Having already researched and written about the West Coast premiere of The Discovery of King Tut, a highly-anticipated exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT), I knew it was special.

After seeing it yesterday, I believe it’s one of the best things to do in San Diego right now with elementary school-aged kids and older. And, though my 7-year-old has recently become a mummy enthusiast, I was still blown away by how much she enjoyed exploring every single aspect of the new exhibit.

About The Discovery of King Tut

The Discovery of King Tut is a painstakingly-accurate recreation of what King Tut’s tomb was like at the time of its discovery by Howard Carter in 1922. It does not matter one bit that these artifacts are recreations. In fact, the over 1000 replicas were all scientifically-reproduced by Egyptian artisans to reflect the exact scale and detail of the original pieces.

Some of us may remember when King Tut’s treasures traveled around the United States in the 1970s. If you saw it, consider yourself lucky. Most of the artifacts are now prohibited from traveling outside of Egypt. And, there isn’t another way to see them as they were in King Tut’s tomb over 3000 years ago unless you see this exhibit.

King Tut Exhibit Details You Need to Know

Admission to this San Diego attraction requires both museum entry and a separate exhibit ticket. If you are a museum member or Balboa Park Explorer Pass holder, you may purchase the exhibit ticket at a reduced price.

You will need about two hours to see it all.

Our San Diego museums are small so if that sounds like an eternity, rest assured that it’s not.

The self-guided audio tour is a must.

You aren’t going to appreciate it otherwise. Good news: There is a children’s audio tour and it’s awesome. My daughter was able to operate the handheld device and eagerly listened to the tomb chamber detail as well as the 21 self-guided stops on the audio tour. I saw a number of other children her age eagerly doing the same and even repeating some stops. I would say that this part alone is about 90 worthwhile minutes.

Plan time to see Mummies 3D, too.

Though the movie isn’t really about King Tut, it adds quite a bit of color to the experience over just 25 minutes. The film addresses how scientists are hoping clues from the ancient pharaohs’ DNA might lead to curing modern diseases in addition to how the mummies of Ramesses and other royals were discovered in a most unroyal tomb. Plus, it’s in 3D!

The Flow of the Exhibit

Grab an audio guide and begin the tour on the lower level with an introduction to the Rosetta Stone and King Tut’s tomb (about 4 stops). Then, you’ll be led into a theater showing a short movie about Howard Carter’s life and the sequence of events leading to the discovery. (This helps moderate the flow of traffic.) Guests are then led into a room featuring the chambers will all of the treasures inside, exactly as they were discovered. This, in my opinion, is the best part of the exhibit.

King Tut Opened ShrineYour audio device will walk you through the various tomb chambers. The last room displays treasures found in the tomb at play-on-demand stations and a replica of King Tut’s unwrapped mummy.

Return the audio device and pick up a new one on level two. Here, you could also take a King Tut-themed souvenir photo for purchase. The treasures seen inside the tomb chambers on the lower level are displayed individually in this room (the other benefit of replicas). The audio tour explains what they are and perhaps why they were placed inside. It’s totally fascinating.

Golden figure replicas from King Tut's tombBe prepared to walk through a small King Tut souvenir shop on the way out of the exhibit.

Kids Were Engaged

I didn’t see any toddlers but the artifacts are placed in such a way and monitored by museum staff that they couldn’t harm anything. If you intend to take the audio tour (again, you need to), plan plenty to keep them busy.

Several elementary school-aged kids wore Cleopatra or King Tut costumes to the exhibit, which was beyond adorable.

I have to credit whoever created this children’s audio tour and wish more museums offered them. I’m sure we’ll see King Tut again before it leaves in April and I would even say that it’s worth a day trip to Balboa Park for those of you who live in Orange County.

See also: What Happens Behind-the-Scenes at theNAT and Why It Matters

The Discovery of King Tut
San Diego Natural History Museum
1788 El Prado, Balboa Park
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-3821

Have your kids seen The Discovery of King Tut?

Katie Dillon headshot

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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