San Diego Museum of Art


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

Open Daily: 10AM – 5PM. (Opens at 12PM on Sundays; Stays Open Until 9PM on Thursdays through Labor Day.) Closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Cost: $12 ($4.50 for Kids ages 6-17 and $9 for Seniors 65+)

Features: Paintings from Old World Masters; Popular Works from French Impressionists; Largest Collection of South Asian Art in America; Numerous Exhibitions available at the Museum and Online.

san-diego-art-museum-2San Diego Museum of Art Highlights: The Museum offers an extensive collection of works from American, Asian, European, and Contemporary artists. One area of special emphasis has been Spanish Art, which is related to San Diego’s early influence by Spanish Friars. In addition to paintings from all of the recognized Spanish masters, the Museum holds examples of old European Art from all of the major French Impressionists and many of the Dutch and Italian masters. (Note: Be sure to visit the Timken Museum next door for more works from Old World Masters.) The Asian Collection is the Museum’s largest and includes paintings, sculptures, bronzes, and pottery among its artifacts. More recently, the Museum has developed a strong collection of Latin American and Contemporary work.

When to Visit the San Diego Art Museum

  • Admission on the third Tuesday of every month is free. If you want to avoid the crowds, it is best to avoid this day, especially during the summer months.
  • The least crowded times are generally on Fridays during the school year, between September and May. School groups are frequent visitors of the Museum, especially on Tuesday through Thursday up until 3PM.
  • Art Alive – The most popular weekend to visit the Museum is in April when award-winning floral designers pair up their extravagant displays with selected pieces of artwork. Florists compete to create designs that mimic or complement the artwork. Ticket prices are usually a couple dollars higher than the normal admission price and do expect to wait in line to view the exhibits. Note that the Museum closes on the Thursday prior to the Art Alive weekend for set-up.

What to Expect

  • Plan on spending at least four hours in the Museum. There are two floors of exhibit space hosting about ten exhibitions. The first floor is very large and includes most of the temporary exhibitions. You could spend the better part of a day in the museum if you like to read all of the details or spend time reflecting on works of art.
  • You will get much more out of your visit if you browse the Current Art Exhibitions noted below. The Art Museum provides a good overview on the story behind each exhibition, the layout, and notable pieces.
  • The Museum provides a description on the walls of each exhibit room explaining the theme of the works in that particular room. Descriptions for each piece are in both English and Spanish.
  • You will find a few hand-touch video monitors that are a favorite for kids. The monitors provide details about works of art and encourage kids to find the particular piece in the Exhibition.
  • Treasure Cards, available for free at the entrance, are also a kid favorite. They feature eight questions for kids to answer when looking at the exhibits.
  • For those visitors who are tagging along with spouses or friends who like to spend a lot more time looking at artwork, don’t worry, there are plenty of benches for you to sit and relax.
  • French Impressionist paintings are among the most popular for visitors.
Photo Courtesy of the San Diego Museum of Art

Photo Courtesy of the San Diego Museum of Art

Current Art Exhibitions – The Museum generally displays ten exhibitions at a time. They include both visiting exhibitions and exhibitions using their own collection of works. The Art Museum’s collections always include both European and Asian artwork.

Tours – Tours are frequently available from volunteers. When you enter the museum, you can check for the current day’s schedule. It will generally show that tours are available at 1PM and 2PM each day with additional times of 10AM and 11AM on Tuesday through Thursday, and again on Saturday.

Weekly Events Calendar – The Art Museum offers lectures, movies, discussions and other events that highlight the current exhibitions.

Food – Sculptures Court Cafe is just outside the Art Museum. It offers a range of food choices, including sandwiches, soups, pastas, and other hot dishes. You can also enjoy a glass of wine or beer. There is a large seating area underneath a pavilion as well as seating in a grassy courtyard under the sun. 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.

No Smoking is allowed in or around the Art Museum.

Information on Visiting the San Diego Museum of Art

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking is Free
  • Standard Fee is $12
  • $4.50 for Kids ages 6-17
  • $8 for Students with I.D.
  • $9 for Seniors 65 and over and members of the military
  • General Admission is Free for San Diego County residents and for Active Military & their families on the 3rd 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 1450 El Prado in San Diego, CA 92101. Google will recommend surface streets through business and residential areas to reach the Art Museum. This is fine. However, if you want to avoid residential streets and gain easier access to larger parking lots, use the directions for 2215 Pan American Road, which will put you right at the corner of Presidents Way and Pan American Road noted in the parking section below.

Parking – There is a parking lot in front of the Art Museum. However, this small parking lot fills up quickly. The closest large parking lot is at the corner of Presidents Way and Pan American Road. (Note: Do not make a right turn at the first street you see after turning onto Presidents Way from Park Boulevard. It does not access the parking lot even though it looks like it should.) Once you park, you can walk about 100 yards up a small hill or you can take the free Balboa Park Tram from the street corner up to the Prado stop.

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.

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 Balboa Park, 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 near the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the San Diego Museum of Natural History. The stop is underneath a pedestrian bridge, which you can take to reach the Art Museum at the other end of the Pedestrian Mall. (See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map, which includes Balboa Park, and information for the online Transit Planner.)

You can also get off the bus at Presidents Way to 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 from here to the main circle at the Prado stop, in front of the Art Museum. The Tram runs from 8:30AM – 6PM daily with extended hours during the summer and special occasions.

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*, Art Museums, Balboa Park, Cultural Gifts |

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