Five Ways to Save Money on Balboa Park Admission

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Entrance to the San Diego Museum of Art

One of our favorite places to go to in San Diego is Balboa Park. It also happens to be ranked the #3 Thing to Do in San Diego on TripAdvisor.com

Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre park with open spaces, gardens, walking/hiking paths, theatres, the San Diego Zoo and museums. The park was established in 1835 and is one of the oldest recreational parks in the United States. It hosted international expositions in the early 1900s, which left many architectural landmarks. Today, many of those buildings house Balboa Park’s museums.

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Museum of Man

Balboa Park is currently home to 16 museums. They are:

  • Centro Cultural de la Raza
  • Fleet Science Center
  • Marston House
  • Mingei International Museum
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum
  • San Diego Art Institute
  • San Diego Automotive Museum
  • San Diego History Center
  • San Diego Mineral and Gem Society
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  • San Diego Museum of Art
  • San Diego Museum of Man
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • Timken Museum of Art
  • Veterans Museum and Memorial Center

Now that we are a single-income household, we are always looking for inexpensive, fun and creative things to do as a family and being new to San Diego, I have had to learn as we go. For that reason,  I wanted to share the five best tips and tricks I have discovered for saving money on admission to the museum’s of Balboa Park.

#1 Get a Balboa Park Explorer Pass

Purchasing the Balboa Park Explorer Annual Pass is a great way to save money on admission to the museums in Balboa Park. This pass is valid for one year from the date of purchase and includes admission to 16 museums. It costs $129 for one adult and $229 for the Family Pass (two adults and four kids).

For more information and to purchase, check out the Balboa Park Explorer Pass site.

#2 Visit on a Tuesday

Balboa Park museums offer free general admission on a rotating basis throughout the  month to residents of the City and County of San Diego and to active military personnel and their dependents. Proof of address may be required.

The current schedule is as follows:

First Tuesday

  • Fleet Science Center
  • Centro Cultural de la Raza
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  • San Diego Natural History Museum

Second Tuesday

  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego History Center
  • Veterans’ Museum and Memorial Center

Third Tuesday

  • San Diego Museum of Art
  • San Diego Museum of Man
  • Japanese Friendship Garden

Fourth Tuesday

  • San Diego Air & Space Museum
  • San Diego Automotive Museum
  • SELECT House of Pacific Relations International Cottages
  • San Diego Art Institute

If there is a fifth Tuesday in a month, regular admission prices will be in effect.

For more information, check the Residents Free Tuesday site.

#3 Check Out a San Diego Public Library Museum Pass

San Diego Public Library card holders can check out 14-day passes to either the Museum of Man or the San Diego Museum of Art. The passes are valid for up to two adults and four children. Additional fee may be required for special exhibitions. To check it out, sign on to your San Diego Public Library account, place a hold on the museum pass, and then wait. Currently, there are over 500 on the hold list for the Museum of Art pass, but if you are not in a rush to visit, this is definitely worth trying!

We were able to use the Museum of Man pass to visit with the twins over the summer, and it was a lot of fun!

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Monsters! Exhibit at the Museum of Man
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Monsters! Exhibit at the Museum of Man

#4 Kids are Free in October

Kids can get free admission to over 40 San Diego County museums, including many museums in Balboa Park, thanks to the San Diego Museum Council.

Check out the San Diego Museum Council website to download a coupon and see the list of participating museums.

#5 Get Half off Admission for Macy’s Museum Month in February

During the entire month of February, local San Diegans and visitors alike are able to take advantage of half-off admission at more than 40 San Diego museums. This program takes place annually through Macy’s and the San Diego Museum Council.

To take advantage of this promotion, just stop by any local San Diego Macy’s store to pick up your Museum Month pass.

Check the San Diego Museum Council website in late-January to view a list of participating museums and to find out where to pick up your museum pass.

Bonus: This Museum is Always free

The Timken Museum of Art is always free!

Bonus #2: Free Admission for Youth

The different museums have vary widely on the cut-off for free admission for youth under a certain age. For example, the San Diego Museum of Art offers free admission for youth 17 years and under. The Museum of Man is free for children under 5 years old, while the kids two and under are free at the Air and Space Museum. Make sure to check these age limits and visit before they hit the upper limits to save even more!

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