This summer and upcoming autumn, San Diego’s art scene is bustling with pop-up exhibits and installations you have to see to believe. Expand your cultural repertoire by discovering immersive art experiences throughout the city that will inspire and delight your whole family. You can transform into a living constellation in the night sky, climb and swing your way across a gigantic rainbow hammock, explore a museum dedicated to avocados that’s complete with avocado skin walls and so much more. Read on for where to dive into culture with your crew.

Wonderspaces: in common

Maja Petric

Whether your family loves high-tech or low-tech, this immersive art show is sure to wow. Explore over a dozen different interactive art installations where human connection is the theme. Kids will love We Are All Made of Light, where your clan will become a magnificent constellation in the night sky. They'll also be mesmerized by Floor, wherein an undulating reflective metal walkway lets visitors ride a "wave" as the floor moves underneath them.

Tickets are offered on a rolling timed-entry basis––and earlier is better for both missing crowds and finding parking (bring quarters for the parking meters). There are snacks and drinks available in the exhibit. However, dress to stay cool as there is no air conditioning (just fans).

Good to know: Several of the art installations are experienced in pitch black rooms and you'll need to judge whether some of them are suitable for your kids (such as a maze that needs to be navigated while blindfolded and an exhibit you walk through while hearing loud car and traffic sounds in darkness). There's also a VR exhibit that's for kids 13 and older. The docents at each installation are very informative about what's behind all the curtains, so if you have questions, just ask.

Dates: June 7-Sept. 1, 2019
Cost: $24-$27/adult; $15/child 

B Street Pier
1140 N. Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101


The New Children's Museum

The New Children's Museum is now the home of Whammock!, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s first large-scale work at a museum in the United States. This is the most recent artist commission for the downtown children’s museum and it's a stunningly colorful 28’x 20’ interactive, three-dimensional textile environment that resembles a giant hammock of crocheted circles, open pockets and dangling pendulums. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind place to climb, play and interact with others.

The two-ton structure took nearly 3,600 hours to construct from over 40 miles of braided nylon. The 14 hand-dyed colors reflect MacAdam’s impression of the San Diego environment and landscape, including references to California poppies, the ocean and Mexican cultural influences. The installation will be open for play at the Museum for at least five years. Be sure to indulge your little climbers, swingers and crawlers with an interactive encounter with this masterful piece of art.

Bonus: Adults are welcome to navigate Whammock! too!

Cost: $14/person (ages 1 and older)

The New Children’s Museum
200 West Island Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101

San Diego Trolley Dances

San Diego Dance Theater

All aboard this arty party! Hop on the San Diego Trolley for a trip that will engage your senses with music and dance at key station stops. Time your stop to hear the music and see the dancing in the streets, stations and underpasses as the Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater performs dance numbers inspired by the trolley stations and public spaces around them.

Dates: Sept. 28 & 29; Oct. 4-6
Where: Various Trolley Stops

WOW Festival

Theresa Harrison/WOW Festival

La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls (WOW) Festival is a four-day explosion of site-based and immersive performances. Extraordinary artists from around the globe will offer audiences a series of intriguing and transformative experiences that place the audience right in the center of the action. Similar to past WOW Festivals, this exciting event will serve as a cultural and artistic hub where patrons can gather to experience WOW performances, hear live music, engage in lively discussions about the work and enjoy the many food and drink options on offer at Liberty Station. Since its inception in 2011, Without Walls (WOW) has become one of San Diego’s most popular and acclaimed performance programs. This signature Playhouse initiative is designed to break the barriers of traditional theatre, offering immersive and site-inspired works that venture beyond the physical confines of the Playhouse facilities.

Our favorite immersive exhibit for little ones is Boats, where half-pints jump in colorful pretend boats and run around navigating the pretend water. They may run into a silly artist looking to be saved or encounter mysterious elements on this urban ocean. Check the schedule for other performances.

Without Walls (WOW) Festival
Dates: Oct. 17-20, 2019

The Stuart Collection

Diane W. via Yelp

Art on campus! Explore the Stuart Collection with a self-guided walking tour. From a giant (huggable) teddy-like bear and a Fallen Star (tilted house) wedged on a building to a stone (climbable) sculpture garden and giant snake walkway, your fam is sure to have tons of fun. Free and open to the public year-round, come to see the campus and get hands-on with the art.

UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92093


Matthew Henry via Burst

California and avocados go hand-in-hand, so a pop-up museum celebrating this healthy fruit is fun and interactive too!  The CADO offers an experiential journey that starts outside of the fruit’s skin, travels through its green ombre-colored flesh and into the center of the fruit. Ticket holders will feel the avocado-skinned walls in The Ripe Room, get schooled on the growing process by Jason Mraz (via walkman cassette tape), meet the Hass Mother Tree of California in Hass Hall, pause at The Pit Stop and enjoy the best of avocado culture.

The CADO will pop-up from Jun. 27-Sept. 22, on Thurs.-Sun.

Cost: $19/adult; $14/child (kids younger than 3 are free)

250 North City Dr., Suite 9
San Marcos, CA 92078

U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge

Beth Shea

You don't want to miss this fantastic, family-friendly three-day art event over Labor Day weekend. Thousands of people attend the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge & Dimensional Art exhibition to see master sculptors build and display amazing three-dimensional masterpieces. Check out the stunning sand sculptures while enjoying live music from a variety of bands. Activities for kiddos include art projects, sandbox, sand sculpture classes, bubble fun and European bungie. There will also be a dozen food trucks on hand offering over 100 menu items.

Aug. 31-Sep. 2, 2019

Broadway Pier and Pavilion
1000 North Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101


––Nikki Walsh


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