Adult Lectures, Tours and Concerts

Upcoming Lectures:  

Please see Calendar of Events for more programs and lectures

Adult Group Tours

Have a group of family, friends, colleagues, or a social group that wants a unique outing in Balboa or Presidio Parks?  Then join our specially trained docents for a Group Tour of our museums.  Visitors of all ages will come to appreciate the rich and dynamic history of San Diego through shared stories attached to the objects, historic photographs, documents, costumes and more that are on view in our museums.  Your visit to San Diego History Center's historic sites is an experience that your group will likely remember for a long time to come.

Available Tours:


Gallery 4-11 Tour explores 4 different kinds of collections held by the History Center including documents, photographs, art and objects. Guests learn the story of San Diego's dynamic past as we look at 11 specific items displayed from those collections that reveal the triumphs, tragedies, conflicts and resolutions of the early history of the third largest city in California!

Place of Promise:  Stories of San Diego  Tour highlights the early individuals, cultures and events that shaped San Diego's past and its development into the metropolis that it is today.



Life on Presidio Hill  Tour highlights the four different cultures that have occupied Presidio Hill from the Kumeyaay, Spanish, Mexican and early American periods.  The tour includes a walk through the former site of the Spanish fort built in 1769 and the gallery spaces inside the Junipero Serra Museum.

(Please note:  This tour travels over varied terrain and is outdoors for at least 30 minutes.  Comfortable, well supported walking shoes are recommended.)



Balboa Park History Stroll  Ever wonder how Balboa Park was named?  What structures stood in various locations in 1915?  Who were some of the individuals who helped shape the landscape and built environment, and what did they originally envision it to look like? Were the buildings in the Park today, copies or interpretations of real structures in other parts of the world?  What elements changed to prepare the Park for the 2nd Exposition in 1935?  Learn these trivia tidbits and more on this one hour walking tour along the Park's main street, with offshoots to locales with forgotten stories to reveal.  History Center Program Manager Gabe Selak leads this easy paced stroll through the Park revealing many of the intriguing aspects of its past, its endearing present, and exciting future. 

1935 Progress of Man Walking Tour   In 1935, San Diego citizens pulled themselves up out of the doldrums of the Depression by hosting a 2 year exposition that celebrated Progress of Man.  Intriguing exhibitions highlighted advances made in water, electricity, transportation and more.  The Pan-America Plaza featured unique experiences from major corporations like Ford, Firestone, and Standard Oil Company to name a few.  Learn about the movers and shakers who put the exposition together in just 5 short months, opening San Diego up to the world.  Remarkably between 7 and 9 million people, including celebrities like Betty Davis, Sallie Rand, Mae West, poured through the Exposition's gates, in the heart of the Depression, to see its varied attractions.

Beginning in April 2014:

City Park/ Sixth Avenue Stroll  In 1868, 1440 acres were set aside in San Diego to create what was then called 'City Park', today's Balboa Park. Beginning in the late 1890s, this land would be transformed by local philanthropists, horticulturalists, and park planners into one of the premiere environmental respites in the region.  Beginning at Founder's Plaza at the western entrance to Balboa Park, this easy paced, one hour walking tour highlights the infantcy of the Park, and introduces guests to the variety of flora and fauna that has drawn folks back time and time again!

Launching in September 2014:

The Isthmus Tour   Traveling through Spanish Village and past the Zoo to Upas Street and back,  we look at the variety of controversial, entertaining, educational, and cultural experiences offered to guests of San Diego's 1915 and 1935 Expositions.  Each exposition had a distinctive focus made evident by the kinds of exhibits displayed.  Using historic photographs from the History Center's vast archive as our guide, we put you in the footsteps of past exposition visitors, providing a 'Then & Now' experience unlike any other Balboa Park tour available!  Come learn first hand the shoking truth about Balboa Park's past.

Tour Information:

Group Size:  A minimum of 10 people are required to schedule a group tour.
*Please Note:  A maximum of 25 people for the Group Balboa Park Walking Tours.

Reservations:  Reservations for a group tour are required at least 2 weeks in advance of your tour date, and can be made by contacting the Public Programs Manager at 619-232-6203, ext. 129.

Group Pricing:  All groups including adults, seniors, and college students are charged a $6 per person guided tour fee for our museum gallery tours and a non-refundable reservation fee of $10 is required.  Balboa Park Walking Tours are $10 per person.

Cancellations and changes Cancellations or changes made to reservations should be done at least 2 days prior to the scheduled museum visit.  Call the Public Programs Manager to make cancellations or changes at 619-232-6203, ext. 129.

PaymentPayment can be made upon arrival on the day of your tour, however, advanced payment is appreciated.  Cash, checks and credit cards are accepted.  Checks should be made out to San Diego History Center.

ParkingSan Diego History Center is located in the Casa de Balboa building in Balboa Park.  Parking is in adjacent lots behind the San Diego Natural History Museum or Reuben Fleet Science Center.  Once parked, walk to the front of the museums and the large Bea Eveson water fountain.  Head west towards the dome and tower of the California Building (Museum of Man).  Go down a slight set of stairs, and San Diego History Center is located on the left.

The Junipero Serra Museum is located at 2727 Presidio Drive in Presidio Park.  Parking is located in a large lot immediately below the museum. 



Jan 5 2014 - 5:30pm - 7:30pm
4th Annual Three Kings/ Twelfth Night Dinner/ Dance & Concert featuring Courtly Noyse

February 7 2013 - 7:30pm - 9:00pm BACH Collegium Concert Series 

May 31 2013 - 7:30pm - 9:00pm BACH Collegium Concert Series 

Speaker's Bureau:

Astonishing stories, intriguing facts, informative quotes, and humorous accounts of San Diego's past. Speakers will come to your place of preference and wow the audience of your choice with interesting and informative discussions.

Speaker’s Fee:

$100 for non-profit organizations

$150 for-profit corporations & businesses

Checks may be made to San Diego History Center. We also accept cash, credit cards and purchase orders as payments. Payments are requested at least two weeks prior to your program date to hold your reservation, and all but $10 is refundable if you need to cancel your program. Cancellations are requested no later than 2 days before the scheduled program date.

Current Topics: Contact us for more information about these topics

  • Architecture/ ArchitectsIrving J. Gill: New Ideas on Architecture Historic Seventh Avenue
  • San Diego's Historic Theatres Hotel Del Coronado San Diego Then and Now
  • Lost San Diego:  The Places & Spaces We Remember
  • Balboa Park/ Gardens
  • Balboa Park and its Two Expositions History of Balboa Park
  • Secret San Diego:  Zoro Gardens
  • Kate O. Sessions: Mother of Balboa Park
  • Zoro Gardens:  San Diego's Secret Garden
  • Kate Sessions and the Arts & Crafts Garden:  A Discovery
  • NEW!  Presidio Park:  The 'Plymouth Rock' of the West
  • NEW! The 1915 Panama-California Exposition: An Insider's Look
  • NEW! Progress of Man: San Diego's 1935 California-Pacific Exposition
  • Regional HistoryEarly San Diego History – Native American through Statehood San Diego’s Boom Years: 1880s and the Railroad
  • San Diego’s Military History
  • History of San Diego from Mission period to WWII
  • Haunted San Diego
  • History of Mira Mesa, Miramar and Scripps Ranch   
  • An Overview of San Diego History Center
  • San Diego's Waterfront Through the Eyes of a Child 
  • TUNA!  Celebrating San Diego's Famous Fishing Industry
  • NEW!  History 'On Tap':  San Diego's Brewing Past
  • NEW!  Our City, Our Neighborhoods
  • NEW!  Mercants to McDonald's:  Commercial Strips in San Diego
  • NEW!  'Pill Hill':  Hospitals, Doctors, and Medicine in Early San Diego
  • NEW!  Gold Nuggets to Apple Pie:  The Changing Face of Julian and the Back Country
  • NEW! El Camino Real: California's Mission Road


  • Helen Hunt Jackson: Author with a Cause
  • Demure & Defiant: San Diego’s Historic Women
  • Kate Sessions:  Mother of Balboa Park
  • Hearts & Minds & Botany:  The Brandegees in San Diego
  • “Geranium George”: Civic Leader George White Marston
  • Japanese Americans in San Diego
  • NEW!  Junipero Serra:  Life of an Alta California Padre
  • NEW! Mary Chase Walker: Courage of San Diego's First School Teacher
  • NEW!  Kate Sessions:  Reflections of San Diego's Master Horticulturalist
  • Clothing San Diego Style: 100 Years of Sophisticated Fashion
  • Marston's Department Store: San Diego's Shopping Experience
  • NEW!  Boldrick's to Whitsitt's:  Celebrating San Diego's Shoes, Hats and Their Local Design 

  • San Diego History 101:  A Three Part Survey Course:  (1.5hr per session)
    FEE:  $150 per 1.5hr. session
    Join Public Programs Manager, Gabe Selak, for a three part survey course on San Diego's past from its indigenous beginnings to WWII. Using reproduction historic photographs from SDHC's Booth Historical Photograph Collection, accompanied by supporting documentation, this course will immerse you not only in San Diego's past, but introduce you to the array of historical resources held within the SDHC Collection.
  • San Diego History 101, Part 1:  Indigenous Beginnings to 1868:  discusses our indigenous populations, Mission Period, Mexican Ranchos, development of Old Town and the early American Period through the establishment of 'City Park' in 1868.
  • San Diego History 101, Part 2:  Developing Resorts, the 1915 Exposition, and Military Beginnings:  This session deals with the development of leisure resorts like the Hotel del Coronado, early advances in technology and transportation, the expansion of the city towards Balboa Park, the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, and the early military presence in the region.
  • San Diego History 101, Part 3:  The Depression, 1935 Exposition, to WWII:  This session focuses on the ever growing military presence in the region, the impact of the depression on the city, and the resulting second world's fair The California-Pacific International Exposition celebrating progress of man, among others.
    • San Diego NOW
      For more information about our public program San Diego NOW, click here.



    Booking a Program:

    Booking a program is easy. Simply choose a topic from the list provided and the date that you would like your program to occur. We strongly recommend that you choose at least two topics for your event, in chance that your first choice is not available on the date that you request a presentation. If your first choice cannot be accommodated, we will arrange your second choice. To arrange a program, please contact Gabe Selak, Public Programs Manager, or call 619-232-6203, ext. 129.