San Diego Kid-Friendly Museums
San Diego boasts some of the best sun and surf in the nation, but if you tire of sand in your shorts, there are plenty of land-lubber activities in which to partake. At these kid-friendly museums, your child will be entertained and inspired for hours, as will the accompanying adults.
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
You won’t find yourself screaming “Don’t touch that!” in this museum, as it features more than 100 hands-on exhibits that encourage interaction and education. The Science Center, or the Fleet, as it’s known for short, is perfect for children as young as seven (for those even younger, the special Kid City area is filled with age-appropriate exhibits). Visit the Exploration Bar where experts and volunteers demonstrate science in action. Roam through The Virtual Zone, where children can try experiments and play games on topics like dinosaurs and other animals. Or, make designs using a sand pendulum or examine the vibration of guitar strings—there are tons of entertaining, and educational, things to do at the Fleet. Special programs and events are rotated in throughout the year, as well.
Located in Balboa Park, the Fleet is home to San Diego’s only IMAX Dome movie theater, which gives audience members the experience of being surrounded by the film. The Fleet is the first IMAX theater in the U.S. to offer films in Spanish each month. And, on the first Wednesday evening of every month, the theater becomes a planetarium and an astronomer guides guests through the Sky Tonight presentation—followed by outdoor telescope viewing. 1875 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, 619-238-1233.
Maritime Museum of San Diego
Located on the Embarcadero just off Harbor Drive, the Maritime Museum features historic vessels of all shapes and sizes. Climb aboard the most famous Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship, and begin the adventure. Explore the Star of India, as well as other famous vessels: the San Salvador, the first European vessel to reach the West Coast of the U.S.; a B-39 submarine from the Soviet era; the USS Dolphin, the deepest diving submarine ever built; the Berkeley, a steam ferryboat used in the San Francisco Bay in 1898, and more. For a special treat, sign up for a two-hour group tour (minimum of 8 people), led by a storytelling guide dressed in swashbuckling attire. Traveling and permanent museum exhibits highlight the history of sailing, the rise of steam-powered vessels, commercial fishing and its impact, San Diego’s naval culture, and more. 1492 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, 619-234-9153.
San Diego Air and Space Museum
Travel through the history of air and space travel in an afternoon at Balboa Park at the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Start your journey off by standing below a model of the 1783 Montgolfier brothers’ hot air balloon, the first manned vehicle in history to lift humans off the Earth. Follow the progression of air travel by walking through the other featured aircraft, such as a Navy F6F Hellcat and an A-4 Skyhawk jet, which have been restored to mint condition. The museum takes you through the history of space travel as well, highlighting the heyday of space age exploration and the race to outer space.
If the kids get antsy with simply looking at airplanes, take them to the Kid’s Aviation Action Hangar, a special play area for children age preschool and up. The Hangar features everything from coloring books to the cockpit of an F-104 Starfighter and a “U-Fly-It” flight simulator machine. There’s also the 3D/4D Zable Theater that plays animated films like Jetpack Adventure and Robot of Mars. 2001 Pan America Plz, Balboa Park, San Diego, 619-234-8291.
For even more museum options, suitable for kids or adults, visit sandiego.com/attractions/museums.
- City: San Diego