Visiting “America’s Finest City” with your kids shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, if you plan it right, you and your family can visit San Diego and have a great time without spending a ton of money. Whether the youngsters prefer indoor activities, the great outdoors, or a mix of both, there are plenty of options for free things to do in San Diego with kids.

1. Children’s Pool La Jolla

The Children’s Pool in La Jolla is an ideal spot to check out the California harbor seals and sea lions that make this small cove their home. It’s protected from oncoming waves by a brick seawall, and provides a safe haven for these mammals and an amazing opportunity for spectators.

2. Seaport Village

Fourteen acres of shopping, entertainment, and views that need no filters await you and your family at Seaport Village—and yes, admission is free! There is plenty here to keep everyone in the family entertained for the day, including live music, panoramic views of the San Diego Harbor, face painters, balloon artists, and more.

3. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Grab your sneakers and head out for a family hike at Torrey Pines, where there is no entry fee as long as you park on the street. Beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean serve as your backdrop, while many protected animals provide excellent company for a peaceful day in nature.

4. Balboa Park

An icon of the downtown area, Balboa Park offers plenty of free activities to keep you busy all day, including the many hiking trails, children’s playgrounds, the WorldBeat Cultural Center, and more. Although many of the free museums in San Diego have rotating days for residents to receive free admission, the Timken Museum of Art is free to everyone all year!

5. Coronado Island

Family adventures in San Diego aren’t complete without hitting the beach. Coronado Island has some of the nicest beaches around, and is one of the best free things to do in San Diego with kids. Free parking is available on Ocean Boulevard and Ferry Landing Marketplace, so pack your car full of beach towels and prepare for a day of fun in the sun!

6. Old Town

Wandering through the streets of Old Town is just like taking a tour of early San Diego history. Make it an educational trip by heading to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park to experience Mexican culture through history programs, art, mariachi, and cuisine.

7. Waterfront Park

Still looking for things to do in San Diego today? You can easily spend hours at Waterfront Park. Pack a lunch and enjoy one of several picnic areas, then head to the children’s playgrounds, one of the garden rooms, or the interactive splash fountain to cool off on a hot day.

8. Farmers Markets

What better way to experience San Diego like a local than to try the local produce and see the work or local artists? Various San Diego neighborhoods host weekly farmers markets year round, so no matter which day you choose, you’re sure to find one.

Wondering about other things to do in San Diego with kids? Check out these low-cost options that go easy on your wallet.

  • Take the family to the ballgame! Sit in the “Park at the Park” section for $20 or less.
  • Head to Belmont Park in Mission Beach and check out the Giant Dipper, a classic wooden roller coaster.
  • Get a glimpse inside the US Navy by visiting the USS Midway Museum.
  • Enjoy breathtaking views of the San Diego waterways on a City Harbor Sightseeing Cruise.

There are so many low-cost things to do in San Diego. This is a town with endless possibilities. With these tips and our San Diego on a budget guide, you’ll have no problem saving money during your trip to the beach. Have an excellent time, and don’t forget to tell us about your own favorite ways to enjoy San Diego on a budget!

Header image via Rigucci/