Our 11 Favorite FREE Things To Do in San Diego

What’s better than doing cool stuff on vacation? Doing cool, FREE stuff on vacation!

We know that you want to be smart and savvy on your trip when it comes to your travel budget. That’s why we compiled a list of our favorite FUN and FREE things to do in San Diego on your next visit.

Here are our favorite ways to save money – or not spend anything at all – when exploring San Diego:

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 12.43.39 PMChildren’s Pool in La Jolla
Not really a site for children to go swimming, but a walled off beach where you’ll see plenty of seals sleeping and resting. So, get ready to see some cute.

Tour the US Olympic Training Center
Did you know there are only three U.S. Olympic Training Centers in the country? And, that one is located right in Chula Vista, CA, just a 15 minute drive from us? Here you’ll get to see Olympic hopefuls train and explore the grounds and facilities for free daily.

Farmers markets
Free samples, entertainment and people-watching galore at San Diego farmers markets. Lucky for you, one of the best – and most scenic – is Il Mercato, the loved-by-locals Saturday morning farmers market in Little Italy. Best part is that it is just one block from us! 

Museum of Contemporary Art
Both the Downtown-Little Italy (which is just a few blocks walking distance from us) and La Jolla locations offer free admission every third Thursday 5-7pm.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 12.26.32 PMOld Town State Historic Park
You could already tell by the name – this place is brimming with old, historic places since it is the site of San Diego’s first-ever downtown. You’ll find things (a ton are free) like the famed and haunted Whaley House, the first San Diego courthouse and jail, the El Campo Santo Cemetery and all the margaritas and Mexican food you could want. Old Town is just two trolley stops away from Little Italy and our hotel is just one block from the trolley station. Score!

Grunion Run
If you’re visiting from now until August, you’ll get the chance to see thousands upon thousands of Grunion fish heading ashore on San Diego beaches to spawn – only when the tide is during a full or new moon.

Balboa Park
With historical sites, gardens, stunning photo ops, hiking trails, picnic spots, and a few free museums (Timken Museum and Botanical Building), Balboa Park is every local’s favorite place to spend an afternoon without spending a dollar. Just ask anyone. Go on, do it. Though, if you want to see any other museum, like the Mingei, San Diego Museum of Art, and the Natural History Museum, you’ll have to pay up.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 12.30.36 PMMission Bay Park
San Diego’s Mission Bay area is one of the prettiest areas in San Diego, with wide expanses of bay beaches with white sand, sprawling grassy knolls to watch the waves from, and plenty of bonfire rings to use for free.

Mt. Soledad
Prepare to whip out your camera (if it already wasn’t out already). Drive up to Mt. Soledad in the La Jolla area for one of the most astounding views of the Pacific Ocean, La Jolla and beyond.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 12.31.37 PM Tidepooling
Along San Diego’s shores, you’ll discover several rocky areas prime for tide pools to fill with little sea creatures. Our favorites are the ones you can access from Cabrillo National Monument (there’s a $5 fee to park) and the ones in Shell Beach in La Jolla. Tidepool season is mid-September until early April, when the low tides between 9-4pm allow us a glimpse of sealife.

Torrey Pines State Reserve
One of our favorite hiking spots, mainly because of its collection of native Torrey Pine trees, but also because of it’s oceanfront location on a cliff in La Jolla.

Are you a modern budget traveler who still loves chic design and one-of-a-kind boutique hotels? Then, check us out. We’d get along great.