During a visit to San Diego, you will find loads of outdoor activities, miles of beaches, hundreds of breweries, and a well-known dining scene. Some visitors might not know about the extensive arts and culture scene that should not be missed. There are over 40 museums throughout San Diego County from Oceanside in North County all the way south to the border of the USA and Mexico, blending many passion points from art, music, history, and science. Below are five must-see arts and cultural attractions to check out during your next visit.
#1: USS Midway Museum
A great place to start your arts and culture experience in San Diego is downtown near Broadway Pier at the USS Midway Museum. If you have never stepped foot on an aircraft carrier, you will be in awe once you step on board of the floating city. The USS Midway is one of the city’s top attractions, providing a great understanding of life at sea aboard an aircraft carrier. The USS Midway was the Navy’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century. An easy way to experience the USS Midway is to take a self-guided tour around the ship, but be sure to chat with the docents during your visit. Many are Navy veterans and, sometimes, you will be lucky to speak with someone who spent time on the ship. Allow anywhere from one to four hours aboard.
#2: The Natural History Museum
As you enter Balboa Park, home to The San Diego Natural History Museum, you will discover the scenery in the park alone is a great reason to visit. Step inside “The Nat” to discover a fascinating array of artifacts. The Nat holds 8 million specimens in storage, many of which are on display at the current exhibition: Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage. Check the website’s event calendar before you visit – often there are special events at night, on the weekends, or even in other parts of town waiting to be discovered.
#3: Cabrillo National Monument
On the far western peninsula of Point Loma, you will find a hidden gem with one of the oldest stories in San Diego history, Cabrillo National Monument. It is named after Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who led the first European to explore what is now the West Coast back in the 1500s. The monument, also part of the National Park Service, dates back to the 1850s and is well-preserved. It provides a fantastic view from the southernmost tip of San Diego.
#4: Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Just north of famed La Jolla Cove, Birch Aquarium at Scripps on the University of California San Diego campus showcases over 5,000 with hands-on experiences for kids of all ages (and adults too). If you are interested in marine life, this is a must-visit museum during your San Diego stay. As an added treat, the tide pool plaza has one of the best backdrops in San Diego overlooking the La Jolla coastline with panoramic ocean views.
#5: San Diego Botanic Garden
About 20 minutes north of downtown, you will find a serene 37-acres where you can connect with nature and learn about different plant species from around the world at San Diego Botanic Garden. No matter what level of interest you have in plants, the garden is sure to please. Wind around scenic trails and take in the majestic beauty of the garden. For visitors with children, head to the treehouse or join one of the various educational programs to learn about what fruits and vegetables are in season during your visit. Check out the ocean views from the garden and then head to nearby Encinitas to catch the sunset if you are visiting at the end of the day.
San Diego’s climate makes it a year-round destination, but if you are interested in the arts and culture mentioned above, February is a great time to make the trip. In 2020, February not only brings an extra day with the leap year, but it also brings San Diego Museum Month. Guests can grab a free San Diego Museum Month pass and receive half-off at admission to over 40 museums around San Diego County.
No matter what month you visit, I would advise visitors to pack comfortable shoes. San Diego is a very walkable city with spacious sidewalks and scenic beachside boardwalks. If you are like me and enjoy viewing the stunning scenery by foot, lace up your athletic shoes as this a great option to get around. Our city is casual – you do not need to prioritize comfort over style when sightseeing. But do not worry, Lyft rideshares are also plentiful in all areas of San Diego to help get around the different neighborhoods if your feet get a bit tired.
Make San Diego your destination for miles of coastline and outdoor activities. Whether it is your first trip or your tenth, check out the arts and culture scene. It is sure not to disappoint with a variety of activities from science to art to even the history of surfing. Hope to see you in San Diego soon!