This museum is a bit of a surprise in several ways!
First, I have seen the "chapel" many times while driving by, but did not realize it was a "museum." Although, to my ignorance, I was not really sure what it was! I finally looked it up and saw the museum designation, so here I am.
I parked elsewhere in the park (by the neighborhood) and wandered a bit, finding other park sites and then cresting a ridge from which I could see the river valley and the top of the museum complex. I came down the path and entered the museum's portico which is open to the west and with great views, and closed to the east except for small windows. At the far end is the museum, and outside the entrance is a wine press that was the gift of the Town of Mallorca, where Father Serra was born. It is original, and OLD! What a great gift.
The museum is free, and you enter a large sanctuary type space, open and airy and with some exhibits to get you started. The is a small room immediately to your right upon entering, with a great history and display of San Diego as an overview. Good background information.
This is where my second surprise came - I did not realize that this museum was built in 1926, and was the result of one man's efforts, after San Diego said "no, thank you" to his idea. What dedication it took to achieve this! And it is nearing 100 years old! Wow.
Inside the large space, there are stairs to the rear that take you upstairs to additional rooms and more displays. But my best surprise was a large mural painted along the walls of the stairs, and leading up and around the corner to continue on!
The mural shows Baja California and Alta California (as it was known back then) and the routes the expeditions took to reach San Diego. It shows land and ship journeys, along with details such as settlements, where they camped each night, and other details. And the map is scaled so each step of the stairway equals 40 miles. Smart idea!
Continue up and you find an upper room filled with more displays, and stairs to the tower room, where you can see for many miles. Great views.
Overall, a cool place to visit. It is free, but donations are welcome, and I understand it is part of the museums network in Balboa Park so hopefully they can continue to grow the exhibits. Right now there isn't a lot compared to other museums, and there really is little about Father Serra himself, but what they do offer is good stuff and well presented.
Stop by and take a peek - don't let ignorance get the better of you, as I did!