11 Free and Best Things to Do in San Diego, California

San Diego is one of the gems of California and a must-see destination for anyone who’s looking to travel. Fortunately, you can travel this great city even on a limited budget. In this guide, we’ll go over eleven of the eleven best free things that you can do while in the city. Keep reading to find out how your San Diego vacation can be unforgettable at no cost to you!

1) Fly a Kite

Whether it’s your first time or you are a seasoned expert, flying a kite at Mission Bay Park is sure to take your vacation to the next level. The Tecolote Shores are a great region of the park for flying kites—in fact, you’ll probably find that you’re not alone. This is the perfect destination for families with young children. The best part is that it’s absolutely free to you. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to experience San Diego, start here.

2) See the Sunset at La Jolla Cove

There’s nothing quite like the sunset over San Diego—but don’t take our word for it. Sunsets at La Jolla Cave must be seen to believed.

La Jolla Cove- Free Things to Do in San Diego, California

Of course, as no one can put a price on the sun, this is one activity that won’t cost you a penny. Instead, you can watch the beautiful sunset with your lover or family and make memories that will stick with you for a lifetime. 

3) Visit Old Town

Take a trip back in time with a visit to Old Town. This historic section of San Diego still contains blacksmiths, historic buildings, and the oldest schoolhouse in the city. If you or your family are history buffs, you will love every second of this adventure. See how San Diego citizens lived in the past and drink in the beautiful culture of this sea-side city. With good food and plenty to see, Old Town is one of the best places for your San Diego visit. For this reason, consider putting it on your itinerary today!

4) Take a Trip to Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park has it all—for free! Learn about the history and historical peoples of San Diego while also taking part in some of the best recreational activities around. The park is home to several hiking and biking trails that you can go on at no cost.

Mission Trails Regional Park- Free Things to Do in San Diego, California
Credits: Michael W Murphy, Flickr CC by 2.0

What’s more, there’s a visitor’s center there where you can gain valuable insight into the culture of the San Diego community. If you’re looking for the ultimate free vacation in San Diego, you simply can’t leave out a trip to Mission Trails Regional Park. 

5) Go Scuba Diving

A trip to San Diego provides the ultimate free scuba diving experience. There are miles of preserves and protected areas offshore that you can explore! With clear waters and the amazing La Jolla Cove, San Diego is truly one of the best scuba diving cities in the United States. If you’re not afraid of getting a little wet, make this a part of your next San Diego vacation!

6) Make a Bonfire at the Beach

Want to make your vacation truly special? Then you should try making a bonfire on Coronado Beach. Sit around with your friends, family, or even newly-met acquaintances and talk the night away!

Bonfire at the Beach- Free Things to Do in San Diego, California

Bonfires in San Diego are great ways to get a feel for the local culture and also make the best vacation of your life. You’ll love the atmosphere of good food, drinks, and the cool ocean breeze. Don’t forget to add this to your bucket list!

7) Go Bird-Watching

With over 500 species of bird passing through the city, San Diego is perhaps the best bird-watching location in the United States. Places such as Tijuana Estuary are especially great for bird-watchers. If you’re into the sport, you may want to consider bringing your binoculars during your next San Diego vacation. Remember—it’s totally free!

8) Drive to Mt. Laguna

Located just an hour away from San Diego, this landmark mountain provides some of the best natural scenery in the area.

Mt. Laguna- Free Things to Do in San Diego, California

Mt. Laguna offers great hiking trails and splendid views of the surrounding locations. If you’re into nature and have a spirit of adventure, making the quick drive to the mountain may just be what you need to top off your San Diego vacation. 

9) Take the 59-Mile Scenic Drive

This drive, which wraps around the coastline and guides you through several beautiful neighborhoods and activity centers in San Diego, is one of the best at showing off the heart and spirit of the city. You’ll be amazed at just how diverse and beautiful the area is. If you’ve got some spare time and gas in your car, make sure to take it during your next trip to San Diego!

10) Visit Torrey Pines State Beach

One of the most popular hang-gliding areas around, this beach is the perfect place to watch athletes do tricks and moves in the air.

Torrey Pines State Beach- Free Things to Do in San Diego, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Go alone or with your family and watch some of the best hang-gliding you’ll ever see anywhere!

11) See Chicano Park

A National Landmark, Chicano Park is home to several amazing pieces of Chicano culture. Perhaps the best part of the park are the more than sixty murals that were designed by amazing Chicano artists. If you have some free time, make sure to check out the incredible artwork and get a feel for Chicano culture. One thing’s for sure: you’ll remember it for a long time!

The Bottom Line

One of the best cities in California, San Diego makes the perfect destination for your next vacation. Now that you know how to experience it for free, you can get even more out of your upcoming trip. Make sure to use this guide for reference as you vacation so that you never have to spend more money than you need to! And if you feel like paying a little money to do something else, consider visiting the zoo – San Diego Zoo is one of the best zoos in the world and is worth a trip at least once in a lifetime. 

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