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
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.
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The 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.
Air and 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
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."
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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.
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