Fleet Science Center

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The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is located in San Diego’s storied Balboa Park, also home to theSan Diego Zoo, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Museum of Natural History, and 21 other attractions, venues, and museums. Known the world over as the first science center to integrate the now-commonplace practice of combining scientific exhibits with and IMAX Theatre and Planetarium, a trip to the Fleet Center is a fun and educational experience for the entire family.


The Fleet Science Center was established in 1973 thanks, in large part, to a major donation from its namesake Reuben H. Fleet, a local aviation pioneer responsible for the establishment of the U.S. Air Mail Service. However, the history of this combined science center-planetarium-IMAX Theatre had been in the works since the space in Balboa Park was reserved back in 1963. Initially, Fleet was planned by the San Diego Hall of Science, and was meant to be simply a planetarium, with the possibility of a science hall as a distant second thought. The planetarium, however, would be a groundbreaking addition to the growing Balboa Park cultural landscape integrating several new features such as tiered seating and a fisheye lens system that would also allow for the 180-degree projection of movies.

It was this later goal that led the San Diego Hall of Science to approach the IMAX Company about the adaptation of their films onto their new format. As a result the OMNIMAX system (now called IMAX Dome) was created and debuted at the San Diego planetarium. By 1073 the system was ready to debut and, thanks to Fleet’s donation did so with a name close to the one we now know: Reuben H. Fleet Space Theatre and Science Center. The first two shows were presented as a double feature: Voyage to the Outer Planets and the OMNIMAX exclusive Garden Isle.

Since they opened their doors in 1973, the Fleet Center and its associated planetarium have been known as pioneers in the industry. The Science Center was one of the first to offer visitors the chance to interact with or somehow participate in every single exhibit. In addition, the design of science center, planetarium, and IMAX Theatre that Fleet began has now become standard fare across the U.S. in the world.

In 1998, Fleet was completely modernized and remodeled. This included the addition of rides and other virtual reality experiences. This expansion allowed the offerings of the science center to upstage that of the planetarium and thus led to the shortening of the name to the Fleet Science Center.

Main Attraction

In total, the Fleet Science Center is made of eight different interactive galleries and the 300-seat planetarium and IMAX Theatre. In total, there are over 100 different exhibits for visitors to see and interact with on two floors. Some of the most popular attractions include Kid City, the Tinkering Studio, the Exploration Bar, Block Busters, and Look! Touch! Listen!

Kids of all ages can find something to do at Fleet which offers discounted admission to both seniors (over 65) and children (under 12) and free admission to residents of San Diego County and active duty U.S. military on the first Tuesday of each month. The Aging for All Ages exhibit as well as the planetarium and IMAX shows are specifically designed to appeal to all who visit Fleet.

As an active science center and a community leader in sustainability and energy efficiency, Fleet is also dedicated to the community of San Diego and education in general. In fact, the center recommends that visitors delay their arrival during the week until after 1 pm as school groups flood the halls almost every day throughout the school year. Fleet also offers extra-curricular educational opportunities which include weekly presentations, science camps, outreach programs, and even birthday parties.

Why It’s a Must-See

A visit to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is an interactive journey into some of the most fascinating corners of modern science and astronomy. As part of a large group of museums and culturally-dedicated attractions at Balboa Park, Fleet represents only one of the many gems in San Diego’s vast mine of experiences sure to attract curious minds of all ages and walks of life.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Fleet Science Center either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The Fleet Science Center is available on the Go San Diego Card.