Free San Diego Museum, Aquarium Tours and More for Members in May
SAN DIEGO — Families looking for affordable adventures in San Diego will have the opportunity to visit dozens of local museums, historic sites, gardens and more next month — and get it all for the price of one. single subscription.
The San Diego Museum Council’s Big Exchange program returns Sunday and lasts until May 18. The annual promotion allows anyone who is a member of one of the participating sites to visit all the others for free.
Attendees include the famous USS Midway Museum, Birch Aquarium, and Japanese Friendship Garden, among others.
If you are already a member of one of the cultural destinations, you can simply go to one of the participating sites and show your membership card for free entry.
If you are not a member of a local museum, contact one of your favorites and request a temporary Big Exchange membership card to start visiting other participating sites.
The Museum Board likens the experience to a “test drive,” granting you free access to try out a wide variety of local institutions for the cost of a single membership.
“Museum memberships are a great way to enjoy year-round access to San Diego’s world-class cultural institutions,” council executive director Bob Lehman said in a written statement. “The Big Exchange reinforces these membership benefits even further…San Diego truly is a cultural playground, and we hope people will take advantage of this unique opportunity to explore and have fun – at no cost.”
A few additional notes to keep in mind: Balboa Park Explorer Passes and Go San Diego Cards are not accepted as part of the program. And each subscription will work the same on all sites, so if your original subscription grants you access for one person, you’ll usually only get one entry on another site. If you have a family membership, you can get entry for up to four people at another attendee.
Here’s a full list of participating museums (with some caveats). A * indicates that the museum is free or donation-based:
- Barona Cultural Center and Museum *
- Birch Aquarium (Limited capacity, reservations required)
- Bonita Museum and Cultural Center
- California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum
- California Surfing Museum
- Coronado Historical Association*
- Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House
- Heritage Museum of the Americas
- San Diego Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA Central) *
- San Diego Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA North) *
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- Junipero Serra Museum (part of the San Diego History Center)*
- La Jolla Historical Society*
- The Mesa Depot (operated by the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum)*
- Lemon Grove Rectory Museum*
- Living Coast Discovery Center
- San Diego Maritime Museum
- Marston House Museum and Gardens (SOHO)
- MCRD Command Museum (Subject to base access procedures)
- Mingei International Museum
- Museum of Miniature Engineering Crafts
- Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (Downtown)
- Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (La Jolla)
- music museum
- Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) *
- Museum of New Americans
- Pacific Southwest Railway Museum
- San Diego Museum of African American Art (museum without walls/virtual programming)
- San Diego Archaeological Center
- San Diego Automotive Museum
- San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum (excludes special events, cannot combine other offers)
- San Diego Chinese Historical Museum
- San Diego History Center*
- San Diego Model Railroad Museum
- San Diego Museum of Art (Not available May 1 and 2. Special exhibit $5/person extra.)
- San Diego Museum of Natural History (The Nat)
- The New Children’s Museum (Not combinable with other offers)
- Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center*
- Timken Museum of Art (Reopening soon. Virtual programming available.)
- USS Midway Museum (not available May 4)
- Visions Art Museum *
- Warner-Carrillo Ranch House Museum (SOHO)
- California Women’s Museum
The Big Exchange began in 2016 and over 13,600 museum members took advantage of the program in 2019. Then the promotion was halted for the coronavirus pandemic, with no program in 2020 and 2021.
Museum Council organizers said they were excited to see the Big Exchange in action.
You can learn more about the program on the San Diego Museum Council website.
Suggest a fix