Whaley House Museum

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2476 San Diego Ave., San Diego, CA 92110
|
Open:
10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Daily - Self Guided Tours
5:00 p.m. to 9:40 p.m. Daily - Evening Guided Tours
10:30 p.m. Tues to Sun - Paranormal Tours
Whether you have an avid interest in history, or you’re looking to spot some ghosts, the renowned Whaley House Museum is sure to entertain and educate.
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.
Whaley House Museum
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Explore the World-Renowned Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House Americas Most Haunted HouseThe Back Side of the Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House Museum is located in the neighborhood of Old Town San Diego, California.

It is a historic house museum constructed in the style of Greek Revival architecture from the mid-nineteenth century. The museum has been in operation for over 60 years, and it typically sees over 100,000 guests each year from all around the world.

If you’ve ever wanted to step back through time and learn what it was like to live in the mid- to late-1800s, visiting the Whaley House is for you!

In fact, the museum is featured in our Best Things to Do in San Diego article, as our team loves both the historic value of the well-preserved property and the museum’s other claim to fame: ghost sightings!

The Whaley House has the distinction of being the Most Haunted House, not just in Southern California, but in all of America! In the evenings, you can take a ghost tour for the chance to see a specter yourself.

The Whaley House Used to Be the General Store in Old Town San Diego
The Whaley House Used to Be the General Store in Old Town San Diego

The History of the Whaley House

The long history of the Whaley House began in 1857, when it was constructed according to blueprints designed by the house’s founder Thomas Whaley himself. At the time, it was the first and only two-story brick building, and it was constructed with bricks from Whaley’s own brickyard.

Supposedly, Whaley purchased the property upon which he built his house for only $1; at the time, he had no idea just how important this purchase would be to preserving the history of early San Diego.

The building was initially used as a granary as well as a residence for the Whaley family and later used to serve a number of different purposes.

The Earthquake of 1868

In 1868, a major earthquake sent the Whaley family out of the house for their safety.

When they returned, Thomas Whaley and his business partner Crosthwaite established a general store, where they offered easily accessible goods to the rest of the town. This helped them financially recover from the hardship of the earthquake and the damage it did to the house.

San Diego’s First Theater

The building also served as San Diego’s first ever commercial theater, where residents of the town could come and watch performances as early as 1868, soon after the establishment of the general store.

The theater space was rented from Thomas Whaley by Thomas Tanner, who was the founding member of The Tanner Troupe that performed in the house.

The Building’s Days as a Courthouse

The museum includes information from when the building was a courthouse, from 1869 to 1871.

During this time, it had the distinction of being San Diego’s second county courthouse. The Whaley House still contains some of the court documents from cases that were prosecuted at the building.

Becoming a Museum

The Whaley House didn’t become a museum until May 25, 1960. Since then, the house has been owned by the County of San Diego.

In September of 2000, the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) took over management, operation, and caretaking for the property in conjunction with San Diego County.

Hallway at the Whaley House
Hallway at the Whaley House

Ongoing Updates to the Museum

The Whaley House Museum recently began a renovation and restoration process that includes fixing issues with mildew, moisture, and leaks that have arisen due to the age of the house.

They have also used the renovation as an opportunity for historic preservation of the interiors of the study, parlor, and downstairs hallway. This is intended to make them more accurate to their period look.

Renovators followed the guidance of an original, hand-drawn sketch by Thomas Whaley in 1868 to alter the house so it more closely represents what it would have looked like after construction.

El Campo Santo Cemetery in Old Town San Diego
El Campo Santo Cemetery in Old Town San Diego

More History and Some San Diego Fun

Visiting the Whaley House is just one way to learn about San Diego’s history while you’re in Old Town.

Pick up a Go City San Diego pass and use discount code GVSD5OFF to save on admission and activity costs for many San Diego attractions, from other museums like The Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House and San Diego History Center to experiences like the 2-Day Hop-on Hop-off San Diego Trolley and GoCar San Diego Tours.

Other fun ways to experience history that I love include the Tequila, Tacos & Tombstones Walking Tour in Old Town San Diego and the pub crawl Old Town Tales, Tacos, and Tequila Walking Tour, both of which are highlighted in our list of the Best San Diego Tours.

Daytime at the Famous Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town San Diego
Daytime at the Famous Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town San Diego

Pair Your Visit With a Stay at a Historic Hotel

Whether you’re visiting the Whaley House to learn about history or in the hopes of experiencing a paranormal phenomenon, the perfect hotel to pair with your visit is the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Not only is it located nearby, but the Cosmopolitan Hotel is over 200 years old, so it’s another example of living history in San Diego.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel also has a reputation for ghost sightings, so double your chances of having a firsthand encounter by visiting both the hotel and the Whaley House!

Step back in time with Todd on this tour of The Cosmopolitan Hotel and restaurant. The Cosmopolitan Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in San Diego and is rumored to be haunted. Originally built in 1827 as Casa de Bandini, this historic San Diego landmark has led many lives over the years and continues to be one of the most visited haunts of San Diego.

Stay at the Cosmopolitan Hotel

What You’ll See During Your Trip

Looking up at the Whaley House Museum
Looking up at the Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House Museum is known for both its connections to history and rumors of ghosts being spotted in the house and around the grounds. Visitors interested in either aspect of the house will find a lot to enjoy during their trip.

The historic part of the attraction is centered around the Whaley family as well as the history of the house itself. Entering the house will take you back to the mid-1800s, shortly after the house’s construction, and the following years when the house underwent many changes.

Local Tips
Did you Know
The Whaley House has been featured in many historical documentaries as well as a wide variety of paranormal and sci-fi shows, including Syfy Channel's Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files & Travel Channel's America's Most Haunted.

Themed Rooms

Each room at the Whaley House Museum is themed to represent one of the property’s different uses during its century of history, starting with its construction as a home for the Whaley family.

The museum includes restored rooms that represent how the house would have looked from 1868, shortly after the Whaley family moved to New Town and constructed the house, to about 1871. During this time period, the Whaley house served as a county courthouse, a town theater, and the Whaley and Crosthwaite General Store.

These exhibits focus on what life was like in New Town right after its founding. You’ll also get to learn a bit about the unique lives of Thomas Whaley, his wife Anna, and their children Violet and Thomas Whaley Jr., aka Little Tommy Whaley.

Temporary Exhibits

Occasionally, the museum will house temporary exhibits alongside their permanent displays. These have included showcases of personal belongings from one of the house’s original residents, made public while they are on loan from San Diego County.

Go Historic with Go Pass!
Whaley House
Historic Whaley House Museum
The Whaley House Museum is located in historic Old Town San Diego. With your Go Pass, take in one of the most visited attractions in the area. The complex is made up of multiple houses and museums that offer something fun for the whole family.
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Local Tips
What are the best Go City San Diego pass deals?

Some of the best deals with the Go City San Diego pass include access to San Diego’s most popular attractions.

Discount admission is offered to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND California, USS Midway Museum, Belmont Park rides and more!

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

Tour Options at the Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House Museum offers tours dedicated to either explaining the history of the house and the Whaley family, or uncovering some of its mysterious folklore.

Front of the Whaley House in Old Town San Diego
Front of the Whaley House in Old Town San Diego

Daytime Self-Guided Tours

As a building that has withstood the test of time, the Whaley House has a lot of history to it. The day tour goes into detail about the house’s history, its previous uses, and the restoration and community outreach efforts that are still going on today to preserve one of San Diego’s oldest buildings.

Tours are self-guided, but docents are available to answer any questions you may have and expand upon the information available in the museum. As you walk through the house, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for what it was like to live in San Diego in the 19th century, all by exploring a genuine part of that history.

Back House at the Whaley House Museum
Back House at the Whaley House Museum

Evening Guided Tours

Evening guided tours at the Whaley House Museum bring visitors on a guided tour through the different rooms of the museum.

Your guide will explain the legends and superstitions that surround the house and its previous descendants, as well as the folklore about previous ghost sightings in the house. On your tour, you’ll learn about the different ghosts known to frequent the haunted Whaley House walls and what keeps them around.

After-dark tours begin with an overview of the house, its previous uses, and its connection to history. From there, your tour guide will introduce you to the Whaley family and the legends surrounding them.

As you take the tour, keep an eye out for strange sights, and listen for the sound of distant heavy footsteps.

Haunted Tours at the Whaley House
Haunted Tours at the Whaley House

Paranormal Guided Tours

During haunting hours, the Whaley House Museum offers tours that focus on the scarier, more supernatural elements of the house.

These nighttime tours combine history and horror for an entertaining and sometimes startling look at the house’s resident spirits, helping the building earn its reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America and part of our featured article on the Most Haunted Places in San Diego.

You’ll hear about the founder of the house, Thomas Whaley, and his wife Anna Whaley. These two continue to watch over the house long after their death, often being spotted roaming the halls and out on the grounds.

You’ll also learn about Violet Whaley, whose sad death keeps her tethered to the house, and Tommie Whaley, whose cries can supposedly still be heard at night, over 150 years later.

Next you’ll learn about the outlaw Yankee Jim Robinson, who was hanged for his notorious deeds on the land the Whaley House stands on. Rumors suggest that he is still unable to find rest and continues to haunt the house to this day.

Each of the shocking and fantastical stories of ghost encounters provided by your tour guide will immerse you in the Whaley House folklore. Who knows? You may even spot a ghost yourself!

The Side Yard at the Whaley House Museum
The Side Yard at the Whaley House Museum

Paranormal Investigations

Alongside its more historic tours, the Whaley House invites guests to launch their own ghost hunt during these after-hours investigations.

Every year, ghost hunters come to the Whaley House for a chance at catching paranormal activity, equipped with the latest and greatest in ghost-hunting gear. At the Whaley House, guests can try out ghost adventures for themselves, and will receive training from guides on how to use these state-of-the-art devices.

Guests on an After Hours Paranormal Investigation will be able to access the rooms where the Whaley family lived and died, which aren’t normally open to museum guests during daylight hours. Take a behind-the-scenes look at the house as you attempt to connect with the other side.

Annual Halloween Events

While after-dark ghost tours are available year-round, the museum shows off its haunted heritage in full swing during the month of October. These ghost-centric Halloween events at the Whaley House Museum are sure to delight anyone interested in the supernatural.

During October, the museum holds special extended hours and offers additional ghost tours. These tours go into detail about the ghosts spotted in the house and their reasons for remaining in the realm of the living.

Other Halloween-themed events are run each year, so check the official website to see what the Whaley House has in store to make the holiday extra spooky.

Children’s Programs

The Whaley House Museum
The Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House Museum offers a youth docent program, where kids ages 12-17 can get involved with the museum and learn more about its history. In the program, children are trained to know everything there is to know about the museum. They will learn how to give tours, answer visitor questions, and practice their customer service skills.

The youth docent program teaches kids valuable and marketable skills they can put into practice in future jobs, as well as giving them an insider look into what it’s like to work at the museum.

Featured Hotel
Cosmopolitan Hotel
The Cosmopilitan Hotel
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Couples
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Historic
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Shopping
2 Stars2 Stars
The Cosmopolitan Hotel is a historic landmark located in downtown San Diego. Complete with vintage furniture & timely details, the hotel has a haunting charm.
Prices Starting at $99
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What You Should Know Before Your Visit

Front of the Whaley House in Old Town San Diego
Front of the Whaley House in Old Town San Diego

To make your visit as fun and stress-free as it can be, check out these helpful tips.

Length of Your Visit

Self-guided tours through the Whaley House during the daytime generally take about 30 minutes. Night tours typically last between 30 minutes and an hour.

Old Town San Diego Dia De Los Muertos Celebration
Old Town San Diego Dia De Los Muertos Celebration

Where can You Park?

There are free lots for all-day parking available nearby on Harney Street and Twiggs Street. There are also a handful of two hour unmetered parking spots on the roads of historic Old Town near the museum.

Open Air Shops in Old Town San Diego
Open Air Shops in Old Town San Diego

Is There a Gift Shop?

The SOHO Museum Shop is located right next door to the museum. Here, you can purchase souvenirs to commemorate your trip, including Whaley House-themed merchandise and items related to the house’s reputation for paranormal activity.

Is the Museum Wheelchair-Friendly?

Only the ground floor of the Whaley House is accessible by wheelchair. However, the grounds around the house and the gift shop are also wheelchair accessible.

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