USS Midway. San Diego, California.

One of America's longest-serving military aircraft carriers, the USS Midway Museum offers hands-on exhibits the whole family can enjoy. (Getty Images)

Between its world-renowned zoo and multitude of expansive beaches, San Diego can keep children busy for days.

But should your family encounter not-so-nice weather during your vacation, don't despair: San Diego is also home to a number of science, art and history museums featuring engaging exhibits that your kids are sure to love. Here are some top picks.

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center


aerial shot of Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego, California

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (Courtesy of Reuben H. Fleet Science Center)


With more than 100 interactive exhibits and an Imax theater, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park is sure to delight kids, says Christopher Jorgens, chief concierge at Hotel Del Coronado.

Andrew Tellez, chief concierge at The Westin San Diego, says the museum's appeal is that it allows kids to "touch and learn at the same time." The center's Kid City, a permanent exhibit designed for children ages 5 and younger, features a "ball wall," where kids can experience physics in action by running balls through chutes, tracks and a maze of moving objects. And Kid City's Little Learner’s Lab allows children to explore objects of different shapes, sizes and textures.

The Science Center is open 365 days a year, Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission – which includes entry to one Imax film – is around $20 for those ages 13 and up, and $17 for children ages 3 to 12.

[Read: Best Family Vacations in the USA.]

The New Children's Museum


child playing at New Children's Museum in San Diego

New Children's Museum (Courtesy of New Children's Museum)


According to Edna Gutierrez, public relations manager at the San Diego Tourism Authority, the New Children's Museum in downtown San Diego is fun even for adults. Children visiting the museum are allowed – and encouraged – to play with the contemporary art on display. One current exhibit, inspired by the infrastructure in California's desert lands, allows children to run wooden cars along roads, a concrete dam, and wooden and foam reservoirs. Because the installments are temporary, there's often something new to discover.

Admission is $12 for adults and children older than 1. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays, and hours vary depending on the day.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum, also located in sprawling Balboa Park, is a must-see, Gutierrez says. The museum explores the history of the planet with a variety of family-friendly programs, ranging from educational camps to docent-guided nature walks to whale-watching excursions in partnership with Hornblower Cruises. Additionally, the museum hosts changing exhibitions, so there's always something new to see and explore.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Admission is $12 for children ages 3 to 17 and $19 for adults. Children ages 2 and younger are free.

[Read: How to Maximize Travel Rewards Points and Perks for Your Family.]

Air and Space Museum


Spirit of St. Louis plane at the San Diego Air & Space Museum

San Diego Air & Space Museum (Courtesy of San Diego Air & Space Museum)


Jorgens says one thing that makes the Air and Space Museum so special is its replica of the Spirit of St. Louis – the San Diego-built monoplane Charles Lindbergh flew on the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight in 1927. A year after the flight, San Diego's new airport was dedicated to Lindbergh, and Jorgens says the airfield is commonly referred to as Lindbergh Field to this day. Other exhibits include restored military aircraft as well as a model of an 18th-century hot air balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers, who conducted the first untethered hot air balloon flights.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission for adults is $19.50, while children ages 3 to 11 can enter for $10.50. There is a flight simulator, called Max Flight Interactive Ride, which you can ride for an additional $8.

USS Midway Museum


children's activity at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, California

USS Midway Museum (Courtesy of USS Midway Museum)


Robert Marks, chief concierge at the Omni San Diego Hotel, says the USS Midway Museum allows visitors to experience firsthand the history of one of America's longest-serving aircraft carriers. Located in downtown San Diego’s Navy Pier, the museum features self-guided tours of the vessel, two types of flight simulators, and aircraft and cockpits that visitors can climb aboard.

"It's great for families because they have wonderful hands-on exhibits that kids can learn, play and experience," he says. "There are wonderful docents on board that will take time to educate children and show them around. The kids get to experience motion simulators and go and test out different parts of the ship."

[Read: 6 Breweries to Visit in San Diego.]

Admission is $20 for adults, and $10 to $15 for children ages 6 to 17. It includes a self-guided audio tour of over 60 exhibits. The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To experience more of what San Diego has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

Tags: travel, San Diego, family


Darcie Czajkowski writes about travel for U.S. News. She is an avid traveler, who has visited nearly 40 countries. She has lived in Bali, Indonesia and has called San Diego her home for 13 years. Her travel and lifestyle articles have appeared on TripExpert and The Carmel Valley Life, a local San Diego publication. As a current graduate student in Marriage and Family Therapy, Darcie has also written about life, love and relationships for Elite Daily.

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