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Explore Your Inner Sea Captain at the Maritime Museum of San Diego

February 27, 2024 By CityPASS

San Diego is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and it's no mystery why this coastal city has earned the nickname "America's Finest City." From pristine coastlines to expansive city parks, the city of San Diego has endless adventures and attractions to keep locals exploring and sightseeing like tourists for years after moving there.

Perhaps one of the city's most unique features is its rich maritime history, which is expertly documented and displayed at the prestigious Maritime Museum of San Diego. With an extensive collection of ships, from commercial vessels to steam ferries, this museum explores everything from American military history and beyond.

Continue reading this definitive guide to visiting San Diego's Maritime Museum to ensure you make the most of your trip to one of the city's best museums, and learn how to save on Maritime Museum of San Diego tickets and more with San Diego CityPASS® tickets.

What You Can Expect From Your Visit to San Diego's Maritime Museum

San Diego's Maritime Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the restoration and preservation of some of the nation's oldest ships. In addition to seeing some of the most impressive historical naval artifacts, visitors can immerse and educate themselves through various activities on offer at the museum.

Dive Into Maritime and U.S. Navy History

San Diego has a rich naval history, and the Maritime Museum is committed to not only preserving several historic vessels but also to educating the public about the country's maritime history and the longstanding presence of the U.S. Navy in the city.

"San Diego's Navy" is an exhibit at the museum devoted to exploring this history, as is the "Swift Boat Naval History Tour." The latter exhibit allows passengers to ride around the bay on the only restored Vietnam-era PCF 816 Swift boat in the country that allows active passengers aboard. This 75-minute Naval History Bay Tour is an amazing weekend ride you won't forget. (Note: the Swift Boat Tour is available as an added upgrade for CityPASS® ticket holders at the Maritime Museum.)

Explore a Myriad of Rotating Ships and Exhibits

Although home to numerous historic vessels, one of the most incredible aspects of the Maritime Museum of San Diego is the tangible nature of its exhibits. Visitors can step foot on and ride in one of the world's finest collections of historic ships.

In addition to the ships that the museum is consistently working on restoring and unveiling to the public, there are numerous permanent and temporary exhibits that visitors of all ages will enjoy.

Some of the museum's popular exhibits include:

  • The Model Gallery: An impressive collection of replica ships
  • Harvesting the Ocean: An exploration of San Diego's commercial fishing history

Climb Into a Real Submarine

Perhaps one of the most surreal experiences visitors can have at San Diego's Maritime Museum is climbing into the USS Dolphin submarine. This U.S. Naval research vessel is know for many "firsts," especially it's extreme deep-diving capability. In fact, this submarine set a depth record in 1968 that still stands to this day.

See the Spanish Galleon Replica, the San Salvador

One of the most visually stunning ships on display at San Diego's Maritime Museum is the lifesize replica of the Spanish Galleon, the San Salvador.

The San Salvador is known for being the first ship to arrive from Europe to the western coast of the United States, landing in San Diego in 1542. Visitors who are especially intrigued by the ship's journey can book a four-hour sailing experience aboard the spectacular vessel.

Check Out the World's Oldest Active Sailing Ship

The crown jewel of the Maritime Museum of San Diego is the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship in the world. Not only is this sailing vessel the oldest active ship in the world, but it also has a rich and vibrant life that visitors can learn all about at the museum.

Made of iron, the ship defied the norm when it was built in 1863. Although it now rests calmly in the museum's harbor, the Star of India has sailed around the world 21 times and was even entrapped by ice once in Alaska.

Take a Public Cruise on San Diego Bay

Although you may need more than one day to ride on all the historic tall ships at San Diego's Maritime Museum, don't forget to climb aboard a public cruise around San Diego Bay.

The Pilot is a 1914 harbor boat on which museum visitors can take 45-minute cruises throughout the day. An excellent way to beat the San Diego heat, climbing aboard the Pilot will offer some incredible views of the city!

After your cruise, consider a visit to the nearby Seaport Village. Within walking distance of the Maritime Museum, Seaport Village is the perfect place to bring kids after a day at the museum.

With numerous restaurants, boutiques, and activities, including the Seaport Village Historic Carousel, this quaint attraction is the perfect place to watch the sunset on the Pacific Ocean and enjoy a bustling evening right on San Diego Bay.

Plan Your Trip to the Exciting Maritime Museum of San Diego

In addition to the above attractions, the Maritime Museum of San Diego has numerous other vessels to peruse, including the steam yacht Medea and the USS Dolphin.

Save up to on ticket prices to the Maritime Museum and San Diego's other premium attractions, including LEGOLAND® California, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, and the San Diego Zoo® with San Diego CityPASS® tickets.

San Diego Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in San Diego, we recommend finding lodging near San Diego's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

Header Image ©Mark Albertazzi

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