San Diego's a pretty big city with lots of things to do, but when you've got a small budget to work with, it can be challenging. Luckily, there's plenty of free things to do in San Diego that doesn't cost any money, well maybe just the cost of parking.
Let's run down a few ideas:
First and foremost... visiting the beaches are FREE. They're open to the public, and won't cost you anything to get into the water to swim or body surf. Got kids? They can build sandcastles if they're not ready for ocean swimming! If you're willing to cozy up for the evening, there are a few bonfire pits for you to hang out around with your family and friends.
Old Town San Diego
This is where it all started in San Diego. It won't cost you anything to explore some of the old buildings that have been there since the 1800s. If you DO want to spend a few bucks, you can tour the Whaley House, the most haunted house in the United States. While you're there, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy Presidio Park.
La Jolla Cove
Have you been to the Cove in La Jolla? There you'll find some of the best sunset views you'll find anywhere in the World. If you're lucky, there may be a few seals hanging out in the Children's Pool area. This is also a local favorite for scuba divers.
San Diego Public Library
We've got some really amazing libraries in San Diego. If you can make it downtown to the main library, you'll find 9 stories of books and space for you to enjoy a book or two.
It's a great place to people watch and enjoy an easy stroll. Besides the shopping in the many boutique shops, you'll also find boats and ships passing by in the bay as you're walking along the water. On select Fridays, you can catch The Manny Cepeda Orchestra playing at The Headquarters.
There are around 16 blocks for you to explore some of the best bars, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants in San Diego.
See beautiful murals and experience the rich history of Chicano Park in Barrio Logan. If you're there in April for Chicano Park Day, experience great food, art, music performances, and a even a low-rider show.
Mission Bay Park
If you love open space, you'll love Mission Bay Park. It's the perfect place to jog, walk, ride a bike or fly a kite.
If you like the idea of standing on a potato chip rock, this is the place!
Spreckels Organ Pavilion and Balboa Park
It's one of the worlds biggest outdoor pipe organs and has been there since 1914. You'll sometimes find an organist playing a few tunes for the public. It's also a great place to admire the beautiful Spanish architecture. Select museums are free on Tuesdays if you're a San Diego resident. If you're there on the first Wednesday of the month, enjoy stargazing with a few local astronomers, weather permitting.
Tijuana Estuary, Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge or the Famosa Slough in Point Loma
Got a pair of binoculars? Enjoy a little bird watching or sightseeing.
Point Loma Tide Pools
Check out some really cool sea anemones, crabs, octopus, and other creatures that live in the tide pools.
Want one of the best, if not THE BEST views in all of San Diego? Head up to Mount Soledad and enjoy a 360-degree view of our amazing city.
California Surf Museum
Learn about the origins of surfing on Tuesdays for FREE.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
If you enjoy the desert, this is one of the best places to enjoy it. If you're here around spring, you'll see some of the most beautiful wildflower meadows in the country.
The Big Bay
Another great place to walk, bike, and people watch. You'll also see our famous Kissing Statue, ships, marinas, restaurants, and shops.
Catch a fireworks show every night during the summer!
Hotel del Coronado
If you've seen a postcard of San Diego, chances are, it's of The Del in Coronado. You'll find a large stretch of sand, restaurants, and boutique shops.
Mission Beach Boardwalk
Located between Mission and Pacific beach, this 3-mile boardwalk is a great place to enjoy people watching and taking pictures.
Did you know? You only need a fishing license if you're not fishing on a pier. If you prefer lake fishing, Lake Murray in La Mesa offers free fly casting lessons from 9am-noon.
Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center
It was formerly the U.S. Olympic Training Center, it's located in the South Bay. While there, you can enjoy a free tour of the 150-acre facility in the Copley Visitor Center on Saturday mornings. If you prefer to do the tour yourself, it's available every day from 9 AM to 4 PM.
About 1 hour east of the main city, it's a nice place to go for a scenic hike through the mountains and pine trees.
Known for amazing pies and it's gold mining, it's a charming town where anyone can enjoy a walk on the main street, boutiques, and great restaurants.
Torrey Pines State Beach and Reserve
If you see a few hang gliders flying around the area, you're probably close to Torrey Pines Beach. You guessed it, there's a beach there, and it's next to a beautiful lagoon. The Torrey Pines State Reserve is also a great place to enjoy some hiking.
Mission Trails Regional Park
This place is huge! There are over 40 miles of trails to pick from to hike or bike. Check out the visitors center where you'll learn about the native Kumeyaay people who once lived in the area.