10 Free Things to do This Summer in San Diego

San Diego is a huge city full of opportunity and things to do. Being a coastal city, as the warm weather comes out and really shines, so do even more chances to get out and enjoy yourself—often for little or no charge! Need ideas without breaking the bank? Continue reading for tips!

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San Diego is a huge city full of opportunity and things to do. Being a coastal city, as the warm weather comes out and really shines, so do even more chances to get out and enjoy yourself—often for little or no charge! Visiting San Diego in the summer might be a peak season, but remember that these busier times in the tourist industry are usually for a good reason.

10 things to do in san diego for free summer with kids

If you are visiting San Diego this summer, here are 10 FREE THINGS that you and your family can participate in:

1. Summer Movies in the Park:

This is one of my favorites to do in any city. You bring your chairs, some snacks, and a few blankets and then get to watch your favorite films under the stars. It is like a drive in and movie theater combined! To make it extra special, parks are not always the only venues for these movies—the beaches sometimes host them as well!

2. Hit the beach:

This should be a no-brainer, but let me advise you on some tips. Most beaches get very crowded in late morning and into the afternoon, so prepare by arriving early (by 9 am should be okay) and carpooling when you can since parking becomes filled to capacity in lots quickly.

Also make sure that you have sunscreen, and a big blanket/sheet/towel to mark your area off so you can have adequate space to relax. Bring some lunch, too! As long as you don’t litter… And be prepared for seagulls trying to steal your food by keeping it zipped up in a purse or bag when you aren’t eating.

3. Visit Balboa Park (pictured):

Balboa Park is filled with trails and museums, as well as bustling with culture and beautiful architecture. The Timkin art museum and botanical building are free every single day to enter, while the other museums rotate being free to residents on Tuesday.

There is also a rose garden and cactus garden that are beautiful and unique to the area, so there is a lot to explore without breaking your bank!

4. Walk around Seaport Village:

This entire region of San Diego is so much fun to explore. Seaport Village is a quaint shopping center nestled right on the coastline of the city of San Diego overlooking the harbor. It is not too far from the San Diego Convention Center and is next to the USS Midway. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the views are consequently beautiful!

There are gorgeous walkways to stroll on, a carousal for the kids, and unique shops that hold treasures for pirates and luxurious hammocks. It isn’t uncommon to find street performers in the area, and one of our favorite “store fronts” is actually an art gallery featuring ocean life.

5. Thursday concert series at Santee’s Trolley Square:

Once summertime hits, more in east county San Diego, the city of Santee hosts Thursday evening concerts at their trolley center. There is a small outdoor amphitheater, and the bands who play vary in genre.

There is a Starbucks, Cold Stone, and plenty of other food venues right next to it if you want to make a cheap night of it (though little cups of whipped cream at Starbucks are free and delicious right?! And water!), but even just the music alone creates a community vibe that is enough.

6. Play in the interactive fountain @ Viejas outlet center in Alpine:

So many splash parks these days cost money to get in to, but thankfully there are still some free ways to cool enough. Also in the east county, the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine has an interactive fountain in the middle of it that children (and adults) can play in.

Usually it isn’t too busy, and you just have to make sure anyone in the water has shoes on.

7. Go for a hike at Mission Trails, or UCSD:

Personally, we would rather hike in the cooler months like fall or winter, but in San Diego it seems people thrive in hiking once summer hits! Mission Trails Regional Park is a popular place for hikes, although we have found quite a liking to walking around the region of University of California, San Diego. The campus is beautiful, and there are plenty of areas to hike in the surrounding regions.

8. Stroll through La Jolla and La Jolla Cove:

Speaking of regions near the UCSD campus, La Jolla is a gorgeous, class A beach town. I visited with my best friend from college, and this was hands down one of her favorite beachside places. You can watch sea lions chill on the beach below and walking through the strip of stores is simply magical.

The photo opportunities are endless since there is some beautiful work of art/stairwell/architecture/view around every corner, and it is easy to begin to find this city within San Diego one of the most charming. Explaining everything to do there would easily be an article on its own.

9. Take a trip through historic times in Old Town: 

Old Town San Diego features over 200 acres of history. It was the first region in San Diego to be settled in 1769, and originally only had a mission and fort on it! The Mexican culture shines through here, with vibrant music and delicious food.

If you are wanting some spooks, the Whaley House Museum dates back to the 1800s and has a sinister story behind it. Travel Channel has called it the most haunted home in the United States. Especially on a cooler summer day, this is the perfect place to mosey around with family or friends.

10. Pay a visit to San Diego Central Library:

This public library in the heart of San Diego is still relatively new, only opening in September of 2013. It is nine stories, and over 300,000 square feet! The architecture boasts a lattice dome and holds a two-story reading room for rare books inside.

There is also a charter school inside! I love libraries, and something about them during the summer brings me back to some of my most fond memories of childhood. If you like reading, or even just unique building structures, pay this library a visit.


There are so many free things you can find to do this summer in San Diego if you are willing to look, these are just our favorites! Have you done any, or do you plan to do any of them? Let us know, and be sure to follow us along on our social media by clicking the icons below!

Happy (free) adventuring!


10 things to do in san diego for free summer with kids

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