San Diego's New Childrens Museum

Children's Museum
Photo: Kids have fun at the New Childrens Museum.

Children's Museum

The New Childrens Museum (NCM) is a hands-on museum dedicated to the enrichment of children's lives through the arts. Their logo is "think, play, create". Indeed, the 3-storey downtown building is packed with activities where kids can paint, draw, mold, build, design, and act out. In addition, the museum has whole-body activities such as rock climbing and pillow fighting. Needless to say, it's not your regular "museum".

In addition to general admittance, the New Childrens Museum offers a slew of camps, workshops, and programs for preschoolers up to teenagers. You can even host your next birthday party here.

Children's Museum architecture Green building

The building itself is an architectual feat. Thanks to architects Rob Wellington Quigley and Paul Linden, the NCM boasts being the most "Green" building in downtown San Diego:

  • it has large windows which allows natural sunlight to enter;
  • the roof can be fitted with solar panels which may produce 145,000 kilowatts per year;
  • there is no air conditioning in the public galleries because large passageways and cleverly designed cutout spaces allow for good air flow;
  • it uses recycled materials (carpeting, bathroom tiles and fixtures etc);
  • it uses waterless urinals that save 1.5 gallons of water per flush.

It is estimated that these features will reduce energy consumption by a half.

New Children's Museum Graft
Installations at the NCM: "Graft"
by Lee Boroson and an elaborate
cage-like stage by Rene Peralta.
General Information

Hours of Operation:

Mon & Tues:
Fri & Sat:
Second Sunday of every month: 10am-4pm
is free, curtesy of Target

Adults and Children:
Museum Members:
Kids under one year:
Seniors (65+):
Military (with ID):
If you think you will visit more than once, it is worth buying an annual Membership. Family membership starts at $75 but can be as high as $500 (with added perks).

200 West Island Avenue
Downtown, San Diego

see map and museum layout

History and Controversy

Before the "New" Children's Museum was constructed, there as an old one - it was called Children's Museum/Museo de los Niñ os San Diego. The whole idea started in 1981 and by 1993, the original Children's Museum moved into an old warehouse in downtown San Diego. This Museum attracted few visitors and eventually closed down in 2002. See timeline here

In 2003, a new building was being constructed to house the New Childrens Museum. Construction was delayed due to lack of funds but resumed when funding was acquired. The building was completed and launched in 2008.

The New Children's Museum (NCM) was funded in part by the fundraising effort of the Museum School. It was loosely agreed that after the NCM was built, it would offer space to the Museum School. However, after the building was completed, the Museum School and its students were denied access. As a symbol of good will, the NCM agreed to pay for one more years' rent for the Museum School to stay elsewhere (it had paid the rent for the last 5 years). The Museum School was disappointed but could do nothing since there was never a legal agreement binding the NCM and the Museum School. Read more about this here.

In combination with the above and the relatively high price of admission, some complain that the NCM is too expensive and as such, does not allow equal opportunities to families of all social economical backgrounds.

New Children's Museum Gizmo

Photo: Gizmo Garage, the giftshop at the NCM offers trendy but pricey toys & clothes.