Tips on Planning Your Family Visit to theNAT

One of the most popular destinations in Balboa Park for families with young kids, a visit to the San Diego Natural History Museum is a fun way to get the family inspired to think about the landscape and biodiversity of southern California and the Baja peninsula regions in a scientific way.

The Museum features five floors of unique, interactive exhibits that explore indigenous animals of the past and present, plants, and geology. There’s even a fun play area, “Camp-O-Saurus,” where parents can take a break while the kids tell T.rex tales by the campfire, explore a dinosaur nest, or hide out in a tent with a book or puzzle.

Things to Know Before You Go: 

  • Get the kids excited for their visit: download the free mobile app, Wifarer at theNAT, for museum maps, multimedia content, videos, and more. Don’t have data during your visit? Stop by the Admissions Desk to check out one of the Museum’s iPads.
  • Parking: Balboa Park is a popular destination so plan to arrive before most of the attractions open at 10 AM to ensure you get a good parking spot.
  • Plan your itinerary to maximize the fun. Visit multiple San Diego attractions for one low price. You can save up to 55% on combined admission to the San Diego Natural History Museum and many more fun, family activities with a Go San Diego Card.
  • Check online to see what’s playing in the Giant Screen Theater and plan your visit around the viewings. (Admission to the big screen is included with Go San Diego Card All-Inclusive Passes.)
  • Dining: located right in the Atrium, the Dinosaur Café serves an assortment of hot beverages, pre-made sandwiches, salads, snacks, and more. Or, pack a picnic and eat it outside the Museum. There are lots of tables, chairs, and grassy areas in Balboa Park.
  • Be sure to browse through the Alex and Elizabeth Wise Museum Store featuring fascinating natural history products that make great gifts and souvenirs and will keep the kids entertained by science beyond their visit to theNAT.

Things to Plan Your Trip Around: 

  • Wacky Science Sundays: Hop on board the Magic School Bus and catch a performance and get a science lesson from Ms. Frizzle every Sunday at 12:15 and 2:15 PM, included with admission.
  • Family Days: See if your visit falls on one of the Family Days to explore a featured topic through hands-on activities, like arts and crafts that you can take home as souvenir.
  • Nature and Me Storytime (recommended for ages 1-5 with an adult): Every second Thursday of the month, at 10:15 AM, the Museum offers an enriching Storytime activity, free with admission. Storytime gets kids excited about learning and add to their experience.
  • ASD Mornings: One Sunday per month, the Museum opens early for adults and children on the autism spectrum and their families, friends, and caregivers. Visitors may explore the galleries at their own pace and watch a private showing of Ocean Oasis with a lower volume and higher light levels. A “quiet room” is also available for visitors who need a quiet space to decompress or desensitize.

Exhibitions You Can Expect to See:

Coast to Cactus in Southern California

Show your kids the San Diego beyond the beaches and theme parks with an in-depth and entertaining look at the biodiversity in the major regions of southern California.

Fossil Mysteries

Dig through displays of fossils and learn the natural history of southern California first-hand.


Kids will love comparing over 200 skulls from the weirdest, wildest, and most fascinating animals.

Water: A California Story

Kids can take a deeper dive into how climate changes affect California’s water supply and the variety of life that relies on it.  

The Ordover Gallery

Adults and kids alike will enjoy browsing through the rotating displays of nature photography from some of the nation’s best nature and wildlife photography.

Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science – Opening early summer 2016

Temporary Exhibitions

Birds as Art: The Avian Photography of Arthur Morris – January 16, 2016-April 25, 2016

See Arthur Morris’s inspiring photography of free and wild birds from around the world.

Whales: Giants of the Deep - March 19-September 5, 2016

This exciting, new exhibition offers visitors unique, interactive ways to explore the latest in cetacean research. Kids can make their way through a life-size replica of a blue whale’s heart and learn about how scientists track and identify whales migrating through the Pacific Ocean.

Best of Nature 2016 – April 30, 2016-August 28, 2016

Get inspired by amateur and professional nature-based photography from local artists of San Diego and beyond.

The Machine Inside: Biomechanics – October 8, 2016-January 1, 2017

Explore how every living thing is built to survive and move and see how humans have found engineering inspiration from nature itself and animals like shrimp that can break through glass and spider webs stronger than steel. 

Posted By Casey Makovich, Go Orlando Card.

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