BALBOA PARK: PART 2
Residents Free Tuesdays Each museum schedules a free-admission Tuesday each month that applies to San Diego City and County residents plus active military and their families only.
Mingei International Museum 1439 El Prado, on the Plaza de Panama, in House of Charm, (619) 239-0003. Tu-Sun 10-5. $8; seniors 62+, military, students, & 6-17 $5; Family Sunday on 3rd Sun, $5/family. Exhibits of folk art, craft, and design from all eras and cultures of the world change regularly. Displays of dolls and toys, beads, and masks are semi-permanent in that they are sometimes changed out from the museum’s collections.
●Museum of San Diego History This museum documents the heritage of San Diego and its people.
●Reuben H. Fleet Science Center 1875 El Prado, (619) 238-1233. M-Thur 10-5, F-Sun 10-6. $13, 65+ $12, & 3-12 $11, IMAX additional. The Science Center--a mini version of San Francisco's Exploratorium--promises you and your kids an out-of-this-world experience. There are no velvet ropes or “do not touch” signs here, but there are plenty of hands-on exhibits demonstrating physical principles. Take ages 2 through 6 to the Little Learners’ Lab for pint-sized learning. An IMAX theater and SciTours simulator ride round out the science fun. Pepper Grove Playground is located just south of the center and is a great place for a picnic. www.balboapark.org/in-the-park/pepper-grove-playground
●San Diego Air & Space Museum 2001 Pan American Plaza, (619) 234-8291 x100. Daily 10-4:30. $18, 65+ $15, 3-11 $7. Little boys, big boys, and many girls of all ages are going to get pretty excited when they see this gigantic museum that documents the history of powered flight and displays full-size planes. The hangar-like space is packed with more than 65 U.S. and foreign aircraft. They hang from the rafters, and they are parked on the floor. A Spad, a Nieuport, and an Albatros fighter plane from World War I are part of the collection, as are a Spitfire, Zero and Hellcat from World War II. Kids find the helicopter with a turning blade especially thrilling. And all the while, jets are flying low overhead as they take off and land at the nearby San Diego Airport, adding realistic sound effects.
●San Diego Art Institute/Museum of the Living Artist 1439 El Prado, in House of Charm, (619) 236-0011. Tu-Sat 10-4, Sun 12-4. $3, seniors $2, under 12 free. This museum displays the work of local artists. Its David Fleet Young Artists Gallery is devoted to showing the work of students in the region.
●San Diego Automotive Museum 2080 Pan American Plaza, (619) 231-AUTO. Daily 10-5. $8, 65+ $6, 6-15 $4; free on Tu 10-4. This welcoming museum says, “Kids love cars. Come see ours.” Take them up on it, and you’ll take a trip through automotive history--the horseless carriages of the 1920s, the cruisers of the ‘50s, and one of the largest motorcycle collections on the West Coast.
●San Diego Hall of Champions 2131 Pan American Plaza, (619) 234-2544. Daily 10-4:30. $8, 3-17 $5. The ultra modern industrial interior here resembles a Nike store. The museum honors local athletes—who were either born in San Diego or made their mark here (notables include baseball legends Tony Gwynn and Ted Williams)--and is filled with sports-related exhibits, including some hands-on fun for kids. The White Glove Archive Tour lets children touch sports artifacts, and the whole family will probably find the evolution of football helmets intriguing.
●San Diego History Center 1649 El Prado, in Casa de Balboa, (619) 232-6203. Daily 10 am-5 pm. $8; 65+, military and students $6; 6-17 $4. This features artifacts, costumes, textiles, art, furniture, and photographs of San Diego from its infancy on. The research library contains extensive local historical resources, including the largest photograph collection in the western U.S. (it has more than 2.5 million images).
San Diego Model Railroad Museum 1649 El Prado, in Casa de Balboa, (619) 696-0199. Tu-F 11-4, Sat-Sun 11-5. $8, 65+ $6, 6-14 $1. This subterranean museum is the largest permanent operating model railroad exhibit in North America. Hundreds of volunteers have spent countless hours constructing the displays highlighting various model railroad scales, and they also are on hand to operate them. The cooling air-conditioning is a huge relief on warm days. Kids’ eyes will pop out when they see the gigantic central layout and moving trains, and they’ll go positively bananas when they find the buttons that let them operate some of the features. The gift shop has the perfect souvenirs, including striped conductor caps--you might want to stop in here first and get outfitted for your visit--and trendy Thomas trains. If you want to see the layouts being built, enter through the back door on Tuesday or Friday nights to watch the volunteers at work.
●The San Diego Museum of Art 1450 El Prado, (619) 232-7931. M-Tu & Thur-Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5. $12, 65+ $9, 7-17 $4.50. Located inside a building with an ornate 16th-century Spanish-style facade, this collection includes ancient Egyptian pieces, old masters, and modern artists. Asian art, sometimes including a 16th-century Japanese suit of armor that appeals to kids, is also well represented in rotating exhibits. Sunday Family Days are scheduled throughout the year.
●San Diego Museum of Man 1350 El Prado, (619) 239-2001. Thur-Sat 10-4:30, Sun-Wed 10-5. $12.50, 62+ $10, 13-17 $8, 3-12 $6. Featuring anthropological displays and local history exhibits, this museum has an assortment of displays that are particularly appealing to children: a cheerily-tiled tortilla kitchen, where Wednesday through Sunday you can sample the product for a small fee; a band of skeleton mariachis; a large wooden puzzle of the 31 states of Mexico. Kids also enjoy the Bigfoot exhibit, Mummy exhibit, and The Children’s Discovery Center with its variety of hands-on activities. The museum's ornate exterior Spanish-colonial-style tower is a symbol of the city and stood in for Xanadu in Orson Welles' movie Citizen Kane.
●San Diego Natural History Museum 1788 El Prado, (619) 232-3821. Daily 10-5. $17, 62+ $15, 13-17 $12, 3-12 $11. Though a museum that opened over 125 years ago might sound stuffy, this one isn’t. It is particularly appealing to children, with innovative exhibits on the area's animal and plant life as well as the more traditional dinosaur skeletons and a fascinating Foucault pendulum. Many exhibits invite kids to get involved and to touch a variety of artifacts. You enter the Rocks and Minerals room through a faux mine tunnel, and once there see plenty of big rock samples that kids can handle. Stuffed birds and animals are in creative exhibits in the Desert Ecology area, and many exhibit windows are at a preschooler’s eye-level. The gift shop is filled with stones and bugs and things kids love, including lollipops with worms in them. Call for information on family programs and children’s classes.
●Timken Museum of Art 1500 El Prado, (619) 239-5548. Tu-Sat 10-4:30, Sun 12-4:30. Free. This small collection consists of European Old Masters, 18th- and 19th-century American paintings, and Russian icons.
●Veterans Museum and Memorial Center Park Blvd./Inspiration Pt., (619) 239-2300. Tu-Sun 10-4. Free. Occupying the former chapel of the old Naval Hospital Complex, this center honors the memories of men and women who served in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Museum artifacts date back to the Civil War. Just east of the center is the Vietnam Peace Memorial, which was relocated to this site from Old Town San Diego in the 1990s.
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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers