Balboa Park is one of San Diego’s greatest attractions. Located right next to downtown San Diego and the airport, Balboa Park is best known for the San Diego Zoo. However, it is also home to many great museums. One of the major museums is the San Diego Natural History Museum. This is our guide to the San Diego Natural History Museum.
We have been going to the San Diego Natural History Museum for many years and have watched it expand significantly. This included a 2001 expansion that added 90,000 square feet, more than double the original 65,000 square feet when the museum opened in 1933.
The San Diego Natural History Museum is located right off Park Boulevard across the courtyard from the Fleet Science Center. It is the closest museum to the San Diego Zoo.
Entry to the San Diego Natural History Museum is $19.95 for adults 18 and over. Youths age 3 to 17 are $11.95. Seniors, Students and Military are $16.95. On the 1st Tuesday of every month, San Diego County residents get in free.
If you are in San Diego for 3 or more days you may want to consider a Go San Diego Card which includes the San Diego Natural History Museum and other museums in Balboa Park. The Go San Diego Card allows visitors access to up to 40 attractions for either 1,2,3,5 or 7 days. This is not a cheap option and we generally recommend it for 3 days or more where it is $209 adults/$189 children age 3 to 12.
The Go San Diego Card option we recommend to visitors just in town for a day or two is the build your own pass. With the build your own pass you add 2 or more attractions to the pass and save 20% off the gate price for each attraction.
A 7-day pass is a very good value at $299/$269. The 3-day or more passes include admission to the very big attractions like SeaWorld and Legoland. If you do get a Go San Diego Card it is very possible to do the San Diego Zoo and several Balboa Park museums in a single day.
If you are a resident or frequent visitor to San Diego, you might consider a membership option. Annual membership to the San Diego Natural History Museum is $89 family of 2 adults and children under the age of 17.
As our children have started to enter their tween and teenage years, we have upgraded to the Balboa Explorer Park Pass. At $229 a year for 2 adults and 4 children this gets you into 16 Balboa Park museums.
Visitors to San Diego can look into getting a 7-day Balboa Park Explorer Park Pass for $59 adults, $32 children age 3 to 12. This pass allows for unlimited admission to all museums for 7-days. This is a much better deal than a one-day pass which is $48 adults/$29 children and only allows access to 5 museums (you get to pick the museums).
There are two entrances to the San Diego Natural History Museum. The South Entrance comes in on the second floor by the Foucault Pendulum and the fossil display. This is by the fountain courtyard across from the Fleet Center.
We usually like to start at the North Entrance in the rear of the building. Right by this entrance is the huge Moreton Bay Fig Tree. This tree was planted for the 1915 exposition and is now listed in the California Registry of Big Trees. For this guide, we will start here.
You start your tour on the first floor right by the Allosaurus replica. To your left is the Subaru 3D Experience movie theater. Unlike the Fleet Science Center, movies at the Nat are included with your admission. There are usually three separate movies showing. On your right is the museum café where you can buy snacks.
This guide goes through the core exhibits by floor starting on the next page.