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Free Things To Do In San Diego With Kids

Watch History Come Alive In Old Town San Diego

Free Things to do in San Diego

Old Town San Diego is the birthplace of California. In 1769 with the construction of a mission and a fort it became the first settlement in California.

Today, Old Town is a bustling historic district filled with charming shops and cafes, historical architecture, parks, cultural events, and museums.

Visit the Heritage County Park with old Victorian homes lining Heritage Park Row.

The homes have all been relocated to this street in order to preserve the historic architecture. Some even believe that these houses are haunted!

There are numerous historic sites worth a visit, such as the Seeley Stables. This is an old stagecoach stop and reconstructed barn that now serves as a free museum open to the public.

If you want to get a thrill and learn some history too, visit the Whaley House. This historic home is known as one of the most haunted places in America, according to the Travel Channel. It is now a museum that you can tour.

While youre at it, make a stop at the El Campo Santo Cemetery just down the road. This graveyard has been around since 1850.

The Junipero Serra Museum is also a great spot to learn more about the history of the area. Admission is free, although donations are greatly appreciated.

My kids also enjoyed the free Mormon Battalion Museum. Along with learning more about the history of Mormons in the American/Mexican war, they also have hands-on activities for the kids such as panning for gold.

Best Museums In San Diego For Kids

Even if you cant visit in person, dont forget that these museums offer incredible opportunities for online learning and fun that includes science experiment tutorials, virtual after school programs and camps, at-home crafts, downloads and so much more.

If you do visit in-person, admission to the Balboa Park Museums can add up. They are not large, and youll likely visit more than one or even two.

Buy the Go San Diego pass or the Balboa Park Explorer Pass. This way, youll avoid multiple a la carte ticket purchases to the popular San Diego childrens museums mentioned below.

Explore Annies Canyon Trail

I am making a bold statement here, but I am pretty confident that Annies Canyon Trail is the best hike for kids in the whole San Diego area! It is also our favorite stop on an Oceanside to San Diego road trip.

It is located a little further north in Solana Beach, but definitely worth the 25-minute drive!

To get to the slot canyon, youre going to want to take the North Rios Avenue Trailhead .

The trail actually starts at the end of a cul de sac in a residential neighborhood. It is a very unassuming spot for a slot canyon and I wasnt sure if we were at the right spot!

Find parking on the street, then head to the trail where youll follow an easy path along the San Elijo Ecological Lagoon.

After about 0.6 miles, youll come to the entrance of Annies Canyon Trail.

Youll immediately enter towering sandstone walls that begin to narrow into a slot canyon.

The trail through the canyon is only 0.25 miles and is perfect for kids. There are rocks to scramble up and nooks and crannies to hide in. Our whole family loved it!

I am super claustrophobic and as you can tell, the trail is very narrow. I was worried about how I would do but honestly, it was totally fine for me.

It is such a short trail that I always knew I could get out quickly if panic set in. I hope that helps any of you that might be nervous about that!

My kids loved it so much they were begging to circle around and do it again!

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Commune With A Colony Of Sea Lions At The Children’s Pool

The seawall that was erected here in the 1930s was meant to create La Jollas Childrens Pool, a family-friendly beach. It has since been taken over by herds of seals and sea lions. Now tourists come in droves to see them larking around, swimming, fighting and mating. The free plaza above the cove is the best spot to see the new residents, but theres strictly no touching, feeding or selfies allowed.

San Diego Is A Family Adventure

40 Things to do with Kids in San Diego (20 are FREE!)

We took a trip to San Diego California on a campaign with Visit California to share the amazing adventures on offer in this Golden State.

We flew into San Diego from Raleigh, NC, jumped in a rental car and started our 10-day Southern California road trip in San Diego, the states second largest city.

You know a family vacation in San Diego is worth sharing when you see your children quickly slip into a relaxed and joyful state.

Both our girls kept saying how much they loved San Diego (and the other places to visit in Southern California.

Visiting San Diego reminded Kalyra so much of our former Australian beach home. She could not stop sharing her memories and started to feel homesick.

She really loved the San Diego activities we experienced and immersing herself in that beach lifestyle and energy.

They will be talking about our San Diego vacation for a long time!

What is there to do in San Diego with children? Lots. Read on.

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Museum Of Making Music

This is an interactive journey through a century of musical instrument innovations that helped shape American Popular Music from the 1890s to the present day. It includes over 500 vintage instruments on display, hundreds of audio and video examples at the push of a button and an interactive area where visitors can play on a variety of hands-on instruments. Grab Tickets Here!

Locations That Are Free In San Diego

5. Visit Seaport Village on weekends for free entertainment and hours of leisurely strolling and window shopping. Guests can also walk along the bay-front. Or you can sit in the grass and gaze at passing yachts and ships along picturesque San Diego Bay.

6. Take a drive to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, home of the Mt. Soledad Veterans War Memorial, for breathtaking, 360-degree views of San Diego. Spectacular views also await at the top of Mt. Helix in La Mesa, offering visitors a birds-eye glimpse of San Diegos East County communities.

7. Hang 10 at the California Surf Museum, which houses a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos on Highway 101 in Oceanside. Visitors can explore its colorful and educational display on the sport of surfing and the legends who braved the waters over generations. Kids under 12 are always admitted free with an adult .

8. Belmont Park in Mission Beach offers free admission and parking as well as complimentary seasonal activities. Amusement park rides like the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster are an additional cost.

9. Stroll through the 16 ½-block historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. The Gaslamp Quarter is now home to unique stores and numerous restaurants, Petco Park stadium, nightclubs and bars, many of which are set in turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture.

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Summer Movies In The Park

In San Diego, the warm, sunny weather means Summer Movies in the Park stretches out the family-friendly fun for six months! Thats rightparks all over the county host free outdoor movie nights May through October. This is one of the best free activities for kids in San Diego, especially when you want to enjoy the city like a local. Participating cities include San Diego, Vista in North County, Chula Vista in the South Bay, and several more.

Go Shopping And Eat Ice Cream At The Gaslamp Quarter

5 Fun Things to Do in San Diego With Your Kids for Under $100 | Well Spent | Travel Leisure

Gaslamp is the heart of San Diego with its renovated Victorian architecture, boutiques, and art galleries. There is a ton of shopping, delicious restaurants, and an incredible Ghiradellis Ice Cream Parlor. At nighttime, this does become the place to have some cocktails, so it is better to leave that fun in San Diego for the adults.

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San Diego Youth Symphony

Ages 8-25Serving over 600 students annually, the San Diego Youth Symphony is one of the oldest youth symphonies in the United States. The symphony offers a variety of programs that inspire, educate, and showcase talent. Great for any level of musician, the Symphony instills a love of music at an early age.

Visit The San Diego Zoo

Weve been to a lot of zoos, but the San Diego Zoo is something special. First of all, it is HUGE!

Sitting on over 100 acres with over 3,700 animals, it is one of the largest zoos in the world.

It is also one of the first zoos to steer away from cages and introduce the concept of natural habitat open-air exhibits.

If youre a fan of cuddly Panda bears, then youre in luck! The San Diego Zoo is one of the few zoos in the world to successfully breed the giant panda.

Tips for visiting the San Diego Zoo:

If youre visiting San Diego with kids, the San Diego Zoo definitely needs to be at the top of your list! I would also recommend purchasing a skip-the-line ticket in advance.

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San Diego Safari Park

You probably know about the zoo, but have you visited the Safari Park yet? Its a great place for the whole family to learn about animal conservation efforts and see first hand how we can help endangered species.

Their tram ride makes it feel like youre out on the African Sahara and theres tons of animals to see. Older kids might like to check out the Flightline, the Safari Parks own fast-paced zipline experience. Or for a staycation that makes you feel like you are in a whole new world check out the parks Snore & Roar Campground. Although, Im not sure I would get much sleep with the sounds of the jungle going on all night- ha!

Once again, there are two great places to save on Legoland: ARES Travel & Undercover Tourist

Take A Biking Tour Along The Boardwalk

40 Things to do with Kids in San Diego (20 are FREE!)

The boardwalk of San Diego includes Pacific Beach and Mission Bay. Bring your bike or just rent a bike for a full day at an amazing rate and explore Mission Bay. Youll find lots of shops and places to eat along the boardwalk. Biking along the Boardwalk is truly a fun free thing to do in San Diego.

You will see incredible attractions such as the Giant Dipper roller coaster, historical Belmont Park, Sea World, and the eclectic beachfront neighborhoods besides the Pacific Ocean. When you are tired, just lock your bike, hit the beach, have some water fun, complete lunch then again hit the Boardwalk.

Mission Bay

Most of the time, the weather is pleasant here and you can spend a relaxing afternoon. You will also see people camping near the Pacific Beach area. Campland on the Bay is a popular campground in Southern California.

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Kids Rule This October In San Diego

October is often the time to celebrate the transition from summer to autumn, warm weather to cooler weather, and green leaves to orange leaves, but in San Diego it’s the season to honor our kids just the way they are, no changing and no growing older! The month of October in San Diego is dedicated to appreciating the children and finding the inner child in each adult as numerous San Diego locations offer free events for children. Kids can enjoy free meals at certain restaurants and admission free of charge at various popular Book Kids Free Attractions.

With kids-free October, San Diego proves that the kids have way more to be excited about during October than just scary monster and pretty princess costumes, pumpkin patches and haunted hay rides. Challenge yourself to search for your inner child and maybe even play some good old-fashion hooky from work in order to spend the day with the kids. Round up the troops and paint the town red in San Diego during the entire month of October.

KIDS FREE Attraction Offers coming in October

San Diego Zoo & Safari Park 10 kids FREE with purchase of 1 or 2-Day Adult General Admission ticket Valid 10/1 – 10/31

Five Star Tours 2 kids FREE with paid Adult ticket for Heart of SoCal City Tour and La Jolla & Torrey Pines Tour Valid 10/1 – 10/31

Things To Do In San Diego California At Night

The best thing to do in San Diego is perhaps at night. The ultimate choice is to enjoy a ferry ride passing via the best attractions in the city. Moreover, you can dine, watch plays, and amuse yourself with tours worth experiencing in life. The nightlife in this city can, thus, be great for a calm and peaceful evening.

1. Go for a City Lights Tour

A night tour is observed in San Diego. It is inclusive of the key attractions in this city. To be a part of the tour, you can first sign up for it via a trusted agent. The short trip can keep you busy for nearly 90 minutes. The city lights tour at night mainly covers the following as the best things to do in San Diego:

  • Gaslamp Quarter

2. Enjoy a Play at Old Globe

Old Globe is a historic theater in the notable city, San Diego, located in California.

Formed around 1935, it is known for hosting classic plays by remarkable authors like Shakespeare. The ambiance of Old Globe gives you traditional vibes. Watching the play at night can intensify these vibes further.

3. Enjoy the Evening with Coronado Ferry

Up until now, many of you may have dreamed of enjoying a ferry ride late in the evening. San Diego city makes this true with its Coronado ferry. Passing through this town, it covers beaches as well as the best hotels. Hinting further at what to do in San Diego at night, you can also walk around the city after reaching the final destination of the ride.

4. Dine in at Embarcadero Marina Park

5. Pay a Visit to La Jolla Playhouse

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San Diego: Free Kids Activities Your Kids Will Love

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An unknown author once said, Time spent with family is worth every second. I think wed all agree how very true this is.

Each summer our grandchildren who live in Alabama come to San Diego to spend a few weeks with us. This California trip is always one of the highlights of their summer and ours.

Were always on the lookout for new things to do in San Diego with kids that align with their ages and interests. These San Diego kid-friendly activities are mostly free or very inexpensive, but more importantly, showcase the uniqueness of our amazing town.

San Diego is world-renowned for its practically picture-perfect weather making it an outdoor lovers nirvana. Its easy to have fun in the sun here while not putting a whole lot of strain on the pocketbook.

Lets look at some of these free San Diego adventures that have provided a whole lot of fun family time and some great memories to boot.

Spend The Day At Coronado Island

Working for your wallet: Fun and free activities to do in San Diego

Coronado Beach was rated as one of the top 10 best beaches for families by Family Vacation Critic. Once you take a drive across the expansive Coronado bridge youll soon discover why.

With its relaxed vibe, charming historic homes, and white sandy beaches, youre bound to fall in love at first sight.

As an added bonus for families, the entire island is smoke-free, so take a deep breath and relax!

There is plenty of sandy beaches to go around, even on busy days it still never feels overcrowded.

Coronado Island is also home to a Naval Air Station and the U. S. Navy SEALS center.

Its common to see military airplanes landing and taking off, or to see the soldiers out for a run along the beach. My kids were so fascinated by this!

Top things to do on Coronado Island:

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Experience Culture At Balboa Park

Looking for more San Diego family attractions? Welcome to the cultural playground for children and adults.

Balboa Park, San Diego is known as one of the best things to do in San Diego with kids and has everything to suit all ages and your familys preferences:

  • art galleries
  • San Diego Botanic Garden
  • and even one of Americas best zoos, the San Diego Zoo!

Even just wandering around and appreciating the stunning Spanish Renaissance and Southwest architecture and beautiful gardens is enjoyable.

Balboa Park is Americas largest urban cultural park, is ranked as one of the best parks in the world, and is one of the best things to do in Southern California you could spend a full day here!

We only managed to spend a few hours at Balboa Park, and out of the 17 Balboa Park museums and endless lush and landscaped gardens, here is what we experienced.

Exploring Tide Pools And Ocean Caves

San Diego has some amazing places to get outside and appreciate the environment like Scripps Park in La Jolla.

The park overlooks La Jolla Cove, where you can head down towards the water for a day among the tide pools. The protected La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Underwater Park spans 6,000 acres of ocean floor, tidelands and tidepools teeming with marine life.

Searching for tiny crabs and sea anemones provides hours of exploration among the tide pools. Just south of La Jolla Cove youll find Childrens Pool, where dozens of seals raise their pups on the sheltered beach.

There are seven sea caves along the coast in La Jolla which can be accessed via snorkeling or kayaking, but for a land-based adventure, journey to the Cave Store, pay your $5 and head down the 150 steps into Sunny Jim cave. You never know who you may discover lounging on the rocks outside the cave entrance and even if you dont see any seals, it’s a wonderful view of the ocean from the cave entrance.

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