Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park

Balboa Park is host to a long list of interesting museums that showcase everything from full sized aircraft, to model trains, to art and science. This week we crossed a new museum off our bucket list and went to the Fleet Science Center and my first thought was this: why haven’t we been going here all the time already?

I went with my toddler and was worried there would be limited things for a little one to interact with. I was pleased to discover how many interactive elements there were for the youngest visitors to enjoy throughout the entire museum. If you have kinesthetic learners they will delight at their visit. There are opportunities to touch, move, and interact with nearly every element on display. I want to share a few specific features that were especially great visiting the museum with a toddler.

On the top floor that is designated for visitors 5 years old and younger to explore with their parents: Kid City! Kid City has a small pretend play elements like fire trucks and a small shopping center as well as special children’s computers with educational games, and an elaborate system of tubes the blow and suck air to move small plastic balls through a variety of structures. MILMOM tip: there are bathrooms on the top floor outside of Kid City that are less busy than the others AND have changing tables.

On the bottom floor there is a building center. It is removed from the rest of the exhibits. It is a space filled with tables that have legos, wooden blocks, interconnecting tubes and all variety of building toys. Just beyond this building space is a small semi-enclosed lab, Studio X, with more tables with more specialty building blocks and materials to assemble self-designed parachutes for corks. There are adult staff on site that guide children to create and assemble their creations and then test them to see how they work in practice! This was a favorite of many young visitors and was a good place for younger siblings to play at building while and older sibling engineered and crafted their own parachute structures to test.

There is currently an exhibit that celebrates the intersection of learning in science and play, PAUSE/PLAY No Adulting Allowed that cannot be missed! There is a giant slide that tracks the velocity of children going down, see-saw that measure the force of impact with the ground, a giant maze, a giant light up hopscotch among other fun features. Many of the visitors were lined up for the swimming pool filled with light-weight plastic balls. We would have gone in but the line was long and my toddler was far to excited by everything else to wait! I could not find advertised dates for the exhibit but a staff member assured me it will be there until at least September 2019. I had to ask because we immediately started planning when we could come back. The exhibit is included with your standard admission ticket.

Know Before You Go

  • Location: The museum is on the inland/easter side of Balboa park. There is a large fountain in front of the museum and it is across from The Natural History Museum.
  • Hours: 10am-5p on weekdays. 10am-6pm on weekends. Check their website for any changes to their hours and what special exhibits are happening when you plan to visit
  • Admission: Adult admission (anyone over 13) is $21.95 and children 3-13 are $18.95. Children under 3 are free. They offer a 10% military discount with active duty or dependent ID when purchasing tickets in person! MILMOM TIP: Every ticket includes entry to ONE IMAX film! Plan your visit around which film your party wants to view.
  • Food: You cannot bring food to eat in the museum. There is a restaurant, Craveology, in the front of the museum that sells a small selection of healthy pre-made and made-to-order food. They have kids favorites like chicken tenders on their kids menu and sell wine and beer. If you decide to pack a lunch you can eat it outside the museum by the fountain and enjoy the views of the park and its visitors as the walk by or whiz around on rental scooters.

There is a lot of fun to be had at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. It is a great place to learn and bond as a family and inspire young learners. It is a great option to bring out of town guests or have a new setting for an outing with friends or your kids.

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