When we’re out and about in San Diego we notice that not all tourists are hanging at the Hotel Del or lining up to spend $100 a plate for dinner. In fact, we’re always on the hunt for free family fun. Maybe that’s just because we’re a typical family living in a tourist town? Or maybe its the fact that we’ve been on too many family vacations where each trip out of the hotel cost us more than $100. (cough, South Florida, cough, cough)
With that in mind, we put our heads together to come up with this list of our Top Five Free Excursions.
- Balboa Park - There’s tons to do at Balboa Park that doesn’t cost money. (Parking and shuttles are free, too!) Our favorite thing to do, beyond the zoo, is to walk around the promenade, let the kids run in the massive fountain, and enjoy a picnic at the massive Pepper Grove playground. If its a Sunday, our kids adore exploring the cottages representing the various nations. On top of that there are tons of hiking trails to explore.
- Beach day – There are tons of beaches along our coast, most of them are 100% free. Our favorite free beaches are Coronado, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla Shores. In Winter, we still go to the beach pretty regularly! Our favorite for long walks on cool days is Pacific Beach. There are plenty of shops and things to explore that won’t cost you a dime!
- Torrey Pines Gliderport – While it will set you back some cash to actually going hang-gliding, watching them take off and fly around is nearly as cool and completely free. The cliffs also provide an amazing place to take pictures. Fair warning: This isn’t designed for tourists. So don’t expect to see a lot of services or even seating. But did we mention the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean? (And a healthy amount of trying to see down to Blacks Beach below. (Nude beach)
- Mission Trails – Hike, mountain bike, and explore to your hearts content. Located just 15 minutes from downtown San Diego, Mission Trails regional park is 5800 acres of mostly undeveloped wilderness. And its all free and open to the public.
- Old Town - We love both the state historic park and the little neighborhood to the south. Wander around the park to learn San Diego’s rich history and experience the joy of tons of little shops, restaurants, and galleries that make Old Town unique. And, of course, you can have a great time without spending any money at all.
Postscript: While it isn’t free, one of our favorite ways to save money while exploring San Diego is to take the trolley. An all-day pass is just $5. And on weekends, two children under 12 years old are free with a paying adult. Our kids still get a kick out of riding the trolley downtown!