The military has been a part of San Diego since it was first inhabited. From the inception of old San Diego as a Spanish military outpost to its position today as the principle homeport of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, San Diego has had a rich military history. With numerous Navy, Marine and Coast Guard installations throughout the area, San Diego visitors will frequently observe military planes and helicopters practicing routine maneuvers overhead, tank and troup exercises around Camp Pendleton, and Navy aircraft carriers and other ships cruising in and out of San Diego Bay.
Activities to Consider:
- If you’re looking for a place to stay, many hotels and resorts throughout San Diego County offer special discounts and upgrades for military personnel. There are also several waterfront cottage and resort options that are exclusively for military use. For those looking to experience the beauty of San Diego in a natural setting, reserve a spot at one of the military-only campgrounds located on scenic beaches from Camp Pendleton to Coronado.
- With year-round mild, sunny weather, no visit to San Diego is complete without a day spent at one of our 70 miles of spectacular beaches or one of the dedicated military beaches. After a day in the water, check out the world-famous attractions and activities that make San Diego one of the top family vacation destinations. Spend the day at SeaWorld or the San Diego Zoo, catch a Padres baseball game or discover San Diego’s craft beer scene on a guided tour. To show appreciation to military personnel, many San Diego theme parks, museums and performing arts venues offer free admission or discounts for men and women in uniform.
- With all there is to see and do in San Diego, you don’t want to miss the military museums, memorials and monuments dedicated to San Diego’s proud military heritage. From the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, to Liberty Station - the former Naval Training Center, to the annual San Diego Fleet Week celebration each fall, San Diego proudly salutes its armed forces, past and present.
- Discover the wonders of a military cruise out of San Diego. From September to May, cruises depart for the sun-drenched Mexican Riviera, exotic Hawaii Islands, the historic Panama Canal and more. All of the cruise lines sailing out of San Diego offer discounts on military cruises for select sailings. Plus, San Diego’s near-perfect weather and world-class attractions make it the perfect place to spend a few days pre- or post-cruise. Check out these 1-Day, 2-Day and 3-Day Itineraries in San Diego for before or after your military cruise.
- Whether you are visiting San Diego for some R&R or attending a military graduation, start your trip planning with our military resource information.The helpful resource includes San Diego military base information, as well as public affairs and area USO contact information.
Browse the articles below to help plan your next military trip to San Diego.
Free for Military in San Diego
Considering San Diego’s rich military history, it’s no wonder that many locals businesses are proud to honor men and women in uniform with free admission. Here is a sampling of the attractions, museums and performing arts organizations that are offering complimentary admission to active military.
- The USS Midway Museum proudly welcomes all active-duty and reservist personnel with valid ID aboard the aircraft carrier at no charge. Retired military with valid ID receive a discounted admission price of $10.
- Through their Here's to the Heroes program, SeaWorld San Diego offers one free single-day admission to active duty service members, activated or drilling reservists and National Guardsmen, as well as up to three of their direct dependents. Dependents can take advantage of the offer without their service member, although an adult must accompany minor dependents. All dependents of 10 years or older must present valid dependent ID.
- A complimentary one-day pass to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park is offered to active duty military, cadets of military academies and reserves with active orders. The admission pass for the Safari Park also includes a complimentary the Africa Tram ride. Individuals must show a valid, active military ID; the program also includes U.S. cadets who do not have "Active" on their IDs.
Balboa Park Museums
- Free daily admission is available to all active military to the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. Exhibits of military artifacts, photographs, memorabilia and artwork honor men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces, Coast Guard and Wartime Merchant Marine.
- Home to many original and reproductions of historic aircraft and spacecraft, the San Diego Air and Space Museum offers free admission for active military plus a $2 discount for each family member.
- Housing more than 7,000 photographs that span the history of photography, the Museum of Photographic Arts offers free admission for active military and their dependents. Retired military receive $1 off admission prices.
Balboa Park Free Tuesdays
Park organizations offer free admission on a rotating basis on the first four Tuesdays of the month to active military and their dependents. Please note: Some museums may offer complimentary admission to their permanent collections only and charge admission to special exhibitions or films.
First Tuesday of each month:
Second Tuesday of each month:
Third Tuesday of each month:
Fourth Tuesday of each month:
The Timken Museum of Art
is always free.
San Diego Military Discounts
To recognize the courageous men and women who serve our country, the following attractions and activities are offering exclusive deals for military personnel. In many cases, these military deals are offered to active and retired military and their families.
- Active duty and retired military receive a 40% military discount on tickets and a second day free when tickets for LEGOLAND California Resort in Carlsbad when they are purchased at a military ticket office. If tickets are purchased at LEGOLAND, a 10% discount applies for those with a valid military ID.
- At the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla, military personnel and their families receive a $2 discount off the regular price of admission.
- The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park offers active military and their families a 10% daily admission discount and free admission on the first Tuesday of each month. Vouchers for IMAX films may be purchased at a 20% discount at military ticket offices.
- Learn about our natural world as it is today and as it was in the past at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. A special military deal of $5 off the usual admission price is offers to to active military with valid ID, Plus military receive free admission on the first Tuesday of each month.
- The region's oldest and largest art museum, the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park offers active and retired military a $3 discount on admission with a valid ID.
- Featuring more than 80 historic autos and motorcycles, the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park offers a $2 discount on admission for military with a valid ID.
- Active military with valid ID receive $2.50 off admission to the San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park. View dynamic and educational anthropological exhibits about people and places throughout the Americas and around the world.
- Wander through the Zen garden, koi ponds and bonsai exhibits of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park for a discounted $2.50 admission price.
- With engaging artwork, exhibitions and hands-on art projects for children of all ages, The New Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego offers a 50% discount for active, veteran and retired military and their dependents.
- The internationally acclaimed, Tony Award®-winning Old Globe Theatre produces 15 plays and musicals annually on three stages within Balboa Park. Discounts are available for most performances for active duty military with valid I.D. For more information, contact Globe Ticket Services at (619) 23-GLOBE (234-5623) x1.
- Founded in 1947 and known for creating the most exciting and adventurous new work in regional theatre, the Tony Award®-winning La Jolla Playhouse welcomes U.S. military personnel, spouses and children, plus U.S. veterans. Discounted $25 tickets are available for area 1 and 2 seats for the first two weeks of any show, excluding opening night and subject to availability.
- The San Diego Symphony offers military personnel a $3 military discount off regular ticket prices (except Grand Tier seats) for certain sections of the Copley Symphony Hall in downtown San Diego. This discount can only be redeemed through the San Diego Symphony Ticket Office by phone (619) 235-0804 or in person.
- Enjoy the hometown San Diego Padres baseball team in one of three ways each season:
- Save $6 off every game ticket priced $13.50 or more with a valid active duty, dependent, reserve, retired or Department of Defense ID card. The tickets can be purchased at PETCO Park ticket windows, as well as at select on-base ticket offices.
- On Sundays, military personnel in uniform receive a 50% discount when purchasing tickets at PETCO Park the day of the game.
- With the new $99 Military Season Pass for junior enlisted military personnel, enjoy one Upper Reserved seat for up to 80 home games.
- East County’s Sycuan Golf & Tennis Resort provides active military with a $25 discount on green fees on their championship courses from Monday through Friday throughout the year.
- Throughout the year, active military can enjoy a 2-for-1 golf special on the designated “resort course” of the day at the La Costa Resort and Spa in the North County Coastal community of Carlsbad.
Military Hotels and San Diego Hotel Discounts
Military personnel can choose to stay in a hotel during their San Diego getaway – many of them offer special discounts or upgrades to active military – or stay in special military-only lodging. Here are some hotels near San Diego military bases.
Hotels Near Military Bases
Marine Corps Recruit Depot and San Diego Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center
Point Loma Naval Base
NAS North Island, Naval Base Coronado and Naval Amphibious Base Coronado
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
- Right on Breakers Beach in Coronado, the North Island Beach Cottages offer all the luxuries of home in a spectacular beachfront setting. All twenty two-bedroom cottages include a fully-equipped kitchen, flat-screen cable TV with a Blu-ray/DVD player, WiFi Internet access, linens, a private bath, patio, and BBQ. They are available for active and retired military, reservists and DoD civilians. An ADA accessible unit is also available.
- Located at the Naval Base Point Loma, Naval Mine & Anti-Submarine Warfare Command Complex (near Nimitz and Harbor Drive), the Bay View Cottages consist of two single-story, one- and two-bedroom cottages that are available for active and retired military, reservists, and DoD civilians. Sharing a stunning view of San Diego Bay, both cottages come equipped with flat-screen cable TVs with DVD players, WiFi Internet, private baths and patios. The one-bedroom unit is ADA accessible.
Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base Getaways
- At the San Onofre Recreation Beach, cottages on a bluff overlooking the ocean and only a short walk from the beach are available for use by active and retired military, National Guard, reservists, 100% DAV, DoD, MWR employees and guests. One, two and three bedroom cottages are available, each with its own kitchen, bathroom, TV and BBQ grill. During the summer months (April – October), active duty stationed on a Marine Corps installation may reserve 12 weeks in advance. All other active duty and retired military may reserve 10 weeks in advance. Reserve and DoD employees and DoD retired may reserve 9 weeks in advance. During winter months, everyone can reserve 12 weeks in advance. Two pet limit per site; pets not allowed on the beach.
Military Discounts on Tours & Sightseeing
Through narrated history or entertaining anecdotes, military personnel and their families can get to know San Diego from a local on a guided sightseeing tour. Here are just a few examples of the discounts being offered to active and retired military.
- Offered by Old Town Trolley Tours, the City Tour is the only on-and-off tour in San Diego, and is filled with information on the region's rich military history. The tour stops at 10 popular locations throughout San Diego and Coronado, including the USS Midway Museum and Balboa Park, home of the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. The fully narrated tour also offers information on the Marine Corp Recruit Depot, Naval Air Station North Island and more.
- For a more aquatic experience, visitors to the region can learn about its rich military history aboard the Sea and Land Adventures (SEAL) Tour, the only amphibious tour of San Diego and San Diego Bay. The tour travels on both land and water for a one-of-a-kind experience of San Diego's sites, including views of Naval Air Station North Island, Naval Submarine Base San Diego and more. Aboard the SEAL, guests hear military history and facts and may even see aviation activity firsthand, including aircraft carriers and helicopters practicing touch-and-go landings. Active and retired military and their families get a 10% discount.
- Flagship Cruises & Events and Hornblower Cruises & Events offers guests one- and two-hour narrated excursions on San Diego Bay, where photo opportunities of Navy activities abound. Guests can view aircraft carriers and destroyers, NAS North Island, Naval Station San Diego, Naval Submarine Base on Point Loma, and aircraft overhead on maneuvers. Cruises depart throughout the day from the Embarcadero on Harbor Drive, near the USS Midway Museum and San Diego Maritime Museum's historic Star of India. Both offer discounts to military personnel.
- Designed for "beer enjoyment, consumption and enlightenment," a chauffeured San Diego brewery tour through Brew Hop tours is available for military personnel and their entire group at a 10% discount.
- Take part in a variety of winery and brewery tours with San Diego Beer & Wine Tours. Military and their entire group receive a 10% discount on tours such as the decadent wine and beer walking tours, chauffeured tours and train tours exploring San Diego County’s emerging wineries and breweries.