Exploring the Best Museums in San Diego: A Group Travel Guide

May 28, 2023 | San Diego Activities

What Are The Best Museums in San Diego?

When people think of San Diego, they imagine a quaint beach town with excellent Mexican food and tons of surfer dudes. But few are aware that this was the first permanent Spanish settlement on the West Coast. That’s right, San Diego is actually the birthplace of California.

Naturally, being a former Spanish settlement, there are plenty of things to do in San Diego related to its history. If you are a history buff, then we have a great recommendation for your next trip to San Diego. Come visit some of the best museums.

Read on as we discuss the most best museums California’s favorite beach city has to offer.

One of the Best Museums for Walking: Balboa Park

Tired of stale old indoor museums? Then take a breath of fresh air at Balboa Park. This gorgeous open-air exhibition hall came into being in 1910, though the park goes all the way back to 1835.

And by walking, we really mean walking. The entire park covers approximately 1,200 acres of land. You get everything here: architecture, history, and gorgeous outdoor gardens.

Balboa Park Botanical Building

In the beginning, this was intended to be an exhibition hall for the Panama-California Exhibition. There are still traces of its Mexican and early American history to this day. The historic landmark at the center of Balboa takes you back to Barcelona with its colonial and Spanish baroque architecture.

The cost of entry is free, so you can use the money you saved to pay for your chartered bus service to get to all these locations. And inside Balboa Park, you will actually find 17 different museums. You may just have your whole day planned out for you!

San Diego Air and Space Museum

Looking for something to keep the kids entertained? Then take them to the San Diego Air and Space Museum. This is an excellent place to discover some of the history behind NASA and American aerospace engineering, and one of the best museums in the area.

The museum covers it all: from the Wright brothers’ first attempts at Kitty Hawk to the spacecraft that reached the moon.

You will find fascinating replicas and original restored aircraft for your perusal. We are talking about hot air balloons, fighter planes, and even a few gliders.

San Diego Air and Space Museum

If that wasn’t enough, then you can take part in the flight simulators. Even though you won’t take off to the skies when you visit San Diego, you will get to experience the next best thing.

The cost of entry is $25 per adult and $15 per child. Rest assured; this is guaranteed to be several hours of fun.

Maritime Museum of San Diego

Located in San Diego Bay, the Maritime Museum takes you back to San Diego’s history as a Spanish coastal hub. Here, you get to see some of the excellent ships used throughout early Californian history.

It is one of the largest collections of Navy and merchant vessels in all of the United States, which is why we consider it one of the best museums in San Diego. Many of them have been preserved to look the same as the day they were seaworthy.

Maritime Museum of San Diego

Further, you get to see ships from all different areas: submarines, military Corvettes, and steamboats. But the Maritime Museum’s true claim to fame is the Star of India. This craft is the oldest functioning ship in the entire world.

Entrance for adults is only $20, and $10 for your kids.

San Diego Natural History Museum

No list of best museums in San Diego would be complete without this gem. The San Diego Natural History Museum is an excellent place to ogle some historical artifacts and fossils. And if you happen to plan a trip to Balboa Park, you are in luck: this museum is one of the 17 located there.

Much of what you experience here is native to the Southern California area. There are fossils of species that went extinct millions of years ago, as well as minerals and gems. As you peruse all of this natural history, you get some stunning photographs featuring Baja California’s natural beauty.

San Diego Natural History Museum

Adults pay $22 for entrance, and the kids are only $12. But just like other natural history museums in Chicago and New York, this one is a must-see.

Speaking of natural history, California has a long and fascinating history of viticulture. Consider booking a wine tour and tasting some of the best Californian grapes in bottled form.

The Whaley House Museum

Perhaps the Maritime Museum and the Balboa Museum weren’t enough to whet your historical appetite. In that case, we highly recommend the Whaley House Museum. This gives you a tiny slice of the 1800s in the San Diego area–with a splash of paranormal activity.

The Whaley House is a beautiful example of preserved 1800s architecture. Some consider it to be the most iconic building in all of San Diego, and one of the best museums in the local area. Particularly because of all the ghost stories.

This house has a long history. It started out as the residence of the Whaley family at the beginning of the 19th century. From there, they rebuilt it into a theater, a country courthouse, and finally a general store.

The Whaley House Museum

And as we have alluded to, there is a long tradition of ghost stories in this building. For that reason, we recommend that you book an evening tour. You can get a spooky retelling of all the sightings in the area as you walk through the places where they happened.

If you are not a fan of the paranormal, then no worries. There are plenty of interactive displays that will teach you about 19th-century life in San Diego.

Book Tours and Transportation with MIB

The best museums are waiting for you when you next visit San Diego. These famous destinations range from outdoor ones like Balboa Park to historical museums like the Whaley House. There is something for everyone here, so rest assured, no one will get left out.

If you’re thinking about visiting one of these best museums in the San Diego area, consider having MIB Transportation handle the tours and the rides. Get a free quote here before you plan your trip to visit these best museums.