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Most, but not all, Balboa Park museums to reopen in time for Fourth of July

Balboa Park
Debbie Clancy from Tampa, Florida and Bill Cote from Palm Desert, make their way through Balboa Park donning American flag masks on June 30, 2020 in San Diego, California. A little over half of the park’s museums will reopen in time for the July 4 holiday, after an extended closure due to the pandemic.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Man and Spanish Village will open later this month

Two weeks after county officials gave Balboa Park permission to reopen, only about half of the park’s attractions are expected to have their doors open again by the Fourth of July on Saturday.

The San Diego Zoo, nine of the major museums and all of the restaurants will be back in business by Independence Day. But some of the park’s most popular attractions — including the San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Man, Botanical Building and Balboa Park Carousel — are weeks away from reopening.

Peter Comiskey, executive director of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, said that the park’s museums have refused to rush their reopening procedures, even though the week following July 4 is usually one of the biggest of the year for park attendance.

“Part of the reason for the gradual reopening is that all of them are very keen that guest safety is really their No. 1 priority for staff and guests alike,” Comiskey said.

Because the museums are unique in their size, layout, capacity and hands-on exhibits, each one has had to develop its own safety protocols and procedures to meet the county’s social-distancing guidelines. Many museums are also adopting a reservation system to control crowds and are reducing their hours. Meanwhile, park officials have been creating uniform signage for visitors that has been installed at locations throughout the park, including face mask requirements and hand-washing recommendations.

Elyse Adams, lead museum attendant at the San Diego Museum of Art, cleans up in front of the museum.
Elyse Adams, lead museum attendant at the San Diego Museum of Art, cleans up in front of the museum after a television interview about the museum’s reopening schedule. It is scheduled to reopen on July 9.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Balboa Park Conservancy officials are working to set up signage to guide visitors through the narrow walkways of the Botanical Building, but it won’t be open in time for the holiday weekend. Like all amusement park rides, the park’s 110-year-old carousel and 1935-era miniature train ride are closed down indefinitely. And like all theaters, The Old Globe theater complex has canceled its summer productions. Last week, the Globe reopened its courtyard to the public for weekday use, offering shaded table seating, high-speed WiFi, charging stations and public bathrooms. But the courtyard will be closed this Friday through Sunday.

Comiskey said park museums and restaurants are anticipating smaller-than-usual crowds in the coming weeks due to museums limiting attendance and the decline in summer tourism. To perk up visitorship a bit this month, the park is relaunching sales of its Explorer Pass today for usage beginning Saturday. Available online at explorer.balboapark.org/, the passes offer admission to all of the park’s 16 museums for one price ranging from $99 for college students and seniors to $229 for a family of up to six.

Comiskey said the smaller crowds are likely to continue for the rest of the year, since many people are cautious about traveling and visiting public places. That’s a blow not only for the museums and attractions but also for the city, since Balboa Park has a $680 million economic impact on its economy. But once people do feel safe venturing out again, he said the park’s long-in-the-planning public health programs should make visitors feel safer.

“Balboa Park will play an instrumental role in ensuring that our tourism rebuilds, ensuring that our economy rebuilds and ensuring that our locals can return to a park that is the absolute cultural heart of San Diego,” Comiskey said.

The Balboa Park Cultural Partnership has a page on its website listing museum reopening dates with hourly updates at culturalpartnership.org/updates. Below is the schedule as of Tuesday afternoon. Before visiting the park, check the updates page and the individual museum websites for ticketing information, reservations, safety rules and hours.

Now open:


  • Japanese Friendship Garden & Tea Pavilion, 2215 Pan American Way. (619) 232-2721, www.niwa.org

Opening Friday:


  • Fleet Science Center, 1875 El Prado. (619) 238-1233, rhfleet.org
  • The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, Chapel Road. (619) 804-3200, veteranmuseum.net
  • San Diego Natural History Museum, 1788 El Prado. (619) 232-3821, sdnhm.org
  • United Nations International Gift Shop, 2171 Pan American Plaza. (619) 233-5044, unasd.org/unasd-gift-shop/

Opening Saturday:


  • Museum of Photographic Arts, 1649 El Prado. (619) 238-7559, mopa.org
  • San Diego History Center, 1649 El Prado, Suite 3. (619) 232-6203, sandiegohistory.org
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum, 1649 El Prado, Suite. (619) 696-0199, sdmrm.org

Opening July 9:


  • San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado. (619) 232-7931, sdmart.org

Opening July 15 (partial):


Opening July 18:


No reopening date announced:



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