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San Diego Natural History Museum Visitor Tips: Arrive Early

Last Updated on March 14, 2022

The San Diego Natural History Museum is located in Balboa Park, a thriving tourist destination with interesting architecture, street performers, shopping areas, and a whole bunch of competition in the museum department. It is worth a stop if you can get a deal. What San Diego Natural History Museum visitor tips do you need to know to plan your day?

What San Diego Natural History Museum Visitor Tips Do You Need to Plan Your Day?

1. Where is it?

2. There Are Two Entrances to the Museum of Natural History

3. Where Do You Park?

4. Check the San Diego History Center Hours

5. How Long Does it Take to Go Through the San Diego Natural History Museum?

6. Avoid Crowds

7. Special San Diego Museum Events Are Offered

8. There is a San Diego Natural History Museum Escape Room

9. There is a Movie Theater

10. Skip the Small Cafe

11. Ways to Save on San Diego Natural History Museum Admission

12. What Are the San Diego Natural History Museum Exhibits?

13. COVID-19 Precautions

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San Diego Natural History Museum Visitor Tips

1. Location

The museum is located at 1788 El Prado in the heart of Balboa Park, the second largest park in the United States. In addition to the museum, you will find dining, shopping, street performers, farmers’ markets, and 17 other San Diego museums.

There are plenty of hotels near San Diego Natural History Museum, including the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay.

Pro tip: Do not set your GPS to Balboa Park and assume you will happen upon the museum. You will not. Balboa Park is huge. Navigate to the museum address.

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2. There Are Two Entrances

The museum has two entrances. The main one is located on the southside of the building near a large fountain. The other one is on the rear, northside of the building near a very large fig tree.

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3. San Diego Natural History Museum Parking

Parking at Balboa Park is free. There are several lots within walking distance of the museums. You want the Inspiration Point parking lot.

Pro tip: There is also a free tram to transport guests that runs regularly.

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4. San Diego History Museum Hours

The museum is not open all the time. Be sure to check the schedule at the time of your visit.

As of the time of this writing, it is open 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. Friday through Tuesday. It is closed on Wednesday and Thursday.

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5. How Long Does it Take to Walk Around the Natural History Museum?

The San Diego Museum of Natural History is decently sized, but it isn’t an all day experience. Allowing about three to four hours should be sufficient.

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6. Avoid Crowds

The museum is best enjoyed alone. Arriving early to avoid peak afternoon crowds is one of the most important San Diego History Museum visitor tips and tricks.

Similarly, the museum is less crowded during the week. If visiting on a weekday is an option, go this route.

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7. Special San Diego Natural History Museum Events Are Offered

The museum offers special events, including nature hikes with the San Diego Natural History Museum canyoneers, story time, family days, and appearances by a live hawk. Check the schedule at the time of your visit.

Pro tip: The museum partners with a private company for whale watching boat rides. The speakers on these tours are trained by the museum to educate passengers.

Fox

8. There is an Escape Room

In its quest to be one of the cool museums in San Diego, it made an escape room. You need reservations ahead of time.

As of the time of this writing, the San Diego Natural History Museum price is $30 per person. The maximum group size is six.

Walrus skeleton

9. There is a Movie Theater

The movie theater is included with your general admission. The museum generally rotates between multiple shows that play a few times each day. Check the schedule at the time of your visit.

Note: Guest passes and San Diego Museum free days do not include the theater. You can purchase a ticket for $5.

skull

10. There is a Small Cafe

The museum offers the Flying Squirrel Cafe. As of the time of this writing, it is closed.

Pro tip: Don’t bother eating here. There are tons of great options immediately outside the museum in Balboa Park.

creek with animals

11. Ways to Save on San Diego Natural History Museum Tickets

Standard Ticket Prices

How much are tickets for San Diego Natural History Museum?

As of the time of this writing, admission is $19.95 per adult and $11.95 per child ages three to 17. There are senior, student, and San Diego Natural History Museum military discounts that take the price to $16.95. Kids two and under are free.

You can purchase San Diego Museum tickets at the door. You don’t have to buy them ahead of time.

Consider Annual San Diego Museum Passes

If you plan to visit more than once, are traveling with a large group, or have several kids living in your household, a San Diego Museum annual pass may be cost effective for you.

As of the time of this writing, you can purchase family passes that include two adults, all children in your household, and four guest passes for $89 per year. On top of that, you get a discount in the cafe and the San Diego Natural History Museum store.

Some San Diego Museum memberships also come with an Association of Science and Technology Centers passport, which gets you free and discounted admission into lots of other museums, including the Museum of Science and Industry.

Check the San Diego Natural History Museum membership options at the time of your visit.

Note: Guests passes do not include admission to the theater.

San Diego Museum Explorer Pass

Visiting multiple museums in Balboa Park? You may be able to save with the Balboa Park Explorer Pass. As of the time of this writing, there are options for four venues in one day, an unlimited seven day pass, or an annual pass. Decide what you want to see, then do the math to determine if it makes sense for you.

Go City San Diego

Visiting multiple tourist attractions throughout the city? The Go City San Diego pass may save you money. In addition to the museum, you can visit SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND California, and the San Diego Zoo, among many others.

As of the time of this writing, there are both unlimited and a la carte options.

Go with a Group

The museum offers San Diego Museum discounts to groups of 10 or more. As of the time of this writing, rates are $16.95 for adults, $13.95 for students, seniors, and military personnel, and $9.95 for children ages three to 17.

Pro tip: You should request a group reservation prior to arrival.

San Diego Natural History Museum Free Days for Residents

Is San Diego Natural History Museum free for residents? Only on certain days.

As of the time of this writing, the museum lets San Diego residents, as well as military personnel and dependents, come in free of charge on the first Tuesday of each month.

Note: Admission to the theater is not included. You can purchase tickets for $5 per person.

Pro tip: If you don’t qualify for San Diego Museum free admission, avoid these days like the plague.

San Diego Museum Month

During the month of February, you can get into this museum, as well as many others, for half off. Pick up a San Diego Museum month pass at one of the libraries or Macy’s stores.

Groupon and Tiqets

You can occasionally find deals for the museum on Groupon and Tiqets.

green dinosaur

12. What Should You Not Miss at the Natural History Museum in San Diego?

Pro tip: The museum has a movie theater and four floors of San Diego History Museum exhibits. Some exhibits are permanent, while others rotate.

Bonus pro tip: If you’re really in it to win it, the museum has a ton of free checklists and guides you can download to teach you more about the exhibits.

Permanent San Diego Museum Exhibits

The Backyard

The Backyard is an interactive space at this San Diego Museum of History for kids ages five and under only.

Note: This section tends to close before the museum itself. Check the San Diego Museum times upon arrival.

Pro tip: The museum sometimes offers a makerspace section for older kids near The Backyard. It also has limited hours. Check the schedule.

Coast to Cactus in Southern California

The Coast to Cactus section focuses on the local environment and topography. It has interactive elements and some small live animals.

Demonstration Lab

At the Demonstration Lab, you can watch scientists work with specimens. Sometimes, kids can get involved and participate. Check the schedule upon arrival if this interests you.

Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People

Snoozefest Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People is not going to hold your child’s attention. It features books, art, and documents about local scientists. I know, right?

Pro tip: Within this area that is unappealing to children is a children’s reading nook. This is a great place to go if your kid needs a break.

Fossil Mysteries

Fossil Mysteries is the reason this location is one of the best museums in San Diego for little kids. Here, you will find dinosaur displays, fossils, a sea cow (which is apparently a real thing), and interactive areas where they can play and touch items.

Pro tip: Don’t miss the scavenger hunt.

San Diego Natural History Museum Pendulum

The Foucault Pendulum is one of the highlights of this San Diego historical museum. It is located near the entrance in the front of the building. It technically teaches you about gravity, but it is mesmerizing for kids who will not realize this.

Hidden Gems

Hidden Gems has rocks and minerals. Your kids will lose interest quickly.

Living Lab

The Living Lab features live animals including snakes, lizards, frogs, and insects you would be unhappy to find in your basement.

Science Spotlight: Baleen Whale Evolution

The Science Spotlight lets you get up close and personal with whale parts.

Skulls

This section is exactly how it sounds. Skulls has over 200 skulls. Enjoy.

Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage

Unshelved is a storage locker of sorts. Think random stuff from bugs to bones in individual boxes.

Temporary Exhibits

Some exhibits rotate. Check the offerings at the time of your visit.

pendulum

13. COVID-19 Precautions

As of the time of this writing, masks are required for unvaccinated guests. The museum isn’t overly crowded, so you shouldn’t have much of an issue social distancing if this is a concern to you.

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Final Thoughts – San Diego Natural History Museum Visitor Tips

The museum is not as big as some of the massive properties you will find in other cities, but it is worth a visit if you can get a good price. Its Balboa Park location alone is reason enough to go once. Use the San Diego Natural History Museum visitor tips to plan and save.

Visit San Diego. You will not regret it.

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San Diego Natural History Museum Visitor Tips

19 thoughts on “San Diego Natural History Museum Visitor Tips: Arrive Early

  1. This reminds me of the museum of natural history here in NYC. Seem a perfect place to take the entire family. Thanks for sharing. Will 📌 for later reference.

  2. Love a good visit to a Natural History Museum. I always gravitate to the ocean creatures as a marine scientist. And how neat that they have an escape room!!! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh, I would love to do the whale watching tour with the museum, and definitely the movies. Museums always have interesting movies.
    The skull exhibit sounds interesting!

  4. Great info on the museum! I’ve been to Balboa Park before, but have not visited the museum yet. Adding it to my list for next time 🙂

  5. Whoaaa this is so cool. I would love to visit it and experience it in real life. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Love this detailed article about the muesum, it saves a lot of time for anyone visiting.When in new place we end using all our energy and focus in getting there and parking. This detailed article helps us avoid unnecessary hassels. Thank you.

  7. This is a great detailed article of all the important things to prepare for a trip to the museum. I love you included the avoiding crowds section as this is something we always try to do…

  8. Talk about timing! I was just talking with my family about going back to San Diego again. We love it there but we’ve never been to the Natural History museum. Will be sure to check it out next time we are there. Thanks for the tips 🤗

  9. I love this detailed guide. I am one of the people who always wonder where to park. I really appreciate you mentioned those details. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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