13 Free Activities for the Family in San Diego

When it comes to family vacation, the first place that pops into most people’s heads in California. Why? Because California has so many major theme parks to enjoy. Here in San Diego, it’s not just the amusement park that the family will be excited about. There are beautiful beaches, state parks, historic buildings, performing arts and museums to see.

San Diego has so much to offer. These places we went to were really fun and educational. We had a fantastic time.  While it may seem like there are few places in San Diego that don’t require spending a lot of money to see. But, I have 10 suggestions for you to see and do that will not cost you a penny. By doing all these things, your trip to San Diego will be more enjoyable and relaxing. Now that you’ve saved a bundle, you can take the whole family to dinner in that fancy seafood restaurant that you like. Or just splurge on yourself. Without further ado…

Chula Vista

Take a drive to Chula Vista and visit the US Olympic Training Center. Here, you’ll have a free tour of the 150-acre facility including their training tracks and fields and the athlete dorms. Maybe, if your children love sports, this place will motivate them to be more active.

Balboa Park

In Balboa Park alone there are numerous places to go and things to see. The San Diego Model Railroad Museum has the largest indoor model railroad display in the world. They have miniature replicas of the California railroads. Another museum in Balboa is the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum. We saw a display of local athletes memorabilia from when they were the high school local town heroes to when they made it big in the pros. Some of the famous athletes included Ted Williams, Maureen Connelly, Marcus Allen and Bill Walton to name a few. Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the nation. Most of the buildings are of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The park offers 15 museums and free daily park tours. Some of the museums have free admissions on Tuesdays.

San Diego Beaches

After a long day, we needed to wind down. We took a walk on the beach and watched the beautiful sunset. Hearing the sound of the water hitting the shores relaxes me. Two of the beaches where you can take the family for a day of fun include the Coronado and La Jolla Beaches. It is great for family picnics and playing volleyball. San Diego has many beaches. It’s free to the public. Swim, watch the kids build sandcastles or just watch the surfers do their thing.

Fly a Kite

Mission Bay Park is the best place to fly a kite. Away from trees and overhead wires, you can launch your colorful kites and catch the breeze.

3Mt. Laguna

An hour’s drive from downtown San Diego is Mt Laguna. It is the highest point in San Diego and is good for hiking.

La Jolla Cove

Watch the stunning sunset and appreciate one of the most remarkable natural settings in the world. La Jolla Cove is also a popular place to scuba-dive and snorkel.

Gaslamp Quarter

A sight to see in San Diego is the historic 16-1/2 blocks of Victorian buildings at Gaslamp quarter in Downtown. I’ve always been fascinated by historical architecture. The historic Gaslamp Quarter, stretching 16 and a half blocks, is an entertainment and business district with a Victorian touch. Here, you’ll find specialty shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Bird Watching

If you like bird watching, go to the Torrey Pines State Reserve. This protected habitat, which features the rare Torrey Pines, offers a great opportunity to see many birds, such as woodpeckers, thrashers, and swifts.

Tijuana, Mexico

Okay, this one isn’t “in” San Diego, but a trip to San Diego is not complete unless you’ve been to Tijuana, Mexico. It is located less than 20 miles south of downtown San Diego. They have many shops that offer unique gift items at a very reasonable price.

Enjoying Nature in San Diego

San Diego is rich with natural resources. San Diego County is surrounded by plenty of natural beauty. With 70 miles of coastline, mountains, and state parks with miles of rugged terrains, it is very easy to fall in love with the place.

Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

The Tijuana Slough NWR is comprised of 1,051 acres of wetlands. It is home to almost 400 endangered birds, including the California Brown Pelican, the Light-footed Clapper Rail and the California Least Tern. The Tijuana Slough NWR is one of the largest salt marshes remaining in Southern California and the only salt marsh that is not divided by roads or rail lines. There is one endangered plant inside the refuge and that is the Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak.

Mission Bay Park

With 4,235-acre recreation area, Mission Bay Park is the largest man-made aquatic park in the nation. It is made of 54% water and 46% land. The park offers a variety of activities including pathways that run 27 miles. It is perfect for people who like taking long walks, jogging or riding their bikes. You’ll see many people doing a lot of water sports activities. Jet skiing, waterskiing, and kayaking are very popular in this area. Mission Bay Park is also a favorite spot to fly a kite. I just love watching all the different colorful kites lined up in the sky. The ways the tails sway remind me of a dancing ballerina. It’s graceful and so much fun to watch.

Tecolote Canyon Natural Park

The Tecolote Canyon Natural Park is located between Clairemont and Linda Vista. The 900-acre park offers a 6.7-miles of trails for walking, jogging and mountain biking. The word Tecolote in Spanish means “owl.” There are owls living in here, for sure. The only available facility at the canyon is the Tecolote Canyon Nature Center. The center offers the only parking lot; otherwise you park along the side of the street.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Spanning 600,000 acres, the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is among the largest state parks in the country. It’s a nature lover’s paradise.

At the end of the day, families and friends could gather ‘round the fire rings to stay warm or watch an endangered plant bloom or listen to songbirds sings. But whatever you do, you’ll enjoy the nature San Diego has to offer.

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