One of San Diego’s most-visited spots is Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre park that ranks as one of the country’s oldest. Much of its beautiful Spanish architecture was built for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition. Nowadays, most of these buildings house museums — in fact, there are a whopping 16 museums in the park. Here are the San Diego museums to put on your list.
Natural History Museum
Two words: dinosaur skeletons. One of the oldest museums on the West Coast, the Natural History Museum allows you to get the closest you’ll ever get to standing beside a dinosaur. That’s just one of the many reasons you should have the Natural History Museum at the top of your list if you’re visiting Balboa Park.
Interactive exhibits allow visitors to trace the fossil history of Southern California back to prehistoric times. Other exhibits focus on the region’s great biodiversity. Thanks to the museum’s most-recent expansion, there’s also a state-of-the-art 3-D theater. Unlike some of the smaller museums in Balboa Park, you can easily make a full day out of this one.
Museum of Man
The Museum of Man is the first museum you encounter when you enter the park via the arched bridge along El Prado. The museum is in the building that boasts the famous California Tower, a well-known San Diego landmark. The Museum of Man revolves around human history, or anthropology. During the Panama-California Exhibition, it housed an exhibit called “The Story of Man Through the Ages.” Its exhibits today tell the same story, occasionally with a specific focus on the San Diego area.
The Museum of Man includes a second building across the street which houses a separate rotating exhibit with an additional admission fee. For the foreseeable future, this exhibit revolves around the interesting and disturbing subject of cannibalism. As part of the exhibit, there’s even a web-based game based on the infamous, ill-fated Donner Party. Check it out, unless you don’t have the stomach for the topic.
Air & Space Museum
The Air & Space Museum, along with the adjacent Automotive Museum, isn’t along El Prado and was actually built much later. But while the building itself may not be much of a beauty to look at, it’s what’s inside that counts. Real-life airplanes and space vessels are here for you to explore, and kids and adults alike will enjoy the flight simulators. They cost a few dollars extra, but it’s definitely worth it. After all, exploring new frontiers is what this museum is all about.
San Diego Museum of Art
Art fans should put the San Diego Museum of Art on their must-visit list. The museum’s collection highlights art from all corners of the world, spanning many different eras. From paintings to sculptures, from German expressionism to 1700s Venetian art scene, you’ll find it all at San Diego’s best traditional art museum.
Those who are fans of more modern, mixed-media arts should check out the San Diego Art Institute, which is also located in Balboa Park. The exhibits here often combine aspects of photography, video and sound to form cohesive pieces of installation art. Balboa Park is also home to the Timken Museum of Art. which is free to enter.
Get In For Free
This might not help you if you’re visiting San Diego on business, but we should mention that every Tuesday, a handful of Balboa Park museums are free to San Diego County residents and active military personnel. You can see which museums are free on which Tuesdays here. (Also, in early December each year, the museums are free as part of the December Nights festivities).
PC Housing is proud to be based in San Diego, where museums are just one of many standout attractions. We provide short-term housing to business travelers across the U.S. and Canada. Get in touch with us and let us find the right home for you on your next trip.