It’s February and that means one thing: San Diego Museum Month is back! Better yet, with 2020 being a leap year, we get 29 days to enjoy all the arts, culture, history and museum fun San Diego has to offer.
Dozens of local institutions are offering 50% off admission all month long. (Plus, there are plenty of amazing local museums that are always free or donation-based.) That means soaking up some local culture is more affordable and accessible than ever.
San Diego Museum Month passes are available at more than 70 San Diego area libraries, as well as participating Macy’s stores and Hilton Hotels. Click here to find a pickup location near you.
Need inspiration for where to begin? Here are some of the countless experiences awaiting you in San Diego this month.
Whether you’re revisiting an old favorites or discovering one of San Diego many hidden gems, we invite you to get out there and find your next museum adventure. (Don’t forget your pass.)
Pick Your Passion:
The hardest choice for art lovers in San Diego is where to go first.
- Explore beautiful Balboa Park, which is itself a work of art but also home to The Museum of Art San Diego, San Diego Art Institute, Timken Museum and Museum of Photographic Arts – all must-sees. (Note: The Mingei Museum is currently closed for renovations, but it will be back and better than ever in 2021.)
- Think outside the frame and explore another side of art with four beautiful new art quilt exhibitions at Visions Art Museum in Liberty Station. (Don’t consider yourself a quilt lover? These collections will win you over.)
- Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in Downtown to experience three exquisite collections before they close in March: México quiero conocerte: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide and Manuel Álvarez Bravo; Bound to the Earth: Art, Materiality and the Natural World; and Nancy Lupo: Scripts for the Pageant. (FYI – MCASD’s La Jolla campus is currently closed for renovations that will quadruple its gallery space.)
- In North County, art aficionados will not want to miss these exhibitions – the Artist Alliance 2019 Biennial and Sidewalk Activism at the Oceanside Museum of Art, Chiachio & Giannone, Argentinian artists in residence at the Lux Art Institute in Encinitas, and Endangered: Exploring California’s Changing Ecosystems and Finding Heaven in Hellhole Canyon at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
Science & Nature:
- Meet some not-so-cuddly animal neighbors at Living Lab, a new live-animal exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat). Be sure to also check out the outrageous new Insects Face to Face macro photography gallery and two new 3D films (included with admission).
- Embrace your inner brainiac at the Fleet Science Center’s brand new exhibitions – Brain: The World Inside Your Head and Mindbender Mansion. If you remember the white/gold or blue/back dress that almost broke the internet, you won’t want to miss investigating the new Illusions exhibition opening on February 13.
- Soak in lots of marine animal fun (and some of the best views in town) at Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, where you can watch divers descend into a two-story kelp forest and meet a sea turtle with its 3D-printed prosthetic shell (the first of its kind). Don’t miss Whale Fest (Feb. 8-16) for special whale-themed activities included with admission.
- Get face-to-face with endangered sea turtles, sharks, rays, Bald Eagles, owls and other wildlife native to Southern California at the Living Coast Discovery Center on the southern edge of San Diego Bay. (Tip: Add a VIP Animal Encounter to feed the sea turtles or sting rays yourself.)
The Great Outdoors:
- Enjoy quality time with your favorite pooch at the 5K Paw Walk in the Garden on February 15 at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. (It’s the only day of the year that furry friends can join you for a stroll at this beautiful 37-acre botanic wonderland.)
- Climb the Point Loma Lighthouse, explore tidepools, tour WWII military bunkers and maybe even spot a migrating whale at the Cabrillo National Monument.
- Head down the coast to Imperial Beach for a guided nature walk and bird-watching at the Tijuana River Estuary Visitors Center. Learn about the importance of California wetlands and the endangered animals and plants that rely on this precious natural resource.
- Explore the region’s unique voices at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park, with current exhibitions I’m Not Like You: Notes from the San Diego Underground, Path of the Mystic and LGBTQ+ San Diego: Stories of Struggles + Triumphs.
- Get your history fix(es) at unique sites that bring San Diego’s history to life in their own unique ways, including the Junipero Serra Museum, Mission San Luis Rey Museum, Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House, Whaley House Museum, La Jolla Historical Society, Bonita Museum, Coronado Museum of History & Art, Marston House and more.
- Walk up and touch the air fighters, bombers and helicopters that took naval aviation into the jet age, aboard the U.S. Midway Museum, the most complete cross-section of carrier aviation in the world.
- Strap into an ejection seat or climb into the cockpit of a military plane during Open Cockpit Day (February 15) at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar. (Don’t miss the Military Working Dogs exhibit, dedicated to four-legged American heroes.).
Kids & Family:
- See what’s new at The New Children’s Museum in Downtown, including Tikitiko, a sensory wonderland for toddlers, and Whammock!, a large-scale, three-dimensional climbable sculpture kids of all ages won’t be able to resist.
- Go “Down Under” at the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido, where the Kids’ Global Village has been transformed into a traditional Australian home and marketplace. Don’t miss special community events at the museum on February 8 (celebrating Australia) and on February 22 (for World Thinking Day).
- Board tall ships and submarines and pose for a selfie at the iconic Star of India’s captain’s wheel at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Top it off with an on-the-water adventure with a boat tour on beautiful San Diego Bay.
- Get moving in Balboa Park, where lovers of planes, trains and automobiles (and space ships) won’t want to miss That ‘70s Car Show (opening Feb. 8 at the San Diego Automotive Museum), Bringing Out the Brass (a special collection of brass trains at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum) and Space: Our Greatest Adventure (a fun new exhibition at the San Diego Air & Space Museum).
Culture & Heritage:
- Learn about Kumeyaay-Diegueño Native culture at the Barona Culture Center, San Diego County’s first museum on an Indian reservation. Kids can learn about Native contributions to the comic book genre and create their story at in a free Super Comic Workshop on Feb. 29.
- Grab a cup of delicious tea, explore the Kimono: A Living History exhibition and wander through the tranquil grounds of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park.
- Visit the Chinese Historical Museum, located in a restored mission building in what once was once the heart of San Diego’s Chinatown in Downtown San Diego.
- Head to the New Americans Museum in Liberty Station’s vibrant Arts District for exhibits that celebrate America’s immigrant experiences.
- Let the rhythm get ‘ya at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, where you can check out Music from the Sound Up: The Creative Tools of Synthesis, a special exhibition devoted to building sound through electrical current.
- Dig into the history with By Land and By Sea, the primary exhibit at the San Diego Archaeological Center in Escondido that challenges what we know about ancient peoples. On February 8, the museum will host a book signing and presentation by the author of Shrouded Heritage: Island of the Blue Dolphins, exploring the real-life setting of the famous book.
- Drop into the California Surf Museum in Oceanside for Courageous Inspiration: Bethany Hamilton, which tells the compelling story of the young surfing legend who lost an arm to a shark attack at Tunnels Beach on Kauai.
- Go big (or rather small) at the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum in Carlsbad, where you can check out a variety of exhibits and live demonstrations, from mini musical instruments to tiny running engines and the famous Do-Nothing-Machine.
*Note: Museum exhibitions and schedules are subject to change. Please check the website for each museum to learn more before your visit.