Saturday, January 3, 2009

Review: San Diego Natural History Museum and Balboa Park

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Balboa Park and the San Diego Museum of Natural History. The park itself has tons of different museums and gardens in it, and our original plan was to hit the natural history museum, the conservatory, and the Japanese tea garden. The park has some great architecture, which we were practically required to stop and admire. The above picture was the San Diego garden society headquarters.

We made the natural history museum our first stop, and it was interesting, but smaller than what I expected. They had two exhibits going on, H20 =Life and a wild life artist. I was not particularly interested in either, but H2O had some interesting exhibits (mostly watching the mudskippers eating).

In terms of fossils, they took up half of the second floor, which was open in the center (H2O took up the other half). The interesting thing to me, was that almost all of their fossils were found in San Diego county. This meant that there was a wide range of aquatic fossils, including these odd pelican foot snails...

I also saw some interesting fossil dolphins and even a fossil walrus. It was very interesting to think that San Diego used to host walrus and river dolphins. The best thing I was the way that they displayed some of their dinosaur bones. Most places put either the bones on display or make a model of the dinosaur. This museum did a combination of both. So one side gave you the artist model of what the dino might look like with muscles and skin attached...

While the other side showed you the bones...

I thought this was a really effective way to showcase these dinosaurs, and hope that other museums pick up on this.

After the natural history museum, we headed to the Japanese tea garden (the conservatory turned out to be closed). The garden basically consisted of a straight strip planted with azaleas. There was a very small koi pond and a building that you can go into to see some pictures of Japan. I thought the building offered the best view of the garden...

In the back, there were some (about 7) bonsai on display. All in all, rather disappointing, particularly as we had paid $3 each to get in. What was the best was the food outside of the garden. They a really great cafe, which served a variety of Japanese food for a reasonable price. And the portions were HUGE!

An unplanned stop of the day was the San Diego Museum of Art. Normally, I don't do art. (I mean I like impressionists, but nothing else really) But they had an interesting display on the Art of Kimono and it was awesome. The person who made the kimonos, Itchiku Kubota, pioneered a new way of making them because he was trying to recreate an old method. It's kind of like tie dye or batiking in that the colors are dyed directly onto the kimono. He made a set of kimonos that when put together display a landscape going from fall to winter. There were 30 kimonos in that set, and he had plans to do summer and spring as well.

We did not even get to the Air and Space Museum where there was a star trek exhibit. I guess the lesson is, if you are going to Balboa park make your plans flexible and you won't be disappointed.

5 comments:

Dorid said...

I've always wanted to go to San Diego for a whole month. I figure I could see most of what I wanted to in that time. You know me... I'm a museum a day type person. And we know from experience that the zoo alone takes about 3 days to do right.

Miriam Goldstein said...

I really love the fossils at the SDNHM, but the megafauna does pale in comparison to the goodies they have up at the La Brea tar pits. Have you been out to the fossil beds at Anza-Borrego? There's sand dollar tests just sitting around in the middle of the desert (along tons of other marine fossils) and especially amazing Pliocene oyster beds.

Also, if you guys come to San Diego & want a tour of the pier/experimental aquarium at SIO, let me know! We've got basket stars & adorable baby leopard sharks...

Brine Queen said...

No, I've never been to Anza-Borrego. Do you know where in the park is the best place for fossil hunting? We'll put that on our list of places to go.

I did not realize that there was another aquarium there...I've been to Birch, is this one attached to the lab itself?

Miriam Goldstein said...

It's more fossil-observing, since fossils can't be removed from the park, but the Fish Creek/Split Mountain area has mud hills from the ancient Colorado River delta with a soft-bottom community, mostly huge oyster beds. The Domelands (in the Coyote Mountains) have a rocky benthic community with big gastropods & echinoderms.

Yes, I meant the experimental aquarium attached to SIO, which is not open to the general public.

Anonymous said...

...as myself... the journey was very memorable and meaningful.