best Museums

Museums in San Diego take great pride in educating the public about our past and how to preserve the future. Over 90 museums are spread across the county with 15 major ones centered in Balboa Park, the nation's largest cultural urban park. 

Narrowing the list down to 10 is, frankly, quite difficult. Kids love the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and The New Children's Museum. However, photographers gravitate toward the Museum of Photographic Arts. We also have the longest-serving aircraft carrier, the USS Midway as a museum. The list of topics and interests addressed by each museum is incredibly diverse.

Keep in mind these tips for enjoying San Diego's museums at a lower cost. During select Tuesdays, those with a valid ID containing a San Diego County address or active military can receive free admission at select Balboa Park museums. Free entry applies to ID holder dependents as well. The Timken Art Museum is always free. Balboa Park offers Explorer passes that allow multiple museum entries at a discounted price for one day, seven days and an entire year. February is museum month where a booklet can be picked up at Macy's that provides half-off admission to museums throughout the county.

Wherever you are in San Diego, there is definitely a museum waiting for you.



The New Children's Museum re-opened in 2008 with a motto of think, play and create, which is exactly what kids do here. What is different about The New Children's Museum is that they specifically commission works of art with tactile features...  Read More



This beautiful museum began in what was once the 1916 Mission-style home of Ellen Browning Scripps, noted San Diego philanthropist. (The Institute of Oceanography and the breathtaking oceanside park are named for Mrs. Scripps.) Expansion to the...  Read More



Even folks who don't consider themselves railroad buffs enjoy this museum. But, if you were a train enthusiast in your youth or have a kid who is, this museum is a must-see. The 27,000 square-foot space features four railroads of the...  Read More

San Diego Museum Of Art


San Diego's most comprehensive collection of art. Italian Renaissance, Dutch, Spanish and baroque pieces are exhibited, as well as contemporary paintings and sculptures. Works by Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Pisarro, van Gogh and Dufy are...  Read More

Balboa Park


Located in the historic California Quadrangle at Balboa Park, this museum focuses primarily on the cultures of the ancient Americas. Permanent exhibit topics include the Maya, the Kumeyaay Indians, and human evolution. Changing special exhibits...  Read More

Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art


Mingei is a Japanese word meaning "arts of all people". This museum presents exhibits of folk art from around the world, including Indonesia and New Guinea (multicolored masks, dolls, fertility symbols and shadow puppets) and Japan (decorative...  Read More



The USS Midway aircraft carrier, which served from 1945-1992, offers a fascinating glimpse into life aboard a giant ship. Self-guided audio tours are included with admission and are narrated by former Midway sailors. Docents, some of whom served...  Read More

Museum of Photographic Arts


This world-class museum features extensive collections of still photographs, videos and films. The history of the medium is illustrated, from the earliest Daguerreotypes and albumen prints to modern laser holograms. A variety of artists are...  Read More



The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is home to five galleries with interactive exhibits. The motion simulator ride is a favorite as is About Face, in which you capture your image on freeze-frame video. The museum also includes a planetarium and...  Read More



This popular museum isn't huge but the award-winning design team knows how to maximize space. Find fossils, dinosaur exhibits, California geology (with emphasis on San Diego) and geography explored in-depth. A massive Foucault pendulum hangs...  Read More


Meet Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as...  More About Katie