Top Museums Walking Tour in San Diego, San Diego (Self Guided)

San Diego has over 90 amazing museums. They reflect the incredible variety and interests of the region. The museums present a wide range of collections from classic to contemporary art and from natural history to science. Take this walking tour to explore some of the most famous museums in San Diego.
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Top Museums Walking Tour in San Diego Map

Guide Name: Top Museums Walking Tour in San Diego
Guide Location: USA » San Diego (See other walking tours in San Diego)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 km
Author: doris
1
San Diego Museum of Man

1) San Diego Museum of Man (must see)

The San Diego Museum of Man is one of the best anthropological style institutions in the United States. It is centrally located in Balboa Park, at 1350 El Prado. Besides being a popular attraction for tourists that come to visit the city, it is also a wonderful historic landmark.

The permanent exhibits here focus on Pre-Columbian history. There are items on display, however, that take the viewer all the way to the history of the Native Americans who populated this part of North America. You can see some of the best samples of Mayan and Andean art ever to be found. There are over 72,000 artifacts to view and over 30,000 photographs. If you have children, you will also want to check out the Children’s Discovery Center located on the campus.

The museum got its start in 1915 with an exhibit that was developed in honor of the opening of the Panama Canal. The first contributor was Dr. Edgar Hewett. The museum is still being housed in its original buildings from 1915. On a different note, Orson Welles used this historic site as the fictitious home called “Xanadu” in the classic movie Citizen Kane.

Why You Should Visit:
Great for kids and adults alike. You can interact with "Monsters!", BEERology, Adventure Kids in Egypt, Ancient Egypt: Real Mummies and Artifacts of the Dead, Footstep through Time, Kumeyaay, Maya and a special exhibit on Race.

Tip:
Along with the interesting history of man tour, you can also take a very nice tower tour (great view of the park and part of the city skyline!) and see the exhibit on cannibals – both at extra cost.

Operation Hours:
Mon-Thu: 10am-5pm; Fri-Sun: 10am-7pm
2
Mingei International Museum

2) Mingei International Museum (must see)

Editor's Note: Mingei International Museum's Balboa Park location is closed for renovation. It will reopen in late 2019/early 2020.

This location is one of the best international museums in the United States. There are thousands of tourists that come to visit here each year. The name of the museum means “the art of the people” in Japanese, and that is the focus of the exhibits located inside. You can find displays from Indonesia, Central America, Japan and China. There is also a sizeable display from the continent of Africa. So, you really do have a collection of the “art of the people” of the world to see.

You can find exhibits here made of folk art, pottery and jewelry, and even toys and paintings. One of the most famous permanent collections here are the sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle. She was a resident of San Diego 1993 until her death in 2002.

The location was started by Martha Longenecker. She was an artist and member of the faculty at San Diego State University. The museum was opened to the public in 1978, and has been improving its offerings ever since.

The Mingei International Museum is located at 1439 El Prado, very near the Natural History Museum. It is open from Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Admission for adults is $7, and kids are $4. If you happen to have a San Diego Card, admission is free.
3
San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA)

3) San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) (must see)

The San Diego Museum of Art is another fine facility located in the Balboa Park portion of the city. It has a very eclectic collection of things to see, but it does place special emphasis on Spanish art. The museum opened to the public in February of 1926 and has been pleasing tourists ever since. It is the largest and oldest museum of its kind in the Southwest portion of the United States. Five hundred thousand people a year visit this location.

The actual building was designed by William Johnson and Bob Snyder in a plateresque style. Careful attention was also paid to make the building look like the rest of the structures from the 1915 Panama and California Exposition. You will want to check out the very ornate front door to the place, as it was designed after a similar doorway at the University of Salamanca. The building also has similar stylistic patterns from the Cathedral of Valladolid. A new wing was added to the facility in 1966 and again in 1974.

Tip:
If you go into the somewhat new "Visible Vault" collection on the entry level you'll get a good overview of the museum and find some treasures, such as the Binney collection of South Asian miniatures. You can dine in Panama 66, SDMA's outdoor cafe with adjacent sculpture garden at one end of the plaza, or catch a quick bite from one of the vendors to eat under one of the many umbrellaed tables around the water fountain.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-5pm; Sun: 12pm-5pm
4
San Diego Model Railroad Museum

4) San Diego Model Railroad Museum (must see)

Model train fans get ready because the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is the largest such institution in the world. It covers a gigantic 28,000 square feet. There are four different model train layouts here, which were built by various clubs in the area. You can find an exhibit in O, HO, and N scale. It is also the only accredited museum of its kind in the United States.

If you have kids, you will also want to see the Toy Train Gallery located inside. There is an interactive train display from Lionel that children just love. The San Diego 3 Railers Train Club was responsible for the design of this piece. All the clubs involved in the museum are individually responsible to do the designs for their tracks, so it really makes the place quite fun.

Since the opening in 1982, there have been well over three million visitors to the place.

Why You Should Visit:
A small but fun place to spend hours if you have going kids who love trains. Also, fun for adults! It's fun to check out the small details!

Tip:
If you have kids maybe two hours are needed. If you love toy trains and models give yourself 3-4 hours.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 11am-4pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-5pm
5
Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA)

5) Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA) (must see)

The Museum of Photographic Arts is completely devoted to the art of photography in all its myriad forms. There are over 9,000 photos to see here that span a date range from the 1800s to the present. In fact, some of these displays may surprise you, as they cover quite an eclectic range of subjects.

The institution was started in 1983. They try to thematically present culture, social issues, and history in a way that helps to bring it to life through the photographic medium of various parts of history. One of the best exhibits is the permanent collection of portraits. There is also an interesting exhibit of pictures that attempt to help us see images that the human eye normally cannot see. All in all, you can have a great time here.

Why You Should Visit:
A visually interesting array of images from the earliest camera obscuras to the latest in digital artistry.
The museum also hosts classic films in the evenings during the week.
Admission is donation-based which is also nice.

Tip:
Be sure to stop by the gift shop – they have some great photographer's books, as well as cameras and accesories for sale.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm; closed on Mondays
6
San Diego Natural History Museum

6) San Diego Natural History Museum (must see)

The San Diego Natural History Museum got its start in 1874. In those days, it was called the Society of Natural History. It is located in Balboa Park at 1788 El Prado. It has been located in the same place now since January of 1933. As such, it is the third oldest such institution west of the Mississippi River and is the oldest in the state of California. An addition to the building was added in 2001, which gave the location twice as much room for exhibits.

As the name of the museum implies, it is all about nature here. The exhibits attempt to display the biodiverse nature of the state, especially the Southern California area. You can learn about gems and minerals, get a chance to see how to crystals are made, and much more. The displays will cover everything from evolution to extinction.

Why You Should Visit:
Plenty of skeletal and animal treasures amid terrific educational resources. Can be enjoyed by adults and children alike!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm

Walking Tours in San Diego, California

Create Your Own Walk in San Diego

Create Your Own Walk in San Diego

Creating your own self-guided walk in San Diego is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Old Town Walking Tour, San Diego

Old Town Walking Tour, San Diego

Old Town San Diego is considered the "birthplace" of California. The Old Town Historic Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. It features amazing old historic houses, unique specialty shops, the first San Diego newspaper office and spectacular gardens. Take this walking tour to discover some of the most beautiful sights that the Old Town of San Diego has to...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour, San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour, San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter is a historical neighborhood established in 1876. It features 16 blocks of wonderful buildings, unique shops, amazing galleries and a wide range of restaurants. This tour highlights some of the most important tourists attractions in San Diego.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 km
Gaslamp Quarter Nightlife

Gaslamp Quarter Nightlife

San Diego is famous for its buzzy nightlife. There are plenty of clubs and lounges in the city that offer a relaxing atmosphere, a chance to strike a nice conversation, enjoy great cocktails - classic signature martinis and beautifully mixed drinks with fine liquor atop, and party crazy all night long. Take this walking tour for a unique nightlife experience in San Diego.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 km
Core-Columbia Nightlife

Core-Columbia Nightlife

San Diego is famous for its buzzy nightlife. There are plenty of clubs and lounges in the city that offer a relaxing atmosphere, a chance to strike a nice conversation, enjoy great cocktails - classic signature martinis and beautifully mixed drinks with fine liquor atop, and party crazy all night long. Take this walking tour for a unique nightlife experience in San Diego.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.5 km
Souvenir Shopping Part 1

Souvenir Shopping Part 1

It would be a pity to leave San Diego without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to San Diego, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.7 km
Souvenir Shopping Part 2

Souvenir Shopping Part 2

It would be a pity to leave San Diego without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to San Diego, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.1 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


Souvenir Shopping Guide: 14 Gifts That Say San Diego

Souvenir Shopping Guide: 14 Gifts That Say San Diego

San Diego is known for its beautiful, temperate climate, but you can’t take the weather home with you. If you want a piece of San Diego as a souvenir, it’s best to shop with the natives. Whether it is made locally or just made famous locally, following are 14 perfect gifts that capture the...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in San Diego for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best San Diego has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as San Diego, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.