Does this sound familiar? You want to take your kiddos to a museum for an enriching learning experience. But before you know it, the only words out of your mouth are, “Don’t touch,” and you cringe at the bought of a potential meltdown. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is the perfect spot for kids to knock things around and go wild; and you don’t have to say a thing. We’ve explored the museum and give it two thumbs up for the budding scientist or curious adventurer who wants to put his hands on everything.


Permanent Exhibits
The Fleet is home to several exhibits that encourage budding scientists to build, tinker, imagine, invent, and more. Here’s what in store when you visit this Balboa Park hot spot.

For a hands-on creative experience, head to the Tinkering Studio on the first floor where you and the little ones are encouraged to make a collaborative craft such as a marble roller coaster using mostly recycled materials. The studio is organized around a monthly theme. Look for Halloween-themed projects in the fall. This area is perfect for the whole family to play together and is open for exploration every day except Saturday mornings when special workshops are held. This area will expand in the winter with even more more ways for kids to put science in their own hands.

Insider’s Tip: The Tinkering Studio is popular with school groups on weekdays. Try heading here around lunchtime if it’s packed when you first arrive.

Journey Through a Cell!
A highlight in the Cellular Journey exhibit is an scooter that works like an interactive video game in which kids’ movement directs the journey into a cell on a big screen. Take your kiddos inside the human body and journey into a cell and learn some $10 words to drop into dinnertime conversation later.

Insider’s Tip: Because this experience is like a video game, it’s popular with kids of all ages. Coax your little ones around the corner to play with a microscope or a plinko game about cells and then come back.

CellJourneyPhoto Credit: Cherie Gough

Build and Imagine
Your little engineer will love using the wooden KEVA blocks at the Blockbusters exhibit building towers, bridges, and maybe even a double-decker couch. Who can resist building together with their kids? It’s not just for the little ones, mom!

Head upstairs if you’re bringing the littlest members of the family. Kid City was designed for the 2 – 5-year-old crowd in mind. Young explorers are sure to enjoy the highlight of this exhibit — the ball wall where balls shoot up a tube and fall to the eye’s delight as kids turn cranks and learn about cause and effect. Little imaginations can run wild in the market where kids pretend to shop, check out, count, and sort their groceries into food groups. Climb into the firetruck or play red light, green light with newfound friends as they drive a car.


Dive Deep into a Movie Experience
The Fleet’s IMAX is state-of-the-art and school-aged kids will enjoy the nature and space-based films throughout the year. At only 45 minutes each, the length of the movies and the wraparound screen are sure to hold their attention. Titles change often so check the schedule for a movie that will interest your kiddo.

Family Science Saturday
Each Saturday afternoon, the Fleet offers free workshops with admission. Family Science Saturdays are designed to engage every member of the family in fun, hands-on science without the mess in your own kitchen. Preschoolers can explore a science activity and an exhibit in the gallery with a parent through a Young Scientists workshop that meets for a four-week thematic class. Upcoming themes include Halloween and wintertime.

School-age scientists can delve into science by joining the Tinkerers’ Club for a day every Saturday morning. Students of science will love building an exciting project such as a solar powered car. Each activity is designed to match the creator’s ability level and can be enjoyed by both the inexperienced and sophisticated science whiz.

The Saturday Science Club for Girls is a 2-hour workshop held monthly. It’s focused on encouraging 5th – 8th grade girls to engage in creative and fun science activities with mentor educators.

KidCityPhoto Credit: Cherie Gough

Smart Ways to Save Money at the Fleet
There are several ways to save a few dollars as you visit one of Balboa Park’s most popular museums. If you plan on visiting regularly, it pays to consider a family membership. Membership for the whole family is $69 for gallery entrance only, or $109, which includes eight IMAX passes to use throughout the year. Members also enjoy discounts every day to the cafe and gift shop, and to workshops and camps.

  • Students with an “A” or “Advanced” on a report card in the past three months get in free with a paying adult.
  • Local teachers in K-12 schools get in free with a school ID upon completing a survey.
  • San Diego County residents can enjoy free admission on the first Tuesday of each month.
  • Kids are free every day during October.
  • The Fleet also offers discounts to active military and seniors.

Good to Know
The Fleet is located next to the fountain in Balboa Park. Bring a lunch and you’re sure to find a seat. And don’t forget to visit the gift shop! It’s a great place to buy an inexpensive learning toy to appease pleading little ones.

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
1875 El Prado
San Diego Ca


What’s your kiddo’s favorite thing to do at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center? Tell us in the comments below!

– Cherie Gough

Photos courtesy of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center unless otherwise noted