The San Diego Natural History Museum: Balboa Park Gem
If you have but one day to spend in San Diego, consider Balboa Park with its showy gardens and flowers, exotic trees, much-photographed lily pond, fountain, intriguing architecture, and 15 inviting museums. We only allowed ourselves a half day and the minutes ticked away far too fast.
Students meeting under the trees' welcome shade
With limited time and an affinity toward creatures that lived before us, especially prehistoric dinosaurs, we chose the Natural History Museum as our first stop.
Skulls and the Titanic
There's a part of me that remains a kid, fascinated by the awesome creatures of Jurassic Park. Since they were there to greet us as we walked in the Fountain Entrance, we ambled over and introduced ourselves. The word dinosaur means terrible lizard (I think I learned that either in third grade or when my son was in third grade), but it's actually a misnomer. Dinosaurs are a separate group of reptiles that feature an upright posture not found in lizards. They merge the world of fantasy with the world of reality – creatures that could have been created by the pen of Michael Crichton as easily as by the evolutionary process.
Creatures from the past
Aw, Nice Dinosaur
In the end, the rats win.
I'm also a fan of seeing things easily understood. I don't have to think too hard to be fascinated by my fellow creatures, even those I try to avoid. So after the dinosaurs we checked out mountain lions, snakes, owls, possum, pelicans, and the like.
Nice Kitty. But I still wouldn't want to meet him in a dark forest.
Snakes, I prefer them in cages.
On the third level we found the promised skulls. Skulls are made of two flat bone parts, the cranium and the mandible. Animals with skulls are called craniates and it's lucky for humans that we have that hard skull to protect whatever dose of intelligence fills our brains.
Skulls. Big skulls, little skulls, guess whose skull.
Ocean Oasis at the I-Max theater provided dual entertainment. I enjoyed watching teachers try to maintain decorum among over-stimulated students poking at each other, almost as much as I appreciated the cinematic beauty of life in Baja California's rich waters and barren-appearing but fascinating land. The film was produced by the museum and deservingly enjoyed several awards.
We finally made our way to the fourth floor and treated ourselves to the newest exhibit, The Best of Nature, that lined the walls of the Ordover Gallery with magnificent photographs of nature-based subjects.
We chose to skip additional museums and instead enjoy a leisurely walking tour of Balboa Park, smelling the flowers, ogling the greenery and stopping for a cup of coffee.
Sunny day enjoying the fountain
[If you're going to Balboa park you have several other museums from which to choose: San Diego Air and Space Museum (Aviation artifacts), Mingei International Museum (art from many world cultures), San Diego Museum of Man (evolution of man), Veterans' Museum and Memorial Center (exhibits honoring those who served), San Diego Model Railroad Museum (only accredited railroad museum in the country and North America's largest model railroad museum), Museum of Photographic Arts (three exhibits a year), Timken Museum of Art (free admission, collection of European masters), San Diego Museum of Art (14000 pieces of art, some dating back to 1500 BC), Museum of the Living Artist at the San Diego Art Institute (contemporary works of regional artists), and the San Diego Automotive Museum (large collection of cars and motorcycles that display the history of the automotive industry).]
If you are traveling with kids, don't miss the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center with hands-on exhibits and IMAX. It's a place where kids are invited to touch and enthusiasm is welcome.
A Passport to Balboa Park lets you visit all museums for a special price and there is also a Stay for the Day Pass which gives you admission to five museums. A tram takes you from location to location around the park if you are trying to maximize your time, rather than just meandering.
For information about the park, museums, hours, and admission packages, go to http://www.sandiego.com/attractions/balboa-park.
Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for wanderingeducators.com.
Julie is currently writing a weekly blog series entitled, "Ugly Shoes and Boomer Do Europe."
This series captures the humor and adventure of her rail trip from
Amsterdam to Budapest and then return river cruise back to Amsterdam.
Log on to www.jkroyce.com/blog to follow along.
All photos courtesy and copyright Julie and Bob Royce