Travel Back In Time With San Diego Museums

San Diego museums are a great way to explore the history and culture of this uniquely Californian city. Make it a point to visit the museums, and on every trip you'll discover the adventures and delights of each one.

While some cities might content themselves with one museum, there are more than 20 different San Diego museums, and each one has a special story to tell. I personally like to explore some of the smaller sites as well as those that are better known. Here is a list of a few that my family and I have recently visited.

San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

You can discover some of the secrets of this modern city when you visit this downtown location that is quite different from other San Diego museums. It is housed in an old mission building which has a special history of its own.

This was once the site of the very first school and church that was built in the city just for Chinese immigrants to use. The museum contains many exhibits that help you connect with the experiences and lives of those original Chinese Americans who worked and resided in this city.

You get to see some of the furnishings and artifacts from those long ago days. The old photographs and authentic pieces of Chinese art were the displays that I found to be the most compelling.

Be sure that you explore the outdoor Chinese gardens when you visit. Adults will find the garden area to be a peaceful and delightful attraction and even my kids seemed to really appreciate the natural beauty of these surroundings.

Pioneer Hook & Ladder Firehouse Museum

For a cost of only $3 per adult our entire family was able to visit one of the San Diego museums that can capture the interest of both adults and kids. You have to travel to San Diego's 'Little Italy,' when you want to tour the Pioneer Hook & Ladder Firehouse Museum but it is worth the effort, and you get to enjoy some great Italian food after your tour is finished.

More than 150 years of firefighting history is presented in a 1906 building that was the site of the San Diego City's original Fire Station #6. The kids' eyes were wide with excitement as they got a chance to see some real firefighting equipment and they had a lot of questions about how these things worked.

It won't take you long to walk through and see all of the exhibits, which makes this a great stop for families with kids. We were able to view pictures, photos, uniforms and other displays that helped us develop a new respect and admiration for the work and training that these men and women undergo.

This is one of the San Diego museums where heroes are easy to find. The hours of this museum are only from 10-2 on Thursday and Friday. On the weekends it's open from 10-4.

Hollywood Museum

Yes, Hollywood has moved to the San Diego area and at this eclectic museum you can wander about and discover a total of 10,000 items that are authentic Hollywood treasures. This is probably my top choice among all of the San Diego museums just because it is such a thrill to see hundreds of movie props, costumes and posters.

As a movie buff I have a soft spot in my heart for any film paraphernalia and here is where I can really get my money's worth. Our family totally enjoyed the wonderful displays that included exhibits featuring items from such great movies as "Gone with the Wind", "Rocky" and "Star Trek".

I was wowed by the jail cell that was used to house Hannibal Lecter in the movie, "Silence of the Lambs" and a Rolls Royce owned by Cary Grant. A robe worn by Elvis, dresses worn by Nicole Kidman and Marilyn Monroe and even the Boris Karloff mummy are just a few of the thousands of items on display.

New San Diego Children's Museum

This is one of the San Diego museums that proved to be a big hit with my kids. Okay, I admit it; the New San Diego Children's Museum was a big hit with the adults too. Who cannot like the environmentally friendly, sustainable building that houses this child-oriented museum?

Innovation, creativity and a kid friendly environment make this a "must" for any family. Children are encouraged to touch the art that is on exhibit in order to fully experience the moment. There are even art classes and special programs for the younger set.

When we needed a short break we were pleased to see that there was an organic café on site as well as an outdoor park. The food at the café is flavorful, healthy and won the heart and palate of every member of our family, and even won over our finicky, youngest child.

Museum of Photographic Arts

San Diego museums range from the exotic to the simply fabulous and for me this one is simply delightful and informative. This museum is more commonly known as MoPA and it contains only photography related memorabilia.

The photographs range from dauguerrotypes to modern day images, and there are some powerful exhibits that are on display. There is also a theater with state of the art equipment where you can sit and watch films pertaining to the history of photography and photographic arts.

San Diego Automotive Museum

This is one of the San Diego Museums that focuses on one topic and does it well. If anyone in your family enjoys automobiles then this is the place to go. I am not a big fan of cars but my 12 year old son was in 7th heaven as he got up close and personal with some tricked out Lowriders, a variety of Cadillacs, a 57 Chevy and a flashy, red Lamborghini. The complete history of cars and the automobile industry can be discovered just in this one museum.

San Diego Museum of Art

This San Diego attraction is a favorite of many people. Opening in 1926 the San Diego Museum of Art is noted to be the largest and oldest art museum in San Diego. It is believed to have the greatest collection of Spanish baroque painting and Asian Indian paintings. This San Diego attraction is perfect when the weather is not the best. A great indoor attraction!

Whaley House

The Whaley House stands out among all San Diego museums because of its unique claim to fame. This mansion was constructed in 1857 and it is now known as America's most haunted house. My family stayed pretty close as we toured this marvel of Greek revival architecture. I like to think it was because we are just a close knit group, but I'm fairly certain we were all expecting a ghost to swoop through the rooms at any given moment.

The list of San Diego museums includes some other great attractions as well. Balboa Park alone is home to 15 museums. I highly recommend the San Diego Museum of Art and the San Diego Natural History Museum as two additional places that you should visit.

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