Balboa Park is known as the cultural heart of San Diego for a reason. Here’s a look at more than a dozen museum experiences awaiting you during Museum Month. Make a day of it. Pack a picnic lunch or enjoy one of the many great eateries found throughout the park.
Comic-Con Museum – NEW!
The highly anticipated Comic-Con Museum is now open in Balboa Park! For the past 50 years, Comic-Con has been one of the biggest and most popular conventions of its kind in the world. Now the magic of Comic-Con is available for fans year round, not just for a few days each summer. In addition to the comics, film and science fiction/fantasy genres that started it all, the Museum also showcases TV shows, books, video games, anime, and so much more. During Museum Month, you can check out lots of fun new exhibits, such as Gene Roddenberry: Sci-Fi Visionary, Chas Addams… Family and Friends, Eight Decades of Archie, PAC-MAN Arcade, Cardboard Superheroes and Out of the Darkness: Comic Art in the Times of COVID.
You won’t want to miss the opening of the Fleet’s new exhibition Going Places: The Technology of Transportation on February 12. Fly a plane on a flight simulator, ride a mini hovercraft and guide a blimp through sky hoops. Through hands-on exhibits, you’ll explore how different modes of transportation have shaped society and how travel technology makes our lives easier and better. You’ll also learn how Earth’s awesome size and natural processes like gravity, wind, currents, waves, friction and changing landscapes are overcome by the ingenious designs of travel technology. The exhibition is included with admission. (Note: The Museum Month pass includes gallery entry. IMAX films are are an additional cost.)
In 2021, the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park and Lux Art Institute in Encinitas merged to become ICA San Diego. ICA Central (as the Balboa Park location is now known) is now presenting Gabriel Rico: Unity in Variety, the first solo show in California of contemporary Mexican conceptualist Gabriel Rico. Through a special collaboration with the San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat), the artist incorporates taxidermy specimens from the beloved institution’s collection into the exhibition at ICA San Diego and a site-specific installation within The Nat’s ongoing Unshelved exhibition. The artist is known for his sculptures, installations, and poetic assemblages that draw on contemporary culture, nature, science, physics, philosophy, and history. His socially concerned art, encompassing a range of materials such as neon, branches, rocks, porcelain flowers, taxidermy, old cell phones, and CDs, considers the relationship between humans and the natural world. (Note: ICA San Diego’s exhibitions are always free for everyone through the Museum’s Pay-As-You Wish initiative. Reserving your spot ahead of time s is highly recommended, but walk-ins are also welcome.)
A perfect way to kick off your Museum Month adventure is at this picturesque spot in the heart of the park. On February 2 (10 AM – 4 PM), the Garden will celebrate Setsubun, to banish evil and welcome Spring with good fortune. Guests can make oni masks and participate in the Mamemaki, a bean-tossing ritual thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health. There will also be Taiko Drummers, Kamishibai and Go, as well bas special Eho-Maki rolls and mochi available for purchase at the café.
On the western edge of the park is the beautiful Marston House, one of California’s finest examples of the Arts and Crafts movement. The property was designed and built by the internationally renowned architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill, and is surrounded by five acres of rolling lawns, manicured formal gardens, and rustic canyon gardens. If you have never ventured inside this striking 8,500-square-foot estate, Museum Month is a great time to do so. You can take part in docent-led House Tours on weekends, as well as special Third Sunday Walking Tours of the house and environs. Museum Month participants can also take $10 off a one-year membership to Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO). (Note: Check the Museum’s website for any closure updates before visiting.)
If you have not yet visited the Mingei following its dramatic three-year transformation, you are missing out. Be sure to check out the Museum’s two newest exhibitions, Global Spirit—Folk Art from the Ted Cohen Collection and Humble Spirit / Priceless Art, as well as the new ARTIFACT at Mingei restaurant and CRAFT CAFÉ. You can also enjoy two free events in February that are included with admission using your Museum Month pass: “Art Break” with Signe Mayfield, author of The Object in Its Place: Ted Cohen & the Art of Exhibition Design (February 11, 12:00 – 1:00 PM) and a hands-on craft activity, “Just Add Paper: Kirigami Valentines” (February 12, 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM). (Note: The Museum’s Commons Level is free for all, always. The Gallery Level requires admission for those 18 years and older.)
Special Offers: Museum Month passholders will receive a free cookie with the purchase of a coffee and pastry at the CRAFT CAFE and 15% off a single item at ARTIFACT throughout February.
Visit MOPA to see three exciting photography exhibitions currently on view, including Aaron Siskind: Mid Century Modern, Beyond The Boundaries: Photographs By Norman Seeff (through February 6) and Darkest Nights, Brightest Stars: 15th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition. (Note: MOPA is a pay-what-you-wish/donation-based museum, making it more accessible to everyone.)
One of the true treasures to be found at the Museum is a pair of iconic goggles worn by Charles Lindbergh during his history-making solo transatlantic flight in 1927. The Museum also has the Apollo 9 Command Module “Gumdrop,” one of only 11 on display in the world and a true icon of NASA’s efforts to put men on the Moon. Don’t miss the “American Women of Flight” exhibition honoring the contributions of women to the world of aviation. The whole family will also enjoy the Museum’s flight simulators and 3D/4D Zable Theater to experience the exhilaration of flight.
Here’s something fun! Rumor has it that the Smithsonian wants it, but the San Diego Automotive Museum has it: Louie Mattar’s Fabulous $75,000 car, which holds the world’s endurance non-stop record (with a 6,320-mile round trip across the U.S. in 1952). The Museum also has three Shelbeys, a 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder Turbo and a large collection of international motorcycles including Harley Davidsons and Indians. This a must-see for car fans! (Note: Children must be accompanied by an adult at the Museum.)
February is Black History Month and a fitting time to explore two exhibitions recognizing African-Americans at the San Diego History Center: Nathan Harrison: Born Enslaved, Died a San Diego Legend, and Celebrate San Diego: Black History and Heritage. During February, you can also see Collecting San Diego: Selections from the Dijkstra Fine Art Collection, featuring an impressive assemblage of American and European art that includes many works by San Diego-area artists. Finally, be sure to check out Be Here Now, a new visual arts exhibition featuring artists who were born or lived for a significant time in the San Diego region. (Note: Give Forward is the Museum’s donation-based admission policy. A minimum $5 donation is suggested.)
The main attraction at this popular Balboa Park destination this month is an all-new exhibit, Out of the Vault: Items from Our Collection. This fascinating temporary exhibit showcases unique and rare items from the Museum’s collection, including decades-old locomotives made of pewter and brass. Some of the pieces in this exhibit have never been on public display before.
Museum Month will be one of the last opportunities for visitors to see the Museum’s two current films, Sea Lions: Life by a Whisker and Museum Alive (included with admission) in the Subaru Giant Screen Experience. During your visit, don’t miss the Museum’s Living Lab, an eco-vivarium where you can meet more than 20 of San Diego’s not-so-cuddly neighbors, from stinging scorpions to elusive nocturnal lizards, as well as Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage, for a rare peek behind the scenes at the Museum’s collection of 8 million specimens. (Note: Museum Month passes may only be used once at The Nat and exclude special events. Cannot be combined with other offers.)
No museum day in Balboa Park is complete without a stop at The San Diego Museum of Art, which has two new exhibitions to experience during Museum Month: Fortuny: Master of Light and Line (opens January 22) and Wang Qingsong: Social Mobility (opens February 12). For the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your love, check out SDMA+ Romantic ArtStops with The San Diego Shakespeare Society on February 13. The Museum will also host a special Gallery Talk with Wang Qingsong, who will join guests from mainland China via Zoom, on February 28. (Note: Admission is always free for guests 17 and under.)
The Museum remains closed for renovations (stay tuned for their reopening date!), but you can still take part in Museum Month with a free Creation Station mural-painting activity on February 19-20 (weather permitting). Park visitors of all ages and artistic experience levels are invited to join in the large collaborative mural project in the Museum’s front plaza. The Museum is also offering free virtual tours of their historical collection of art, as well as a special art history lecture on February 16 discussing the High Renaissance in Rome and Florence. You can also take advantage of a special 10% discount in the Timken Museum Store during Museum Month using this link with coupon code TimkenMuseumMonth2022 already applied. (Expires March 1, 2022.)
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Thank you to our San Diego Museum Month sponsors: