San Diego Chinese Historical Museum


Location: Downtown San Diego (Marina District)

Open Daily: 10:30AM – 4PM (Opens at 12PM on Sundays); Closed on Mondays.

Cost: $2

Features: Chinese Artifacts left by those who came to San Diego in the mid-to-late 19th Century to work in Gold Mines, build Railroads, and fish for Tuna; Chinese Garden with Koi Pond; Exhibitions

chinese-museum-entranceSan Diego Chinese Historical Museum Highlights: San Diego was home to a thriving Chinese population in the mid-to-late 19th Century. Many laborers came from China to work in the newly established San Diego community. San Diego’s Chinatown developed along Third Avenue, Statute at the Chinese Museumsouth of Market Street. However, the Chinese laborers were eventually forced to leave, many returning to China, as the City of San Diego sought to clean itself up in preparation for the 1915 International Exposition in Balboa Park. Only the more prosperous Chinese remained to carry on the traditions of the original Chinatown. The remaining population was very small, leaving few reminders downtown of the original Chinatown. Today, visitors can take a look into the history of that original Chinatown in San Diego by visiting the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum and taking a walking tour of the Asian Pacific Historic District.

What to Expect

    • Consider setting aside up to an hour to enjoy the Museum.
    • The main exhibition room is on the west side of Third Avenue. It holds most of the permanent exhibits and provides an entrance to the Chinese Garden and Koi Pond.
    • The Chinese Garden is very small but provides a quiet oasis. A statue of Confucius watches out over the garden that includes a pond full of Koi Fish and a meandering stone walkway along the side of the Museum.


  • Two smaller exhibition rooms are across the street and are home to temporary exhibitions.


Current Exhibition – Exhibitions generally last two to five months. Recent exhibitions included an in-depth look at Chinese Teas and the Flying Tigers of World War II.

Collections – When visiting the Museum, you should also keep an eye out for the beautiful Alcove Bed, Ancient Chinese Coins from the 3rd Century B.C., and a model of the original Chinatown.

Food – The are a dozens of food options a couple blocks to the east in the Gaslamp Quarter. The Chinese Museum web site also notes nearby Chinese restaurants at the bottom of their visitor information page.

Information on Visiting the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking will range from $0 – $8 (See more parking information below.)
  • Entrance Fee is $2

Directions from Google Maps to 404 3rd Avenue in San Diego, CA 92101. (At the corner of 3rd Avenue and J Street.)

Parking – Metered Street Parking is available near the Museum of Chinese History in San Diego and runs about $1.25 per hour with a limit of 2 – 3 hours. If you are lucky, you can find a few free street parking spots adjacent to the Chinese Museum. (Street Parking is Free on Sundays.) There is also a parking lot a block to the west at the corner of 2nd Avenue and J Street. The parking rate ranges from about $3 for an hour to $8 for the day. It is also within walking distance of the Gaslamp Quarter and the New Children’s Museum.

Traffic – Getting in and out of downtown using highways I-5, SR-163, and SR-94 is relatively easy. Downtown San Diego is not a major employment center and thus there is very little rush hour traffic. Watch for slower traffic on the I-5 where it does a tight S-curve through downtown San Diego near the SR-163 interchange. When heading southbound on SR-163, stay to the left side unless you want to get on the I-5. (You will encounter a slight delay getting on the I-5 from SR-163.) You will also encounter a slight delay on SR-163 going into downtown when there is an event at Petco Park. If the San Diego Padres plays a daytime game, it usually start at 1:05PM. Even though traffic backs up a little on SR-163, it continues to move along. When leaving downtown, remember that:

  • 1st Avenue will get you to the I-5 North,
  • 11th Avenue will get you to SR-163 and the I-5 North,
  • E & J Streets will get you to the I-5 South, and
  • G Street will get you to SR-94.

The traffic lights on these streets are synchronized and will generally move you along without delay. (Learn how to get the latest highway traffic updates.)

Once you are downtown, you will find most of the streets are one-way, on an alternating basis. (You can see them if you zoom in on Google Maps.) Broadway and Market Streets are both two-way streets running east-west. You will find that at several intersections you are not allowed to make a left turn off of Broadway or Market. Thus, if you need to make a left turn, it is often better to use a one-way street rather than Broadway and Market Streets. Third Avenue, in front of the Chinese Museum is a two-way street. However, most nearby streets are one-way so keep your eyes open for the one-way street signs.

All of the streets downtown move along quite well. The only exceptions are 4th and 5th Avenues through the Gaslamp Quarter in the evenings and around Petco Park before and after events. One other exception is crossing train tracks that run along Harbor Drive in front of the Convention Center. You can cross over the train tracks at Market, Front, 1st, and 5th. Sometimes, freight trains block the latter few crossover streets. If you see them sitting still, it means they are checking their brakes, so it could take a while. Don’t wait. Move farther north towards Market Street to cross over the tracks.

Transit – Both the Blue and Orange Trolley Lines move through Downtown San Diego and get you within four blocks of most attractions. The Orange Line stops a block away from the Chinese Museum at the Convention Center Station. (See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map and information for the online Transit Planner.) Walking around Downtown San Diego is easy since it is flat with the exception of the northeast corner near Cortez Hill.

Related Attraction – You may also be interested in visiting the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, which is just 3 miles away.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *Top San Diego Museums*, Embarcadero South / Marina, Ethnic Culture |

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