Fleet Science Center

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1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
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Open:
10 am to 5 pm Daily
Discover everything you need to know about the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the fun ways the museum gets the whole family excited to learn.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Fleet Science Center
Education Meets Fun
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Education Meets Fun at the Fleet Science Center

Mars Exhibit at the Fleet Science CenterFleet Science Center Attractions

Enter a world of invention and discovery! At Balboa Park’s Fleet Science Center and Planetarium in San Diego, California, you’ll learn about hundreds of different scientific advancements that are sure to engage and surprise you.

The Fleet Science Center and attached dome theater is a family-friendly museum that has been running since 1973. It was the first museum to include both interactive exhibits and an IMAX theater for educational films, which set the precedent that many other museums follow to this day.

Interactive Display at the Fleet Science Center
Interactive Display at the Fleet Science Center

Discover Interactive Exhibits and IMAX Films

Over the years, the science museum has expanded to include many more exhibits than what they opened with. New exhibits are being added every year, in addition to rotating exhibits that are added every few weeks or months. With so many attractions and so much variety, there is always something new to do on each visit!

What's New: Rotating and Permanent Exhibits

Through its engaging exhibits and movies, the museum works toward its mission of getting everyone, young and old, interested in science. Fleet Science Center’s commitment to interactive science exhibits that spark the minds of guests makes it an excellent choice for families with inquisitive kids, and I love how it combines fun with education through its hands-on displays.

Virtual Reality Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center
Virtual Reality Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center

Engaging Science for All Ages

When you visit the museum, you’ll learn all about the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center so you can make the most of your trip through over 100 different exhibits. With so much to do, you’ll want to know exactly where you should start and what exhibits you want to make sure to see!

Planning Your Visit: Tips and Tricks

The Fleet Science Center is part of the Go City San Diego Pass, which can help you save while visiting attractions in San Diego and the southern California area. Consider buying a pass before you go and take advantage of our additional exclusive discount, use code GVSD5OFF!

Nearby Family Friendly Hotels

San Diego is filled with family-friendly hotels that both children and parents will enjoy, with plenty of options near Balboa Park and Downtown San Diego.

If you’re visiting the Fleet Science Center, we recommend staying at Hilton San Diego Bayfront so you can look out over the San Diego Bay while enjoying the hotel’s amenities, including on-site dining options and a spa.

Take a tour of The Prado, a popular restaurant in Balboa Park serving all flavors of San Diego dishes. The Prado has maintained its reputation of excellence for years, making it an iconic locale.

Go on a Food Tour

What You’ll See During Your Visit

The Fleet Science Center in beautiful Balboa Park aims to bring science out of the lab, making it more accessible to the public. To this end, every part of the museum is specifically geared towards exploring and explaining different parts of scientific research and breakthroughs.

Kids Exhibit Demonstrate Principles Physics at the Fleet Science Center
Kids Exhibit Demonstrate Principles Physics at the Fleet Science Center

Immersive Exhibit Experiences

When you enter the museum, you’ll immediately become immersed in the world of science. There are exhibits that explore just about every aspect of scientific discovery, pulling from many different scientific fields. You can learn about everything from geometry, to the human body, to the farthest reaches of space.

Interactive Learning for All Ages

One of the most unique aspects of the science center is just how interactive it is. There is always something to do at each exhibit, so families of all ages never get bored. The incorporation of play into learning makes science fun!

Coming Soon at the IMAX at the Fleet Science Center
Coming Soon at the IMAX at the Fleet Science Center

Explore the Universe at the IMAX Theater and Planetarium

Don’t forget to check out the IMAX theater and planetarium during your visit! These installations offer special shows in the dome theater that are meant to excite and educate. Here, you can explore distant planets, the depths of the seas, or discoveries made in far-away countries, without ever leaving San Diego.

For exhibit details and other Fleet Science Center information, here’s our breakdown of the numerous attractions located in the museum.

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What attractions are included with a Go City San Diego pass?

Attractions that you can visit with a Go City San Diego pass include:

The San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, SeaWorld, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Harbor Cruise, USS Midway Museum, the NAT Museum, Whaley House, PETCO Park Tour, iFLY San Diego and many, many more!

Want to save more? Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Your Guide to Fleet Science Center Attractions & Exhibits

Fleet Science Center events and attractions include both permanent exhibits and a rotating event. Each exhibit has to do with an interesting branch of science, as well as the discoveries and breakthroughs that scientists have made that influence the way we learn about these topics today.

On top of the exhibits in the museum, the planetarium and IMAX theater are crucial parts of the Fleet Science Center experience as well. They run educational shows throughout the day.

With so many different science exhibits, you might be unsure what you should prioritize. Here’s a guide that will help you plan your path through the museum.

Sun Earth Universe Interactive Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center
Sun Earth Universe Interactive Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center

Space Gallery

The Fleet Science Center includes many different exhibits that bring the magic of outer space right down to Earth. In the Space Gallery, you’ll take a look at the different inventions and advancements in science that make space exploration possible, as well as the skills astronauts and researchers need to explore the stars.

Inside the Space Gallery is the Pulseworks VR Transporter, which provides a fun virtual reality experience where you can journey to the moon and the cosmos without ever leaving the ground. It also contains the Sun, Earth, Universe exhibit, which is full of information about NASA’s scientific explorations of the universe and the questions about space these explorations attempt to answer.

Renewable Energy Education

The museum includes plenty of information on various renewable, planet-friendly energy resources. These exhibits show the ways that everyday parts of our homes like water and electricity get to us and what it takes to provide these resources.

In the It’s Electric exhibit, visitors learn about different scientific advancements involving electricity. Interactive stations include information about the science behind batteries, electric charges, and magnetic fields. The centerpiece of the exhibit, the Tesla Coil, is the first system for wirelessly transmitting electricity ever invented.

For a look at how we use electricity as a power source, stop by the So Watt! exhibit. Here, you’ll take a look at energy production, alternative energy sources like solar panels, and ways to get involved in conservation. You can learn more about the San Diego power grid and how it functions in the Power Play exhibit.

Water is another resource in our homes, as well as a potential source of renewable energy. We take the water running from our sink for granted, but so much goes into the process that we don’t see. In the San Diego’s Water exhibit, you’ll discover what it takes to get water to all the homes of San Diego, as well as information about water conservation and preservation.

Illusions Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center
Illusions Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center

Illusions

Illusions are tricks of the mind meant to make us see something that isn’t really there. With illusions, a completely still image might appear to be moving, and you can start seeing the same image as two completely different things.

The Fleet Science Center’s Illusions exhibit explores these mind-bending illusions and explains what makes them work. The exhibit contains dozens of different illusions that will excite and surprise you.

Shark Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center
Shark Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center

Wild Creativity

Science and nature are sometimes viewed as opposing forces, but in many cases, scientists can learn a great deal of lessons from nature.

Many scientists have looked to the natural world for answers to questions and inspiration for creative problem solving in a process called biomimicry, the act of replicating a process from nature.

Not only will guests learn about the biological processes that allow nature’s inhabitants to solve their biggest problems, like the evolution of different beaks among bird species or the physics behind a kangaroo’s jump, they’ll also take a peek at how observing these animals has helped shape innovation in scientific design.

Illusions Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center
Illusions Exhibit at the Fleet Science Center

New Science

New Science is an exhibit that reminds us that anyone from any walk of life can be a scientist. Though there are many barriers to diversity in STEM fields, both in the past and present, there are just as many people surmounting those barriers.

Celebrate diversity and intersectionality in different scientific fields as you learn about the ways that people from various marginalized identities are leaving their mark on science, math, technology, medicine, and engineering. New Science hopes to encourage a new future for science: one where everyone is on an even playing field.

Design Zone

At the Design Zone exhibit, mathematics takes the center stage. See how concepts like scale, ratios, variables, and patterns allow problem-solvers from different fields to come up with creative solutions to different mathematical problems.

There are countless challenges in design and engineering that require mathematics to solve. Some examples highlighted in the exhibit include making music, designing video games, and planning roller coasters. Design Zone invites kids to remember these lessons the next time they’re at the theme park or playing their favorite game.

Color in a New Light

Ever wondered about the rays of light and color that form the different spectrums of light, both visible and invisible? At the Color in a New Light exhibit, visitors will explore different hands-on displays as they journey from total darkness to bright and vibrant color.

The journey through the Color in a New Light exhibit takes guests through four different stages, starting with a display on darkness. Next comes invisible rays light infrared and ultraviolet, then the visible spectrum of light. Finally, learn about color through interactive setpieces like a lifesize light wall.

The Ball Pool

There’s always time to have some fun at Fleet Science Center. When kids need a quick break from checking out the exhibits, or are looking to burn some energy, the Ball Pool is the perfect solution.

With over 20,000 balls in a large, multi-person pool structure, this exhibit invites visitors to jump, dive, and play. Kids can put their imaginations to the test coming up with inventive scenarios while they crawl and swim through the Ball Pool.

Studio X

Exhibits at Fleet Science Center don’t just focus on education, but also inspiration. Kids can put the lessons they’ve learned at different museum exhibits to work at Studio X.

With a series of creative crafts, family-friendly design challenges, and a whole new way to learn, the Studio X exhibit provides the perfect outlet for this creative impulse. Activities include building a cardboard marble maze, creating a mobile-like kinetic sculpture, building block towers with real engineering skills, and more.

IMAX Dome Theater

IMAX movie screenings are located in the dome theater. In the dome, visitors can watch screenings of scientific movies that delight and intrigue, encouraging a strong interest in science at any age.

The dome theater has more than enough space for visitors. It includes hundreds of seats, each newly renovated to ensure you have a comfortable experience. Don’t worry about getting a bad seat; with the 76-foot, eight story tall screen and the 16,000 watt digital surround sound, there isn’t a bad seat in the house!

The shows and any IMAX film featured in the IMAX dome theater will be educational and family-friendly. They explore various scientific topics like conservation, invention, and discovery. To learn which movies are currently playing and what showtimes are available, visit the official site.

Planetarium

The Fleet Science Center also includes a large planetarium, where you can enjoy an educational stargazing trip. The planetarium has a wide dome ceiling upon which images of constellations and distant planets are projected.

The planetarium features a number of rotating live shows. One of the most popular is the monthly show The Sky Tonight, which is a tour through the solar system guided and narrated by a real professional astronomer. Other shows include information on various aspects of the solar system like stars, comets, asteroids, and different galaxies.

On Wednesday evenings, guests are invited to head outside and explore the real night sky. Led by members of the San Diego Astronomy Association, use telescopes to see the distant stars of our solar system through a new lens.

Local Tips
Experience the Wonders of the IMAX Dome
Don't miss the IMAX Dome Theater at Fleet Science Center. It's the world's first, offering a 360-degree film experience. Perfect for immersive science and nature films, it's a must-see for visitors seeking a unique cinematic journey.

Kid City: Kid-Friendly Events and Exhibits

Wild Creativity at the Fleet Science Center
Wild Creativity at the Fleet Science Center

The entire museum is family-friendly and nearly every exhibit has an interactive aspect that is sure to delight kids of all ages. However, younger visitors, those five years old and younger, can also enjoy the child-centric Kid City installment.

Kid City is a miniature city and children’s museum built just for children to explore and learn. It features many different attractions that encourage both education and play.

Little Learner’s Lab

The Little Learner’s Lab teaches kids science, math, and reading skills through a combination of hands-on displays and computer programs. These educational and age-appropriate computer games get children interested in learning even when they only think they’re playing.

The Ball Wall

The Ball Wall is another exciting feature of Kid City. It features tracks and chutes that show kids the basics of concepts like momentum and gravity. Children can also use an air blower to create music or spin colorful pinwheels.

The Fire Station

One especially popular part of Kid City is the Fire Station, complete with a replica fire truck. Kids can climb inside the fire truck to explore, and even mimic the act of driving a real fire truck.

The Factory and Grocery Store

The Factory and Grocery Store sections of Kid City teach kids about what it’s like to work in each job through play. Kids can climb through the four different floors of the factory, learning about different production processes at each stage. In the grocery store, kids will practice their math skills and learn about good nutrition all while sorting, weighing, and ringing up plastic fruit and vegetables.

Infant Area

Kid City also offers an Infant Area, great for adults with the smallest kids, that is specially designed to be safe for children just learning to crawl.

Youth Programs

The Fleet Science Center provides various youth programs as well. The Young Scientists program makes basic scientific concepts like geology, biology, and engineering accessible to kids.

Science Clubs and Camps

They also offer science clubs where kids can get hands-on experience with simple and safe experiments. Additionally, the Fleet museum runs a half-day camp in the summer and full-day camps in the spring, winter, and fall.

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Important Tips for Your Visit

When you visit the Fleet Science Center, you want your trip to be focused on all the fun you’ll be having. You don’t want to worry about where to park or what to eat. Here are some tips that will make planning for the trip a stress-free experience!

Fleet Science Center Main Entrance
Fleet Science Center Main Entrance

Admission Details

Purchasing a ticket to the museum allows you to leave and re-enter the museum for the rest of the day. This means you are free to take a break, run out to the car, or grab something to eat without having to pay for admission again.

The museum offers free admission for residents of San Diego every Tuesday, known as Free Museum Day. If you’re a local who has never been before, this is a great way to experience the museum for the first time.

Parking

There is free parking available for the museum on the south side of the building. Additional lots are available throughout Balboa Park with a brief walking distance.

Where to Eat

The Fleet Science Center contains its own café, Craveology. This café offers kid-friendly fare such as sandwiches, salads, pizza, and healthy snacks. Once you’re done eating, you can get right back to exploring the museum.

Gift Shop

The museum gift shop is known as the North Star Science Store. It offers a wide variety of educational books, IMAX DVDs, toys, and games, as well as some commemorative souvenirs.

Lots to do in Balboa Park
Lots to do in Balboa Park

Nearby Attractions

Balboa Park is a hub of fun family attractions. Once you’ve explored the museum, consider paying a visit to the nearby San Diego Zoo, or check out other nearby museums like the San Diego Museum of Art or the Air and Space Museum.

If you’re planning on visiting multiple attractions, don’t forget to purchase a Go City San Diego Pass with discount code GVSD5OFF for the best deals!

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