10 Free Things to Do in San Diego

A city full of theme parks, fine dining and multi-million dollar homes might lead visitors to believe that finding free things to do in San Diego is next to impossible. The truth is that the city is full of options that don't require emptying your wallet. And, many of these activities are the things you should be doing here anyway.

San Diego's most popular attractions, the beaches, are free! Sure, depending on where you go, you may find yourself dropping quarters in a parking meter, but with good planning and early arrival, parking spaces in public lots should be available. Pack a picnic, sunscreen and umbrella for a day in Southern California sunshine. Award-winning Coronado Municipal Beach tops our list of favorite beaches for it's gorgeous white sand and relatively calm water that is perfect for kids.

Hike Torrey Pines State Park for spectacular ocean views, the occasional dolphin sighting, bird watching and fabulous exercise. It's a day-use park with a fee-based parking lot but plenty of free, street parking is available during off-peak times. 

The must-do with kids in La Jolla is the Children's Pool. What used to be a swimming area has been taken over (to the dismay of some) by sunbathing seals.

Without further ado, here is the list of the 10 best free things to do in San Diego.



This park encompasses over 4200 acres, with 27 miles of shoreline of which 19 are sandy beach. Facilities include marinas, a horseshoe court, sand volleyball courts, fire rings, picnic areas, children's play areas, and paths for biking,...  Read More

Moonlight State Beach


This beach earns its name because residents in the early 1900s used to picnic under the stars here. Today, Moonlight State Beach is a popular beach choice with North County San Diego locals and visitors. A picnic area, restrooms, volleyball...  Read More



There is so much to do here, it's hard to begin. Of course, the usual beachgoing activities such as sunbathing and enjoying the ocean are free. This part of the ocean is special as it's the entry point into La Jolla's Underwater Park where an...  Read More

San Diego Embarcadero
Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona


"Embarcadero" is a Spanish word meaning "landing place" and San Diego's welcomes cruise ships, is home to the USS Midway and other historic ships, the new Waterfront Park with spray fountains and a playground for kids, and stretches for several...  Read More



The Children's Pool is a beach in La Jolla that is famous for seal sightings on sand and in the water. Its name is derived from the beach's original intent. In 1931 local philanthropist, Ellen Browning Scrips, had a seawall built to protect the...  Read More

Torrey Pines State Beach and Park


Along the bluffs overlooking the sea await eight miles of trails through the unique landscape at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Due to conservation efforts the state park is one of the wildest, most undeveloped spots in the state. The...  Read More

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona


Find out what life was like in Mexico and early America back in the 1800s. This spot is where the city of San Diego was born, and it contains historic treasures unearthed by archeologists over the years. The historic park includes several...  Read More

Balboa Park


With over 85 cultural and recreational facilities, Balboa Park is a must-see. Start at the Visitor's Center to grab a map and events calendar. Wander through multiple gardens or the botanical building (with over 2000 plant species), take in an...  Read More



Ranked the #1 paragliding school in America since 2000, Torrey Pines Gliderport is a city-owned private-use glider airport. You can't really beat the view from the sky, but it's pretty spectacular from the ground, too. While lessons and a tandem...  Read More



The seaward side of Coronado Island is exceptionally clean with wide stretches of sand. It's considered one of the best beaches in the nation. The northern end, "North Beach", is dog-friendly and popular for surfing in the summer. The main part,...  Read More


Meet Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as...  More About Katie