With amazing year-round weather in San Diego County, we can afford to skip a day at the beach or swimming pool now and again to soak in some arts and culture instead. And boy, do we have some exciting new exhibits and events to tempt you away from the water. From cool, indoor venues to give you a reprieve from the afternoon heat, to outdoor events that help you make the most of those amazing summer nights, here are just a few of our favorites, sure to satisfy everyone’s interests and curiosity.
Let’s fill up your summer Bucket List. Pick your passions and let’s get started:
Nature & Wildlife
Are you wild about wildlife? This summer, become a shark expert as you snorkel with leopard sharks off the coast of La Jolla alongside aquarium naturalists from Birch Aquarium. Prefer to stay on dry land? Don’t miss the Insect and Ladybug Festival on July 22-23 at the San Diego Botanic Garden, where excitement is building for the upcoming unveiling of giant, one-of-a-kind hanging “Plant Chandeliers” in the garden’s new Conservatory. “Bee sure” to check out the new Native Pollinator Garden at the Living Coast Discovery Center, where you can also see the special Back to Nature exhibit before it closes on Labor Day.
Feeling artsy? There are countless ways to indulge your love of art in San Diego, but here are a few we think are particularly cool to explore this summer. In Balboa Park, visit the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) to explore the immersive Seeing is Believing exhibit, as well as Sebastiao Salgado: Genesis – A Visual Tribute to a Fragile Planet. At the Timken Museum of Art, don’t miss two special exhibitions: Private Devotions: Italian Paintings and Sculptures from San Diego Collections (through Aug. 20) and The Modernist: Architecture + Design (through Aug. 27).
Visions Art Museum in Liberty Station has 27 ways to make you smile at its new Funny Bone exhibit, featuring contemporary quilts and textiles inspired in part by San Diego’s Comic-Con (through Oct. 8). The La Jolla Historical Society is now presenting Belle Baranceanu: The La Jolla Murals, a collection of photographs, cartoons, sketches and drawings celebrating a series of community murals (some lost and some surviving) that date back to the 1930s (through Sept. 3).
History buffs won’t want to miss the new Navajo Code Talkers exhibit at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, at MCAS Miramar, where you’ll learn how hundreds of Native Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps used the language as means of secret communications during wartime. Also, be sure to mark your calendars for the museum’s always-popular Open Cockpit Days (Aug. 12-13, Aug. 26-27 and Sept. 9-10).
Ready to explore your own slice of history? Grab your treasures and head over to the Heritage of the Americas in El Cajon on July 22 for the Museum Roadshow. A certified appraiser specializing in Native American and pre-Columbian artifacts, antique photos, western memorabilia and Asian artifacts will be on-site to help you learn more about your items, including what they are and what they are worth.
Film & Music
Love a good flick? Here are some fun ways to mix things up for your summer viewing. Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) hosts a Silent Film Series on the third Thursday of each month, with upcoming screenings of silent classics like Brown of Harvard (July 20) and People on Sunday (Aug. 17). The Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) will be screening Shores of Light: Salento 1945-1947 as part of the Italian Film Festival on July 27.
Is music more your thing? Don’t miss the Summer Concert Series at Birch Aquarium, where you’ll enjoy live music with panoramic ocean views and the chance to catch a real “green flash” as the sun sets on the horizon. Upcoming shows include Steve Poltz (July 19), Milo Greene (Aug. 16) and Pine Mountain Logs and Venice (Sept. 27).
Love science, gaming or both? Head over to the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park to see the new Game Masters exhibition, showcasing the world’s best video game designers, from the arcade era to today’s console and online games, including 100+ playable games–no quarters required!
On Aug. 5-6, head to the coast for Birch Aquarium’s Full Moon Pier Walk. During these exclusive moonlit tours, you can stroll the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, which is normal closed to the public, and explore current Scripps Oceanography Research while engaging in a variety of hands-on activities.
On Aug. 4-5, the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park will partner with the Buddhist Temple of San Diego to host the annual Obon Festival, celebrating the circle of life, as done each summer in Japan for generations. The two-day celebration includes a variety of family-friendly activities, such as decorating floating lanterns and Bon Odori dancing, Japanese festival foods, beer and tea/dessert gardens, and cultural performances throughout the day.
Summer is all about spending quality, memory-making time together as a family. Here are some great opportunities to do just that:
On Aug. 12, the New Children’s Museum in downtown presents “Superheroes Night Out,” where families can don their favorite superhero gear and enjoy an evening of dinner, drinks, entertainment, activities, prizes and more.
At the Timken Museum of Art, families are invited to experience art in new and exciting ways with the Summer Family Mural Project. Facilitated by the Timken’s teaching artists, families participate in painting a large mural in front of the museum and then head inside the museum to play detective for an art treasure hunt. (Aug. 4 and Sept. 1).
At the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in the Escondido, the Summer Concert Series continues with shows on July 21 and Aug. 4. Families are treated to performances by “free-range, organic kid-folk band” Hullabaloo, crafts, food vendors, a beer and wine bar for the grown-ups, and after-hours access to the museum’s hands-on exhibits.
Too hot for the kitchen? “Food Truck Fridays” at Balboa Park offer a great opportunity to grab a quick, delicious bite before exploring some of the museums open for extended summer hours as part of “Balboa Park After Dark,” including San Diego Natural History Museum, Mingei International Museum, Fleet Science Center, and Japanese Friendship Garden.