Having fun during the summer in San Diego doesn’t require a lot of money. In 2016, Money Magazine designated San Diego as the #1 vacation value in North America.
Many things to see and enjoy in San Diego are absolutely free. With 70 miles of beautiful beaches, near-perfect weather, abundant outdoor recreation and diverse arts and cultural offerings, San Diego offers a fun and inexpensive summer getaway.
The following is a list of 25 fun and free activities that guests in San Diego can enjoy during the summer months:
Bike, walk or jog along Mission Bay Aquatic Park’s many trails. Outdoor exercise enthusiasts share more than 20 miles of scenic paths winding through sunlight and shade near the shoreline with workout courses at planned stations along the route.
Experience all the Liberty Station ARTS DISTRICT has to offer by attending a free Friday Night Liberty art walk on the first Friday of every month from 5-9 p.m. Meet working artists, enjoy dance, theatre and music performances, visit museums and galleries and explore the growing historic district.
Check out the local craft beer scene during free tours and events at many of San Diego’s breweries. Beer lovers can download a free brewery guide map of San Diego’s more than 120 breweries to discover.
Go scuba diving or snorkeling off San Diego’s shores to see spectacular creatures of the sea. La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove offer some of the clearest waters on the California coast, as well as miles of protected underwater preserve to explore.
Witness the living legacy of California’s birthplace in Old Town State Historic Park, San Diego’s first “downtown.” The six-block park features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites presented in shops, restaurants, museums and several carefully preserved or restored adobe and wooden buildings. Free “Living History” tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily.
Take a free public tour of the renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the seaside neighborhood of La Jolla. Outdoor walking tours, including historic buildings along the Pacific coast, are offered monthly and are free, but registration is required.
Put on your bathing suit, grab your towel and head to one of San Diego’s 30-plus beaches, all open to the public, and perfect for body surfing, boogie boarding, building sandcastles, collecting seashells and basking in the sun.
Visit Seaport Village and the new Headquarters at Seaport on weekends for free entertainment, hours of leisurely strolling and window shopping, and a small free police museum including vintage jail cells open to the public at the site of San Diego’s former police headquarters.
Stroll through the 16½-block historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. Once the stomping grounds of the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, the Gaslamp Quarter is now home to unique stores and numerous restaurants, nightclubs and bars, many of which are set in turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture.
Sample some of the more than 200 varieties of fresh produce grown in San Diego at one of the region’s many Farmer’s Markets, held daily at locations throughout the county.
Enjoy free outdoor organ concerts on the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park every Sunday at 2 p.m. The Summer International Organ Festival occurs Monday evenings at 7:30 p.m. through Aug. 29. Beginning June 14, Twilight in the Park free concerts are held at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
Rollerblade, skateboard, bicycle or people watch along the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Boardwalk, a scenic three-mile esplanade running along the coastline of these lively neighborhoods.
Stargaze on the first Wednesday of every month at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park hosted by the San Diego Astronomy Association. During Stars in the Park, SDAA members set up huge telescopes and offer guests a great view of the moon, planets and brighter stars.
Hike the trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve in La Jolla and see the rare and elegant Torrey pine trees, a number of wild flower and animal species, and miles of unspoiled beaches below.
Visit Mission Trails Regional Park featuring a state-of-the-art Visitors Center where guests explore and learn about the wonders of nature and the native people who once lived on the land. The park also offers more than 40 miles of natural and developed hiking and biking trails.
Explore the clear, shallow tidepools of La Jolla Cove and Point Loma when the tide is low and the pools are teeming with aquatic life.
Walk along downtown’s beautiful new Embarcadero, featuring new parks, promenades and an 830-foot-long water fountain to splash and play. Visitors can view impressive public art sculptures and memorials celebrating San Diego’s international ties, cultural diversity and military and maritime heritage.
Join San Diegans in a local natural phenomenon, the grunion run, on warm summer nights when the tide is high and the moon is full. Guests can witness thousands of small grunion fish swimming ashore to mate and bury their eggs in the sand before riding the waves back out to sea.
Watch tail-waggin’, Frisbee-catchin’ and stick-fetchin’ dogs splash in the surf. Man’s best friend is permitted to roam leash-free at all hours of the day on designated “dog beaches” in Ocean Beach, Mission Bay, Coronado and Del Mar.
Take a walk through Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the United States, and discover its beautiful Spanish Colonial-Revival architecture and remarkable gardens. Visitors can take advantage of the park’s free ranger-led walking tours at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Sundays.
Gather friends, family and firewood for a cozy beach bonfire at one of San Diego County’s bonfire-friendly beaches located in Coronado, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Oceanside.
Go on a self-guided walking tour of The Stuart Collection, a display of contemporary sculptures scattered throughout the University of California, San Diego campus in La Jolla. Tour maps are available at the Gilman Drive campus entrance.
Experience the history of the local Hispanic community’s struggles and triumphs with a visit to the Chicano Park Murals, established by activists in 1970. This cultural park has received international recognition as a major public art site for its commanding mural paintings set beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Some of the murals narrate the history of Barrio Logan, where the park is located.
Take advantage of San Diego’s warm summer nights and wonderful public parks, and enjoy a number of free summer outdoor concerts held throughout the county.
Check out the monthly Ray at Night art walk in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, featuring gallery exhibitions, artisan crafts, live music showcasing local bands, and fresh local food. The event is held 6-10 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month along Ray Street.
For more information on San Diego’s offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.