Free Things to Do in San Diego
San Diego is home to some of the state’s most vibrant history, gorgeous beaches, and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in the nearly perfect year-round climate. Whether a traveler on a budget, or a local looking for new and affordable entertainment, here are some great free attractions and activities to check out.
Mission Bay Park
With over 4,200 acres of aquatic park dedicated to leisure and sports activities, Mission Bay Park is a beautiful location for a walk night or day. There are numerous barbecue and picnic areas, bays and inlets to explore, and plenty of room to fly a kite. If you plan your visit on the right night, you can see the fireworks at Sea World from this park.
San Diego Embarcadero
The Port of San Diego is yet another location to explore with picturesque views of the city, where you can see cruise liners come and go among cargo ships, and historic vessels like the USS Midway. The Waterfront Park features spray fountains and a playground for children.
Oceanside Museum of Art
On the first Sunday of every month, the Oceanside Museum of Art offers free admission. The museum houses collections of fine art from the southern California region including paintings, sculptures, furniture, art quilts, and architectural glass. The museum designs fresh galleries for each exhibit in order to provide a refreshing and surprising experience with each visit.
The Children’s Pool
The Children’s Pool is actually a beach in La Jolla. In 1931 a seawall was built on the beach in order to protect it and provide a place for children to swim. Over time, the build up of sand has made the beach unsuitable as a recreation area; however, it has since been claimed as a haven for seals. You can take in a little free seal-watching at The Children’s Pool year-round.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Considered the birthplace of California, and the city of San Diego‘s first downtown, Old Town‘s colorful shops, museums, parks, and restaurants reflect and celebrate the area’s rich history with a festive ambiance.
Balboa Park is a must-see for anyone in San Diego. Spanning over 1,200 acres, the park is home to many gardens and hiking trails that are free to access. The park is filled with breathtaking architecture and has plenty of places to explore. Though not included on the free list, Balboa Park also has several museums and restaurants.
This 16.5-block historical neighborhood next to the Convention Center, known to locals as the Gaslamp District, is a hotspot of local events and festivals. The bright collection of shops, bars, and restaurants, is a great location to explore and take in the turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture and atmosphere.
Torrey Pines Gliderport
The Torrey Pines Gliderport has been ranked the #1 paragliding school in America since 2000. You can watch gliders fly and catch some of the best sunset views from the famous cliffs of Black’s Beach.
Olympic Training Center
In 1995, the U.S. Olympic Committee opened the first master-planned training facility for Olympic athletes in Chula Vista. In 2017, the facility was given to the City of Chula Vista, and is currently a designated Olympic and Paralympic Training Site. The 155-acre center of state-of-the-art sports venues for training, competition, and events, is free to explore on self-guided tours daily from 9am to sunset.
Oceanside Municipal Pier
The oldest wooden pier on the West Coast, the Oceanside Municipal Pier extends almost 2,000 feet. This little piece of history is known for being a great venue for beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
Hotel del Coronado
Featured in at least 12 films, referenced in books and songs, and even featured on a postage stamp, the Hotel del Coronado is one of California’s most historic landmarks. Opened in 1888 as the single largest resort hotel in the world, the hotel has hosted many presidents, royalty, and other celebrities. You can see the enormous, iconic hotel from Coronado Beach just across the San Diego Bay.
San Diego is full of rich culture and history, and many of its offerings can be explored for free. From museums to parks, beaches and trails, there’s something available for everyone without braking the bank.
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