Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 2021 Travel Update
- The New Children's Museum in San Diego
- Who Will Enjoy the New Children's Museum?
- Exploration That Encourages Movement
- More Ways to Play
- Dining at the New Children's Museum
- Dress for a Mess
- The New Children's Museum is Hands On
- Places in the Museum for Toddlers
- Outdoor Entertainment at The New Children's Museum
- Tips for Your Trip
- Location, Tickets and Parking
Exploring the New Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego is a lively family experience. This blend of local and global art with a hands-on approach appeals to young children. Kids may not fully understand the artistic emotion behind each of the exhibits. But it doesn’t matter. Families will just have fun bouncing around the various rooms, exploring and discovering together! And yes, even learning along the way.
The writer was hosted.
2021 Travel Update
During these pandemic times, California travel destinations are reopening to out of state travelers. Inside The New Children’s Museum in San Diego, all guests 2+ (including those who are fully vaccinated) are required to wear an appropriate facial covering.
The museum is currently operating in two sessions – Morning session from 9am-noon or the Afternoon session, 1-4pm. Days of operation are Thursday through Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday).
The New Children’s Museum in San Diego
The New Children’s Museum is a multi-story complex in downtown San Diego. The building is three stories tall with activities for all ages throughout. Enter on the middle floor with both stair and elevator access to upper and lower levels. Tall glass windows offer a view of the palm tree lined court yard outside.
The New Children’s Museum is ever-evolving. What was on exhibit during one visit may change by the next visit. Keep that in mind while reading this review – what we saw might not be there when you go.
Who Will Enjoy the New Children’s Museum?
The activities in the museum will satisfy a range of ages. I’ve been to the The New Children’s Museum many times over the years with my kids, bringing them when they were toddlers and tweens. While this San Diego county attraction welcomes children of all ages, I’d say that the interest tops out around age 12.
Both younger and older kids may enjoy some exhibits together. This includes climbing structures and some craft spaces. But certain things might hold an older kid’s attention longer, like light box tracing. Other areas are just for younger ones, including a soft-play area for kids under 3.
The New Children’s Museum in San Diego offers a mix of activities, no matter what type of kid you have. The ThinkPlayCreate motto isn’t just talk. There are active play areas for exercising large motor skills, art areas for creating and using your hands, as well as restful quiet areas for taking a break. Adults are encouraged in most areas to play alongside their children.
Exploration That Encourages Movement
Because of the changing nature of this museum, art installations come and go in this creative space. Many of them encourage active play, so dress your kiddos in comfy clothes and a pair of socks – some spaces require kids to take off their shoes. There are cubes for storing the footwear. Your kids are going to get sweaty from climbing and running around.
The newest installation on the upper level is called Whammock! It’s an interactive textile playground. Resembling a large, colorful knit hammock, there are places to climb inside, nesting cocoons and pendulums to swing from.
What kid doesn’t love jumping? The 30-foot inflatable rainbow-striped tunnel encourages bouncing. When the lower level opens with a new art installation in summer 2021, it will feature a thrilling story-long slide!
More Ways to Play
Another active play area is The Rain House. Not any actual drops of rain (it is San Diego, after all!), but a playhouse of imagination that children could spend time in if it should rain. Plenty of supplies inside to build blanket forts.
The Wonder Sound is a beautiful and imaginative labyrinth of rooms begging to be explored, with places to climb and hide. There’s a rope web, pulleys and places to make music inside the tiny rooms.
Dining at the New Children’s Museum
Editor’s note: Dining is not currently available inside the New Children’s Museum. There’s seating outside for guests who wish to eat but you’ll need to bring your own food.
On the first floor there is a Bean Sprouts Cafe and lounge for dining, outdoor patio and a nursing area. Outside food is allowed but must be eaten in this lounge area. We usually bring in our own snacks and drinks and enjoy them mid-day. Bean Sprouts offers healthy “clean eating” options that are truly kid-friendly and fun.
There are also many local restaurants within walking distance of the museum. Just ask the front desk for a San Diego restaurant recommendation. Some of the restaurants offer a discount if you show your museum ticket.
Dress for a Mess
My kids love creating their own contemporary art at the NCM! There are some seriously messy play areas, using paint, chalk and clay. The New Children’s Museum offers aprons to borrow in a variety of sizes. But kids being kids, an apron is only going to do so much!
Don’t wear fancy clothes and let the kids get messy and have fun. Also the space tends to get a little warm (especially on the upper floor) so dress lightly during hot weather. You can always catch a breeze outside on one of the patios if you get overly warm.
One corner outside on the large patio space is reserved for painting. Kids can paint here with the “color of the day” onto the display (currently a 1950s Dodge truck). Kids use chunky brushes, sometimes reverting to just swirling the paint on with their hands!
The New Children’s Museum is Hands On
On the other end of the patio is the clay studio. Everyone is encouraged to take a chunk of clay and some tools to work at the low tables. Creations are set in the sun to dry and can be taken home.
Before coming to the New Children’s Museum check the website for facilitated workshop dates and times. There are projects for all ages. The Innovators Lab (for kids aged 7+) is a “Makerspace” for older kids to work with local artists and experts. Summer camps are often available.
With all this messy play there are places to clean up. Look for large sinks with soap and towels both indoors and out. There are also plenty of bathrooms in the museum, including family-sized bathrooms with diaper changing stations.
Places in the Museum for Toddlers
There are multiple areas within The New Children’s Museum that are reserved just for toddlers. Tikitiko is just for under 3-year-olds and their caregivers. This tot studio features ultra soft nesting spots for youngsters to gather and play.
The longstanding “Wobbleland” on the main level is an adorable soft play area for kids under 4 years. It appears like the kids are in a giant stainless steel sink. Check out the pouring water fountain and soft-play fruits and vegetables like the rocking-horse avocado and a sailboat watermelon.
In addition, watch for Toddler Time special events that happen throughout the day at the museum. During our recent visit, youngest guests were dancing with silks to a sing-along with museum employees.
Outdoor Entertainment at The New Children’s Museum
Just in front of the museum entrance, the Museum Park hosts outdoor play for kids. This includes small ride-on vehicles, water painting and climbing play cubes and soft mats on the grass. A mini playground includes a swing set and butterfly garden.
For parents, there’s plenty of seating outside along the concrete walls and grassy spots for kids to run. Bring a snack and dine at one of the outdoor patio tables in the shade.
Tips for Your Trip
The New Children’s Museum can get very busy. Crowds tend to thin out as the sessions come to a close. I would recommend avoiding weekends if possible. Crowds tend to be heavy on Saturdays and Sundays.
The NCM has a quiet nursing area with chairs located on the main floor. Of course, moms may breastfeed wherever they wish within the museum.
The museum has limited seating space. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes because you’ll be standing a lot. Adults are encouraged to kick off your shoes and get in there with the kids! Strollers are welcome inside the New Children’s Museum with areas inside to park them.
This is definitely not a rush-in and out place. Kids will mostly enjoy meandering and playing at their own pace. Set aside a few hours to spend at The New Children’s Museum and let them just relax, play and learn without a brisk timeline.
Location, Tickets and Parking
The New Children’s Museum is located in downtown San Diego, near Seaport Village, the San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park. Address is 200 W Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101.
Infants who have not yet reached their first birthday are free to enter the museum. Admission for everyone age 1 and over is $10.
Visiting during October? During the fall season Kids Free October promotion in San Diego, two kids get free admission with each paid adult. Check the NCM website for times when the museum opens on the day of your visit.
Parking is $10, located in a garage under the museum. There is also metered parking on the street. Public transportation is another good way to get there. The trolley stops just a short way from the museum entrance.
If you’re looking for more to do in the area with the kids, check out this walking tour of downtown San Diego.
Dr. Jennifer and Dr. Tony Edwards says
The next time we visit San Diego, we’ll have to visit the museum. We love to visit children’s museums and science museums when we travel.