Best Museums in San Diego

Silhouettes, at Museum of Photographic Arts

Planning to explore the art scene of San Diego? Look no further for a short list of some of the best museums in San Diego. Whether you’re a fan of art, or a history buff, these museums are sure to entertain and enlighten your summer.


Museum of Photographic Arts (Balboa Park)

The first of the museums to visit in Balboa Park is the Museum of Photographic Arts. Currently, there are four exhibitions: Moment in Time: A Collection of Photographs / Works from the Bank of America Collection, The Artist Speaks: Erica Deeman, George Hurrell: Hollywood Glamour, and Hidden Worlds.

The George Hurrell: Hollywood Glamour exhibition features portraits of Rita Hayworth, Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, and John Barrymore. Though the exhibition is small, fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood will thoroughly appreciate the work of Hurrell.

One of the other exhibits, The Artist Speaks: Erica Deeman, features two installations: “Brown” and “Silhouettes.” What is interesting about Deeman’s portraits is the fact that she found her subjects by approaching friends, family, and strangers she encountered, even going so far as to placing an ad on Craigslist, to sit for portraits. In “Silhouettes,” the San Francisco-based artist tackles race, gender, and cultural identity. From a distance, the portraits appear black and white, but a closer distance, it’s revealed that the portraits are in color. Each portrait reveals telling details regarding the individual, such as hair and skin. As for “Brown,” the men in each portrait are placed against a backdrop matching their skin tone. Each portrait depicts a man shown without clothing, allowing the audience to connect with the person.


San Diego History Center (Balboa Park)

There are currently seven exhibitions at the San Diego History Center. Along with the exhibitions, San Diego History Center provides a daily screening of the film The Jewel of San Diego, a 30-minute documentary of the history of Balboa Park. Marston’s History Emporium: A Hand’s-On Learning Lab is an exhibition targeted towards children. Parents and children can encounter seven different stations, such as Our San Diego and The Sights, Sounds (and Smells) of Old San Diego. The main attraction at the museum is LGBTQ+ San Diego: Stories of Struggles and Triumphs. This exhibition opened in the beginning of July, and provides a comprehensive history focusing on San Diego’s LGBTQ community. The San Diego History Center partnered with Lambda Archives of San Diego (LASD), making this their first exhibition in Balboa Park. Founded in 1987, the LASD dedicates to preserving the memories of LGBQT people’s lives, work, and cultures. As soon as you walk into the exhibit, there are rainbow streamers individually labeled with a gender identity and sexual orientation. A timeline adorns the wall, chronicling the rich history. There are eight pillars that focus on a specific topic, such as persecution, people who helped shape the LGBTQ+ community, and triumphs. The exhibit is scheduled to run from July 2018 to January 2020.


Museum of Making Music (Carlsbad)

The Museum of Making Music is for the music aficionados of San Diego, as it dedicates itself to providing the story of music by describing the making and selling of music instruments at various points in history. Journey through five interactive galleries, each one with a station or studio that allows visitors to use certain instruments. The fourth and fifth galleries of the museum explore the evolvement of rock and roll music, and include musicians such as Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, and The Supremes.





Timken Museum of Art (Balboa Park)

Currently on exhibition at the Timken Museum of Art is “Leela: Portrait of a Woman in a Green Dress.” Bhavna Mehta designed her three-dimensional artwork based off of inspiration from Bartolomeo Veneto’s “Portrait of a Lady”. Given that Mehta’s mediums were paper and embroidery, Mehta created an exquisite sculpture to assemble the parts of Leela. At the Timken, you can admire  the intricate details of the embroidery to Leela’s dress, the gorgeous headpiece, and the butterflies that surround her face. According to one of the museum guides, she claims the art piece took approximately two weeks to complete. Veneto’s “Portrait of a Lady” is situated a few feet away from Leela, allowing visitors to witness the way the former contrasts the latter. Another feature of the Timken is the Dutch gallery, which features paintings by Peter Paul Reubens and Anthony van Dyck.