Whether you are a local resident or a visiting tourist, you’ll easily find that San Diego is a kid-friendly city with dozens of amusing and educational activities.
While many popular San Diego attractions such as SeaWorld and LEGOLAND come with a costly price tag, having fun with your kids doesn’t have to require lot of money; in fact, there are a wealth of fun and exciting activities that are absolutely free. From parks and museums, to the beautiful 70-mile stretch of sandy beaches, our city is home to plenty of family-friendly entertainment all year long.
Discover the top five picks for free children's activities in San Diego.
Visit the Arco Olympic Training Center
Opened in 1995, the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista is the first USOC training center dedicated to the development and performance of American’s future Olympic athletes. Bring your little future Olympians to the 155-acre complex and receive a free tour of the facility which includes the training fields and tracks, athlete dorms and the Otay Lake Reservoir. Free tours are offered daily starting at the Copley Visitor Center between 10 am to 3pm Monday through Saturday, and 11 am to 3 pm on Sunday. For more information, please visit teamusa.org.
Explore the Tide Pools
Although much of the San Diego Coast is lined with long stretches of sandy beaches, there are also many rocky areas that offer excellent opportunities to explore tide pools. Bring your children to one of San Diego’s many thriving tide pools so they can dabble in the water and explore sea creatures in their natural habitats.
Point Loma: Cabrillo National Monument offers a fascinating display of tide pools, with water-filled crevices in flat reefs that extend far out into the ocean. Ranger walks are also available during most low tides and a slide program is shown daily at the park visitor center.
La Jolla: Residents can find an array of tide pools in La Jolla including the popular Shell Beach, located at the south end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park; Dike Rock, located north of Scripps Pier; and Flat Rock, the erosion-resistant slab of rock protruding out to sea at the base of Torrey Pine State Reserve.
Ocean Beach: Located at the foot of Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach is home to some small, rocky tide pools that are home to sea stars, hermit crabs, shrimp, sea anemones and small fish.
Summer Concerts in the Park
When summertime rolls around, there is nothing better than enjoying a concert outdoors in the warm weather. Fortunately, San Diego is home to many neighborhood parks that offer free summer concert series that provide a wealth of fun for the whole family.
Jazz-in-the-Park Series: For over 20 years, the City of Carlsbad's Cultural Arts Office has been presenting free jazz concerts in the city's parks during the summer. The two-hour concerts begin at 6 pm every Friday night and run from late June through mid-August. For a complete concert schedule, please visit carlsbadca.gov.
Summer Concerts by the Sea: Every summer, North County locals can enjoy free concert series in July and August at Moonlight Beach. Bring your beach blankets and chairs and enjoy some great music and dancing under the sun. For more information, please call 760.633.2756.
Twilight in the Park: Beginning on Monday, June 20th, locals can take their children to the free weekly organ concerts at Spreckels Organ Pavilion at Balboa Park. Concerts begin at 7:30pm every Monday night. For a complete concert schedule, please visit sosorgan.org.
Spend the Day at Seaport Village
Located on the harbor in downtown San Diego, Seaport Village offers hours of free entertainment, leisurely strolling and window-shopping for the whole family. Take your children for a ride on the Historic Carousel featuring 54 different animals and two horse-drawn chariots; take in the sights from one of the many bay-view eateries; watch riotous stunts and death-defying acrobatics at the free annual Busker Festival; or enjoy a picnic while watching ships and helicopters come and go from Naval Air Station North Island. For more information on Seaport Village entertainment, please visit seaportvillage.com.
Balboa Park Free Tuesdays
Balboa Park is recognized as America's largest urban cultural park with more than 25 museums and attractions. As a thank you to San Diego County residents, Balboa Park offers free admission to its museums on different Tuesdays of each month.
First Tuesdays: Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Centro Cultural de la Raza, Model Railroad Museum & the Natural History Museum.
Second Tuesdays: Museum of Photographic Arts, Museum of San Diego History & the Veterans’ Museum and Memorial Center.
Third Tuesdays: San Diego Art Institute, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Man, Japanese Friendship Garden & the Mingei International Museum.
Fourth Tuesdays: San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Hall of Champions & the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages.
Some museums may offer complimentary admission to their permanent collections only and charge admission to special exhibitions, showings, and events. For more information, please call individual museums or visit San Diego Park & Recreation.
Discover more entertainment ideas in our San Diego lifestyle blog.