San Diego Automotive Museum


Location: Balboa Park (3 Miles Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: 10AM – 5PM (Must enter by 4:30PM). Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Cost: $8 ($4 for Kids ages 6-15 and $6 for Seniors 65+)

Features: Over 100 Cars and Motorcycles, including a 1909 International Harvester Wagon, 1914 Model T Ford, 1981 De Lorean, and a 1990 Ferrari Testarossa.

auto-museum-modelSan Diego Automotive Museum Highlights: The Museum displays a large permanent collection of cars, motorcycles, and other unique vehicles. One example is the Louis Mattar Cadillac, which drove non-stop on a coast-to-coast round trip of the United States. The Automotive Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions highlighting a particular theme. Recent exhibitions have included Motorcross in America and the History of Ferrari.

What to Expect

  • Consider setting aside an hour to enjoy the Museum, but more if you are a big fan of automotive history or like the particular theme of the temporary exhibition.
  • All of the exhibits are on one floor. They are accompanied by detailed descriptions and occasionally include short videos.
  • You can obtain a guided tour from volunteers, if they are available.
  • No Smoking is allowed in or around the Automotive Museum.

auto-museum-sports-carsAutomotive Exhibits – The list of the permanent collection has not been updated for quite some time. However, if you want to brag to your friends back home on some of the cool things you did in San Diego, here are a few items to look for:

  • There is a nice exhibition on the history of Ford’s Model T. (Ford was one of the main sponsors when Balboa Park held World Fairs in 1915/1916 and 1935.)
  • Louis Mattar Cadillac – In 1952, this car set a cross-country endurance record by driving non-stop from San Diego to New York and back. It then traveled non-stop from Anchorage, Alaska to Mexico City, Mexico.
  • 1967 Taxi originally owned by Frank Sinatra.
  • You’ll see several sports cars, including a 1974 Lamborghini Countach, 1953 Jaguar, 1955 Porsche Spyder, 1962 Maseratti, and 1990 Ferrari Testarossa.

Food – There is no food available in the Automotive Museum. The closest option is the Home Plate Bar & Grill just outside the admission gate at the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum. It serves a wide variety of hot and cold sandwiches and snacks. If you are looking for something more than what is offered in a cafe, Balboa Park’s Prado Restaurant is more of an upscale full service restaurant. You can read more about the food options on the Balboa Park web site.

Information on Visiting the San Diego Automotive Museum

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking is Free
  • Standard Fee is $8; ($4 for Kids ages 6-15)
  • $6 for Seniors 65 and over and Active Duty Military with I.D.
  • $5 for College Students
  • General Admission is Free for San Diego County residents and for Active Military & their families on the 4th Tuesday of each month.
  • Passport to Balboa Park – Pay one low price for a Pass that will allow you one entry into each of thirteen participating Balboa Park Museums. You have seven days to use the Park Pass once you begin using it. For an additional fee, you can add a discounted San Diego Zoo Best Value ticket.  Also note, the Passport to Balboa Park Pass allows you to watch an IMAX movie at the Science Center. Passport to Balboa Park tickets can be purchased online or at participating attractions, except at the Zoo.

Directions from Google Maps to 2080 Pan American Plaza in San Diego, CA 92101

auto-museum-luigiParking – There is a parking lot in front of the Automotive Museum. However, this often fills up quickly, especially during the summer and on weekends, since it also shares the parking lot with the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum, and the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. You will see there is additional parking nearby if you look at the Google Map for the directions above or Balboa Park Map noted below. However, these lots often get busy as well. If you don’t want to deal with parking hassles, especially during the summer and on weekends, go to the large parking lots on the opposite side of Park Boulevard. They are on Presidents Way on the east side of Park Boulevard, away from the museums. The Tram starts at the end of the driveway and circulates every 10 minutes from 8:30AM – 6PM daily with extended hours during the summer and special occasions. Get off at the first stop (Pan American Plaza northbound) if you don’t mind walking about 130 yards to the Museum. Otherwise, stay on the Tram for 15 – 20 minutes until the last stop (Pan American Plaza southbound) to be dropped off less than 30 yards from the Museum.

Traffic – Unless there is a major event at Balboa Park, which occurs a few times during the year, getting in and out of Balboa Park is relatively easy using Park Boulevard. If you approach Balboa Park using southbound SR-163, traffic occasionally backs up a little over a mile before reaching the Park Boulevard Exit, which is the same exit for the I-5 northbound. However, the delay will only take a few extra minutes. Likewise, if you are planning to get on SR-163 northbound after leaving the Automotive Museum, plan on a short delay during the mid and late afternoon hours as a few entrance ramps merge together before reaching the highway. (Learn how to get the latest traffic updates.)

Transit – Buses serving Balboa Park drop passengers off on Park Boulevard at the intersection with Presidents Way. You will have to walk about 200 yards to reach the Museum or you can catch the Free Balboa Park Tram. The Tram starts at the end of the driveway, on the east side of Presidents Way and circulates every 10 minutes. You can get off the first stop (Pan American Plaza northbound) if you don’t mind walking about 130 yards to the Museum. Otherwise, stay on the Tram for 15 – 20 minutes until the last stop (Pan American Plaza southbound) to be dropped off less than 30 yards from the Museum. (See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map, which includes Balboa Park, and information for the online Transit Planner.)

Balboa Park Map – The map shows a listing of all Balboa Park Museums, attractions, bus and tram stops, and places to eat. You should also print out the Balboa Park Tram Map from the City of San Diego. It is not as detailed but is helpful because it includes names on each of the buildings. With the other map, you need to use a map key to find the name of a building.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *Top San Diego Museums*, Aviation & Auto Museums, Balboa Park, Nostalgia & Western Frontier |

Help others find things to do and see! Share your ideas.

Connect with Facebook

Or, fill in the form below:

  • Join our great San Diego Tours or Create Your Own Adventure!

    "Having trouble dreaming up the perfect trip...TourGuideTim has you covered...use his comprehensive website to design your own adventure." - Los Angeles Times
  • Translate Travel Guide

  • Search for San Diego Attractions

  • Follow-us to Explore San Diego

    TourGuideTim on Facebook     TourGuideTim on Google+ TourGuideTim on Twitter TourGuideTim on Pinterest TourGuideTim on YouTube