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50+ Free Summer Things to Do

San Diego’s Summer Savings

Get ready to have summer fun in San Diego without breaking the bank! Lots of things to see and enjoy in San Diego are absolutely free — and 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.

Father and son playing at a beach in San Diego during the summer

Beaches and Aquatic Adventures

Beach Bliss

Head to San Diego's many beautiful beaches, which are consistently ranked among the best in the nation. The beaches are all free and open to the public for swimming, body surfing or hanging 10. Build a sandcastle, relax with a good book or just bask in the sun – you won't be disappointed.

Sublime snorkeling

Go snorkeling off San Diego's shores and see spectacular creatures of the sea. La Jolla Cove offers some of the clearest waters on the California coast, as well as miles of protected underwater reserves, where you might glide above schools of stunning (but harmless) leopard sharks or spot the bright-orange glint of the garibaldi, California's state marine fish.

Yay for Mission Bay

Spend a day relaxing and playing in the recreational and aquatic wonderland that is Mission Bay Park, whose 4,600 acres take in sandy beaches, playgrounds, grassy lawns for picnicking and sports, a 12-mile path for biking and hiking and much more. Tecolote Shores along the park's eastern edge is the place to go for kite-flying, while families and their animals will love the new, interactive Tecolote Shores Park North as well as Fiesta Island, whose entire expanse is dog- and horse-friendly. Mission Bay's western beaches are also just a few blocks from the Pacific.

Dogs by the Water

Watch tail-waggin', Frisbee-catchin' and stick-fetchin' dogs splash in the surf at select San Diego beaches. Pooches are permitted to roam leash-free at all hours of the day on designated dog beaches in Ocean Beach, Coronado and Del Mar.

Free summer concert at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park


Free Summer Music

Take advantage of San Diego's warm summer nights and enjoy a number of free summer concerts held in parks throughout the county.

Balboa Park Twilight Concerts

When: June 18 - Aug. 29, 2024
Beginning in June, Twilight Concerts concerts are held at 7 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday summer evenings in Balboa Park.

International Summer Organ Festival

When: June 17 - Sept. 2, 2024
Delight in beautiful music from Balboa Park's historic outdoor organ on Monday evenings during the International Summer Organ Festival at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Free Sunday Organ Concerts

And there's more at the Organ Pavilion! Check out the free organ concerts at 2 p.m. Sundays. The pavilion houses one of world's largest outdoor pipe organs, a San Diego landmark since 1914; organists play traditional favorites, waltzes and show tunes on enormous 32-foot pipes.

Folklorico dancers and a raptured crowd at the Fiesta de Reyes stage in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Tours and Sightseeing

Marvel at Balboa Park

Stroll through Balboa Park and marvel at its beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. While there, take advantage of the park's variety of offerings, including 18 museums (select museums are free on Tuesdays for San Diego residents), free daily park tours and spectacular gardens (seven are free daily). The Timken Museum of Art is always free, and the beautifully renovated Mingei Museum also offers free areas. And for night owls and astronomy buffs, there's stargazing outside the Fleet Science Center on the first Wednesday of every month: The San Diego Astronomy Association sets up huge telescopes to offer guests a great view of the night sky.

Explore Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Visit Old Town and witness the living legacy of San Diego history. Guests are invited to wander free through Old Town's historic buildings, including the blacksmith shop, Seeley Stables, Stewart House, Estudillo House and the oldest schoolhouse in San Diego. Be sure to visit the recently opened Iipay ~ Tipay Kumeyaay Mut Niihepok (Land of the First People) outdoor area, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the area's earliest residents, the Kumeyaay.

Take the 59-Mile Scenic Drive

San Diego is famous for its 59-Mile Scenic Drive, which winds along the beautiful coastline and through some of the city's most charming neighborhoods. And that's just one of many fun road trips around the region, from the ocean-to-desert adventure of Historic Highway 80 to the backcountry beauty along Highway 79.

Gallavant Through the Gaslamp

Explore the sprawling Gaslamp Quarter, a nationally recognized historic district and the lively epicenter of San Diego's Downtown. Check out such landmarks as the Davis-Horton House, the area's oldest surviving structure, which was brought around Cape Horn from Maine in 1850 and reassembled here. Take time to admire what the Gaslamp Quarter Foundation calls the largest collection of restored Victorian office buildings this side of the Mississippi, and walk what was once the home turf of such memorable figures as the Old West lawman Wyatt Earp. And discover such modern wonders as the "Flame Flower" sculpture in front of the Westin Gaslamp Quarter hotel — and of course the impressive edifice that is Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres and named by USA Today as the No. 1 ballpark in America.

Discover the Embarcadero

Stroll along San Diego's Embarcadero for hours of free entertainment, shopping and more. Enjoy a laid-back day of hanging out in the grass and watching the many passing yachts and ships on picturesque San Diego Bay, or take in the sights from one of the many bay-view benches and walkways. And don't miss the numerous public artworks — including the towering and playful "Embracing Peace," which sits just south of the massive USS Midway Museum. It's all part of The Wonderfront, San Diego's "largest attraction," with 27 miles of bayside parks, marinas, shops, restaurants, promenades and bikeways.

7 Signature Architectural Attractions Tour

With its unique identity as a beach town, a border city, a bustling international port and a former frontier burg, San Diego has mixed and matched architectural styles to surprising and sometimes dazzling effect over the decades. While the influence of the region's early Spanish settlement remains prominent, plenty of signature architectural sites here draw on other, more disparate traditions.

View from the Top

Drive to the top of Mount Soledad in La Jolla for breathtaking, 360-degree views of San Diego, including the gently curving La Jolla coastline and Mission Bay. Spectacular views of San Diego's East County communities also await guests at the top of Mount Helix.

Visit an Olympian Training Ground

Visit the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center (formerly the U.S. Olympic Training Center) in San Diego's South Bay for a free tour of the 150-acre facility, including training fields and tracks, athlete dorms and the Otay Lake Reservoir. Self-guided tours are available daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Escape to the Mountains

Step back in time with a stop in Julian, a century-old mining town in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Pick up a free map at the Chamber of Commerce for a self-guided walking tour of the area's historic sites, and later enjoy a slice of homemade apple pie — a Julian specialty!

Big Bay Boom Fourth of July Fireworks display

Great Community Events

Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off Festival

When: June 22, 2024
The annual Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off Festival offers an oceanfront chili cookoff, five stages of continuous live music and entertainment, the community mural project, Artists Alley, carnival rides and games, food and vendor booths, a beachside beer garden and more.

Chula Vista Lemon Festival

When: Aug. 17, 2024
Eat, Drink, and Be Zesty! The Lemon Festival includes two stages of live music, zesty photo ops, a lemon cookoff competition, a kids zone for the “Lil' Lemons,” delicious food options, arts and crafts vendors and a wine and beer garden.

Hillcrest Cityfest Street Fair

When: Aug. 11, 2024
CityFest takes place in the heart of Hillcrest under the signature Hillcrest sign and is a huge celebration of community spirit through music, arts, crafts and food.

International Cottages' Lawn Programs

Soak up the international flavor at the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages in Balboa Park during the free International Cottages' Lawn Programs. It’s a summerlong event, and a different country is celebrated each Sunday through ethnic foods, songs and dance.

San Diego Farmers Markets

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.

Fourth of July Celebrations

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.

San Diego Pride Parade

When: July 20, 2024
The annual San Diego LGBT Pride Parade is among the largest in the United States, attracting over 100,000 cheering spectators and significant media coverage.

Cardiff Dog Days of Summer

When: July 21, 2024
Cardiff-by-the-Sea is ready to celebrate canine companions! Set in a beautiful beach community, Cardiff Dog Days of Summer is a fair for dogs and dog lovers.

Ramona Country Fair

When: July 26-28, 2024
The Ramona Country Fair is a great place for family fun, featuring rides, carnival games, vendors, beer and wine gardens, food, entertainment and much more!

Summer Car Shows

San Diego's car cruises and auto shows are the perfect way to spend a warm summer evening checking out everything from classics to the latest and greatest in the world of automobiles.

Gaslamp Quarter sign during Comic Con

Cultural Happenings

Convene During the Con

When: July 25-28, 2024
Whether you snagged a coveted pass to Comic-Con International: San Diego or not, a visit to the neighboring Gaslamp Quarter is a must. Visit one of the many activations outside of the San Diego Convention Center and then grab a curbside spot at the bar and do some people/cosplayer watching.

ArtWalk @ Liberty Station

When: Aug. 2-4, 2024
ArtWalk @ Liberty Station brings fine art outside under San Diego's sunny skies to create the perfect viewing under natural light. Purchase artwork directly from the finest artists in the region.

Barona Powwow

When: Aug. 30 - Sept. 1, 2024
Join the Barona Band of Mission Indians for Barona Powwow — a weekend of contest dancing in all categories, plus camping, drums and cultural immersion.

Feast for the Senses

Take in the sights and sounds of San Diego's vibrant arts and culture scene. The San Diego Symphony regularly offers rehearsals that are free and open to the public at the stunning new Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, set along the waterfront west of the San Diego Convention Center. And in La Jolla, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego — now open again after a dazzling rebuild — is free on the second Sunday and third Thursday of each month.

Historic Chicano Artwork

Check out the 80+ murals of Chicano Park, a National Historic Landmark and home to the largest collection of outdoor Chicano murals.

Sycuan Pow-Wow

When: Sept. 6-8, 2024
A favorite for 30 years now, Sycuan's annual Pow-Wow immerses visitors in the cultural riches of Native culture, unfolding over two days in the East County community of El Cajon. A highlight of the Pow-Wow's happenings is the traditional Bird singing and dancing.

ArtWalk Carlsbad

When: Sept. 21-22, 2024
In a venue overlooking the ocean, explore different facets of art while enjoying beautiful views and much more during ArtWalk Carlsbad. More than 150 fine artists' work will be featured, along with interactive art for families at KidsWalk, a full palette of musical performers, food trucks and stands, and more.

Free Summer Movies

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.

Surfer in La Jolla

Surf and Sand for Spectators

Switchfoot Bro-Am

When: Jun. 15, 2024
The ultimate family friendly music beach party, the annual Switchfoot Bro-Am features an awesome surf competition and free concerts on the sand at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, while raising money for local community and youth programs.

World Championship Over-the-Line Tournament

When: Jul. 13-14 & Jul. 20-21, 2024
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.

World Bodysurfing Championships in Oceanside

When: Aug. 17-18, 2024
During the annual World Bodysurfing Championships, 350-400 bodysurfers from around the world compete in their respective age divisions for trophies and prizes.

Stroll along a Pier

You can get out on the water here (or at least over it) without even getting your feet wet, courtesy of San Diego's great pier walks. Check out the surf action from Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach, or the Ocean Beach Pier just a few miles to the south. Or watch the passing parade of boat traffic against the stunning backdrop of San Diego's skyline at the Coronado Ferry Landing Pier.

Sunset at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

And finally …

Summer Sunsets

No list of San Diego's fantastic freebies is complete without an ode to our gorgeous sunsets. There are loads of great places around the region to witness the sun sink behind the ocean waves, whether it's the famed Windansea Beach in La Jolla or the aptly named Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma. Or you can watch those twilight hues settle over the city from the elegant perch of Mister A's restaurant, a San Diego classic near downtown. Whatever spot you pick, the views are guaranteed to leave you with that golden San Diego glow.

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