The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

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2115 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101
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Open:
Tuesday - Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
San Diego is full of incredible military history. Honor San Diego’s heroes at The Veterans Museum. Offering programs & a research library, it’s more than a gallery!
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.
The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Honor & Valor
What to Expect
Relax & Save
Display of Heroics
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Special Tips
Stay Nearby

Highlights

Exhibits / Attractions
Tickets
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Tips
Exhibits / Attractions
Tickets
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Tips

Honor & Valor at The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

Cardenas Flew the B 24 Liberator at the Beautiful Veterans Museum at Balboa ParkMissile Replicas at the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

The military history of San Diego comes to life at The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park.

This comprehensive collection of objects, artifacts, photographs, and documents chronicles the trials and tribulations of San Diego veterans from all branches of the US Armed Forces including the US Coast Guard and Merchant Marines.

The museum features exhibits from World War I, World War II, Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan/Iraq, Women in the Military, and various murals and paintings of military subjects by local artists.

In addition, both service members and the rest of the San Diego community have access to the museum’s extensive research library which includes over 11,000 books, videos, and papers.

Opened in 1989 in what was formerly the Chapel of the Naval Hospital on Inspiration Point, this Balboa Park museum not only commemorates the sacrifices of active and retired military service members but it also provides educational and supportive programming to the public and local community.

It’s worth noting that the Veterans Museum hosts special events throughout the year to honor and remember veterans. Private events such as graduations, weddings, and anniversaries can be held at the museum as well.

Anchor in Front of the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Anchor in Front of the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

What Makes this Museum Stand Out?

Military museums can be found throughout the country, but I personally believe this one in Balboa Park stands out because it serves as a meeting site for military organizations in addition it plays an important role in educating the community and venerating local heroes. In fact, the vast collection housed in the museum is composed entirely of memorabilia donated by veterans.

Balboa Park is rich with cultural attractions and historic buildings, but I really think no sightseeing trip would be complete without paying your respects at The Veterans Museum.

Make plans to take a guided tour or spend some time in quiet reflection in the outdoor memorial garden during your excursion and I’m sure you’ll see it as time well spent.

Local Tips
Public Awareness Concerning
The Museum also serve as a home for programs for charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes that promote public awareness concerning the sacrifices and contributions of men and women who serve and have served in the Armed forces.

Know What to Expect Before You Visit

Monuments at the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Monuments at the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park is a living history and community center, and on any given day, you may find yourself attending a tribute ceremony or talking with a veteran docent who can share first-hand accounts of war or peacetime service.

The displays cover the period from the Civil War to the present day for a comprehensive narrative. With so much memorabilia, I think you could visit this museum multiple times and have different experiences.

What I would tell you is that whether you go alone or take your family, your outing to the museum can change your perspective and bolster your respect for those selfless individuals who serve this country.

Flags Line the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Flags Line the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

Making the Most of Your Time Around Your Visit

The museum is one of more than a dozen museums in Balboa Park and also home to the San Diego Zoo. With so many choices, you’ll want to make sure to get the cheapest admission prices possible.

Looking for a quick ride out on the Bay? Hop on a One Way Coronado Ferry tour. With your Go City San Diego pass, take this 15-minute ferry ride across to Coronado Island and enjoy the views of San Diego. Once on the island, enjoy shopping and restaurants.

The Go City San Diego pass is the perfect way to explore more attractions and activities that the area has to offer, all while being cost-efficient.

With the pass you can save up to 55% off admission fees at some of the area’s most popular attractions.

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

View the Bay with Go Pass
One Way Coronado Ferry
One Way Coronado Ferry
Looking for a quick ride out on the Bay? Hop on a One Way Coronado Ferry tour. With your Go Pass, take this 15-minute ferry ride across to Coronado Island and enjoy the views of San Diego. Once on the island, enjoy shopping and restaurants.
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Local Tips
How much can you save by using the Go City San Diego pass?

The Go City San Diego pass is the perfect way to explore more attractions and activities that the area has to offer, all while being cost-efficient.

With the Go City San Diego pass, you can save up to 55% off admission fees at some of the area’s most popular attractions.

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

Explore the Proud Display of Heroics

Before you view The Veterans Museum, check to see when a guided tour is available while you are there.

The opportunity to follow a veteran guide throughout the displays can enhance your experience. If you prefer, explore the exhibits on your own, at your own pace, to appreciate what veterans have confronted and overcome.

Make time for these exhibits during your visit:

Seven Murals by Richard DeRosset

Throughout the museum are five wall paintings by celebrated maritime artist, Richard DeRosset, depicting significant military events such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and other battles from the 1800s to D-Day Normandy to Korea to Iraq.

Interesting fact: DeRosset’s Pearl Harbor mural contains the actual signatures of Pearl Harbor survivors, including John Finn, the first American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Kaneohe Bay that day.

Women’s Military History Room

Walk through this presentation of uniforms, photographs, and documents that explain how the role women play in all branches of the military has progressed over time.

The exhibit will teach you about the role of women in military history from the Civil War to today, including the formal acceptance of nurses in the Army and Navy’s officer corps in the early 1900s to being accepted into the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard in a clerical capacity during World War I.

Women’s roles and importance as parts of today’s military is reflected in their service in all aspects of military operations, from aviation, shipboard, and ground combat arms to its logistical, administrative, and medical components.

Public Awareness

The Museum also serves as a home for programs for charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes that promote public awareness concerning the sacrifices and contributions of men and women who serve and have served in the Armed forces.

Pow Flag Flying at the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Pow Flag Flying at the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

The Military in Balboa Park, 1915 to 1988

This celebrated park in San Diego has seen its share of active duty, and this exhibit provides a glimpse of the relationship of both the Army and the Navy with the growth of the city, from the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 through the end of World War II and the development of the San Diego (Balboa) Naval Hospital up through 1988.

Hold at All Costs – The Battle for Outpost Harry

The last battle of the Korean War is explained through dioramas, relics, documents, and video recordings from that difficult struggle for American troops.

Listen to video interviews from American, Greek, South Korean, and Chinese soldiers and see communication equipment, mine-hunting gear, uniforms, maps, weapons and more, all realistically arranged to depict the bunkers and trenches in Korea as they would have appeared in the field.

Vietnam Remembered – A 50th Year Retrospective

Multimedia displays and oral histories of the men and women who fought in Vietnam shed more light on this difficult and often painful chapter of military history.

The role of the Army, the Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard are presented with participating Units identified. Exhibit cases include POWs, gun ships, SEALs, patrol boats, river (PBRs), Naval aviators, and Army aviators.

Plaque of the B 24 Liberator at the Beautiful Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Plaque of the B 24 Liberator at the Beautiful Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

Memorial Garden

Located on a one-acre parcel of land outside The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, the Memorial Garden honors veterans of all eras who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Wartime Merchant Marines.

The garden is divided into three areas: the Air Garden, Land Garden, and Sea Garden. A bronze statue of a World War II B-24 Liberator, a one-sixth scale replica, is the centerpiece of the Air Garden, soaring over a reflecting pool and pointing in the direction of the old Consolidated Aircraft, where the majority of B-24 aircrafts were manufactured during World War II.

Research Library

Less an exhibit and more a resource, this substantial library of personal accounts and books can expand your knowledge of military events.

It is open to the public by appointment every Thursday, but you can also view and search much of its Storytellers Video Collection, photos, and archives online from the comfort of your home on The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park’s website.

Enlightening & Educational Programs

Statue of the B 24 Liberator at the Beautiful Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Statue of the B 24 Liberator at the Beautiful Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

The calendar of events at The Veterans Museum is quite full throughout the year, thanks to the many celebrations, ceremonies, and memorials hosted by the volunteers and staff. Some past events have included: Women’s Woven Voices Workshops, the GI Film Festival, Honor Flight Welcome Home, and A Night at Gatsby’s Fundraiser for AHT.

The museum offers tours for school groups as well and can serve as a venue for private functions of 10-250 people.

Functions may include: reenlistment, retirement, promotions/pinnings, commissionings, change of command, graduations, and reunions/memorials. Seating, tables, event set-up and breakdown, a PA system, and more are included with each event, while reserved VIP parking, free parking and more are also available.

Other programs held by the museum focus on support services, such as the Eagle Wings Bereavement Support to Widowed Veterans and Spouses, which affirms the time-honored pledge, “The Military takes care of its own,” as well as the San Diego Widow and Widowers group, which promotes educational and social activities for recently grieved members who have experience the same loss of a spouse.

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Special Tips for Visitors

Below are some things you’ll want to know before you arrive.

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Parking is available on-site for your convenience.

Outside View of the Bristol Hotel San Diego
Outside View of the Bristol Hotel San Diego

Stay Nearby

Located just 1.5 miles away from the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, The Bristol Hotel San Diego is a truly one-of-a-kind boutique hotel perfect for your next visit to San Diego.

Here you can celebrate the lifestyle and mood of the 1960s with a Southern California twist.

Walking up to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Walking up to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

Visit Nearby Attractions & Neighborhoods

While you’re visiting, you can also take advantage of other nearby San Diego attractions such as the Seaport Village Shopping Center, the USS Midway Museum, the San Diego Zoo, PETCO Park and SeaWorld San Diego.

Nearby neighborhoods I would recommend include the Gaslamp Quarter, Hillcrest, and Little Italy for an incredible meal.

Be sure to purchase a Go City San Diego pass before you go to take advantage of up to 55% discounts on many of the most popular attractions in the area as well.

And don’t forget to use our discount code GVSD5OFF for an additional 5% off your next pass.

Door to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Door to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

Special Programs & Tours

Check the schedule before you go to see if any special programs are planned to be held during your visit.

Be sure to ask about a docent-led tour for a more interactive and enlightening look at military history. Group tours are often led by Docent volunteers, therefore times and days are limited and non-negotiable.

It’s been my experience that the volunteers and tour guides are passionate people that are happy to answer any questions you may have, so do not be shy!

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