Reuben H. Fleet Science Center


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

Open Daily: Generally open 9:30AM –  8PM Summer & Weekends (5PM on Winter Weekdays)

Cost: $13 ($11 for Kids ages 3-12 and $12 for Seniors 65+); Additional Cost for IMAX Movies

Features: Over 100 Hands-on Science Exhibits, Southern California’s only IMAX Dome Theater, Planetarium, Simulator Ride.

science-museumThe Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Highlights: San Diego’s Science Center has always been on the cutting edge. In the early 1970’s, it led the way to create the world’s first IMAX Dome, which is now a fixture in many science museums around the country. More recently, the IMAX theater was upgraded with the world’s first seamless dome screen. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center also led the way among science museums in making all exhibits interactive to further enrich the visitor’s experience.

San Diego’s Science Museum will keep all family members engaged.  You will find yourself experimenting with gadgets, finding new surprises about human nature, learning how things work, and enjoying a one-of-a-kind moving watching experience in a domed IMAX theater. Consider setting aside at least a half day to enjoy the museum and an IMAX movie. You can certainly keep yourself busy for a full day with the interactive exhibits at this Science Museum.

When to Visit the Science Museum

  • This is one of the few Balboa Park museums open during evening hours. As such, evenings are the best time to visit when crowds are smaller.
  • If you want to enter the Museum for free, go on the First Tuesday of the Month. Likewise, if you want to avoid large crowds, this is the day to avoid the Science Museum, especially during the summer. The free entry does not include an IMAX film and will likely include a long wait in line. If you purchase an IMAX ticket on the Free First Tuesday, you will not have to wait in line.
  • School groups are frequent visitors of the Museum during the school year from September to May. If you are visiting during the school year, wait until the afternoon for smaller crowds.

Science World image from the Science CenterWhat to Expect

Science Exhibits – The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center hosts nearly a dozen themed exhibit areas. Some exhibitions are permanent while others are temporary. All exhibits within each area are interactive. One crowd favorite is the Gallery of Illusions and Perceptions. The exhibit areas called ‘So Watt’ and ‘San Diego’s Water’ are sure to appeal to many visitors now that Energy and Water supplies are front page news stories. Learn more about all of the current exhibits and take a look at upcoming exhibits.

IMAX Dome – IMAX movies are generally an adventure film exploring amazing wonders of the world, nature, and human achievement. It is like watching a supercharged Discovery Channel classic. The films take advantage of the domed-shaped theater to immerse you into the adventure. Rather than a typical movie theater where the film is on a flat screen in front of you, an IMAX Dome wraps the video and sound around you as you fly in the cockpit of an F-15 fighter jet, climb Mt. Everest, or explore the depths of the ocean. It is the closest experience to reality.

IMAX movies are usually shown at the top of each hour. They generally rotate through three different IMAX films. Lines usually start forming about 15 – 20 minutes in advance. The IMAX Dome holds 300 people. You ideally want to sit in the middle or upper middle areas of the theater. The seats in the bottom portion of the theater are usually the last seats available. You can read descriptions of the current movies and check the move schedule online.

Food – There is a small cafe called Galileo’s next to the Science Center entrance. 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 Science Museum.

Science Exhibit for kids at the Science MuseumFun Activities

Planetarium Show – The Science Center recreates the late night sky above San Diego in their planetarium once a month during the summer. Tickets sell out fast. If the skies are clear after the show, the San Diego Astronomy Association will set up telescopes so you can see the distant stars and planets with your own eyes.

Palomar Observatory Tours – Unfortunately, these tours are no longer offered. Palomar Observatory (in the northeastern San Diego mountains) is home to one of the largest and most famous telescopes in the world. (In 2007, the clearest images ever taken in space came from Palomar Observatory. You can read more at the BBC web site.) Visitors who drive to the Observatory on their own during the day can see the telescope being prepared to conduct research for astronomers around the world. (Learn more about visiting the Palomar Observatory.)

Birthday Parties – Make your child’s visit educational and memorable by celebrating their birthday with a customized party at the Reuben Fleet Science Center. See the web site for more details.

Group Events – Visit the Science Museum and/or IMAX Dome with a group of friends or coworkers. The museum hosts groups of 10 to 1,000+.

Information on Visiting the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

Hours: The Museum is generally open from 9AM – 8PM during Summer and on Weekends. The hours for off-season weekdays usually are 9AM – 5PM. However, this schedule can vary, including the start of Summer Hours so be sure to check the Science Museum’s calendar for the day you plan to visit.

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking is Free
  • Standard Fee is $13; $11 for Kids ages 3-12 and $12 for Seniors 65 and over.
  • IMAX Movie tickets can be purchased along with your Science Center admission ticket for an additional $4 – $5.
  • IMAX Movie tickets can not be purchased separately from the admission ticket except on Friday evenings.
  • Fridays at the Fleet” offers four IMAX movie times starting at 6PM through 9PM. Visitors can purchase their first IMAX movie ticket for $8.50. If you want to watch more than one movie, tickets are only $5 for each subsequent movie. General admission tickets to the Science Center do not need to be purchased.
  • Memberships are available. They are several membership levels to choose from with most including free IMAX movie passes.
  • General Admission is Free for San Diego County residents and for Active Military & their families on the 1st Tuesday of each month. However, you must buy a ticket to see an IMAX film at the same prices noted above for “Friday’s at the Fleet”.
  • General Admission and an IMAX Movie are only $6 for Seniors 65 and over on the 1st Monday 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 1875 El Prado in San Diego, CA 92101 (Google will say to turn off of Park Boulevard on to Village Place. Instead, turn on to Space Theater Way, which is just south of Village Place. On the Google Map, Space Theater Way is referred to by its old name, Pepper Grove Drive.)

Parking – There is a parking lot adjacent to the Science Museum on Space Theatre Way. There is also an overflow parking lot connected by a driveway at the south end of the main marking lot. If these lots 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. It will take you 15 minutes or so to walk to the Museum. You can also take the free Balboa Park Tram, which starts near the end of the Presidents Way driveway. Get off at the Prado stop near the Balboa Park Information Center and walk a few minutes down the Pedestrian Mall to the 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 Science Center 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 Science Center, 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 Science Center. (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.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *Top San Diego Museums*, Astronomy & Outer Space, Balboa Park, Kids Attractions & Activities, Watch Movies |

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