I found this great list of free activities on the website of the San Diego Convention Center & Visitors Bureau. Even if you live here, this website is a fun resource to find neat things to do in our city. It’s like a staycation every weekend in San Diego.
And for a fun bucket list idea, try and do all 50 things on this list before Labor Day.
50 Fun and Free Activities in San Diego
1) Put on your bathing suit, grab your towel and head to one of San Diego’s 33 beaches, all open to the public, and perfect for body surfing, boogie boarding, building sandcastles, collecting seashells and basking in the sun.
2) Bring a picnic and listen to Coronado’s Summer Concert Series in Spreckels Park on Sunday evenings throughout the summer. On the first and third Sundays of the month, come early and browse the work of San Diego artists during the Coronado Art Association’s bi-monthly Art-In-The-Park event.
3) Soak up the international flavor at the House of Pacific Relations in Balboa Park during the free International Cottages’ Lawn Programs. A summer-long event, a different country is celebrated each Sunday through ethnic foods, songs and dance.
4) Head to the historic Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside in June for the Annual Inter-Tribal Pow Wow. Hosted by the San Luis Rey Luiseno Mission Indians, this event draws tribal members from all over the United States for contest dancing, Native American arts and crafts, games and food.
5) Catch a magnificent Pacific sunset and watch sea lions play along the shoreline at La Jolla Cove, one of the most spectacular natural settings in the world.
6) 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 sit in the grass and gaze at passing yachts and ships along picturesque San Diego Bay.
7) Listen to live bands lined along the 26.2-mile route of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon typically held in June. The course begins in Balboa Park, runs through various popular locations around the city and ends at SeaWorld San Diego. Visitors can also stop by the marathon’s free Health and Fitness Expo at the San Diego Convention Center.
8) Stroll through the 16½-block historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. Once the stomping grounds of the legendary Wyatt Earp, the Gaslamp Quarter is now home to unique stores and numerous restaurants, nightclubs and bars, many of which are set in turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture.
9) Check out the La Mesa Car Show along La Mesa Boulevard in the village of La Mesa every Thursday night during June through August. In addition to vintage cars on display, guests can enjoy shopping, dining and live music.
10) Take free fly-fishing lessons from the San Diego Fly Fishers club on Sunday mornings from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at Lake Murray, located in La Mesa. If you don’t have your own gear, arrive early for a free equipment loan.
11) Sample some of the more than 200 varieties of fresh produce grown in San Diego at one of the region’s many Farmers’ Markets, held daily at locations throughout the county.
12) Enjoy free organ concerts during the Annual International Summer Organ Festival at Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. Concerts are held on Monday evenings at 7:30 PM July – August.
13) Bike, walk or jog along Mission Bay Park’s many trails. Bikers, walkers and joggers share more than 20 miles of scenic paths winding through sunlight and shade near the shoreline with workout courses at planned stations along the route.
14) Attend the Annual Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-off in June featuring more than 200 vendors, local artists, food, a children’s area and entertainment on five stages.
15) Rollerblade, skateboard, bicycle or people watch along the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Boardwalk, a scenic three-mile boardwalk running along the coastline of these lively neighborhoods.
16) Stargaze on the first Wednesday of every month from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park during “Gazin’ with the Experts.” Members of the San Diego Astronomy Association set up huge telescopes and offer guests a great view of the moon, planets and brighter stars.
17) Join the festivities at San Diego’s many Fourth of July celebrations, held in numerous communities throughout the county. Coronado’s popular Independence Day Celebration features a two-hour parade followed by a family concert in Spreckels Park and spectacular fireworks over Glorietta Bay. The Port of San Diego celebrates with the Big Bay Boomfireworks extravaganza over San Diego Bay, the largest fireworks display in the county.
18) Take a scenic drive to Mt. Laguna to hike, bike or picnic while enjoying the fresh mountain air whispering through the pines.
19) Hike the trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park and see the rare and elegant Torrey pine trees, a number of animal species and miles of unspoiled beaches below.
20) Visit Mission Trails Regional Park featuring a state-of-the-art Visitors Center where guests explore and learn about the wonders of nature and the native people who once lived on the land. The park also offers over 40 miles of natural and developed hiking and biking trails.
21) Go scuba diving or snorkeling off San Diego’s shores to see spectacular creatures of the sea. La Jolla Shores and Cove offer some of the clearest waters on the California coast, as well as miles of protected underwater preserve to explore.
22) Two weekends each July, watch the Annual World Championship Over-the-Line Tournament, San Diego’s original boisterous beach softball event at Fiesta Island on Mission Bay.
23) Walk along the downtown Embarcadero and view impressive public art sculptures, tributes and memorials set along San Diego Bay. The artworks celebrate San Diego’s international ties, cultural diversity, military significance and unique oceanfront environment.
24) Join San Diegans in a local natural phenomenon, the grunion run, on warm summer nights when the tide is high and the moon is full. Guests can witness thousands of small grunion fish swimming ashore to mate and bury their eggs in the sand before riding the waves back out to sea.
25) Watch tail-waggin’, Frisbee-catchin’ and stick-fetchin’ dogs splash in the surf. Man’s best friend is permitted to roam leash-free at all hours of the day on designated dog beaches in Ocean Beach,Coronado and Del Mar.
26) Join the festivities of the annual San Diego LGBT Pride Parade and Festival, one of the most popular events of its kind in the country. Free festivities include a mile-long parade through Hillcrest in July.
27) Celebrate the discovery of gold in the East County mountain community of Julian during theJulian Gold Rush Days in June. The weekend includes gold panning, gold mine tours, face painting, historic skits and more.
28) Check out the local craft beer scene during free, daily brewery tours at Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido. Beer lovers can go behind the scenes and sample several microbrews from one of the world’s top breweries.
29) Hang 10 at the California Surf Museum, which houses a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos on Highway 101 in Oceanside. During free admission day on Tuesdays, visitors can explore its colorful and educational display on the sport of surfing and the legends who braved the waters over generations.
30) Take a walk through Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the United States, and discover its beautiful Spanish Colonial-Revival architecture and glorious gardens. Also, visitors can take advantage of the Park’s variety of other free offerings, including ranger-led walking tours at 11:00 AM on Tuesdays and Sundays.
31) Dance along Fifth Avenue during the annual Hillcrest Cityfest Street Fair in August featuring crafts, food booths, three entertainment stages and beer gardens.
32) Gather friends, family and firewood for a cozy beach bonfire at one of San Diego County’s bonfire-friendly beaches, located in Coronado, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
33) Go on a self-guided walking tour of The Stuart Collection, a display of contemporary sculptures scattered throughout the University of California, San Diego campus in La Jolla. Tour maps are available at the Gilman Drive campus entrance.
34) Spend the afternoon at Tidelands Park in Coronado. The park’s 22 bayfront acres feature four baseball fields, a playground, skatepark, picnic tables, small beach with an exercise course, boat access, fishing pier and bike and pedestrian paths.
35) Explore the clear shallow tidepools of La Jolla Cove and Point Loma when the tide is low and the pools are teeming with aquatic life.
37) 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 Diego’s East County communities.
38) Experience the history of the local Hispanic community’s struggles and triumphs with a visit to theChicano Park Murals, established by activists in 1970. This cultural park has received international recognition as a major public art site for its commanding mural paintings set underneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Some of the murals narrate the history of Barrio Logan where the park is located.
39) Take in the action in June as fun-loving canines brave the waves during the Annual Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition in Imperial Beach.
40) Witness the living legacy of California’s birthplace in Old Town State Historic Park, San Diego’s first “downtown.” The six-block park features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites presented in shops, restaurants, museums and several carefully preserved or restored adobe and wooden buildings.
41) Visit the U.S. Olympic Training Center, the nation’s first warm-weather, year-round Olympic training facility, located in Chula Vista. Free guided tours of the 150-acre lakefront facility are offered at 11:00 AM on Saturday; tours begin at the Copley Visitor Center. Self-guided tours are also available Mondays-Saturdays – 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.
42) Take advantage of San Diego’s warm summer nights and enjoy a number of free summer concerts held throughout the county.
43) Explore the mediation gardens of the Self-Realization Fellowship Ashram Center in Encinitas. It is here that Paramahansa Yogananda, one of the preeminent spiritual figures of our time, wrote his “Autobiography of a Yogi.” The meditation gardens are open to the public Tuesdays-Sundays – 12:00 to 4:00 PM.
44) Walk 1,942 feet along the Oceanside Municipal Pier, the longest wooden pier on the U.S. West Coast. The pier is a perfect setting for fishing, walking and wave watching.
45) Browse through the Ocean Beach Antique District, located along Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach, offering the largest concentration of antique and collectible dealers in San Diego County. Here, guests can find one-of-a-kind antiques, mid-century modern furniture, fine estate sale items, vintage jewelry and specialty memorabilia.
46) Listen to the rhythmic sounds of jazz and more during the TGIF Concerts in the Parks concert series in Carlsbad. Concerts take place at Stagecoach Community Park, Poinsettia Community Park and Calavera Hills Community Park during June through August.
47) Celebrate summer with art, food and music during the Fiesta Del Sol summer music festival in June at Fletcher Cove Park in Solana Beach. Guests can enjoy live performances, an international food court, beer garden and activities for the kids.
48) Walk along the Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad and look for birds, insects, plants, fish and animals in one of the few remaining tidal wetlands on the Southern California coast. The nature reserve is open Monday-Friday – 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM and Saturdays-Sundays – 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
49) Have fun during the Festival of the Bells in July, the anniversary celebration of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first of California’s 21 missions. Guests can celebrate the beginning of Christianity in the western United States with food, entertainment, dance and traditional activities like the blessing of the bells.
50) Experience the monthly Ray at Night art walk in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, featuring art, live music and fresh food. Guests can stroll through 15 galleries and business venues displaying new and current works by local and nationally known artists. The event is held from 6:00 to 10:00 PM on the second Saturday of every month.