Discovering the Wonders of the San Diego Museum of Natural History

Welcome to the San Diego Museum of Natural History, where you can experience the thrill of exploring the wonders of the natural world. From dinosaur exhibits to interactive displays on local flora and fauna, this museum has something for everyone. Whether you are a biology enthusiast, a history buff, or just looking for a fun family outing, the San Diego Museum of Natural History is sure to delight and educate visitors of all ages. Come with us on a journey through the fascinating world of science and discovery.

History of San Diego Museum of Natural History

Origins and Founding

The San Diego Museum of Natural History has been a source of scientific knowledge and education in San Diego since its founding in 1874. It all began when a group of prominent San Diego citizens came together with a shared interest in natural history. They formed the Natural History Society of San Diego and began collecting specimens and artifacts that represented the rich natural heritage of Southern California.

From the outset, the society had a vision of creating a museum that would allow the public to learn about the natural world in an engaging and informative way. The society began hosting public exhibitions and lectures to showcase its collections, and soon the idea of a permanent museum became a reality.

The first home of the Natural History Society of San Diego was the Robinson-Rose House, a historic home in the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego. The museum quickly outgrew this space, however, and moved to several other locations in the city.

The Move to Balboa Park

In 1910, the Natural History Society of San Diego became one of the founding members of the San Diego Museum Association, which brought together several cultural institutions in the city under one umbrella. By this time, the society had amassed an impressive collection of over 5,000 specimens and artifacts.

In the 1920s, plans were made to create a new, larger home for the museum in Balboa Park. The plans were put on hold during World War II, but in 1933 the museum moved into a new building in the park. This new location allowed the museum to expand its collections and offer more exhibits, making it a popular destination for San Diego residents and visitors alike.

Expansion and Renovation

Over the years, the San Diego Museum of Natural History continued to grow and evolve. In 1963, the museum changed its name to the San Diego Natural History Museum to better reflect its focus and mission. By the turn of the century, the museum was in need of a major renovation to update its facilities and make room for new exhibits.

In 2001, the museum underwent a $30 million renovation that added 25,000 square feet of new exhibit space, an IMAX theater, and a research library. The renovation also included upgrades to the museum’s existing exhibits, making them more interactive and engaging for visitors.

Today, the San Diego Natural History Museum is a vital part of the city’s cultural landscape, offering visitors an immersive and educational experience that explores the wonders of Southern California’s natural world. With its extensive collections, state-of-the-art facilities, and commitment to research and education, the museum continues to carry on the legacy of the Natural History Society of San Diego and its founders.

Collections at San Diego Museum of Natural History

The San Diego Museum of Natural History is an important institution in California that promotes education, conservation, and research. The museum features an impressive collection of exhibits that showcase the natural world and the history of the region. From rare birds to ancient fossils, visitors can explore and learn about various aspects of nature and science.

Birds and Mammals

The museum houses one of the largest collections of birds in the world, with over 8,000 specimens. It includes rare and endangered species such as the California condor, which was once on the brink of extinction but has now been reintroduced to the wild. Visitors can marvel at the beauty and diversity of these feathered creatures through the various displays and exhibits.

The mammal collection is also vast, with specimens ranging from tiny shrews to large elephants. The museum has preserved many extinct species such as the California grizzly bear, which was hunted to extinction in the 1800s. The collection also features animals that are currently endangered like the gray wolf, which is slowly being reintroduced into the wild in some parts of the United States. Another exhibit showcases the role of mammals in the ecological system, giving visitors an in-depth understanding of the importance of these creatures in the natural world.

Geological Exhibits

The museum has an extensive collection of rocks and minerals, some of which are unique to California and the surrounding regions. Visitors can see rare crystals, gemstones, and fossils that have been extracted from the earth and are on display for the first time. There are also exhibits on plate tectonics, which explains the movement of the earth’s crust and how it has shaped the landscape over millions of years. Visitors can even witness simulated volcanic eruptions, which provide an immersive experience of the power and majesty of nature.

Local History

The museum’s exhibits on local history cover the natural and human history of San Diego and the surrounding regions. Visitors can explore the life of Native American tribes, the early Spanish explorers, and the modern development of the city. The museum has an extensive archive of historical artifacts, photographs, and documents that provide insight into the people and events that shaped the region. The exhibits showcase the diversity and richness of the San Diego area, making it a unique and fascinating place to visit.

In conclusion, the San Diego Museum of Natural History is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in science and the natural world. With its impressive collection of exhibits and educational programs, the museum provides visitors with an enriching experience that fosters a deep appreciation for nature and the history of the region.

Current Exhibits at San Diego Museum of Natural History

As a leading institution in the field of natural history, San Diego Museum of Natural History offers visitors a range of exhibits and programs that focus on the complex relationship between humans and the environment. Currently, the museum features several fascinating exhibits that are worth a visit.

Coast to Cactus in Southern California

This exhibit is a unique opportunity for visitors to explore the diverse ecosystems of Southern California. The exhibit takes you on a journey through different habitats that can be found in this region, from the coast to the mountains and the deserts. You will have a chance to learn about the plants, animals, and geology of these areas through interactive displays, immersive dioramas, and educational presentations.

The Coast to Cactus exhibit is divided into different zones, each with their focus on a specific ecosystem. Visitors can explore the chaparral, oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub, and many other habitats from Southern California. There are also hands-on activities for children, such as interactive puzzles and games that teach them about the region’s ecology.

Whether you’re a native Southern Californian or a visitor, the Coast to Cactus exhibit is an essential stop that will increase your appreciation for the beauty and diversity of our natural world.

The Backyard

The Backyard is an interactive outdoor exhibit that immerses visitors in a typical suburban backyard through the eyes of different animals and insects. The exhibit features live animals and plants, as well as explanatory displays and interactive activities.

The exhibit is designed to showcase the complex interrelationships between different species in a suburban environment. You’ll learn about the types of plants and flowers that attract pollinators, the role of predators in regulating small animal populations, and the importance of composting in reducing waste.

One of the highlights of The Backyard exhibit is the butterfly pavilion, where you can walk among hundreds of butterflies and learn about their life cycle and habits. The exhibit also has a native plant garden that highlights the importance of using native species in landscaping and gardening.

Overall, The Backyard is an entertaining and informative exhibit that will give you a unique perspective on the natural world that exists right in your own backyard.

Benchley’s World

Benchley’s World is a fascinating exhibit that celebrates the life and work of Peter Benchley, author of the famous novel “Jaws.” The exhibit showcases Benchley’s lifelong passion for marine conservation and his advocacy for shark protection.

Visitors to Benchley’s World can learn about Benchley’s early life, his career as a journalist and author, and his experiences as a diver that inspired his book “Jaws.” The exhibit also features interactive displays and exhibits that teach visitors about the importance of marine conservation and the roles that sharks play in the ocean ecosystem.

One of the highlights of Benchley’s World is the replica of the “Jaws” movie set, where visitors can sit on a replica boat and take photos with a mechanical shark. The exhibit also has a section on the making of the movie “Jaws,” featuring props, costumes, and behind-the-scenes footage.

In conclusion, Benchley’s World is a fascinating exhibit that celebrates the legacy of Peter Benchley and educates visitors about the importance of marine conservation. Whether you’re a fan of “Jaws” or just interested in learning about sharks, this exhibit is well worth a visit.

In summary, the San Diego Museum of Natural History offers a range of interesting exhibits that educate visitors about the intricate relationships that exist between humans and the natural world. Whether you’re interested in Southern California’s ecology, local backyard wildlife, or marine conservation, the museum has something to offer for everyone. So, make sure to visit the museum and explore these exciting exhibits.

Education and Outreach Programs at San Diego Museum of Natural History

The San Diego Museum of Natural History is not only a fascinating attraction for families and tourists but also an excellent resource for schools and educators. The museum offers various educational programs for school groups, individuals, and families to learn about the natural sciences.

School Programs

The San Diego Museum of Natural History is committed to enriching the educational experience of students by offering unique and interactive programs. They offer customized field trips, hands-on activities, workshops, and outreach programs for classrooms. The programs are organized for students of all ages and grades, including elementary school, middle school, and high school. The programs vary depending on the grade and curriculum level of the students. The museum’s qualified educators and docents lead the programs and provide specially designed curriculum materials to enhance the classroom learning experience.

The programs include guided nature walks, interactive games, experiments, and workshops, which cover topics such as geology, ecology, biodiversity, environmental science, and paleontology. The museum provides a stimulating and interactive learning environment where students can learn about the natural world and understand the significance of geological events, natural disasters, and environmental issues that impact our planet.

Public Programs

The San Diego Museum of Natural History hosts several public programs throughout the year, including lectures, workshops, and family-friendly events. The programs cater to people of all ages and interests and provide an opportunity to learn about the latest scientific discoveries, chat with experts, and explore the museum’s exhibits.

The lectures cover a wide range of topics, including natural history, conservation, ecology, paleontology, and geology. The workshops are designed for individuals interested in nature photography, journaling, and citizen science. The museum conducts family-friendly events to engage families and children in fun and interactive activities that promote learning about the natural sciences.

Citizen Science

The San Diego Museum of Natural History has several programs that allow members of the public to contribute to scientific research actively. The citizen science programs provide an opportunity for individuals to learn about science, engage with the natural world, and contribute to scientific research.

The museum conducts a bird survey program in which volunteers help monitor and record bird activity at various locations across San Diego. The data collected is used to study migration patterns, population growth, and habitat loss. The museum’s plant monitoring program allows individuals to participate in recording changes in plant life throughout the year.

The citizen science programs offer a unique opportunity for individuals to take an active role in understanding the natural environment around them. Participants get to learn about the various organisms, biodiversity, and ecosystems while contributing to meaningful scientific research efforts.

The San Diego Museum of Natural History’s education and outreach programs are designed to spark curiosity and provide engaging learning experiences that inspire a love of science and nature. The museum’s commitment to education and scientific research is evident across all its programs, exhibits, and events.

Planning Your Visit to San Diego Museum of Natural History

Location and Hours

The San Diego Museum of Natural History is located in the heart of Balboa Park, just minutes away from the San Diego Zoo and other popular attractions. The address of the museum is 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA, 92101. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. If you’re planning a visit, it’s a good idea to check the museum’s calendar in advance to make sure there are no special events or temporary closures that could affect your visit.

Admission fees to the museum vary depending on age and membership status. Adults (ages 18-64) pay $19 for the general admission, seniors (ages 65+) pay $17, and children (ages 3–12) pay $12. Children under 2 years of age are admitted free. If you’re a student, active military personnel, or a teacher, you can get a discount by showing your ID. Members of the museum get free admission, as well as other perks such as discounted tickets to special exhibitions, priority access to events, and more.


The San Diego Museum of Natural History is committed to making its exhibits and facilities accessible to all visitors. It offers special accommodations for those with disabilities, including wheelchair-accessible ramps, elevators, and restrooms. Service animals are also welcome. Visitors who need additional assistance can request accessible materials, such as large-print labels or assistive listening devices, for exhibits and programs. It’s recommended to call in advance and reserve any needed accommodations to ensure they are available during your visit.


In addition to fascinating exhibits, the museum offers various amenities to enhance your visit. The gift shop is filled with books, toys, and other fun souvenirs that will help you remember your experience. The café serves a range of delicious food and drinks, perfect for a quick break during your visit. If you prefer to picnic, the museum has a designated picnic area surrounded by beautiful gardens. Visitors can also enjoy free Wi-Fi throughout the museum, making it easy to share photos and memories on social media.

Overall, the San Diego Museum of Natural History is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in science, nature, and history. With its engaging exhibits, friendly staff, and beautiful location, it’s the perfect place to spend a day exploring and learning. Make sure to plan your visit in advance to take advantage of all the museum has to offer.

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