February 1-28 is San Diego Museum Month, where you can explore our fine city’s world-famous museums for kids and immerse your family in nature, art, culture and science. Even though most museums are closed this year, you can still find many ways to enjoy what they have to offer and discover new activities for kids. A few outdoor museums including botanic gardens and estuaries remain open for exploration, while others offer engaging virtual programs in science, nature, physics and art. Read on for how to celebrate San Diego’s famous museum month.

Japanese Friendship Garden

Zen out here as you take in the beauty of the Japanese culture through its simplicity and serenity of the gardens. Enjoy 12 acres of unique arrangements, stepping stones, koi ponds, tranquil water features and renowned landscaping. In March you’ll marvel at the sight of over 200 cherry trees in bloom.

Insider’s Tip: Grab a soba noddle salad or some Cherry Sakura tea from the Tea Pavilion next door.

The Japanese Friendship Garden is currently open with capacity and safety guidelines.
Current Hours: daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Learn about Japanese Culture from your own home with kids printable activities online and even some lesson plans as an introduction to Japanese culture.
Online Resources: niwa.org/education

Japanese Friendship Garden
2215 Pan American Rd. E, Balboa Park
619-232-2721
Online: niwa.org

San Diego Botanic Garden

Inspire your kids to connect with plants and nature at the San Diego Botanic Garden. There are 37 acres and 4 miles of trails filled with lush plants, waterfalls and ponds with turtles and fish. Each section of this garden features plants and trees from all over the world so you can take a mini vacation without leaving the city. There are two children’s gardens where you’ll find dinosaurs, operating model trains and the largest treehouse to climb on the West coast.

The San Diego Botanic Garden is currently open with limited hours and capacity, safety guidelines and timed tickets.
Current Hours: Wed.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

If you prefer to learn about the garden from your own backyard garden, check out their online programs for fun at home. You’ll find monthly Toddler Tunes and Tales, nature crafts and plant activities to learn from.
Online Resources: sdbgarden.org/kids-funathome.htm

San Diego Botanic Garden
300 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas
760-436-3036
Online: sdbgarden.org/index.html

Tijuana Estuary

Visit the most southwestern city in the United States and learn how estuary plants remove their salt intake from the ocean water. The visitor’s center is closed, but there are miles of easy flat gravel trails that will take you in and around the estuary.

Insider’s Tips: If you walk along the eastern side trails you’ll find the Kiwanis community garden and see chickens walking around. Sometimes volunteers are there and you can chat with them about their garden.

These trails are perfect for all-terrain strollers and bikes for bigs and littles. I’d suggest bringing some wheels along for little legs that will tire easily.

If you’d rather learn about the estuary from home, you’ll find all kinds of activities about wetland neighbors, estuary survival and other activities here.
Online Resources: trnerr.org/digital-resources-for-at-home-learning

Tijuana Estuary
301 Caspian Way, Imperial Beach
(street parking)
619-575-3613
Online: trnerr.org

Water Conservation Garden

Meander through 6 acres of beautifully themed gardens while learning all about water conservation. Kids favorites are the native butterfly pavilion, children’s garden with a dinosaur dig and checking on the tortoise houses. Ms. Smarty-Plants creates kids programs in a special place for kids to learn about Earth stewardship with a mixture of music, magic and fun.

The Water Conservation Garden is currently open with capacity and safety guidelines.
Current Hours: Tues.–Sun. 9 a.m.–2 p.m., Thursdays open until 6 p.m.

You can also stay home and learn about water conservation through online Water Saving Lessons.
Online Resources: thegarden.org/online-programs

Water Conservation Garden
12122 Cuyamaca College Dr. W, El Cajon
619-660-0614
Online: thegarden.org

Cabrillo National Monument

Enjoy the epic ocean views from Cabrillo National Monument as you look out to where the ocean explorers once traveled. The lighthouse and visitor’s center are currently closed, but the trails and outdoor areas (and bathrooms) are open for your own explorations. Stop by the Bookstore to check out their great resources and fun kids activities.

The Cabrillo National Monument outdoor areas and bathrooms are open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Bookstore is open Wed.–Mon. from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Safety guidelines apply.

Go online to learn the history of Cabrillo and even read his field notes, read about the flora and fauna, animals, geology, climate and environment.
Online Resources: nps.gov/cabr/learn/index.htm

Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr., Point Loma
619-523-4285
Online: nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

San Diego Natural History Museum

Explore nature in your backyard with help from The Nat’s online resources. Watch their easy to understand three-minute Nature Bytes videos about natural history topics or check out their Coast to Cactus resource to help you identify what’s what on your nature walks. If you want to add a little more learning, download their many lesson plans on pollinators, endangered species and other topics or even try some at home DIY nature crafts or go on a “Something” Nature Scavenger Hunt.

Don’t Miss: Digital Nature & Me Story Times are on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month at 10:15 a.m.
Online Resources: sdnhm.org/education/education-resources

San Diego Natural History Museum
Online: sdnhm.org

Birch Aquarium

Just keep swimming with Birch Aquarium’s virtual programs. Check out their science from home activities, ocean crafts, coloring pages and there’s always the mesmerizing Kelp Cam to tap into. To help bridge the gap after school and before dinner, they offer a fun 6 week series of after school sessions geared for grades K-5. They’ve recently been awarded a grant to offer 600 free virtual programs to local Title 1 schools this year. These are led by aquarium instructors who encourage students to ask questions. Kids may also virtually interact with ocean creatures.

Online Resources: aquarium.ucsd.edu/teachers/online-learning

Birch Aquarium
Online: aquarium.ucsd.edu

USS Midway

Little Skippers can find lots of fun activity sheets to download and learn all about aviation and nautical history. They can learn their nautical alphabet using different flags, search for airplane parts and even bake using the USS Midway’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Online Resources: midway.org/littleskippers

USS Midway
Online: midway.org

San Diego Air and Space Museum

Learn all about Air & Space at Your Place! with so many fun remote learning opportunities. Sign your kids ages 3-5 up for February’s 4 week sessions of planets; while kids in grades 2-5 can learn about rockets, astronomy and time machines. Anyone can view their weekly YouTube challenges, like dissecting plants, excavating the chocolate chip out of a cookie without breaking it or how to build a house out of household items.

Online Resources: sandiegoairandspace.org/calendar/event/air-space-at-your-place

San Diego Air and Space Museum
Online: sandiegoairandspace.org

San Diego Archaeology Center

Visit this Museum At Home website to see their virtual exhibits and learn fascinating facts about our local history. If your kids love rocks, The Kids Dig Archaeology Blog features Rock Art that introduces kids to archaeology and learn about rocks found all over the world. Read up on the Wonderful World of Medicine where you’ll learn about local medicinal plants found in Southern California. Scroll around and you’ll learn about other fascinating things such as animal bones & teeth, history of Torrey Pines and the First Chicken Burrito in Western North America.

Online Resources: sandiegoarchaeology.org/museum-at-home

San Diego Archaeology Center
Online: sandiegoarchaeology.org

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum

Learn about plant life cycles, create insect habitats or get inspired by painting the beauty of nature through art. Choose from one of three Garden Series Education Kits to explore nature through hands-on art and science based learning from the comfort of your own home. There are lots of free activities found online as well, featuring Movement Monday, Tinker Time, World Culture, Art, and Nature Talks each week. If you’re around Mon.-Fri. at 12:30 p.m., catch one of their Facebook Live story times with Ms. Whitney.

Online Resources: online.sdcdm.org

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum
Online: online.sdcdm.org

Oceanside Museum of Art

Slow Art Days ask you to slow down and spend 5-10 minutes engaging with one piece of art. There are several to choose from online and each has questions and activities to guide your kids through them or even write stories about them. If you’d like to create art, scroll over to their "Paint Out" event which offers suggested painting locations where you can go to paint the environment around you. If you prefer to stay inside, their "Paint In" has an online interactive map of favorite spots to choose from.

Online Resources: oma-online.org/virtualoma

Oceanside Museum of Art
Online: oma-online.org

––Bonnie Taylor

RELATED STORIES:

Where the Wild Things Are: 9 Secret Spots to See Animals for Free

58 Easy Science Experiments to Do at Home

Exercise for Kids! 7 Outdoor P.E. Activities in San Diego