If one more museum guard gives you the evil eye because your preschooler is giggling and imitating dance moves in front of a Degas painting, then it’s time to take a new approach to art appreciation. San Diego is brimming with interactive public art — you just need to know where to look. Here’s your guide to installations around the county that invite participants to sit on, play with, touch, look and listen to art.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle at Kit Carson Park

Expect the unexpected at this little-known gem in Escondido. The sculpture garden, by artist Niki de Saint Phalle, features nine large-scale sculptures inspired by California’s history, including the mythical warrior queen called Califia (also Calafia). Kids will love the colorful mosaics and unusual imagery as well as getting lost in a maze at the entryway of the garden. After being closed for an initial phase of repairs, the garden is now open to the public but only during very limited, supervised viewing hours: every second Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon. Please note that maintenance is ongoing and some parts of the garden may be blocked off. Print out this fact sheet to take along with you on your visit to help your family discuss what you see.

Insider’s Tip: When you enter at the corner of Bear Valley Parkway and Mary Lane, follow signs toward the Arboretum and park in the Arboretum lot. 

3333 Bear Valley Pkwy.
Escondido, Ca
Online: www.queencalifia.org

Photo: Julie Rings Photography

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Did we miss your favorite interactive public artwork? Tell us about it in the comments below.

— Amanda Freerksen (photos too, unless otherwise noted)