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Coolest Museums You Must Visit When Visiting San Diego

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San Diego is a boon for nature and history lovers. With the Pacific Ocean full of marine wildlife, scenic destinations, and fascinating museums, there’s always something new to discover. There’s no shortage of ideas for planning a fun-filled trip. In this guide, we’ll explore five incredibly cool San Diego museums to include in your itinerary. 

1. USS Midway

For lovers of sailing and the high seas, the USS Midway Museum is a must-see. As the longest-serving aircraft carrier during the 20th century, the Midway sported a fully armored deck and supported 120 planes. Active between 1945 and 1992, the Midway was converted into a museum that opened to the public in 2004. 

Situated at Navy Pier, the museum features an extensive menu of exhibits, activities, events, and tours. Choose from hangar, flight, below-deck exhibits, flight simulators, a Battle of Midway Theatre, and a guided island tour. The museum is open from 10am to 4pm, Monday through Sunday. You can purchase tickets online and at the door. 

2. San Diego Natural History Museum

Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Natural History Museum remains true to its motto: “Science Never Stops.” Nicknamed “The Nat,” this museum offers exhibitions and activities to engage visitors of all ages. Some excellent choices include guided hikes with its Canyoneers, full-length science feature films in its giant-screen theater, and ongoing exhibits such as Living Lab, Hidden Gems, and Fossil Mysteries. Whale lovers will want to check out “Science Spotlight: Baleen Whale Evolution,” filled with the latest scientific discoveries and specimens from ancient and modern baleen whale species. 

The Nat is open from 10am to 5pm Thursday through Tuesday and closed on Wednesdays. You can purchase tickets online. Parking is available in several areas near the museum.

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3. Birch Aquarium at Scripps

La Jolla is home to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, part of the University of California at San Diego. Established in 1992, the aquarium is operated by the school’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Focused on research, education, and conservation, Birch Aquarium contains dozens of exhibits, including penguins, sea horses, and giant kelp. Stop by the Hall of Fishes and Shark Shores to see marine life in their natural habitats. You can also witness super-cool physics in action at the Tide Pool Plaza. 

Birch Aquarium is open daily between 9am and 5pm, with extended hours in July and August. As Birch is a busy destination, purchasing advance tickets is strongly recommended. 

4. Fleet Science Museum

Where can you see ancient caves, excellent trains, and penguins in the same place? The Fleet Science Center hosts many galleries, exhibits, films, and events ranging from its famous Design Zone to its mesmerizing Space Gallery.

Fleet Science Center is in Balboa Park, just a short distance from the San Diego Natural History Museum. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on the center’s website.

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5. Museum of Us

As one of the newest destinations in San Diego, the Museum of Us offers a variety of exhibits connected to the state’s history and culture. Formerly the San Diego Museum of Man, it became the Museum of Us in 2020 with a completely new mission and vision. Much of its focus includes local Indigenous history and challenging long-held cultural assumptions. The museum is in Balboa Park and is open from 10am to 5pm, Wednesday through Sunday. 

Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed our quick guide to museums in San Diego. After enjoying your journey of fascinating discoveries at these local attractions, why not complete your day with the best whale-watching experience in the Bay? Book a yacht tour with Next Level Sailing and discover more of what the ocean offers.