San Diego is known for quite a few things, like its beautiful weather and spectacular beaches. It’s typically not known for being a budget-friendly destination. Below are the top free things to do in San Diego for a Budget-Friendly Trip to this gorgeous City.
If you know where to look, though, the city is home to all kinds of low-cost alternatives to the main budget-busting attractions. Let’s take a look at some of the best free things to do in San Diego to keep those entertainment costs low.
Go to the beach.
San Diego boasts some of the best beaches across California and there is no admission to get your toes in the sand. If you’re visiting with family, visit Coronado or La Jolla Shores. For the quintessential Southern California beach vibes, head to Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach. Both offer lots of options for beach bars and casual eateries when you’re done with the water.
The city even has options for beachgoers with pets. The Original Dog Beach in Ocean Beach is one of the most popular hangouts for San Diegans and their furry friends, with a large off-leash play area for well-behaved pups.
Explore San Diego’s best trails.
Active San Diegans love taking advantage of the near-perfect weather to hit the city’s best trails as one of the fun-free things to do in San Diego. If you don’t want to leave the city, explore some of San Diego’s best bridges, including the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. Despite its gentle sway, it’s a popular spot for engagement photos thanks to the scenic canyon below.
If you’re willing to take a drive, you’ll have access to waterfalls and panoramic views within short distances of the city. For waterfalls, choose between Cedar Creek Falls, Three Sisters Falls, and Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail. Those first two are for more experienced hikers, while the canyon trail is perfect for beginners. For impressive views and easy loops, head to Torrey Pines State Reserve. Day-trippers will love access to Anza Borrego Desert State Park’s numerous oases.
Find your favorite nook at Balboa Park.
You can spend quite a bit of money in Balboa Park exploring the San Diego Zoo and some of the city’s best museums. For visitors on a budget, there are all kinds of things to do in the park that won’t cost you a thing, making Balboa Park one of the top free attractions in San Diego.
Admire the architecture and strike your best Instagram pose at one of San Diego’s most famous photo spots, the iconic Botanical Building. Go for an urban hike that feels like you’ve left the city just the same on one of the many trails that weave in and around the park. Find a shady spot and take in some of the best people-watching in San Diego. Balboa Park is the city’s shared backyard and a hub of activity.
Note: If you time your visit right, most San Diego museums have free days for residents on certain days of the month.
Attend a free concert.
San Diego has an impressive music scene, even if you’re not looking for a ticketed event. Summertime is a particularly popular time for free concert series in some of the city’s best neighborhoods.
That includes the Coronado Promenade Concerts in Spreckels Park, the Mission Hills Concerts in the Park, and the Point Loma Summer Concerts. If you’re in Balboa Park on a Sunday, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion hosts free organ concerts in the summer months.
San Diego boasts some impressive paid wildlife experiences, but it’s also home to a number of opportunities to see animals in their natural habitats. Visit La Jolla Cove and the nearby Children’s Pool for the best views of the city’s sea lions and seals. La Jolla is also home to a healthy population of leopard sharks. Swim with the harmless sharks in the late summer months.
For a chance to go whale watching for free, visit Cabrillo National Monument in the winter. Birders won’t want to miss the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and Nature Center and Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge for a chance to spot one of the hundreds of bird species that call San Diego home.
Plan a walking tour.
San Diego is a city of neighborhoods, and once you find one that suits your fancy, those neighborhoods are very walkable. Plan a walking tour of your own making to uncover hidden gems of your own.
Look for historical evidence of the fishing industry and the city’s first Italian immigrants in Little Italy. Stroll the Gaslamp Quarter and its iconic lamps and some of the oldest buildings in the city. Seek out the hidden ostriches of University Heights, a neighborhood that was once home to an ostrich farm. Find your favorite mural in North Park.
That’s not all.
Looking for more free stuff to do in San Diego? Here are a few more ideas:
- Wander Old Town’s Heritage County Park for its Victorian architecture.
- Get the friends and family together for a bonfire at your favorite beach.
- Go window shopping in Seaport Village.
- Marvel at the murals of Chicano Park.
- Drive the 59-mile scenic loop to see the best of the city from the road.
- Take in a sunset at Sunset Cliffs.
- Marvel at the murals of Chicano Park.
The cost of living in San Diego can be high but there are ways to stretch your dollar, especially when it comes to free attractions in San Diego. Are you in the market for a home in America’s Finest City? Contact us today to take advantage of not only these free attractions but one of the highest qualities of life in the country.
Thinking of buying a house in San Diego? Contact the McT Real Estate Group right away and let us help you with your real estate journey.