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15 Museums in North County San Diego You Need To Visit (2018 Guide)

15 Museums in North County San Diego You Need To Visit (2018 Guide)

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Did you know we have 15 different museums in North County San Diego? They are some of the most interesting, fascinating and unique places. Whether you want to appreciate fine art or participate in a hands-on learning experience, North County has got it all. Here is our guide to museums in North County.

Antique and Gas Steam Engine Museum

The Antique and Gas Steam Engine Museum is a museum dedicated to engines of a bygone era. The expansive campus of the museum is located along North Santa Fe Avenue in Vista. Not only does the museum house unique gas and steam engine trains and machinery, it is also home to the Palomar Handweavers Guild, the West Coast Clock and Watch Museum and a blacksmith. There is also miniature train on a short track. The annual Fall Festival is a huge community event that draws big crowds. Admission on non-event days is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children 6-12, under 6 is free.

Lux Art Institute

Explore the Art process in a unique environment, a working art studio campus. The Institute is open to artists who wish to create works of art in the Artist Pavillion. It’s also open to students and community members who wish to observe the artist-in-residence, the visiting artists or view the artist’s masterpieces on display. There are programs available for kids, teens, and adults through the education pavilion. Admission is $5 for adults, students and 21 and under are free. Groups of more than 6 need to schedule a tour.

Museum of Making Music

Take a tour of music throughout the ages at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad. Situated in an unassuming business park, the museum is home to exhibits and galleries that celebrate the music industry and its innovations throughout the last century. There are interactive displays and creative colorful galleries beckoning you into music’s journey. Admission: Adults are $10, students, seniors, the active military are $7, 3 and under 3 is free.

San Dieguito Heritage Museum

Located in Encinitas, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum was established to celebrate and preserve the rich history of the San Dieguito River region which includes the communities of Solana Beach, Encinitas, Cardiff, Leucadia, Olivenhain Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar. There are museum exhibits, outdoor walkthroughs, and hands-on history experiences available to visitors young and old. There is even a replica of Al’s Barber Shop in Encinitas complete with the barber chair, various tools of the trade, and even a barber pole. Tours for schools and groups midweek are $4 per person, $3 for seniors. Weekends are free to the public.

Muramid Mural Museum & Art Center

Did you know there is a museum dedicated to the fantastic world of mural art? This quirky and colorful museum is located in the Artists Alley of Oceanside. It is also home to a studio and classroom that holds art-centered community events and classes. The mural museum centers around mural painted for the Art Miles mural project. There are currently 1,000 5×12 foot murals painted through Art Miles in over 100 countries around the world. While not all of the murals can be put on display here in Oceanside, the museum hopes to digitally render all of the murals and wrap them around a pyramid structure in hopes of displaying and preserving them. Admission is free.

California Surf Museum

Located central to the hub of downtown Oceanside, The California Surf  Museum is a must for any North County surfer or beach goer. It was founded in 1986 and is home to a multitude of surf culture items that have been curated over its 30 years in existence. One permanent display is an exhibit surrounding surfboards throughout history. There are also rotating exhibits that change several times a year. Currently on display is an exhibit recounting the surf history of China Beach during the Vietnam War. Admission is $5 for adults. Seniors, Students, and Military are $3. Children under 12 are free. First Tuesday of the month is free for everyone.

Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum

The Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum is an ode to tiny machines and their fascinating inner workings. The miniature works of art are a sight to behold. There are hundreds of pieces of mini machinery on display including automobiles, planes, trains and strange contraptions that whiz and whirl. Demonstrations of many of the small engineering feats happen every day that the museum is open, usually around 10, 12 and 2 pm. It’s definitely worth a stop inside. Admission is free, although donations are gladly accepted.

Oceanside Museum of Art

The Oceanside Museum of Art is located in downtown Oceanside with a view of the pier and the gorgeous blue ocean. The Museum is home to some of the finest art in San Diego and Southern California. Paintings, sculptures, fine art furniture, amazing glass work, and more adorn the walls and hallways of the museum. The Oceanside Museum of Art also holds regular community events, concerts, museum docent tours and more. Admission is $8 for adults, children under 18, students, military and their dependents are free.

Marine Corps Mechanized Museum

There are over 35 military vehicles on outdoor display at the Mechanized Museum. The collection began in 2002 and is home to working vehicles that can come to life when turned on. The museum is run by Mjr Sgt (Retired) James King. King wants to not only celebrate, preserved and display the vehicles but restore them to working order to be appreciated and used. Many of the machines are used for events and ceremonies on base. It’s important to know that you will need base access to see this museum dedicated to military vehicles and mechanization. You will also need a valid ID for every adult entering the base and current vehicle registration. Admission is free, although donations will be gladly accepted.

Rancho Bernardo History Museum at The Rancho Bernardo Winery

The Rancho Bernardo History Museum is located at the Rancho Bernardo Winery. It’s home to the rich history of the Rancho Bernardo area. The museum is run by volunteers of the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society. One of the treats, when you visit the museum, is seeing an authentically restored stagecoach. Museum docents will give guided tours upon request. It’s a great little stop if you are at the winery. Admission is free.

Museum At The California Center For Arts Escondido

The sprawling campus of the California Center For The Arts Escondido is located adjacent to Grape Day Park and is a hub for the arts in the northeast part of the county. Along with venues for concerts and community events, the center has a museum that showcases rotating museum exhibitions with pieces on loan from San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art San Diego and local artists. Admission is $8, Seniors, Students are $5. Children under 12 and Military with ID are free.

Roynon Museum of Earth Sciences and Paleontology

If you love dinosaurs, then you will love the Roynon Museum. In prior years the museum has only been available for school groups. However, at their current location, they are able to make the museum available to the public. There are fossils, giant dinosaur bone replicas, and so much more. Admission is $12 for adults, seniors and military $10, children 5-17 are $8, children 2-4 are $5, under 2 is free.

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum

The San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum is a hands-on, interactive museum just for children ages toddler to pre-teen. You’ll find exhibits for children to see, play, touch, and feel. Each exhibit focuses on a different learning aspect of a child’s development. From the building blocks to the play kitchen to the giant pirate ship – there is plenty to see and do! There is also a huge interactive outdoor space. The museum also holds engaging and fun community events throughout the year. Admission is $8 per person, Military and dependents are $5.

San Diego Archaeological Center

Release your inner archaeologist at the San Diego Archaeological Center in Escondido. Visitors are able to learn about the way people lived for the last 10,000 in the San Diego based on the archaeological finds on display at the center. It is one part museum and one part interactive learning center and archaeological research center. There are lots of things to do for kids like a pottery reconstruction, excavation site and more! Admission is $2 per person and $5 per family.

EcoVivarium Living Museum

The EcoVivarium is a living museum that is home to rescued and rehabilitated amphibians, reptiles, and arthropods. It’s an educational interactive experience that incorporates science, math, and geography. The animals are ambassadors of their species and create a special connection with visitors that gets them excited about learning. The EcoVivarium is open to the public, and also partners with the Children’s Discovery Museum on certain programs. Of special note is the staff’s training with special needs and senior communities. Adults $10, seniors $8, children 3-17 are $8.

Michelle Sybert: Michelle also writes at her blog Be Brave, Keep Going and lives in the North San Diego area with her husband and two children. When she's not writing, Michelle loves to go hiking, discover new breakfast spots, and photography. Follow Michelle on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram