Top Five Tips for Exploring San Diego’s Cultural Scene

San Diego is a gold mine of museums, with over 40 museums in the greater area, you are in for a treat. San Diego’s cultural scene is turning heads for visitors and locals exploring history, art, and everything in between. Cultural enthusiasts will be happily surprised with the number of endless exhibits just waiting to be discovered.

Known for its stunning coastline, ideal year-round climate, and dynamic city experience, San Diego attractions gather tourists from around the world to explore “America’s Finest City.” While known for having one of the most famous zoos in the world, a top-ranked ballpark, and amusement parks, there truly is something for everyone. The exciting food scene includes upscale Mexican to Italian galore and an entire town dedicated to Asian cuisine. While craft beer has its place in San Diego, new alternative beer concepts such as hard kombucha and cider are popping up in the North Park neighborhoods. One hidden gem many visitors don’t know about prior to visiting the city is Balboa Park, San Diego’s cultural hub.

Palm trees and a man made pond in front of a Gothic inspired building in Balboa park.

Balboa Park
Located just a few minutes from downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is home to 16 museums. With so many options, you will get a different experience every time you visit Balboa Park. The park has over 1,200 acres full of surprises. One of the best places to capture an image of the entire park is from the top of the California Tower in the Museum of Man. Climb the 125 steps up the tower and you will be rewarded with a 360-degree view of San Diego. During the tour, you will learn about Balboa Park’s history and have the opportunity to capture some great photos.

People visiting a museum gather around a butterfly display.

San Diego’s Natural History Museum
Often referred to as “The Nat,” the San Diego Natural History Museum has been around since 1874 so as you can imagine, it has quite a collection. The second floor is where you can find one of the most interesting exhibits, Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage. Here you can get a backstage glimpse at specimens kept in storage that are on display for the very first time. The exhibit will show you an array of animals, bugs, and even whale bones. It will also inspire your curiosity to continue exploring the eight million specimens in the collection.

Art museum visitors stop to take a photo of a classic painting.

San Diego Museum of Art
One of the reasons so many people enjoy the San Diego Museum of Art is the technology SDMC has integrated into the museum’s experience through their mobile app. It’s a great way for newbies to develop a deeper understanding of the exhibits and behind the scenes highlights. Be sure to download the museum’s app before you visit and time will fly by as you learn all about great works of art.

a brick path leads the way through a lush Japanese garden.

Japanese Friendship Garden
San Diego features an ideal climate throughout the year, a stroll outside is always a good idea. Take it a step further and explore the 12-acre Japanese Friendship Garden. The garden is an expression of friendship between San Diego and its sister city, Yokohama Japan. As you stroll through the garden, winding down the path following the sounds of water flowing you will see a backdrop showcasing the centuries-old Japanese gardening techniques. The garden provides guests with an abundance of serenity and peace.

Panama 66 at the San Diego Museum of Art
A day of exploring Balboa Park works up an appetite and what better way to enjoy a meal in Balboa Park than in the sculpture garden of the San Diego Museum of Art at Panama 66. The menu features a wide variety of casual fare, from roasted squash, Tempeh & baby kale salad to Wagyu Burgers ready to be paired with one of many cocktails or local San Diego brews. Another perk for dining at Panama 66 is the live music. As the day winds down, relax a bit longer after your meal and sprawl out on the lawn. Panama 66 is a popular choice in Balboa Park, so if you plan to stop for lunch, try beating the line and arriving at 11:45 am or after the lunch rush around 2:00 pm.

Gothic style tower against a clear blue sky

With year-round sunshine and a friendly atmosphere, your San Diego vacation will leave you with a smile. Add in a day to explore Balboa Park and you will leave with an abundance of new knowledge in one of the many museums. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera – you will have plenty of opportunities to photograph the park’s beautiful scenery. We hope to welcome you soon!

Know Before You Go

Girl with brown hair in a grey blazer and black shirt.

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Amanda R. Are you interested in traveling to San Diego? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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