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Best History Museums in San Diego

By: Cityseeker
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Maritime Museum of San Diego

Fun for adults and kids, this museum-on-water is the focal point of San Diego's historic Embarcadero Promenade. Comprised of several painstakingly restored historic ships, it is a tribute to the sea-faring age. One of the ships showcased at Maritime Museum of San Diego is the Star of India (1863), a stunning vision that graces the coastline as the world's oldest actively-sailed, square-rigged ship.

1492 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA, United States, 92101
USS Midway Museum

Located right along the Navy Pier in downtown San Diego, the USS Midway Museum lends deep insights into naval aviation and one of the important chapters of American history. The museum is home to the iconic USS Midway, which has been one of the country's oldest aircraft carriers. A famed naval museum in the United States, it also shelters an arsenal of other significant carriers, most of which were crafted in Southern California. The museum is complete with simulators, myriad deck exhibits and the stirring Battle of Midway theater. The museum has also been a host to an array of private, media and sporting events.

910 North Harbor Drive, Navy Pier, San Diego, CA, United States, 92101
San Diego Automotive Museum

Rev up your engines and cruise on over to the San Diego Automotive Museum dedicated to the last 100 years of automotive development. From 'horseless carriages' to the 50s 'hot rods' parked in front of a simulated diner, car buffs will enjoy checking out the scores of shiny automobiles on display. Research sources are available, as are great gift ideas for any car enthusiast.

2080 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA, United States, 92101
Museum of Us

San Diego's anthropological museum is home to 70,000 artifacts, folk art and archaeological finds from all over the world. With mummies and ancient carved monuments, the treasures inside the San Diego Museum of Man are abundant but the building itself is also a San Diego treasure and city symbol. The California Building with its tile-capped tower was designed in 1915 by Bertram G. Goodhue and reflects a whimsical "California Mission" style of architecture. Exhibits inside explore the culture and lives of ancient civilizations of the Inuits, the Mapuche, and the Mayans among others.

1350 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA, United States, 92101
San Diego Museum of Art

The San Diego Museum of Art is the region’s oldest, largest, and most visited art museum, providing a rich and diverse cultural experience for nearly 300,000 visitors each year. Located in the heart of beautiful Balboa Park, the museum’s nationally renowned permanent collection includes Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings, and 19th and 20th Century American paintings and sculptures. In addition, the museum regularly features major exhibitions from around the world, as well as an extensive year-round schedule of supporting cultural and educational programs for children and adults. Exhibition text is always in English and Spanish. The Museum’s research library offers access to an extensive collection of art history publications.

1450 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA, United States, 92101
San Diego History Center

This is the largest repository of San Diego's rich history available. The reading room offers public records and reproduction maps dating from the 1850s. Also available are architectural drawings, biographical files, an ephemera collection, history books, manuscripts, newspapers, oral histories and vintage publications. Prints of more than two million images, documenting 125 years of San Diego's history, are also available. The archives are closed during the month of August for collection cataloging.

1649 El Prado, Casa de Balboa, San Diego, CA, United States, 92101
San Diego Natural History Museum

The San Diego Natural History Museum is the second oldest scientific institution in California. A bi-national museum, its mission is to interpret the natural world through research, education and exhibits. The museum strives to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of southern California and the peninsula of Baja California to inspire in all a respect for nature and the environment. Between exhibits on dinosaurs and the Arctic to mammoths and the Titanic, this museum is sure to interest the old, young and everything in between.

1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA, United States, 92101
Junipero Serra Museum

High above Old Town, sits the Presidio. First built in 1769 by the Spanish Army as a fort, the Presidio lookout still provides a panoramic view of the city. The adjacent museum was built in 1929 revealing a fine example of Mission Revival-style architecture. Inside the museum you will find clothing, artifacts, furniture, tools and army artillery.

2727 Presidio Drive, Presidio Park, San Diego, CA, United States, 92103
Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum

If you are passionate about flying, this is definitely the place for you. Here, you will find everything there is to know about aviation. Famous jets like Douglas R4D 'Gooney Bird', Fairchild R4Q 'Packet', McDonnell Douglas FA-18 'Hornet', Grumman F9F 'Cougar', Mikoyan-Gurevch MIG-15 'Fagot', and F4F (FM-2) 'Wildcat' can be admired from close quarters. You can also become a member of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation. All members receive a membership card, decal and lapel pin, discounts at the museum gift shop and the foundation newsletter called The Log Book.

T-4203 Anderson Avenue, San Diego, CA, United States, 92145
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