Free Things to Do in San Diego With Kids

This Kid-Friendly Magnet in SoCal Offers Tons of Zero-Cost Fun Beyond the Beach

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
    Man showing milky way to little boy,
    ••• 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
    ScrippsInstituteOfOceanography.jpg
    ••• 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

    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
    StuartCollection.jpg
    ••• 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)

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09
    SpreckelsPark.jpg
    ••• 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
    History of surfing building
    ••• 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

    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
    BalboaPark.jpg
    ••• 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.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    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.