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20 Awesome Free Things to Do in San Diego

Black's Beach, La Jolla, San Diego, California

San Diego is both a county and a city in California that is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It is close to both Los Angeles and the border of Mexico. San Diego is the second largest city in California, and it is a popular tourist destination. It is known for its beaches, the harbor, its excellent climate, and the many attractions there are to enjoy in the area. There are plenty of things to see and do that will suit various activity preferences. There are even free attractions and activities to enjoy for those who have a limited budget. Here are 20 awesome free things to do in San Diego.

1. Spend Time at the Beach

Its coastal location means that one of the best activities you can enjoy for free in San Diego is a trip to the beach. This is the ideal place to relax, take a stroll, enjoy the views, play with children, admire sand art, take a dip, or try some exciting watersports. According to La Jolla Mom, some of the best beaches to visit are Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla Beach. All of these are beautiful beaches with something different to offer.

2. Visit Gas Lamp Quarter

Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Gas Lamp Quarter is part of downtown San Diego. The area has a Victorian feel as it was built in the 1960s and takes its name from the gas lamp along the streets. It is an attractive area to take a stroll and get a true feel for the history of San Diego. This district has a great vibe and has some excellent restaurants and bars if you want to stop for a drink or a bite to eat. Some of these venues also provide free entertainment.

3. Watch the Sunset at La Jolla Cove

One of the prettiest spots along the coast of San Diego is La Jolla Cove, says For nature lovers, this is one of the best places to visit during the day. It is the natural habitat of sea lions, and watching them frolicking on the beach and rocks is a fascinating sight. In the evening, this is the best place to watch a beautiful sunset over the ocean.

4. Take a Brewery Tour

San Diego is an excellent place for beer lovers to visit because it is the home of America’s draft beer scene.There are several breweries in the area that offer free tours of the brewery. One of the best is The Green Flash Brewing Co. Other breweries that offer tours include Lo Jolla Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Company, and Karl Strauss Brewery. At each brewery, you will learn about the brewing process, and also have the opportunity to sample some of the craft beers they produce. There is the opportunity to buy some of the craft beers produced by the breweries if you take along a little money.

5. Stroll Along the Oceanside Municipal Pier

The Oceanside Municipal Pier is one of the most important landmarks on the coast of San Diego as it is the oldest wooden pier on the West Coast. It is the ideal setting for a romantic stroll or for taking photographs. Many people also enjoy fishing from the pier.

6. Go to Point Loma & Cabrillo National Monument

Point Loma is a picturesque spot on the coast of San Diego. It is worth visiting this spot to admire the beauty and enjoy the views. One of the features of Point Loma is the Cabrillo National Monument. This landmark commemorated Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landing at San Diego Bay in 1542. This beauty spot also has a lighthouse that offers views across to Mexico. There is also the Whale Watch Overlook where you can spot Gray Whales during migration season. It is also a good spot for birdwatching.

7. Hike Cowles Mountain

If you enjoy outdoor pursuits, then a hike up Cowles Mountain is one of the best activities for you to enjoy. Cowles Mountain is the highest mountain in San Diego. It is a three-mile hike to the summit, but it is worth making the effort. Once at the top, you can enjoy panoramic views across the city and the ocean.

8. Go to Old Town State Historic Park

Anyone who loves learning about the history of the destination they are visiting will love Old Town State Historic Park. This was the first downtown in San Diego and is also the birthplace of California. This park covers 12-acres of historic sites. These include museums, preserved buildings, restaurants, and shops. An interesting place to visit while at Old Town State Historic Park is Whaley House, which is a supernatural attraction.

9. Visit Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

San Diego is a place of natural beauty, and one of the best places that demonstrate this is Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The landscape at Torrey Pines is diverse and beautiful. You can enjoy hiking trails around the sandy mountains, across the jagged cliff tops, or along the coastline. Along the way, you can enjoy the spectacular views and you will see rare Torrey pine trees dotted around the park. It is also a fantastic place to enjoy nature and wildlife, especially birds that are native to the area.

10. Spend a Day at Balboa Park

If you want a place to visit that will keep you entertained for a full day, Balboa Park is an excellent option as this is the largest urban cultural park in the United States. There are 65 miles of hiking trails, botanical gardens, and stunning Spanish architecture to admire. Events are held in the park throughout the year, and there are many free attractions. Some of these include the botanical building, which is home to over 2,100 plants, and the Timken Art Museum, which has an interesting collection of paintings by European masters. This is a great day out for all the family as there are so many things to see and do during your visit.

11. Enjoy a Free Concert

There are free concerts that take place in various spots around San Diego. Look out for a movie night in one of San Diego’s parks, as you can sit with a picnic and a glass of wine to watch a movie in a relaxed open-air setting. Summer is the best time to visit for music fans, as this is when the Coronado Summer Concert series takes place. This involves 15 concerts being performed in Spreckels Park over a five-month period. Outside the Orange Pavilion in Balboa Park, there are organ concerts held every Sunday. This means you can sit outside in the evening sunshine relaxing to the sound of music.

12. Go to the California Surf Museum

There are several interesting museums in San Diego that you can visit for free, but the California Surf Museum is one of the more unusual. The museum houses historic surfboards, photographs, and videos. Visitors can learn about the history of surfing and iconic surfers through a range of interactive exhibitions. The museum is located on Highway 101 in Oceanside and admission is free every Tuesday.

13. Visit Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs is a 68-acre park along the Pacific coastline that stretches to Point Loma. It is a stunning place to visit during the day, and you can stroll along the beach or the clifftops. Many people think that the best time to visit Sunset Cliffs is in the evening as the sunsets falling behind the cliffs are nothing short of spectacular. If you enjoy photography, then this is definitely a beauty spot to visit.

14. Spend Time at Seaport Village

Seaport Village is a pretty little village in San Diego with a fantastic bayfront that is perfect for leisurely strolls. Other than walking along the promenade, you can also take a stroll on the beach or go window shopping at this destination. Seaport Village is well-known for its street entertainment and pop-up concerts. You are most likely to get the most out of this free entertainment if you visit at the weekend. The spring is another great time to visit Seaport Village, as it is hosts the Busker Festival every year. If you take along a little money, there is even more to enjoy. There is a historic and famous carousel that was hand-carved in 1895. Visitors can enjoy a ride on the carousel daily for just $3. There are plenty of places to eat and drink if you spend a day at Seaport Village.

15. Go to Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial

Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial is one of the most important landmarks in La Jolla. Mount Soledad is an easily accessible peak where you can take a walk and enjoy the views over La Jolla and the surrounding area. The Veterans Memorial is located on Mount Soledad and you can pay your respects to the brave veterans. The memorial consists of a massive cross surrounded by black granite stones. If you want to avoid the crowds, then you should visit Mount Soledad as early in the morning as possible.

16. Take a Free Art Walk

You can enjoy California’s art scene for free in several different ways, says Cheap Flights. One option is to join the Ray at Night Walk. This takes place once a month and includes tours of local gallery exhibitions, artisan crafts, and live music events that showcase local bands. Also once a month is the free walk through Liberty Station Arts District. This is a chance to see various performances and exhibitions. A further option is to take a stroll through Chicano Park, where there are beautiful wall murals and graffiti.

17. Junipero Serra Museum

Although there are many museums in San Diego that have regular free sessions for local residents, the Junipero Serra Museum is one of the few that is always free to visitors. The focus of this museum is the history of California’s mission, and the museum is on the site of California’s first European settlement.

18. Rooftop Yoga

If you enjoy a yoga session, then Thrillist recommends that you take part in one of the free rooftop yoga sessions. There are two places in San Diego that offer these free rooftop yoga sessions. The first is the Hotel Republic, and their sessions take place every Saturday morning. If you prefer an evening session, then head to Hotel Solamar. The sessions offered by this hotel are not as regular, but they usually take place in the early evening.

19. Hike Annie’s Canyon Trail

For those who enjoy hiking but want to try a trail a little different one than they usually undertake, then Annie’s Canyon Trail is a good option and it is completely free. The trail is located in San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, and it is one of the most recently opened trails in San Diego. The highlight of the trail is reaching the overlook, which has views across the lagoon and the Pacific Ocean.

20. Salsa Under the Stars

According to Thrillist, you can enjoy some music and dancing on Friday nights. Go to the Headquarters at Seaport Village and you will find the Manny Cepeda Orchestra playing for free. You can either grab a partner and enjoy some salsa dancing, or you can sit on the sidelines taking pleasure from the music and the sight of others dancing and having fun.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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