Museum of Photographic Arts


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

Open Daily: 10AM – 5PM. Closed on Mondays and some Major Holidays.

Cost: $8 ($6 for Students, Seniors, and Military)

Features: Home to one of the World’s Largest Collections of Photographs

photography-museumWhat to Expect on a Visit to the Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA)

Consider spending up to an hour enjoying the Museum. There are three galleries, each hosting a separate exhibition. The exhibitions generally last six to nine months and include traveling works of photo art and selections from the Museum’s own extensive collection.


Photographic Exhibitions – Visit the MoPA exhibitions page for the list of current and upcoming exhibitions.

Permanent Photography Collection – The Museum of Photographic Arts holds a permanent collection of over 7,000 photographs covering the full timeline of photography starting in the early 19th century. Unfortunately, only a small number of works are on display in one or more of the exhibit areas at any one time. Keep an eye out for some of the more famous collections of photographs in future exhibitions. They include:

  • Nagasaki Journey – Three museums hold the photos taken by Yosuke Yamahata in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Yamahata’s photographs of the fallout are the ones generally shown in magazines, newspapers, and TV shows documenting the history of the atomic bombs used to bring an end to World War II. San Diego’s MoPA is one of those three museums. The others are located in Nagasaki and Chicago.
  • Stalinist-era Russia – MoPA has one of the country’s largest photo collections of life in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s Communism.
  • Matthew Brady – Civil War
  • Julia Margaret Cameron – Victorian era celebrities
  • Samuel Bourne – Landscape and Travel in 19th century India, including the Himilayas
  • John Thomson – Landscape and Travel in 19th century China
  • Ansel Adams – Nature Formations in the American West.
  • Dorothea Lange – Great Depression
  • Horace Bristol – Founding Photographer for Life Magazine

Films and Lectures – Films and Lectures that support or relate to photographic arts take place each month in the MoPA Theatre.

Summer Camps for Students – Several half-day camps are available and run for one or two weeks. For the student photographer in the family, this is a great opportunity for them to learn about their hobby in San Diego while still making time to visit other San Diego attractions.

Food – There is a cafe in the Casa de Balboa building, which houses the Museum of Photographic Arts. There are additional cafes near the entrances of some of the other museums in Balboa Park. 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 Museum of Photographic Arts.

Information on Visiting MoPA

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking is Free
  • Standard Fee is $6; ($4 for Students, Seniors, and Military).
  • General Admission is Free for San Diego County residents and for Active Military & their families on the 2nd 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.

Directions from Google Maps to 1649 El Prado in San Diego, CA 92101. The Museum of Photographic Arts is on the main level of the Casa de Balboa building, which is also home to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the Museum of San Diego History.

Parking – There is a small parking lot behind the Casa de Balboa building. You can access it by turning from Park Boulevard onto Space Theatre Way. Pass by the parking lots for the Science Museum and at the end of the driveway you will be in the Casa de Balboa parking lot. If this lot and the lots for the Science Museum are full, the next best option is to find street parking or head south on Park Boulevard towards downtown and take a left on Presidents Way to access large parking lots.  It will take you 20 minutes or so to walk to the Museum.

You can also take the free Balboa Park Tram from the large parking lots. The Tram starts near the end of the Presidents Way driveway. Get off at the Prado stop near the Balboa Park Information Center and walk down the Pedestrian Mall to the next building past the Information Center.

Traffic – Unless there is a major event at Balboa Park, which occurs a few times during the year, getting in and out of MoPA 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 MoPA, 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 Casa de Balboa Building along 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 Balboa Park Information Center. The Casa de Balboa Building is the next building past the Visitor 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.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *Top San Diego Museums*, Art Museums, Balboa Park |

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