Location: Balboa Park (3 Miles Northeast of Downtown San Diego)
Open Daily: 10AM – 4PM. Closed on Mondays.
Cost: $5 ($4 for Veterans and 65+, $2 for Students with I.D.)
Features: Extensive Collection of Stories and Artifacts from Military Conflicts; Represents Veterans from the Marines, Navy, Army, and Air Force.
San Diego Veterans Museum and Memorial Center Highlights: San Diego County is home to one of the largest concentrations of U.S. Military Veterans and Active Duty personnel in the country, which number over 340,000 members. San Diego is also home to the defense industry, which has designed and built war ships, planes, and the latest technologies used by the military. Military history is a significant part of San Diego history. The Veterans Museum is one of best places in the country where the trials and tribulations of military life are chronicled.
What to Expect
Plan to spend up to two hours in the Veterans Museum, which is housed in a former Navy Chapel. The stories behind the exhibits are very well written and thus engage your attention. Many of the exhibits have a San Diego connection but still touch all aspects of military life. San Diego is known for being a Navy town but all branches of the military have been stationed in San Diego at one point or another. Here are just a few of the things to look for at the Veterans Museum:
- Replicas of Military Uniforms from the time of the Civil War to the Present.
- Stories from Pearl Harbor and its casualties.
- Influence of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II.
- Room dedicated to the stories of POW’s and their experiences.
- Don’t miss the back hallway that tells the story of how San Diego and the Consolidated Aircraft Company won World War II. It is a story on how German U-Boats controlled the Atlantic Ocean during WWII sinking nearly 3,000 Allied Ships, both commercial and naval. They were always just out of reach for the B-17 war planes. Consolidated Aircraft then proposed a B-24, which would be fitted with a new type of wing design. The new design worked, allowing U.S. war planes to fly with much more weight and an extra range of 200 miles. This helped change the tide of the war in the Atlantic. One of the relics from the massive production of B-24′s in San Diego was the famous slogan “Rosie the Riveter”.
- Learn about Navy Seals. Although it is a small exhibit, this is probably the best display you will find anywhere since all Navy Seals train in San Diego.
- History of Naval Communications – A whole room is dedicated to communication technology developed for military uses. Information on enemy positions as well as the ability to communicate information is a major key to winning battles. San Diego has always been on the forefront in developing communication technology for the military. As a result, San Diego is now a world leader in commercial applications such as cell phone technology.
- The Museum’s volunteers are very friendly and are happy to answer questions.
Veterans Museum Exhibits – San Diego’s Veterans Museum holds artifacts from all major conflicts since WWI. The exhibits represent all branches of the military and include the role of women in the military.
Food – There is nothing available at the Veterans Museum. There are cafes near the entrances in many of the museums in Balboa Park, which are on the other side of Park Boulevard. 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.
There are no Balboa Park Museums immediately surrounding the Veterans Museum. However, the starting point for the Balboa Park Tram is across the parking lot if you look south towards downtown San Diego from the Veterans Museum. The Tram runs about every 10 minutes and will take you to the other side of Park Boulevard and close to the other museum entrances.
No Smoking is allowed in or around the Veterans Museum.
Information on Visiting the Veterans Museum in San Diego
- Parking is Free
- Standard Fee is $5 ($4 for Veterans and Seniors ages 65+, $2 for Students with I.D.)
- Entrance is Free on the 2nd Tuesday of each month for San Diego County residents and for Active Military and their dependents.
- 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 2115 Park Boulevard in San Diego, CA 92101 (The Veterans Museum is located at the intersection of Park Boulevard and Inspiration Point Way.)
Parking – There are plenty of parking spots next to the Veterans Museum.
Traffic – Unless there is a major event at Balboa Park, which occurs a few times during the year, getting in and out of the Veterans Museum 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 Veterans 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, which is just south of the Veterans Museum. (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 Balboa Park Information Center. 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.