San Diego museums allowed to reopen but most will take their time


On Monday morning, the doors of the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park reopened for the second time this summer, after the state announced Friday it is again easing interior restrictions for museums in San County. Diego and other companies.

The Air & Space Museum was the first major museum in Balboa Park to reopen this week, and it was the first to reopen in June when the museums were first given the green light after a nearly four-month closure. But a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in early July forced a second shutdown of all museums and many other businesses on July 7.

Jim Kidrick, chief executive of the Air & Space Museum, said his staff had come up with an 18-page internal reopening plan so that it would be ready to reopen in no time when restrictions were relaxed. But his swift return to operations is an anomaly among San Diego County museums. Some won’t reopen for days or weeks and many have no plans to reopen or remain closed until 2020.

The reasons for extended shutdowns vary, but many museum executives say they just aren’t ready. The state’s reopening announcement on Friday surprised museums, so they’re now busy rehiring and adjusting to the latest state regulations, which limit museum capacity to 25% of normal.

Marti Young and her husband, Virgil Young, of Oceanside, enjoy an afternoon touring at the San Diego Air & Space Museum on Tuesday, September 1 at Balboa Park. The San Diego Air and Space Museum officially reopened on Monday.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The Union-Tribune of san Diego)

Some museums have used the extended closure to undertake long-planned renovations, such as the Museum of Making Music, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the California Surf Museum. Some, like the Living Coast Discovery Museum in Chula Vista, are so dependent on classroom visits that they will wait until school trips return, hopefully in the spring. And the Chinese Historical Museum in San Diego said on Sunday it would postpone its fall reopening for a few months to install a new security system following a recent spate of burglaries.

For its reopening, the Air & Space Museum has the advantage of size and vertical space, with 50 foot high ceilings for excellent air circulation and a room that can accommodate up to 3,000 visitors. at full capacity. Kidrick said a reduced number of guests are required to wear face covers and follow other state-mandated social distancing measures. They will also receive a free pen with a built-in stylus that they can use to operate touchscreen exhibits without using their hands.

Kidrick said the closure had a severe impact on the museum’s revenue. The loss of summer tourism and convention visitors deeply affected ticket sales, and the museum also had to cancel all reservations for special spring events, like proms and Girl Scout sleepover camps.

“Did we lose money in fiscal 2020? You bet we did. Are we going to lose money in fiscal 2021? Yes, we will, ”he said. “We expect this to be a very slow rebuild. ”

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum at Balboa Park will reopen on Friday. Executive Director Anthony Ridenhour said the museum will admit a maximum of 83 people at a time, which is below the state’s 25% maximum capacity rule because many of the museum’s 300 volunteers are older and in an age group at high risk for COVID-19. Plexiglass screens will protect train operators from the public and the museum will have a one-way walking path to avoid foot traffic.

Mother and child visit Birch Aquarium in July 2020

A mother and child visit an outdoor exhibit at the Birch Aquarium in July, when the Aquatic Museum was briefly allowed to open during the pandemic. The aquarium will reopen on September 15.

(Courtesy of Birch Aquarium)

Ridenhour said the museum was on track to surpass $ 1 million in annual revenue for the first time in its history until the pandemic struck. But that wasn’t the only loss suffered during the shutdown. The museum is home to four of Southern California’s largest model railroad clubs, and its members have not been allowed into the building all spring and summer to run their trains. On the bright side, the museum – like most others in the region – has taken advantage of its downtime to expand its programming online.

“We had only just scratched the surface of online awareness, but the pandemic really pushed us and gave us time to focus on delivering the same quality of programming as if you came to the museum,” said declared Ridenhour.

Some museums and cultural institutions with outdoor facilities have been open for weeks or even months, such as the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Zoo, the San Diego Maritime Museum, and the Japanese Friendship Garden. The art center in the Spanish village of Balboa Park reopened on August 1, but board chairman and artist Frank Casciani said foot traffic in the collective of 36 studios was very slow with summer tourism on the decline. and all neighboring museums closed.

The Balboa Park Spanish Village Art Center reopened on August 1.

Balboa Park’s Spanish Village Art Center reopened on August 1, but business has been very slow, its manager said.

(Courtesy photo)

“People who walk through are really just looking out. We’ve had a few sales, which is good, but I would say we’re only at 30 percent, ”Casciani said.

December nights, the popular festival of Balboa Park, typically attract 350,000 participants. But the city is considering redeveloping it to significantly reduce the crowds. Casciani said it would be financially devastating for the more than 100 Spanish Village artists who are counting on the event as their biggest selling event of the year.

“I have already lost Easter. I won’t lose Christmas… but that’s the way it is, ”Casciani said.

For up-to-date information on museum reopens at Balboa Park, visit For county museums, visit

Here’s a look at information on many San Diego museums reopening on September 1. We recommend that you visit individual museum websites for the most recent information.

Balboa Park Visitors Center, Balboa Park
Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma (outdoor spaces only)
Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park Maritime Museum of San Diego, Downtown (outdoor spaces only)
Old Town Model Railroad Museum, Old San Diego
San Diego Air and Space Museum, Balboa Park
San Diego Botanical Garden, Encinitas
San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Pasqual Valley
Spanish Village Art Center, Balboa Park
USS Midway Museum, downtown (outdoor spaces only)

Reopening Friday:
La Raza Cultural Center, Balboa Park
Junipéro Serra Museum, Presidio Park
San Diego History Center, Balboa Park
San Diego Model Railroad Museum, Balboa Park
Sea Life Aquarium in Legoland, Carlsbad

Reopening on Saturday:
San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park
United Nations Association and International Gift Shop, Balboa Park

Reopening on September 9:
Vista Historical Society and Museum, Vista

Reopening on September 15:
Birch Aquarium in Scripps, La Jolla

Reopening mid-September:
San Diego Museum of Us, Balboa Park (formerly Museum of Man)
San Diego Automobile Museum, Balboa Park
Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center, Imperial Beach (trails are open now)

Reopening on September 17:
Oceanfront art museum

Reopening on September 19:
California Center for the Arts Museum, Escondido

Reopening on September 24:
Lux Art Institute, Encinitas

Reopening in November:
Museum of Photographic Arts, Balboa Park
San Diego Art Institute

Reopening by the end of the year:
San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, Gaslamp District

Reopening in early 2021:
EcoVivarium Reptile Museum, Escondido
Living Coast Discovery Center, Chula Vista (Spring)
Music Museum, Carlsbad (Spring)
San Diego Natural History Museum, Balboa Park
Timken Arts Museum, Balboa Park

Opening later in 2021:
Comic-Con Museum, Balboa Park (inauguration)
Mingei International Museum, Balboa Park
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, La Jolla (fall)

No reopening date announced:
Barona Cultural Center and Museum, by the lake
Bonita Museum and Cultural Center, Bonita
California Surf Museum, Carlsbad
Fleet Science Center, Balboa Park
Flying leathers museum, Miramar district
Heritage Museum of the Americas, El Cajon
House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, Balboa Park
Museum of Miniature Engineering Crafts, Carlsbad
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, downtown
Museum of the New Americans, Liberty Station
New children’s museum, downtown
San Diego Archaeological Center, Escondido
San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, Escondido
Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
Visions Art Museum, Liberty Station
California Women’s Museum, Liberty Station
WorldBeat Cultural Center, Balboa Park

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