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Have fun during the summer in San Diego without breaking the bank! In fact, many things to see and enjoy in San Diego are absolutely free. With 70 miles of beautiful beaches, near-perfect weather and a variety of summer street fairs, concerts, and arts and cultural events, San Diego offers a fun and inexpensive summer getaway.

50 Fun and Free Activities in San Diego

  1. Put on your bathing suit, grab your towel and head to one of San Diego's 30+ beaches, all open to the public, and perfect for body surfing, boogie boarding, building sandcastles, collecting seashells and basking in the sun.
  2. Hit the road and take in the sights as you navigate San Diego's 59-Mile Scenic Drive that loops its way through the city's charming neighborhoods and reveals our unique attractions and natural wonders.
  3. Take advantage of San Diego's warm summer nights and enjoy a number of free summer concerts held throughout the county.
  4. Soak up the international flavor at the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages in Balboa Park during the free International Cottages' Lawn Programs. A summer-long event, a different country is celebrated each Sunday through ethnic foods, songs and dance.
  5. Catch a magnificent Pacific sunset and watch sea lions play along the shoreline at La Jolla Cove, one of the most spectacular natural settings in the world.
  6. Visit Seaport Village and the new Headquarters at Seaport on weekends for free entertainment, hours of leisurely strolling and window shopping, and a small free police museum including vintage jail cells open to the public at the site of San Diego's former police headquarters.
  7. Stroll through the 16½-block historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. Once the stomping grounds of the legendary Wyatt Earp, the Gaslamp Quarter is now home to unique stores and numerous restaurants, nightclubs and bars, many of which are set in turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture.
  8. Cajon Classic Cruise features over 400 classic and specialty cars on display every Wednesday throughout the summer in downtown El Cajon. There is also plenty of live music, food and shopping.
  9. Take free fly-fishing lessons from the San Diego Fly Fishers club on Sunday mornings from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at Lake Murray, located in La Mesa. If you don't have your own gear, arrive early for a free equipment loan.
  10. Sample some of the more than 200 varieties of fresh produce grown in San Diego at one of the region's many Farmers' Markets, held daily at locations throughout the county.
  11. Enjoy free outdoor organ concerts at Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park every Sunday at 2:00 PM. The Centennial International Summer Organ Festival occurs Monday evenings at 7:30 PM. through August. Beginning in June, Twilight in the Park free concerts are held at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday summer evenings.
  12. Bike, walk or jog along many trails along Mission Bay Park. Bikers, walkers and joggers share more than 20 miles of scenic paths winding through sunlight and shade near the shoreline with workout courses at planned stations along the route.
  13. Attend the annual Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-off in June featuring more than 200 vendors, local artists, food, a children's area and entertainment on five stages.
  14. Rollerblade, skateboard, bicycle or people watch along the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Boardwalk, a scenic three-mile boardwalk running along the coastline of these lively neighborhoods.
  15. Join the festivities at San Diego's many Fourth of July fireworks and celebrations, held in numerous communities throughout the county. The Port of San Diego celebrates with the Big Bay Boom fireworks extravaganza over San Diego Bay, the largest fireworks display in the county.
  16. Take a scenic drive to Mt. Laguna to hike, bike or picnic while enjoying the fresh mountain air whispering through the pines.
  17. Hike the trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park and see the rare and elegant Torrey pine trees, a number of animal species and miles of unspoiled beaches below.
  18. Visit Mission Trails Regional Park featuring a state-of-the-art Visitors Center where guests explore and learn about the wonders of nature and the native people who once lived on the land. The park also offers over 40 miles of natural and developed hiking and biking trails.
  19. Go scuba diving or snorkeling off San Diego's shores to see spectacular creatures of the sea. La Jolla Shores and Cove offer some of the clearest waters on the California coast, as well as miles of protected underwater preserve to explore.
  20. Two weekends each July, watch the annual World Championship Over-the-Line Tournament, San Diego's original boisterous beach softball event at Fiesta Island on Mission Bay.
  21. Walk along downtown's beautiful new Embarcadero, featuring the new Waterfront Park, promenades and an 830-foot-long water fountain to splash and play. Visitors can view impressive public art sculptures and memorials celebrating San Diego's international ties, cultural diversity and military and maritime heritage.
  22. The iconic 24-mile Bayshore Bikeway in San Diego is a must-do for bicyclists visiting the area. Of course, there are plenty of other amazing bike paths to explore throughout the county.
  23. Watch tail-waggin', Frisbee-catchin' and stick-fetchin' dogs splash in the surf. Man's best friend is permitted to roam leash-free at all hours of the day on designated dog beaches in Ocean Beach, Coronado and Del Mar.
  24. Join the festivities of the annual San Diego LGBT Pride Parade and Festival, one of the most popular events of its kind in the country. Free festivities include a mile-long parade through Hillcrest in July.
  25. Celebrate the discovery of gold in the East County mountain community of Julian during the Julian Gold Rush Days in June. The weekend includes gold panning, gold mine tours, face painting, historic skits and more. Enjoy this quaint, historic mining town that grew into San Diego County's second largest urban center during the Southern California gold rush of 1869.
  26. Check out the local craft beer scene during free tours at many of San Diego's breweries including Green Flash Brewing Co., La Jolla Brewing Company, Karl Strauss Brewery and Stone Brewing Company. Beer lovers can go behind the scenes and sample several microbrews from some of the world's top breweries.
  27. Hang 10 at the California Surf Museum, which houses a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos on Highway 101 in Oceanside. During free admission day on Tuesdays, visitors can explore its colorful and educational display on the sport of surfing and the legends who braved the waters over generations.
  28. Take a walk or run along the 65+ miles of trails of Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the United States, and discover its beautiful Spanish Colonial-Revival architecture and glorious gardens. Also, visitors can take advantage of the Park's variety of other free offerings, including ranger-led walking tours.
  29. Dance along Fifth Avenue during the annual Hillcrest Cityfest Street Fair in August featuring crafts, food booths, three entertainment stages and beer gardens.
  30. Gather friends, family and firewood for a cozy beach bonfire at one of San Diego County's bonfire-friendly beaches, located in Coronado, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
  31. Go on a self-guided walking tour of the UCSD Stuart Collection, a display of contemporary sculptures scattered throughout the University of California, San Diego campus in La Jolla. Tour maps are available at the Gilman Drive campus entrance.
  32. Spend the afternoon at Tidelands Park in Coronado. The park's 22 bayfront acres feature four baseball fields, a playground, skatepark, picnic tables, small beach with an exercise course, boat access, fishing pier and bike and pedestrian paths.
  33. Explore the clear shallow tidepools of La Jolla Cove and Point Loma when the tide is low and the pools are teeming with aquatic life.
  34. Take a drive to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, home of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, for breathtaking, 360-degree views of San Diego. Spectacular views also await at the top of Mt. Helix in La Mesa, offering visitors a birds-eye glimpse of San Diego's East County communities.
  35. After a day enjoying San Diego's beautiful beaches, world-class attractions, numerous golf courses, fabulous shopping and amazing cultural institutions, spend the evening under the stars relaxing with a free movie, family, food and fun.
  36. Experience the history of the local Hispanic community's struggles and triumphs with a visit to the Chicano Park Murals, established by activists in 1970. This cultural park has received international recognition as a major public art site for its commanding mural paintings set underneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Some of the murals narrate the history of Barrio Logan where the park is located.
  37. Wake up early and explore San Diego's natural surroundings by taking a hike along any one of the county's many trials.
  38. Dozens of dogs take to the waves during the annual Unleashed by Petco Surf Dog Competition in Imperial Beach in July. Visitors can watch the fun as more than 40 dogs compete in small dog, large dog and tandem surfing challenges.
  39. Witness the living legacy of California's birthplace in Old Town State Historic Park, San Diego's first "downtown." The six-block park features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites presented in shops, restaurants, museums and several carefully preserved or restored adobe and wooden buildings.
  40. Visit the U.S. Olympic Training Center, the nation's first warm-weather, year-round Olympic training facility, located in Chula Vista. Free guided tours of the 150-acre lakefront facility are offered at 11:00 AM on Saturday; tours begin at the Copley Visitor Center. Self-guided tours are also available Mondays-Saturdays - 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM.
  41. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego offers year-round free admission to guests 25 and under with valid ID at both its downtown and La Jolla location as part of its effort to engage youth in San Diego's global art scene.
  42. Take the highway to the danger zone and learn all about the Marine Corp's extensive aviation history at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. Over select summer weekends, former Marine pilots invite pilots and non-pilots of all ages to get behind the stick during Open Cockpit Days.
  43. The annual Switchfoot Bro-Am beach day in July features a surf contest, live music performances, and nerf surf jousting exposition between surf contest heats. The event will welcome back the annual Rob Machado Bro Junior.
  44. Explore the mediation gardens of the Self-Realization Fellowship Ashram Center in Encinitas. It is here that Paramahansa Yogananda, one of the preeminent spiritual figures of our time, wrote his "Autobiography of a Yogi." The meditation gardens are open to the public Tuesdays-Sundays - 12:00 to 4:00 PM.
  45. Walk 1,942 feet along the Oceanside Municipal Pier, the longest wooden pier on the U.S. West Coast. The pier is a perfect setting for fishing, walking and wave watching.
  46. Browse through the Ocean Beach Antique District, located along Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach, offering the largest concentration of antique and collectible dealers in San Diego County. Here, guests can find one-of-a-kind antiques, mid-century modern furniture, fine estate sale items, vintage jewelry and specialty memorabilia.
  47. Walk along the Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad and look for birds, insects, plants, fish and animals in one of the few remaining tidal wetlands on the Southern California coast. The nature reserve is open Monday-Friday - 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM and Saturdays-Sundays - 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
  48. Have fun during the Festival of the Bells in July, the anniversary celebration of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first of California's 21 missions. Guests can celebrate the beginning of Christianity in the western United States with food, entertainment, dance and traditional activities like the blessing of the bells.
  49. Queen Califia's Magical Circle, a free sculpture garden in Escondido, is open on second Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and provides docents to answer question about artist Niki de Saint Phalle's (1930-2002) nine mythic large-scale sculptures within a circular "snake wall" and maze entryway.
  50. San Diego's culture scene is rich in colors, flavors, and sounds. Experience San Diego Arts with a Self-guided Tour and see everything from breathtaking waterfront views to one of a kind artworks.

Glorious sunshine, warm breezes and beautiful beaches are calling from San Diego, and we're inviting you to answer the call. Add some spring to your step and plan a visit to San Diego where the sun shines year-round!

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Arlene Ibarra
Top Things to Do in San Diego – May 24-30, 2016 May 24, 2016 Written by Brent Bernasconi