The San Diego Air & Space Museum is a stunning collection of authentic and reproduced artifacts related to air and space technology set in Balboa Park.
The museum’s motto is “Preserve, Inspire, Educate, Celebrate!” and it certainly succeeds in its mission.
Check out our helpful guide for visiting the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park, packed full of ways to save on admission, tips for visiting, other nearby attractions, and much more.
How to get San Diego Air and Space Museum discount tickets?
We’ve got you covered – San Diego Air and Space Museum admission is available with the below money saving options, so you can choose the attraction pass that’s right for you:
1. All-Inclusive Pass – All you can do. Includes admission to dozens of attractions.
2. San Diego 4-Choice Flex Pass – Choose as you go. Includes admission to 4 attractions.
3. Build Your Own Pass – Select the attractions you want to visit prior to visiting.
See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more.
Tips for Visiting the San Diego Air & Space Museum
- The Museum offers free admission for San Diego County residents and active duty military and their families on the 4th Tuesday of each month.
- Definitely scout out parking options prior to going to the museum. It is located in Balboa Park, which is extremely popular for both tourists and locals. You can find a printable map on the Balboa Park website. It includes instructions for parking at Inspiration Point to catch a tram to the park.
- Plan on visiting several of the park’s excellent museums and attractions. They are all within walking distance of the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
- Check with the admissions staff when entering to see if any of the docents are available for tours. They are excellent sources of information.
- Bring a little extra cash if you wish to enjoy the flight simulators.
- Plan on spending a little extra time to watch one or more of the museum’s videos highlighting the role aviation played in armed forces throughout the twentieth century.
- Special exhibits are not included with the Go San Diego Card. For current exhibit and upgrade information, please call (619) 234-8291.
When is the best time to visit San Diego Air & Space Museum?
Since the museum exhibits are indoors, just about any time of year is a good time to visit the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Parking lots in Balboa Park fill up quickly. If you prefer not to use the tram, arrive by 9:00 a.m. and enjoy walking in the gardens until the museum opens.
Avoid Tuesdays if possible. The museums and other attractions in Balboa Park are free to San Diego residents on a rotating basis on Tuesdays. This is a popular day for school field trips, and the museums are quite busy.
What should I bring to the San Diego Air & Space Museum?
Bring your shopping list for holiday and birthday presents! The gift shop has a wide selection of space and flight themed merchandise that make excellent, unique and fun gifts for kids and adults alike.
Bring a snack or picnic to enjoy in the atrium that is located in the middle of the museum. The atrium is light and airy as well as peaceful, and you will enjoy looking up at the vintage aircraft hanging from the ceiling.
Wear a nice outfit if you wish to have your picture taken standing on the moon! The pictures are a whimsical addition to any photo display at home.
What to do at the San Diego Air & Space Museum?
The museum guides you through several galleries containing exhibits that highlight the unique role San Diego played in aviation. See exhibits including the Theodore Gildred Rotunda, the World War I Gallery, and the World War II Gallery. Plus, the Golden Age of Flight Gallery, and the Modern Jet and Space Age Gallery.
The museum is located in the Ford Building which was constructed for the California Pacific International Exposition. In 2005 it became affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.
Only ten aerospace museums exist in the United States. The San Diego Air & Space Museum is the only one to have such an affiliation.
Upon entering the foyer, you will find the actual landing module from Apollo 9. This is only the beginning of an amazing journey through aviation and space flight technology and history.
The history of aviation represents a significant element of our history. The museum includes displays including a model of the Montgolfier brother’s hot air balloon launched in 1783. It the very first manned contraption in history to break free from gravity and fly humans above Earth.
You can also see the advancement of flight technology. Progress from vintage aircraft from the two world wars, the Korean War and the Vietnamese War.
Guests can visit the rotunda free of charge and shop at the gift store, although admission is required for the remaining exhibits.
World War I Gallery
The World War I gallery includes realistic touches such as a boardwalk and tent displays from the era. Plus, it. features reproductions of a Fokker Dr. I, Albatros D. Va, and Fokker E. III Eindecker.
In addition, you will find authentic specimens of the Nieuport 28, Sopwith Pup, and a SPAD VII c. 1.
The museum removed the fabric skin from the Sopwith Pup for visitors to have a clear view. See the craftsmanship and technology that went into making the aircraft up close.
By pressing a button, you can see rotary engine and propeller movements and how they coordinated with the triggers so pilots could avoid shooting their own plane.
World War II Gallery
The World War II Gallery has exhibits of a Curtiss P-40E Warhawk, Stearman N2S-3 Kaydet, and North American P-51D Mustang. Additionally, it features a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XVI, Messerschmitt Bf109G-14, and a Douglas C-47 nose and cockpit section.
The gallery has a wide array of other aircraft from the era, in addition to movies highlighting battles and other actions in the war.
In addition, the exhibit includes engines used in the war such as the Rolls-Royce Merlin 62, Junkers Jumo 004B-1, and the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17.
Golden Age of Flight Gallery
The Golden Age of Flight Gallery has vintage aircraft on deck and hanging from the rafters.
Exhibits include a Consolidated Pt-1 Trusty, Lincoln Standard J-1, Aeronca C-3 Collegian, Gee Bee R-1, Albatross, Pitts Special, Fleet Model 2, Piper J-3 Cub, and a Ryan B-5 Brougham.
Modern Jet & Space Age Gallery
The Modern Jet & Space Age Gallery offers a thrilling view into the space race and modern flight era.
The gallery has a Bee Aviation Wee Bee, F/A-18 A Hornet Blue Angel 1, Douglas A-4B Skyhaw, Apollo Command and Space Module, and Gemini spacecraft. In addition, you will find a Boeing GPS-12 satellite that was operational and launched into orbit with the original 23 GPS satellites.
The exhibit includes displays honoring the astronauts of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.
Edwin D. Mckeller Pavilion of Flight
The Edwin D. McKeller Pavilion of Flight includes the Education Center that hosts Family Day activities occurring monthly.
It includes a comprehensive exhibit of artifacts from the now defunct Pacific Southwest Airlines, and a display honoring women in flight.
What attractions are near the San Diego Air & Space Museum?
The San Diego Air & Space Museum is located in Balboa Park, which offers visitors choices that include art museums, exhibits, botanical gardens and more.
Here are a few we suggest adding to your itinerary…
- The Japanese Friendship Garden is just steps away from the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and it represents an expression of friendship between sister cities San Diego and Yokohama. The gardens utilize a design method known as shibui, which highlights elegant simplicity and quiet beauty. They combine the elements of shrubs, trees, water and rock to create a harmonious, contemplative environment.
- The San Diego Natural History Museum is a short walk within the park from the Air & Space Museum. It was founded in 1874, and it is the oldest scientific institution in Southern California. You will enjoy a stunning collection of fossils, artifacts and environmental displays in the four story building.
- The Botanical Building in Balboa Park includes the tranquil lily pond near the entrance. The building was constructed for the 1915 Exposition, and it is one of the biggest lath structures worldwide. The Botanical Building has over 2,000 permanent plants such as ferns, cycads, orchids and an array of tropical palms and plants.
Where to eat near the San Diego Air & Space Museum?
The Prado Restaurant is located in the House of Hospitality near the Visitor Center in Balboa Park. It offers elegant, full service dining. The menu includes beautiful salads, seafood, braised short ribs, duck, steaks and other delectable fare.
Anthony’s Seafood is a short drive to the harbor district. This iconic restaurant offers a wide array of delicious seafood dishes. In addition, the restaurant sits at the water’s edge. It has stunning views of the San Diego bay, Coronado Island and Point Loma.
Need to Know
- Daily, 10:00 am-4:30 pm.
- Hours subject to change.
- Please contact (619) 234-8291 or visit the museum website for current hours.
- Closings: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day. All holiday hours are subject to change without notice.
2001 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, CA 92101
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