Free Things to Do in San Diego With Kids

A Kid-Friendly Magnet Offering Tons of Zero-Cost Fun

Looking for a budget-friendly family vacation in San Diego? Bringing the kids to the San Diego Zoo and Legoland California is standard, of course, but be sure to mix as many free activities into your itinerary -- and there are plenty of low-cost to-dos to choose from.

After you explore some of the amazing beaches in the San Diego area, here are 10 truly fabulous and free kid-friendly activities that will stretch your vacation budget.

01 of 09

Go Stargazing With Astronomy Buffs

Man showing milky way to little boy,
Getty Images/Christophe Lehenaff

On the first Wednesday of every month, following the "Sky Tonight" planetarium show in the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s Space Theater, members of the San Diego Astronomy Association set up huge telescopes on the Prado in Balboa Park for free public sky viewing. Families can get a great view of the moon, planets and brighter stars, thanks to the "Gazin' with the Experts" program.

02 of 09

Get an Insider's View of Marine Science Research

Scripps Institute Of Oceanography from Outside
Scripps Institute of Oceanography

On the second Saturday of each month, families can visit the seaside neighborhood of La Jolla and take a free public tour of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. You'll be able to view historic buildings and stroll the 1,090-foot-long Scripps Pier, an active, working research pier that is otherwise closed to the public. Register in advance via Eventbrite

03 of 09

Learn to Fly Fish

On Sunday mornings, you can take free fly-fishing lessons from the San Diego Fly Fishers club at Lake Murray, located near the village of La Mesa. If you don’t have your own gear, arrive early for a free equipment loan. 

04 of 09

Go on a Sculpture Walking Tour

People posing in front of a large bear sculpture
Stuart Collection

Looking for a fun way to get some exercise? Families can go on a self-guided walking tour of The Stuart Collection, a display of contemporary sculptures scattered throughout the campus at UCSD in La Jolla. Tour maps are available at the Gilman Drive campus entrance. (University of California San Diego, La Jolla)

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05 of 09

Catch a Free Concert

Spreckels Park dome and palm trees
Spreckels Park

On Sunday evenings throughout the summer, bring a picnic and a blanket and enjoy to Coronado's Summer Concert Series in 8-acre Spreckels Park, which features a gazebo stage, playground, picnic tables, and restrooms. 

06 of 09

Brush Up on Your Surfing Legends

California Surf Museum, Oceanside
Getty Images/Stephanie Hager - HagerPhoto

The first Tuesday of every month is free admission day at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, which houses a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs, and videos spotlighting the sport of surfing and the legends who braved the waters over generations.

07 of 09

Let the Music Move You

The California Center for the Arts Escondido offers free family musical events featuring a range of live music acts. All ages are welcome, though some events require pre-registration. 

08 of 09

Get a Guided Tour of America's Largest City Park

Balboa Park fountain
Balboa Park

On Tuesdays and Sundays, families can explore Balboa Park on a free ranger-led walking tour to discover the largest urban cultural park in the United States its beautiful Spanish Colonial-Revival architecture and beautiful gardens.

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09 of 09

Learn About Our Beautiful World

On the first Sunday of each month, the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center holds free Family Fun Days. Each summer features a different theme, from Kumeyaay (a Native American people indigenous to the area) to our changing climate and how we can do our part to conserve natural resources.

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