San Diego Art Institute

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

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

Cost: $3 ($2 for Seniors and Students)

Features: Exhibitions of Artwork from Local San Diego Artists.

What to Expect

The work of local San Diego artists is reviewed and then showcased at the Art Institute for four to six weeks. Generally, there are two to three exhibitions at any one time in a 10,000 square foot gallery. View the online calendar for current works being exhibited. Each artist explains their approach to artwork. You may join a reception for the artist at the beginning of each exhibition or just visit and enjoy their works.

You can expect to spend a half-hour to an hour in the gallery but this will depend on your level of interest in a particular artist’s theme. The gallery is located one level below the entrance to the building. To get an idea of what it is like in the gallery, you can look at this panoramic photo.

The San Diego Art Institute also holds gatherings for artists who desire to show their works and enter them into juried competitions.

Food – There is no cafe in the San Diego Art Institute. However, there is a cafe nearby outside of the Museum of Art (several American Fare hot foods) and a Tea Pavilion in the nearby Japanese Friendship Garden (several Japanese Fare hot foods). You can read more about the food options on the Balboa Park web site.

No Smoking is allowed in or around the San Diego Art Institute.

Information on Visiting the San Diego Art Institute

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking is Free
  • Standard Fee is $3
  • $2 for Seniors, Students, and Active Military with I.D.
  • Free for Kids 12 and under.
  • 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. Tickets cost $39 ($21 for kids ages 3-12). 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 1439 El Prado in San Diego, CA 92101. The San Diego Art Institute is located in the House of Charm building, which is also home to the Mingei Museum. (Google labels the building as the Museum of the Living Artist.) Google will recommend surface streets through business and residential areas to reach the San Diego Art Institute. 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 behind the San Diego Art Institute. However, this small parking lot fills up quickly most days. 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 and then look to your left for the Mingei Museum sign, which shares the same building. You can also 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, 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 San Diego Art Institute 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, near the House of Charm. 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.

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