In San Diego, attractions might be far flung, but the city is quite accessible when it comes to free entertainment. From La Jolla to Point Loma, low-to-no cost options bring in travelers and locals alike year round. Use our list of the best 10 free things to do in San Diego as a guide for perennial activities; many of these happen year-round, so you’ll have something special to look forward to whenever you visit.
Perennial Picks: Year-Round Selections
It’s home to fifteen museums, but just walking the winding trails is an enriching activity in itself. You’ll walk past lavishly-tended gardens, striking Spanish architecture, local artists working, and likely some performances. This is one place where you definitely won’t need to plan beyond a starting point.
Ocean Beach and Mission Beach
As long as you bring sunscreen, water, and your preferred snack selection, all you’ll need to do is wait and watch: the horizon will be alive with hang gliders, sailboats, and sea birds. Located close to the hotel, both beaches are stunning places to spend time: Ocean Beach is home to the longest pier on the West Coast, while Mission Beach is perfect for the whole family.
Free shows—need we say more? You can browse the many shops and galleries, but if you’d like to catch some busker performances, this is the city’s most well-known spot, even outside of last month’s Busker Festival.
Hiking in Ruffin Canyon
Offering incredible views of the San Diego skyline, Ruffin Canyon features both moderate terrain and more rugged trails that lead to a creek, canyon, and native plant garden.
Spreckels Organ Pavilion
Experience the majestic sounds of the pipe organ, and go to a free organ concert at Spreckels Organ Pavilion, every Sunday at 2 PM.
A museum of sorts in itself, Old Town’s historic buildings—a blacksmith shop, Seeley Stables, Stewart House, Estudillo House, and the oldest schoolhouse in San Diego—are all free to explore. Wander around, read up on their backgrounds, and come away with a new perspective on the city’s past.
University of San Diego Art Galleries
One of the best places to experience the city’s cultural lifeblood, these galleries house shows of prints, photographs, sculptures, and more. The galleries are open during scheduled exhibitions, and there are several ongoing at the moment, including a photography show featuring images of Cuba.
When all else fails, hit the beach. There are more than enough to choose from, and from Ocean Beach to Coronado, each has its own distinctive personality, plus free activities like Tourmaline Surfing Park, Cabrillo National Monument, and more.
Plan Ahead: Free Summer Activities in San Diego
Big Bay Boom
The ultimate summer celebration, usher in the Fourth of July with free fireworks on the waterfront. Launched from Shelter Island, Harbor island, North Embarcadero, the Marina District, and Coronado Ferry Landing, you may even be able to see some of the spectacle right from your accommodations.
Coronado Summer Concert Series
Featuring sounds ranging from big band to Beatles covers to blue-eyed soul, the balmy night air is the perfect accompaniment to an evening amongst the crowds at Spreckels Park.
From evergreen suggestions to seasonal specialties, the bounty of free things to do in San Diego never ceases to amaze. Book any time, and see what we mean.