Each October, San Diego’s popular Kids Free program offers free children’s admission to many local museums and attractions, as well as other fun freebies at restaurants, lodging, entertainment venues and more.
While there are lots of great places to visit this month, things do look a little bit different this year. Due to COVID-19, as well as a few major renovation projects underway, several of San Diego’s favorite museums and cultural institutions are temporarily closed.
But fear not! There are still plenty of free (and low-cost) options for family fun to be had – both in-person and online.
Here are some tips and ideas for making the most of your family time together – to learn, have fun and grow closer while enjoying San Diego’s vibrant museum scene in October (or anytime!).
Always Free Museums
- Did you know that many San Diego museums are free for everyone all year long? A few are temporarily closed, but they will be back! The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar and Barona Cultural Center & Museum are open now and the La Jolla Historical Society will reopen on Oct. 15.
- Several other San Diego museums are always free for kids 12 and under, including California Surf Museum and California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum. (Don’t miss the Frida Kahlo exhibition at CCAE right now!)
- The San Diego Museum of Art and Oceanside Museum of Art both extend their free admission for guests up to age 17, so they are great options for art-loving teens. At OMA, be sure to check out Gifted: The Gardena High School Art Collection, one of the best exemplars of a high school art collection in the country. The SDMA’s Sculpture Garden is always free for everyone to explore.
- The San Diego History Center and Junipero Serra Museum offer “pay-as-you-wish” (donation-based) admission, in order to make history accessible to all. (They suggest a $5 minimum donation.)
Kids Free San Diego (October)
Thanks to this special promotion in partnership with the San Diego Tourism Authority, you can take advantage of free children’s admission (with a paid adult) throughout the month of October at many local museums that normally charge for kids, including favorites like the USS Midway Museum, Maritime Museum of San Diego, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Archaeological Center (re-opening Oct. 15) and more. See the full list of participating museums here. (Note: You will need to download the Kids Free coupon for each museum in order to receive the savings.)
- Children’s Museums – We are so lucky to have two amazing children’s museums in San Diego County – The New Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego and the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido. While both remain closed to the public right now, the fun and discovery has not stopped. Both are offering exciting virtual content, activities, online events and resources for families to enjoy together.
- Science & Nature Museums – The San Diego Air & Space Museum has re-opened its doors, but the Fleet Science Center and San Diego Natural History Museum both remain closed. All three are offering great virtual content on their websites and social media to satisfy science-lovers of all ages.
- Art & Music Museums – The Museum of Making Music and Mingei International Museum and are both closed until 2021 for major renovations, but their online programming continues, including virtual exhibitions, live-streamed concerts and hands-on art activities. Mingei also has a special pop-up exhibition featuring costumes, crowns and headdresses on display now at the Coronado Public Library.
- Teen Programs – The free fun continues for older kids and teens. The Museum of Photographic Arts offers a free Photo Club (designed for middle and high school students, but open to anyone in grades K-12). The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is getting ready to kick off another session of its Teen Advisory Group (meeting virtual this year) to explore social issues and activism through art.
These are just a few ideas to get you started with planning your next museum adventure. You can learn more about your favorite museum—or check out something new—on our website. Whether you are heading out to explore in person or cuddled around the computer for a unique online experience, we hope you enjoy your family time in San Diego this month!