As the first museum you come to when you walk across the Cabrillo Bridge, and the most famous museum due to its tower and facade, the Museum of Man is a unique place to explore. It has a couple of main exhibits that make it a popular attraction in the park, such as the mummies, the Mayan stone sculptures, and the tower itself, which you can pay to climb. Here is all the info.
- Cost: $13 for the museum, $23 for the museum and tower tour
- Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM
- Locations: 1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
- Read more about Balboa Park
- Information from my visit in 2016 and 2018
The tower tour is about 45 minutes long, and it will take you through the history of the tower and museum while also letting you climb the 140 steps to near the top. You never go all the way to the top as it is closed off, but you do reach a good vantage point of the area.
The tower has been closed for 80 years and only just opened Jan 1, 2015. It has become a trendy spot for people to go up and get a bird’s eye view of the city while learning about the area’s history as well. You can see an example of the way it has changed in the two photos below.
The tower was built for the Panama Exhibition, which was created to bring awareness to San Diego and to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal in 1915.
You will be walking up typical staircases for about three stories. The pace is slow, and you stop at each story to talk about the history of the area and the exhibits. The steps are a little steep, but most people should be able to do it. Once you get up the fourth staircase, you will reach the last room and the spiral staircase that will take you to the lookout. It should be mentioned that this lookout is not the top of the tower as they are still working on that section, but it is an excellent view of the surrounding areas.
You are given about 15 minutes to look around from the top, and I wish I was able to stay up there for an hour as it was a fantastic view. After that, you will head back down the steps to the museum itself. Of course, you are going to want to spend some time in the museum since you paid for it, and it has some cool stuff, here at the exhibits that were here when I went in December of 2016.
The History of Beer
This area was dedicated to the history of beer throughout the ages, and I was amazed how far it went back.
This was a fun section for kids and adults as it talked about the history of monsters throughout different cultures.
They had a wall where you could write down the monsters you were afraid of, and I found it funny that one said student loans. I agree that is scary.
This large section of the museum talks about different ideas on evolution throughout the ages. It has a part that is dedicated to the future, and it shows C3PO from Star Wars. I, for one, am bummed that we haven’t evolved enough as a society for Star Wars to come true.
As one of the main exhibits that draws people attention, this area had lots of Egyptian history and even included real mummies and real shrunken heads.
Of course, this is not for everyone, but I have to say it is a pretty unique thing to learn about.
This area has history and artifacts from California’s past. It was relatively small, but it had a decent amount to look at.
The Mayan Stones
Called Stelas, these stone sculptures are used to tell stories of different creation myths and exploits of various rulers. Many of them date back to the 8th century. They are pretty crazy to see and to read the individual stories that the stones are describing.
All in all, you can see this is a pretty spectacular museum with a lot of fun exhibits to explore. I would go just for the tower view itself, but it can be expensive if you go with your whole family. Let me know what you think of the Museum of Man in the comments. You can read more about Balboa Park in this guide.