The historic fountain at the east end of Balboa Park’s El Prado pedestrian walk is a lure for visitors, thanks to its majestic and cooling spray. But a quick turn to the right is the entrance to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, another local draw. For the young, it’s a two story, interactive science playground. For the young at heart, there are sophisticated displays, rotating exhibits and the new, NanoSeam IMAX Dome Theater. Films splayed across the 76-foot wraparound screen plunge viewers into the depths of the sea and out into space, through jungles and between skyscrapers around the planet. Resident astronomers also create new shows monthly, using the latest SkyScan System software. The café near the entrance takes care of hungry visitors with a modest menu, a few tables indoors and patio seating in front of the fountain.
The San Diego Natural History Museum has transported visitors into the past for almost eight decades. The recently opened Ends Of The Earth exhibit lets museum-goers watch explorers conquer terrain in the multimedia theater, put on a penguin suit and slide like the birds themselves, or challenge a live polar bear to an ice-eating contest. Illuminate history through the Fossil Mysteries exhibit's life-size models of ancient animals, such as dinosaurs and mastodons, as well as a fossil aquarium featuring actual whale bones on display. Dads and future dads looking to enjoy 3-D movies without braving the multiplex's gangs of candy-craving teens can use the included tickets to catch The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, starring champion surfer Kelly Slater, or Turtle Reef 3D, from the award-winning producers behind museum mainstay Ocean Oasis.
Traversing San Diego’s storied past, from the land’s ancestral Kumeyaay Native American tribe to modern day, the San Diego History Center stuffs minds with knowledge and inspires appreciation for local lore. Admission grants access to more than 45 million paper artifacts and 2.5 million images found in the library, fine arts collections, exhibitions, and displays of historic fast-food receipts. With a family membership, a pair of historians and two guests gain full access to the renowned research library, as well as to the center itself and the Junípero Serra Museum in Presido Park. A complimentary subscription to the quarterly Journal of San Diego History keeps members abreast of pictorial essays, in-depth explorations of regional culture, and hilarious membership-ID-photo outtakes. Members-only invitations to exhibition previews and events fill calendars with endless social opportunities.
For many, there is no greater honor than having served in America's Armed Forces. The curators at the Veterans Museum & Memorial in San Diego pay their respects to these brave men and women every single day, whether by hosting programs to perpetuate their memory or by assembling special exhibits of military- and war-related memorabilia. They've chosen scenic Balboa Park as the site for the Memorial, and with good reason; San Diego and its surrounding cities have a rich Naval heritage, and the site is part of a complex of architecturally significant buildings that speak to that heritage. Visitors can stroll through the lush Memorial Gardens and do push-ups on the grass before heading into the Museum, which hosts exhibits on World War I, World War II, Pearl Harbor, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and Desert Storm.
With ever-changing exhibits that explore the story of women in America, the Women's Museum of California hopes to inspire future generations about the women who came before them. Only one of five such museums in the United States, the museum's staff diligently curates its collection to preserve evidence of these women's experiences.
History: Mary Maschal, a lecturer on women's history, was an avid collector of related historical memorabilia—so avid, in fact, that her friends urged her to share this collection with the public. The original collection was displayed in her home, but moved to its current space in 1997, where it soon evolved into a legitimate women's history museum.
Permanent Mainstay: Every year, the museum hosts the San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and honors all winners in a permanent exhibit.
Past Exhibits: Beautiful, Brilliant, and Brave: A Celebration of Black Women highlighted the contributions of local African-American women to their communities.
Pro Tip: Visitors who want to delve deeper into women's history can make an appointment to peruse the museum's archives, which include the collection of Nancy Reeves, an influential feminist author and lecturer and San Diego Women's Hall of Fame inductee.
Special Programs: The museum hosts regular speaking events, workshops, and film screenings related to women's history.