The New Children’s Museum

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200 W Island Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
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Open:
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Daily
The New Children’s Museum more than your typical play-and-learn experience. The exhibits are carefully curated to inspire kids through artistic expression.
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.
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Hands-On Learning at The New Children’s Museum

The New Childrens MuseumKids Playing at the New Childrens Museum

If you’ve ever visited a traditional art museum with the whole family, there’s a good chance that your younger children may not have fully appreciated the experience. When you visit The New Children’s Museum, both you and the little ones will find plenty to enjoy.

As an art museum that specifically caters to younger audiences, the museum aims to get kids and adults alike interested in art by turning the exhibits into engaging opportunities for art appreciation through play.

The Children’s Art Museum, located in Downtown San Diego near the Gaslamp Quarter, isn’t your typical child-friendly attraction. It’s actually a lot more! While my kids are a bit older now, they can still have fun and as a parent, I can really appreciate the museum as well.

With thoughtful exhibits, experiential interactions, and creative installations, art becomes so much more than just something to hand on a wall and observe. The displays include auditory, visual, emotional, and tactile components, making them an immersive sensory experience sure to capture attention and delight visitors of all ages.

Kids Make Clay Art at the New Childrens Museum
Kids Make Clay Art at the New Childrens Museum

A Unique Kids Museum

Unlike some art museums that focus exclusively on traditional art, The New Children’s Museum also includes exhibits that show the best of what engineering, architecture, and virtual technology have to offer. By combining many different mediums and industries, the museum showcases the versatility of art and creates a more expansive, attention-grabbing experience.

Every aspect of the museum is dedicated to education through art integration, including its special programming and community outreach. Educators in the San Diego area rely on this attraction as a resource and a learning tool to engage students, both in and out of the classroom.

Family workshops and other special events are hosted throughout the year, which strengthen the relationship between the museum and the San Diego community.

Kids Can Paint the Dinosour at the New Childrens Musuem
Kids Can Paint the Dinosour at the New Childrens Musuem

Fun for All Ages

The museum’s installations are specifically tailored to cater toward all age groups, so there’s something fun for everyone to do, no matter how young or old.

There are exhibits for school-age and older children, as well as exhibits that are appropriate for younger kids and toddlers. No matter the intended age group, all exhibits in the museum integrate art, imagination, and a touch of whimsy to capture kids’ attention and inspire a love of all things artistic.

Considering how diverse and fun the hands-on exhibits are, The New Children’s Museum is far from a one-and-done attraction. There’s always something new to see on return visits, and children will enjoy the experience so much they’ll be excited to visit again and again.

The Best Deal on Tickets

The New Children’s Museum is one of the many attractions included in the Go City San City Diego pass, which allows you to bundle different museums and other San Diego attractions together when you buy tickets. If you’re looking to save on your trip to San Diego, the Go City San Diego pass is the perfect option.

Take advantage of more savings by using the discount code GVSD5OFF, which will help you save even more on your trip!

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Your Expectations Exceeded

The Kids Play Room at the New Childrens Museum
The Kids Play Room at the New Childrens Museum

The New Children’s Museum encourages exploration and engagement during every moment of your trip. To honor this approach, families can explore the museum in any order they see fit.

Make a beeline for the Whammock! exhibit, or get lost in a labyrinth at The Wonder Sound first - it’s your call!

When you visit the museum, you’ll see installations that showcase many different forms of art, including paintings, architecture, knitting, crocheting, sculpting, and much more. Just about every installation has an interactive component, whether this is an audio recording, an activity for kids to complete, something to climb on or crawl through, or a combination of these aspects.

On top of the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts a different California-based artist each year to showcase the talent and creativity of those living in the San Diego area. Additionally, the majority of the exhibits in the museum were commissioned works from renowned local artists. They have a unique and personal charm you can’t find anywhere else.

Because the museum invites kids to play, on crowded days you may find the noise level around busy exhibits to be similar to a schoolyard playground or park. However, there are also plenty of quiet corners and rest areas you can use when you and the kids need a moment of calm.

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Exhibits and Activities for Discovery and Play

Art for All Ages at the New Childrens Museum
Art for All Ages at the New Childrens Museum

There are dozens of different installations at The New Children’s Museum, and there are new exhibits being added to the museum all the time.

In fact, the museum’s name is actually in reference to the idea that there’s always something new for kids to experience. With the incredible diversity of exhibits offered by the museum, it’s clear just how true the museum’s name really is!

Past exhibits and activities have included: No Rules… Except, where instead of being told not to jump on the bed, you get to do so on one of over 40 mattresses and 150 pillows; Sketch Aquarium, where kids can draw sea creatures and have them displayed on the museum’s virtual aquarium; and Sandbox Gallery, where children can play in an oversized sandbox.

Let’s have a look at what you can currently expect to see when you visit the museum.

Wobbleland

Wobbleland is designed for kids four and younger. The exhibit is designed like a giant kitchen sink, complete with soft, human-sized food sculptures perfect for climbing over, hiding in, and stacking up.

Through play, kids explore this world of giant food and larger-than-life fun.

Tikitiko

Tikitiko is an art installation made entirely of soft materials like yarn, wool, and faux furs.

Kids are invited to practice their empathy skills by caring for replicas of fluffy, fuzzy creatures. Tikitiko is designed exclusively for kids three years old and younger.

Whammock!

This exhibit features a vibrant, unstructured, room-sized hammock. It has holes and ropes that encourage children to climb and crawl around. Whammock! is an elevated sensory play experience suitable for all ages.

The Wonder Sound

This exhibit is a climbable labyrinth with a historic and cultural influence. Natural scenic elements, neighborhood structures, and an original soundscape come together to inspire and intrigue.

Kids can even learn to write their own name in a new language developed especially for the exhibit.

Teatro Piñata

Fun for children of all ages, Teatro Piñata is a caravan theater that creates behind-the-scenes visual worlds using theatrical tricks, dramatic lighting, a soundscape, and manipulatable props.

Kids can discover a ticket booth with a secret tunnel, step on stage and put on a show, dress up in colorful costumes, play with shadow puppets and more.

Smile

Before you even set foot at the museum, you must first cross a colorful 48-foot-long bridge to get there!

This bridge is adorned with a mural of playful eyes and hearts (or are they noses?), scattered throughout lines of color, giving the impression of deconstructed, curious faces.

Ocotillo Sunset

An 81-foot-long mural on the back of the museum, Ocotillo Sunset evokes the seasonal cycles of the San Diego region’s desert landscapes through paintings of its varied ecologies.

Look closely as you see the afternoon light bathing a mash-up of native plants and rocky hillsides, including the desert agave and coastal Torrey Pines.

Energized

A 28’ by 13’ mural on the windows of the museum’s makerspace, Energized explores color, light, and visual communication.

Artist-in-residence Regan Russell designed Energized by studying the movement of the sun, and the placement of its abstract shapes and color palette are deliberate, creating a vibrant color dance around the museum throughout the day as the sun moves from east to west.

Breathing Room

Breathing Room is an inviting, sensory-friendly quiet space meant to help people pause in an otherwise highly active environment.

Knitted sculptures made of repurposed T-shirts mimic the rhythmic up and down movement of breathing cycles, while elements like oversized, stuffed sweater forms with weighted arms and organic knitted forms offer a comforting and calm environment for children to take a breather.

Brian and the Bugs

Inspired by author Katie Ruiz’s illustrated children’s book, Brian the Wallflower, this mural is a visual story of connectedness between flowers, butterflies, crickets and other insects, reminding us that the cycle of life continues, even in the face of adversity.

El Más Allá

Immerse yourself in an imaginary world with El Más Allá! Here you can ride down a 40’ slide and gaze upon multiple vibrant, wall-length murals featuring five unique characters, foam blocks, and geometric sculptures.

Each of the five unique characters represent different human emotions and personalities such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, tears of joy and sadness, and friendship.

Children must be 4 years old or at least 40” to use the slide. Only one person may use the slide at a time.

Interactive Art Studios

In the museum’s many art studios, kids are encouraged to make their own art. They can choose to replicate the styles and art pieces they’ve seen in the museum, or they can get the creative juices flowing and make something entirely new!

Each of the art studios offers kids a new medium to work with. They can sculpt clay, decorate a truck with paints, plant flowers, and engage in various other arts and crafts activities.

Additional Educational Opportunities for Kids

On top of the exhibits designed to cater toward kids, The New Children’s Museum has many educational classes and camps that continue to teach kids the value of art.

The museum ensures even the youngest of visitors can learn and play through its toddler classes. Every Friday morning is Toddler Time, which includes opportunities for movement, music, and socialization in a guided class structure and activities like finger painting and story time.

The museum also hosts a Little Learners Club, which is a multi-week club that meets for creative classes such as music, art, yoga, and cooking.

Older kids up to Grade 6 are invited to attend the spring and summer camps that are offered by the museum. The camps include periods of classroom-style education followed by opportunities for play in the museum’s exhibits and in outdoor play spaces.

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Tips for the Best Possible Experience

To make your trip to The New Children’s Museum as fun-filled as possible, here are a few things to keep in mind before and during your visit.

The Best Days to Visit

Weekends are typically fairly crowded at the museum. If you want to have time to enjoy every attraction at your own speed, consider visiting on a weekday.

Bridge Over a Pond at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina
Bridge Over a Pond at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

Where to Stay Near the Museum

If you’d like a nice hotel suggestion not far from the New Children’s Museum as well as the Gaslamp Quarter, Downtown San Diego and the San Diego Bay, you can’t go wrong with the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.

The location is superb, the rooms are spacious and clean, and the dining options in and around the hotel are plentiful.

Parking

The museum offers paid parking in the museum garage. Museum members get 50% off the cost of parking.

Visit Length

There is plenty to do at the museum, so plan to spend at least two hours checking out the exhibits. This is about how long you will need to see everything without feeling rushed.

Suggested Attire

Kids can crawl, climb, and create at the different exhibits, which can get a little messy. Dress kids in clothes that will allow them to move comfortably and that can get dirty without being ruined.

Wear comfortable shoes, as you will likely be on your feet for the majority of the trip.

Bronze Gorilla Statue at the Entrance to the San Diego Zoo
Bronze Gorilla Statue at the Entrance to the San Diego Zoo

What are other Kid-Friendly Activities to do in San Diego?

San Diego is full of kid-friendly things to do.

Some of the most popular choices include going to the famous San Diego Zoo, spending the day at the beach in Pacific Beach and having carnival fun at the beachfront Belmont Park.

We have also put together a list of our favorite Kid-Friendly Attractions in San Diego, so give it a read for even more ideas for your next trip to San Diego.

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