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The Best San Diego Museums [2021]

San Diego Museum of Man

Whether you’re planning a trip to San Diego or have been residing there for years, there’s no shortage of museums to visit in the bustling city. The weather is always beautiful, but sometimes having a day indoors can make some great, lasting memories. 

From historic to cultural, the San Diego museums culture has a little something for everyone. We presents, in no particular order, some of the best museums that San Diego has to offer.

Related: Gallery Exclusive – San Diego artist Jens Rossen

USS Midway Museum

USS Midway Museum

With over sixty exhibits, this historic aircraft carrier also houses twenty-seven restored aircraft. The USS Midway, named after the Battle of Midway in 1942, was constructed only 17 months. While it didn’t see World War II’s action, its armored flight decks give visitors an at-sea experience without having to leave port. 

The USS Midway Museum also offers virtual tours so that you can learn about this military history from anywhere. They also offer self-guided audio tours. 

Natural History Museum

For more than 130 years, the Natural History Museum in San Diego has been a beacon of learning. Don’t let the long-running museum fool you. The Natural History Museum showcases state-of-the-art exhibits and focuses on Southern Cali and the Baja region’s natural side. 

The museum also hosts an exciting 3-D theater. The Natural History Museum will leave everyone with a new appreciation for the environment and the world we live in. 

The San Diego Museum of Art

San Diego Museum of Art

The San Diego Museum of Art is a fine arts museum located in Balboa Park, San Diego, California. SDMA houses a wide collection of curated exhibitions that shouldn’t be missed! Current exhibits range from the beautiful “Art of the Open Air” (excellent for those with concerns over social distancing) to the Modern and Contemporary Art gala. When visiting the museum pay special attention to the large collection of Spanish art they are known for housing. 

Looking for a beautiful, one-of-a-kind place to host an event? Sparks Gallery is the perfect place.

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San Diego Air & Space Museum

Tucked away in Balboa Park, this aircraft-themed museum is an experience you’ll never forget. The San Diego Air & Space Museum features ancient aircraft beside space-age technology. There is even a two-seat Flight Simulator so you can experience the flight action of World War I firsthand.  

The gift shop offers some superb replicas as well—a sure-flyer win for anyone with an aviation interest. 

Mingei International Museum

Art is a powerful voice for people and helps us connect and express ourselves beyond language barriers. The Mingei International Museum showcases the “art of the people” across time and cultures. The exhibits are constantly changing to highlight new historical, contemporary folk art, crafts, and design and discover the finest examples of creative expression from underappreciated artists. Over 18 thousand pieces are in the collection, and the Mingei International Museum represents over 140 different countries

This unique cultural experience also offers tours, gardens to explore, and performing arts. 

Model Railroad Museum

This exciting museum is the host of the largest indoor model railroad set in the world. The Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park and strives to preserve the heritage of railroading through the models. Including layouts built to scale throughout history. For over forty years, the Model Railroad Museum has been bringing railroad history to life

They also have unique experiences online. Model Railroad Museum has also had a feature on the National Science Teaching Association Reports. 

Museum of Photographic Arts

Get ready to see the world from another perspective. The Museum of Photographic Arts showcases over 9 thousand images. These visual masterpieces range from the 19th century up until the current day. The museum offers a diverse view into different cultural events, historical moments and addresses social issues throughout its galleries. 

The Museum of Photographic Arts also offers resources, workshops, and classes for all ages to expand their knowledge within the world of photography. 

San Diego Automotive Museum

With over 90 vehicles on display, the San Diego Automotive Museum is a must-see for car fanatics. With full rotating exhibits, visitors will leave with a newfound appreciation for the history of the automobile. Visitors can also see motorcycles and other historic vehicles throughout the exhibits.

International Motorcycles is a must-see exhibit. During your visit, you can even find out about how a successful bicycle racer made his way into the automotive industry. 

San Diego Sports Museum

Explore the exciting world of sports with over 68 thousand square feet of sports history. The San Diego Sports Museum covers over forty different sports and is the nation’s largest museum of its kind. Including fishing and surfing, there’s something for everyone here.

Alt-Text: San Diego skyline at night from ocean view

Whaley House

It’s time to get spooky. The Whaley House, rumored as one of the most haunted houses in America. In fact, Michigan houses a museum about the historic home. San Diego, however, offers tours for the beautiful two-story mansion. Packed with historic charm and a slight chill despite the southern California air, this house once served as a theater, courthouse, and general store. 

If you’re looking for something that’s not quite as crowded or just a little different, this historic landmark will prove to be a hauntingly good time

New Children’s Museum

The New Children’s Museum is an interactive art museum that strives to deliver tactile interaction with its visitors. Children and adults alike will enjoy a more hands-on museum of art

So be ready to think, play and create your way through this enchanting art museum. Virtual experiences are also available. 

Related: Represented Artists

Museum of Making Music

The Museum of Making Music offers visitors a unique experience with the history of music. You can explore the innovations that changed instruments and see how popular American music changed throughout the years. 

Get hands-on with instruments from around the world and throughout history with the Museum of Making Music’s interactive exhibits.

William Heath Davis House

Perhaps the oldest building in downtown San Diego. Throughout the year’s many historical figures have visited the William Heath Davis House. As visitors tour the house, they will see each room is dedicated to a different period in the house’s history, and most of it was restored to its 1850’s glory. Rumor also has it that this house hosts its own ghostly visitors as well. 

Historic of ghost hunting, the William Heath Davis House is a stop you’ll want to make when you find yourself downtown. 

Ready to explore the Museums of San Diego? Sparks Gallery is the perfect place to start. It’s a great way to get a real feel of all that San Diego has to offer.