Some people might think it's hard for San Diego students to stay in the classroom because of the famously sunny Southern California weather and nearby beaches. However, the array of world-class museums, arts organizations, beautiful and fascinating outdoor environments, and hard-to-classify educational attractions listed below also provide excellent reasons to leave school grounds: to find out about the city's history, to take in some culture, to learn about the natural environment and to burn off some steam.
- Barona Cultural Center & Museum: (1095 Barona Road, Lakeside, CA 92040) From blades to beads, pipes to pottery, this museum about Native American tribes from Southern California features more than 3,000 artifacts, some dating back 10,000 years.
- San Diego History Center: (1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101) From the 17th century arrival of Sebastian Vizancio in the ship "San Diego" to the Republican National Convention of 1996, San Diego has had a rich history, and students can learn all about it through special educational programs at the SDHC.
- Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum: (2040 N. Santa Fe Avenue, Vista, CA 92083) Students can learn about the history of farming by seeing demonstrations of everything from blacksmithing to weaving, while taking in exhibits of farm equipment from the mid-1800s to the 1960s.
- Junipero Serra Musuem: (2727 Presidio Drive, San Diego, CA 92103) This museum, located on the hill where California's first mission was founded in 1769, offers dedicated school tours on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings where students can learn about life in California before it became a state.
- USS Midway Museum: (910 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101) After being a stalwart member of the U.S. fleet for decades, this historic aircraft carrier is now a floating museum, offering 60 exhibits and 25 restored aircraft to give students an understanding of history and appreciation of naval service.
- San Diego Natural History Museum: (1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101) There's sure to be something of interest to every student at this eclectic museum, which features exhibits on every kind of "ology" imaginable, including herpetology, paleontology and entomology.
- Maritime Museum: (1492 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101) Students can take a trip back in time by climbing into one of the museum's longboats or another historic vessel to ply the waters of San Diego Bay.
- The Museum of Man:(1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101) Egyptian mummies? Check. Hands-on archaeological dig exhibit? Got it. Vivid, 42-foot-wide mural depicting the Central American rainforest at the time of the Mayan civilization? Prepare to be awed.
- Old Town San Diego: (2802 Juan Street, San Diego, CA 92110) This popular dining and shopping area is probably familiar to many students, but the Old Town also features historic homes and public spaces, such as the Casa de Lopez, Plaza Viejo and the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.
- San Diego de Alcala: (10818 San Diego Mission Road, San Diego, CA 92108) This beautiful mission-style basilica was the first Christian church in California, and the site, frequently visited by grade schoolers, is sometimes called the "Plymouth Rock of the West Coast."
- Julian Gold Mine Experience: (P.O. Box 511, Julian, CA 92036) About an hour east of San Diego, the historic mining town of Julian is a great place for students to learn about this aspect of California history. A gold mine tour can be complemented by a visit to the Pioneer Museum.
- Cabrillo National Monument: (1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego, CA 92106) Marking the place where the first European explorer set foot on the U.S. West Coast, the Monument includes the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse and will soon feature a replica of Juan Cabrillo's ship, the San Salvador.
Art and Culture
- San Diego Museum of Art: (1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101) Inspired by the museum's diverse collection, which includes masterpieces by El Greco, Goya and O'Keeffe, students can hone their own techniques by completing a creative art project.
- Timken Museum of Art: (1500 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101) The main attraction is a Rembrandt, but students will find extraordinary works by other masters, ranging from 15th century Russian icons to 19th century American still lifes.
- The New Children's Museum: (200 W. Island Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101) This unique facility is housed in an innovative, environmentally friendly building, and features interdisciplinary art-making activities inspired by the culturally relevant works on display.
- The Old Globe: (1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101) One of the foremost regional theatres in the country, the Old Globe hosts a Shakespeare festival, develops ground-breaking original work and revives classics, offering a charming setting to inspire young thespians.
- Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego: (1100 & 1001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101) Minimalism and pop art are specialties of this cultural outpost, but with more than 4,000 pieces in its permanent collection, students who visit will be exposed to a wide variety of challenging and striking works created since 1950.
- World Beat Center: (2100 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101) As a major Pacific port, San Diego is one of the gateways to the United States, and this unique organization celebrates multiculturalism through music and other arts.
- Deering Banjo Factory: (3733 Kenora Drive, Spring Valley, CA 91977) Art and industry meet in this factory, where students can see first-hand how a classic American instrument is made.
- La Jolla Playhouse: (2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037) Co-founded by acting luminary Gregory Peck, La Jolla Playhouse offers special student matinees of main stage productions, giving students a high-caliber introduction to the magic of theatre.
- San Diego Ballet: (2650 Truxtun Road, San Diego, CA 92106) This cultural jewel of San Diego is committed to entertaining and educating students, and has collaborated with other theatrical venues to create exciting pieces for young audiences, such as ALICE:WONDERLAND, featuring hip-hop dance.
- San Diego Junior Theatre: (1650 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101) Since 1948, young audiences have been enthralled by the productions offered by the SDJT, which have featured performers such as Dennis Hopper and Annette Bening.
Science and Nature
- Fleet Science Center: (1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101.) Even if the subject is black holes, hands-on exhibits shed light on a variety of scientific subjects in this kid-friendly museum, which also features a state-of-the-art planetarium.
- EcoCenter for Alternative Fuel Education: (4001 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92105) Offering customized tours for fourth through eighth grade groups, the EcoCenter is known for fun, hands-on lessons about green energy and other environmental issues.
- San Diego Air & Space Museum: (2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101) As home to Ryan Aeronautical, the company that made the legendary Spirit of St. Louis, San Diego has a rich aviation heritage. Highlights of the Air & Space Museum include an array of war birds, such as a Navy F6F Hellcat.
- Birch Aquarium: (2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037) San Diego students are no strangers to the sea, but even dedicated beach-goers will be amazed by the aquarium's exhibits, which feature everything from seahorses to living tide pools.
- San Diego Zoo: (2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101) Sure, kids love their lions and tigers and bears, but after a trip to one of the world's largest zoos, they might have a new favorite animal. The Nile lechwe? The pangolin? Maybe the tamandua?
- SeaWorld: (500 SeaWorld Drive, San Diego, CA 92109) The dolphin show is a blast. But on a SeaWorld field trip, students can go behind the scenes to learn more about their favorite marine creatures, and what it takes to forge a career working with these animals.
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park: (15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, CA 92027) Though it's only about 45 minutes from the Zoo, visitors to the Safari Park are likely to feel like they've traveled to another continent, as they take a tram or truck safari to see cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, gorillas and other big game in open-air environments.
- Indian Hills Camp: (15763 Lyons Valley Road, Jamul, CA 91935) Located in an idyllic area east of the city, the camp offers activities tailored to specific age groups, including a hands-on lesson about native Californian bugs for fourth graders and a class on medicinal (and poisonous) plants for sixth graders.
- Chula Vista Nature Center: (1000 Gunpowder Point Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910) Situated in the expansive Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, the nature center offers close encounters with some of Southern California's most exotic species, from aquatic wildlife like leopard sharks to fine-feathered friends like the light-footed clapper rail.
- Mission Trails Regional Park: (1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119) Whether embarking on an eco-explorer scavenger hunt, learning about San Diego County's native shrubland environment or exploring one of the park's Kumeyaay Indian archaeological sites, students are sure to have an enriching and entertaining time at this 5,800-acre wilderness wonderland.
- Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch: (5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008) Right off the San Diego Freeway and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Flower Fields are a magnificent 50-acre riot of colors and scents, and special school group programs teach students about horticulture.
- San Elijo Lagoon: (2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007) About 700 species call this 1,000-acre San Diego County wetland environment home. School programs engage all the senses, calling on students to be fully attuned to the natural world.
- The Monarch Program: (450 Ocean View Avenue, Encinitas, CA 92024) Monarch and other species of butterfly live in the 1,200-square-foot vivarium at the Monarch Program's facility, where students can see how the beautiful creatures breed, grow and interact with their environment.
- Vertical Hold: (9580 Distribution Avenue, San Diego, CA 92121) For an active field trip, few destinations can compete with this climbing gym, which features more than 325 routes of various difficulties and full-time supervision to ensure the safety of all those taking on the challenge.
- Petco Park: (100 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101) Young (and not so young) fans of the San Diego Padres will be thrilled to go behind the scenes of this Major League stadium, learning about the facilities not only for athletes, but all the other people involved in the sport, from food vendors to sports journalists.
- U.S. Olympic Training Center: (2800 Olympic Parkway, Chula Vista, CA 91915) A state-of-the-art, 155-acre complex in Chula Vista, the USOC Training Center allows visitors to see the best U.S. archers, BMX racers, track stars, rowers and other athletes training, and learn what it takes to be gold medal material.
- Qualcomm Stadium: (9449 Friars Road, San Diego, CA 92108) In 1969, Willie Mays hit his 600th home run in this stadium, which is now the hometown venue for the Chargers and the San Diego State University Aztecs, making it a favorite field trip destination for young gridiron fans.
- Hall of Champions: (2131 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101) Golfer Billy Casper, all-star pitcher Randy Jones, tennis great Maureen Connolly and Olympic sprinter Gail Devers are among the hometown athletes honored at the Hall of Champions, which also features fascinating memorabilia.